Immigrants from West Bohemia In Nebraska

10 2008 Ohlasy a názory English
obálka čísla

Many families from Domazlice and surrounding communities immigrated to America in the 1870’s hoping to improve their living conditions. Even the trip across the Atlantic took then 4-6 weeks and the conditions were harder than they imagined.

Nebraska shocked them by the harshness of the land. It was a prairie with little or no wood or water. For the little money that they brought along they could just buy an ox, a carriage, a few farming tools and start paying for a bit of land.

They learned to built huts from dry turf tied together with willow branches. The roof was made of grass and clay and dried buffalo manure was used for keeping the indoors warm in winter. The huts were often built on a slope partially underground to avoid flooding. The whole family had to work hard including the children. Not knowing English made communication difficult. Czech families worked very diligently for many years and showed tremendous perseverance. Often they became victims of dishonesty of other immigrants who had come here earlier.

The life of a typical Czech family in Nebraska at the end of the 19th century was described in the book MY ANTONIA written by the Pulitzer Prize winning author Willa Cather. The book has been translated into many languages.

In today’s Nebraska we find many thousands of Czech-Americans who descended from those hard-working immigrants. Many towns and villages hold yearly Czech festivals.

People are very proud of their Czech heritage. Czech language is taught at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. The Czech club KOMENSKY publishes its own journal called Cesky Svet. The motto of the Club are the words of Jan Amos Komensky:

”Al of us are citizens of one world. To dislike somebody because he was born in another country, of because he speaks another language, or because he has another opinion on this or that is absurd and silly.”

At present many of the Nebraska Czechs like to travel to the Czech Republic to get to know their family members and the country of their forefathers. For example Joan and her husband Thomas Hruza recently came to visit Josef Pabian in Zahorany near Domazlice. Joan is the great-granddaughter of the founder of the Pabian family - Jan Pabian. In 1893 this immigrant founded a smithy and a machine shop in the little community named Prague. It grew very quickly after 1887 when a railroad was built here in the “Czech” county of Sanders. Jan Pabian also constructed in his shop a model of a car which could be driven as fast as 15 miles/ hr, but oil had to be added every 2 miles. In 1969 this “automobile” was moved to a museum in Holland. There it represents the diligence and skill of a Czech immigrant who learned his trade in Domazlice.

Presents were exchanged among all the family members. The Hruzas were very happy to receive a Czech flag from the Pabian family which they will proudly display at all Czech gatherings in the future.

Bohuslav Hynek
Translated by Marie Dolanska

Vydavatelem Českého dialogu je Mezinárodní český klub

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