I Introduction

 

      The Americans as a people are difficult to define. The United States of America is a country that consists of a wide range of different ethnic and religious groups. Every citizen of the United States except the Native Americans is either an immigrant or a descendant of immigrants. This fact makes this country and the lives of the people living there very interesting and various. Czech people were one of the immigrant groups which have made life in America possible. Many Czechs wholly assimilated to American society, but many maintained some degree of Czech identity.

      The main aim of this diploma work is to determine to what extent Czech Americans maintain a Czech identity in contemporary America. A research study will be conducted in order to discover the state of preservation of Czech culture in the United States. A research questionnaire will be distributed to Americans of Czech descent. Czech Americans will be also able to fill out the questionnaire on the Internet.

       This diploma work first gives a history of Czech immigration to America. It also introduces famous American personalities of Czech descent and describes social and cultural institutions of Czech Americans. The last part of the historical background concentrates on the importance of their origin, preservation of Czech language and customs, and relationship of Czech Americans to the Czech Republic. In its final part, the diploma work presents the findings of the research study which was aimed at finding out the state of maintenance of Czech identity in contemporary America.

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

II Historical Background

 

1 Introduction

 

      In this part of the diploma work I will present both the historical and contemporary situation of people of Czech origin in the USA from a variety of written sources.

      I will be dealing briefly with the history of Czech immigration to America. The most important questions which I want to explore here are the following: Why did they decide to leave their homeland for America? Where did they settle in the USA? (What part of the country? Rural or urban area?) What did they do in the USA? (What kind of jobs did they have? What were their priorities? What did they accomplish?).

      In the next part of the historical background, I will describe several famous personalities of Czech American origin who succeeded in various spheres of human society.

      Finally, I will illuminate the contemporary situation and the vision of the future of Czech Americans, focusing on their cultural and social life (e.g. Czech American press and societies of the past and present, music and dance, political attitudes, attitudes towards education and the religion) and another important aspects of the lives of the Czech Americans (eg. the state of assimilation, importance of their origin, preservation of Czech language and habits, relationship to the Czech Republic). These are actually the same aspects with which I will be dealing in my research in the practical part of this diploma work. So there might be interesting comparisons between the results of my research and what the other authors have said about the contemporary situation of the Czech Americans.

 

2 The History of Czech Immigration to America

 

      The history of Czech immigration to the American continent reflects in a certain way the situation of Czechs in their homeland. The most important waves of immigration have been always connected with particular religious, political or economic problems in the Czech lands (Saxon-Ford, 1998.). These main reasons for emigration can be tracked back from the early 17th century (after the Battle of White Mountain in 1620), through the revolutionary year of 1848 and later the outbreak of WWII until the important years in modern history of Czechoslovakia, 1948 (when the Communists seized power) and 1968 (when the Soviet occupation stopped political reforms). The 1990 census showed 1,300,000 Czechs in the United States: 52 percent in the Midwest, 22 percent in the South, 16 percent in the West and 10 percent in the Northwest (Fischetti, 1997.).

 

2.1 The Earliest Arrivals

 

      However, the first people from the Czech lands who visited the American continent came early in the 16th century. In fact, the miners from the Czech-Saxon area returned from the New World around the year 1530 after an unsuccessful search for gold. This group of miners was followed by others who wanted to find the glamorous “El Dorado”. But they were not successful and returned. (Polišenský, 1996.)

      The first person of Czech origin about whom we are certain that he settled in America was Augustine Herman. The future famous and successful American fur trader, tobacco merchant, mapmaker, and surveyor left the Czech lands with his parents in 1618 and was later sent to America by his Dutch employer in 1633. In New Amsterdam Augustine Herman became immediately successful. He was among the largest exporters of tobacco in North America. He was also interested in cartography and created a map of two British colonies, Maryland and Virginia, in 1670 after 10 years of surveying. In exchange he received 13,000 acres of land on which he built a house called “Bohemian Manor” located on the Bohemian River. (Saxon-Ford, 1998; Rechcígl, 2000; Rechcígl, 1999.)

       The most important group in the earliest Czech immigration to America was the Moravian Brethren. These members of a Protestant religious group were coming to America to find religious freedom between the years 1741 and 1762. They established settlements in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia. By the time of the War of Independence There were about 2,500 Moravian Brethren in the 13 colonies. They founded not only elementary and secondary schools, but also Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. They supported women to get equal education to men. Their educational philosophy was influenced by Jan Ámos Komenský (Comenius). Every Moravian community in America always had a hospital, which was very helpful during the American Independence War. They were against slavery and christened the slaves and they also gained the trust of Native Americans. The Moravian Brethren were fond of music. The first symphonic orchestra in America was organized by them and the Moravian Trombone Choir claims the longest continuous existence of any musical ensemble in the USA. Today the Moravian Brethren in the USA consist of about 50,000 members. (Saxon-Ford, 1998; Rechcígl, 1999.)

 

Picture no. 1: Christening of Black Slaves by the Moravian Brethren

Source: Saxon-Ford, 1998

 

2.2 The Large Waves of Immigration

 

      Although Czechs were immigrating to the USA during the first half of the 19th century, they were not big in numbers compared to those who were arriving in its second half. There were two main types of destinations for Czechs in the 1850s and 1860s (considered the period of the first big wave of immigration), the big cities (above all New York, Chicago, and Saint Louis) and rural areas of Texas and eastern states of the Midwest. We can observe a second important wave of immigration into rural areas of Nebraska and Kansas from the 1870s to 1890s. In the second half of the 19th century most Czech immigrants arrived. However, there were also large numbers of Czechs coming to the USA in the first decade of the 20th century; these people were coming mostly from urbanized areas of Bohemia and Moravia as the Czech populace was transformed because of the industrial revolution. In the USA, they served as skilled workers in cigar and garment factories. Later on the Czech immigration to the US decreased and the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, which limited immigration, did not actually influence the numbers of Czech entering the US in order to settle down there at all. (Polišenský, 1996; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      The decision to move to America was serious for most Czech immigrants. One of the main deterrents to leaving was the fact that Czechs have tight connections to their homeland. However, the articles in Czech newspapers presenting opportunities in America and advertisements of shipping companies also had a certain influence on them. Unlike other immigrant groups, Czechs were moving to America with the whole family and were not sending one member of the family earlier to establish himself and prepare the ground for the rest of family (Saxon-Ford, 1998.). The actual journey to America was very difficult for most immigrants; their conditions improved with the advent of steam-powered ships, which shortened the voyage.

      Many Czechs tried to find their relatives after gaining entry to the USA. Those without any connections usually headed west. Many of them experienced confusion and frustration in big American cities as they did not know the language and were not used to the modern busy urban centers. At the same time, the US railway system improved the mobility of newly-arrived immigrants and it brought closer to them the areas in the west. (Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      In the second half of the 19th century, the reasons for emigrating were not caused as much by religious injustice or political oppression, even though the influence of the latter increased after the revolutionary year 1848, but the most important reasons for emigrating for Czechs were economic (Saxon-Ford, 1998.). They saw in America a way of improving their living conditions, although their hopes of a better life were not fulfilled in many cases because the beginnings in America were very tough. They saw some chances for the lives of their children.

 

2.2.1 The First Wave of Immigration

 

      As mentioned above, we distinguish two main streams in the first wave of immigration during the 1850s and 1860s. One part of the immigrants settled in urban areas and the other part was attracted to American wide-open spaces and the promise of their own land and they moved to rural areas in the Midwest. Most Moravians chose as their destination the Lone Star State, Texas.

     

2.2.1.1 Immigration to Rural Areas

 

      Common Bohemians and Moravians in the old country used to own small plot of land where they planted vegetables and fruits for their family use. The fields were owned predominantly by gentry. In America they saw chances to have their own land and they did not hesitate to travel a great deal to obtain land to clear and cultivate.

 

2.2.1.1.1 Czech Immigration to Texas

 

      Most of the Czech Immigrants in Texas are of Moravian descent, although other people arrived in Texas from East Bohemia. Why were the Czech immigrants to Texas coming from these areas of the old country in particular? It is difficult to reply to this question, because there is more than a century gap between today and the time when the Moravians and East Bohemians were moving to Texas, and many factors which contributed to immigration decisions can not be tracked back nowadays. However, the initiation of Moravian immigration to Texas was probably caused by two Moravian pastors, Ernst Bergman and Joseph Zvolánek, who sent many letters to members of their church and urged them to immigrate (Saxon-Ford, 1998.). This was combined with numerous articles about Texas and opportunities there in Moravian newspapers. Later on, when some family moved to Texas, messages from them could have an influence on other families still back in the old country (chain immigration). It was not unusual when most families from a Moravian village moved to Texas. Many records from Moravian archives show that Moravians were moving to Texas until the beginning of World War I; however, the Civil War slowed down the immigration process (Polišenský, 1996.).

      Those Czechs who decided for Texas usually arrived on ship in Galveston and then went north. The first groups of immigrants were coming to German settlements as they knew some German. Later on, Czech Texans founded their own towns. The beginnings in Texas were difficult for Czechs. The climate was different than in Central Europe. There were big differences between the temperatures of summer and winter. They tilled their fields even without proper farming tools. Back home they used to plant grain and now they had to switch to cotton. Some were not successful at it. But most of them survived, very often with the help of the women and children who took care of farming while men worked somewhere else to make at least some money to live from. Nowadays, Texas has the largest Czech population of all the states of the Union. (Polišenský, 1996.)

 

 

 

 

Picture no. 2: Illustration of Prosperity in America in a Czech Periodical (late 1800s)

Source: Saxon-Ford, 1998

 

2.2.1.1.2 Czech Immigration to the Eastern States of the Midwest

 

      Next to Texas, Wisconsin was the most important destination of the Czech rural immigration. In Wisconsin we can find the first Czech farming town Caledonia, which was later called Tabor. Czechs preferred Wisconsin for many reasons. There were many German settlements in the middle of the 19th century, Czechs could speak German and it was easier for them to start somewhere where they could understand the local people. The land was cheap here and the wooded landscape of Wisconsin also reminded them their homeland. They used timber as instant building material and a source of income to buy farming equipment. The weather was as damp and cool as in the Czech lands; however, the extremes between summer and winter were something Czechs had not experienced in their homeland. Czechs in Wisconsin grew the same crops as back home and the grain production led them to establish several breweries. So Czechs in Wisconsin were not only farmers but also entrepreneurs thanks to the traditional Czech great consumption of beer. In the 1850s most of the Czech immigrants congregated in Wisconsin; however, after the introduction of the Homestead Act in 1862, not only the newly-arrived Czechs but also the Czechs who had already settled in Wisconsin moved farther west in search for better opportunities and better climate. But the weather in the prairie states was definitely not less extreme, so they did not help themselves too much in this respect. Czechs looked for better land in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. They found less severe weather only in western parts of Illinois. (Polišenský, 1996; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      Iowa was inhabited by Czechs for the first time in the early 1850s. Many Czechs who came to Iowa had already lived somewhere else in the USA. Later on, newly-arrived immigrants in Iowa originated mostly from southwestern Bohemia. But again, the beginnings for Czech farmers were difficult in Iowa too. The farming did not make any profit till the 1870s when the conditions for farmers improved. For example, because of the spread of railways, the farmers gained better access to the markets. The Czech farmers also became much more experienced, as the farming on the prairie soil required different techniques of cultivation than in Czech lands. Today Iowa has the second largest percentage of people claiming Czech ancestry in the US, only after Nebraska, and has become cultural center of Czechs in America (The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library is located in Cedar Rapids, IA.) (Polišenský, 1996; Swisher Native …, 2001.).  

 

Picture no. 3: Czech Immigrants in Wisconsin (1937)

                                                                                          

Source: Saxon- Ford, 1998

 

2.2.1.2 Immigration to Urban Areas

 

      In the first two decades of the second half of the 19th century many Czechs decided to settle in big American cities; at this time Saint Louis, New York and Chicago became the most important centers of Czech urban immigration. For many Czechs they served only as the starting point for exploring the rural areas of the Midwest. On the other hand, many others stayed in the cities and developed Czech communities there. These people were merchants, craftsmen, entrepreneurs or workers.

 

2.2.1.2.1 Saint Louis

 

      Saint Louis became very interesting destination of the Czech immigration in the 1850s; however, in other decades, new Czech immigrants preferred Chicago or New York. This fact caused faltering importance of St. Louis as one of the centers of the Czech community in America. Nevertheless, in the 1850s the importance of St. Louis for Czechs was indispensable. Social and cultural activities reflected “the strength” of the St. Louis Czech community in the 1850s and 1860s. In 1855, the first Czech Catholic Church in the USA, which was dedicated to Jan Nepomucký, was built here. In 1859, an important Czech American periodical began to be published in St. Louis, the weekly Národní noviny. In the same year, Slovanská Lípa (Slavic Linden), an educational and cultural organization, was founded. The Sokol organization was founded in St. Louis in 1865. There were also many other Czech associations which gathered Czechs in St. Louis and helped them to cope with the new reality of life in America. (Polišenský, 1996.)

 

2.2.1.2.2 New York

 

      New York served as the “entrance gate” to America for many Czech newcomers. For those who stayed, to become successful in New York happened to be complicated and not very likely. Czechs who had sufficient resources could start a store or a restaurant and they could do very well. Many others worked only in second-rate jobs; in the worst case, they worked as cigar makers. The cigar-making industry in New York in the second half of the 19th century was predominantly occupied by Czech immigrants. Lots of them came from Sedlec, not far from Kutná Hora, in the 1860s, where they used to do the same job. They were offered higher wages in New York and that was the main reason why they decided to emigrate. Czech people also brought the pearl-button industry to America. Very soon after their arrival in New York, Czechs founded several pearl-button factories. Surprisingly, the Czech community in New York consisted of farmers too. Several Czech families founded a farming settlement called Bohemia in Long Island. Many benevolent, social, cultural, and educational organizations or associations were founded in New York in the 1850s and 1860s, similar to those in St. Louis or Chicago. (Polišenský, 1996; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

Picture no. 4: Czech Women in a Cigar Factory (1905)

Source: Saxon- Ford, 1998

 

2.2.1.2.3 Chicago

 

      The city of the biggest importance for Czechs has been Chicago. First Czechs came to Chicago in 1852 and were among those ethnic groups which had the largest influence on the development of the city. The beginnings were tough for new immigrants in the 1850s and 1860s. The first Czechs in Chicago found employment most often in the garment and timber industries or in slaughter houses. But new immigrants in the 1870s and other decades could be surprised by the thriving Czech community in Chicago. They could find several Czech quarters, such as Prague or Pilsen, where Czech language was used exclusively.  The business districts in these quarters were full of Czech banks, stores, cafes, and restaurants. Czech influence can be seen in Chicago even nowadays, as it is not too difficult to find Czech names of various places and streets in Chicago. If in the 1860s Chicago had a population of about 10,000 Czechs, in 1920 it already had 200,000 Czech inhabitants. Unlike Czechs in New York, who worked in large factories and were usually unqualified, Chicago Czechs found employment in offices, garment shops, and their own small businesses. In the 1920s Czechs controlled 15 state and federal banks in Chicago and more than 50 percent of the assets of all building and loan associations in the city. It is significant that the largest Czech company in Chicago was a brewery in the district of Pilsen. The importance of various fraternal and benevolent societies grew in concord with the development of the Czech community in Chicago. The largest Czech Church in the United States can be found in the “Windy City”. Those Czechs who were not able to find proper employment in Chicago very often set off for the west to become farmers. Most often they went to Iowa. Chicago has still the largest concentration of Czech Americans in the United States and it remains the center of Czech American culture. (Polišenský, 1996; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

2.2.2 The Second Wave of Immigration

     

      The period from the 1870s to 1890s is considered the second wave of the Czech immigration to America. According to the census, there were about 40,000 people of Czech descent in America in 1870. We can estimate that by the end of the 1860s there were about 3,000 – 4,000 new immigrants from Bohemia and Moravia who arrived in America every year. This was the beginning of the second wave of immigration, which resulted in the fact that at the beginning of the 1880s there were about 90,000 Czech Americans and new immigrants were still coming. The second wave of immigration is connected with the declaration of the Homestead Act in 1862. This enabled immigrants to obtain 160 acres of wild-land and they became its owners after 5 years of cultivation. The Homestead Act brought many new immigrants to the Midwest, especially to Nebraska and Kansas. (Polišenský, 1996.)

 

2.2.2.1 Czech Immigration to Nebraska and Kansas

 

      Nebraska enjoyed the largest influx of Czech immigrants in the 1870s and 1880s. In the 1890s, about 17,000 Czechs constituted 8 - 9 % of immigrants from Europe in Nebraska. Most Czech immigrants to Nebraska came directly from the old country, only a few settled before in other states, such as Wisconsin, Illinois or Iowa. Czech settlements in Nebraska were named after Czech cities, this did not mean that people living in Praha, Brno or Plzeň in Nebraska originated from these cities. In fact, the population of Czech settlements in Nebraska consisted of families from different areas of the Czech lands. Many Czechs were convinced to emigrate in their homeland by American railway agents who looked for people to settle along the new railways. (Polišenský, 1996.)

      The journey to Nebraska or Kansas was very expensive. Therefore, new Nebraska and Kansas farmers had to save money everywhere they could. To begin farming they needed as much as 1,000 dollars. Some families were paying their debt for the first twenty years of farming. It became typical for most Czech farmers that the whole family worked on the fields. Therefore, families with many children had a great advantage because they did not need any temporary help and could save some money. There was another thing which was common for Czech farmers in Nebraska and Kansas and that is they did not rely only on one crop. They planted various crops so they could resist a sudden decrease in price of one crop (most often corn). Both Nebraska and Kansas served as starting points for further immigration to the west. (Polišenský, 1996.)

 

2.2.3 Situation of the Czech-American Community at the End of the 19th Century

 

      The 1880s in the United States were years of growing prosperity. This picture of America was presented more and more to the Czech people in Bohemia and Moravia. The number of Czechs in the USA was increasing so rapidly that before the outbreak of WWI there were about half a million Americans of Czech descent. If Czechs decided to emigrate to America, they considered their stay in America as permanent and therefore they moved with the whole family. The main reason for emigrating was economic. (Polišenský, 1996.)

      In the Czech-American communities, the Catholic religion played an important role in the rural areas; in contrast, many Czechs in the cities supported progressive ideas. These progressive movements were very often leftist oriented, especially in Chicago and New York. At the turn of the 19th century, there were many Czech-American trade unions fighting for an increase of minimal wage in both cities. (Polišenský, 1996.)    

      As Czechs were establishing themselves in the new country, they became a significant group of immigrants. At the beginning of the 20th century, Czechs were dispersed all over the country. However, they still did not belong to the category of welcomed newcomers. They were called “Bohunks” (i.e. Bohemians and Hungarians) who did not suit the ideals of white American Protestants of Anglo-Saxon origin (WASP – White Anglo-Saxon Protestants). Despite the prejudices against Czech immigrants, Czechs enriched the American society considerably and many Americans realized that their negative opinions about Czechs were not correct. (Polišenský, 1996.)

 

2.3 Czech Immigration in the 20th Century

 

      The 20th century immigration of Czech people to America varied from that of the 19th century. The main difference can be found in the reasons for emigrating. The immigration of the two first decades of the 20th century resembled very much the 19th century immigration. Czech immigrants searched for improvements in their economic situation. However, the dramatic events in Czechoslovakia in the later 20th century logically changed the character of immigration and the grounds for emigrating became predominantly political. In many cases it was not choice but necessity to leave the homeland.

 

2.3.1 Early 20th Century Immigration

 

       The early 20th century Czech immigration was aimed mostly at urban areas. Czech immigrants coming to the USA at this time enjoyed several advantages. They were skilled workers in different crafts and very literate. 97 percent of Czech immigrants could write and read, as Czechs held education in high regard, which was not typical for other Slavic ethnic groups. Despite the advantages, Czechs very often experienced problems with obtaining jobs equal to their qualifications. In order to survive, they often had to accept a different kind of employment. Nevertheless, Czech immigrants rarely worked in unskilled outdoor labor (e.g. road building, bricklaying or mining). On the contrary, many Slovaks worked in coal mines and steel mills in Pennsylvania. (Saxon-Ford, 1998; Čapek, 1920.)

      Over these years, the old centers of Czech immigration, e.g. Racine and Milwaukee in Wisconsin or Saint Louis became less important. On the other hand, there was a growing Czech population in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Chicago and New York. However, the rural states of Nebraska and Texas also enjoyed growing importance as centers of Czech immigration. The first Czech intelligentsia, consisting of teachers, journalists, lawyers, doctors, politicians, and university professors, originated from the areas listed above. The Czech immigration at the beginning of the 20th century retained its family character. New immigrants were still farmers but most commonly craftsmen; they settled not only in the areas of previous Czech immigration, but also in new areas which had been ignored by earlier immigrants from Bohemia or Moravia. (Polišenský, 1996.)

 

 

2.3.2 The Role of Czech Americans in the Formation of Czechoslovakia

 

      The American society accepted Czech Americans and other Slavs better at the beginning of WWI. However, the Czech-American community was not united. The Czech-American society was divided into groups of Progressives, Catholics, Protestants, Socialists and members of other protective, benevolent or fraternal organizations. They had never unified in a joint action before WWI. Catholics or Socialists or other Czech groups, none had in their program the formation of a free state where Czechs and Slovaks would have governed together. However, when the United States declared the war on Germany, the Czech-American society together with Slovak Americans joined in order to support the formation of Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovak National Council (CNC) was created as the main organization fighting for Czechoslovak independence in the USA. The CNC organized the lecturing and the negotiating of future first Czechoslovak president T.G. Masaryk with American president Woodrow Wilson which resulted in the agreement on the existence of Czechoslovakia. Undoubtedly, the Czech-American community had a great influence on changing the borders in Central Europe after WWI. (Polišenský, 1996.)

 

2.3.3 Situation of the Czech-American Community in the 1920s

 

      In 1920, more than 600,000 Czechs of the first generation and more than 300,000 Czechs of the second generation lived in the United States. Two-thirds lived in big cities and only one-third lived outside the big cities. The influx of newcomers from Czech lands was very low during the years of WWI. Therefore, neither the Johnson-Reed Act in 1924 or the National Origins Plan in 1927, which restricted the numbers of newly-arrived immigrants to one sixth of  one percent of the number of people of that heritage living already in the U.S., had any influence on the actual numbers of new Czech immigrants. In fact, the first three decades of the 20th century are considered as the Golden Age of Czech-American Culture. Czech Americans attracted the attention of average Americans. They recognized the Czech-American economic, cultural, public and civic achievements, as well as the efforts the Czech Americans exerted in order to establish the political sovereignty of Czechoslovakia. (Chada, 1981; Laska, 1978; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

 

 

2.3.4 Political Immigration of the 20th Century

 

      The 1920s and 1930s are characterized by decreasing numbers of Czech-speaking Americans. Czech quarters of big cities were disappearing and depopulation became typical for Czech rural areas. Czechs were moving from the traditional Czech quarters to suburbs. In fact, Czechs were among the first inhabitants of the suburbs. The invention of the automobile increased their mobility and Czech Americans moved out of the areas typical for them. The process of assimilation reduced the number of Americans claiming Czech descent to 200,000 in 1930. On the other hand, the cooperation between Czech Americans and Czechoslovakia improved; for example, American Sokol members visited the all Sokol rallies in Czechoslovakia, and American and Czechoslovak students had the chance to attend various university exchange programs. (Chada, 1981; Polišenský, 1996.)

      The Czech-American historian Joseph Chada named the period after 1948, when the Communists seized power in Czechoslovakia, “the twilight of the Czech-American community”. The increasing assimilation caused by a more intense feeling of unity with other Americans and the spirit of the time after WWII was slowly destroying the Czech-American community. As American citizens, Czechs adopted values and ideals different from those which had been typical for their ethnic group. (Chada, 1981.)

 

2.3.4.1 Czech Immigration as the Result of Nazism and Communism

 

      The next impulse for a new movement in Czech immigration to the USA was brought by the fear of Nazism, World War II and then Communism. Despite the fact that Czech immigration after 1933, when Hitler took power in Germany, was significant, it was not as numerous as the immigration from the 1850s to the 1920s. The people who immigrated to the USA from Czechoslovakia after 1933 because of the fear of Nazism and consequences of the war and those who arrived after 1948 when the Communists seized power in Czechoslovakia differed from the Czech Americans who had come to America before them. The earlier immigrants of the big waves of immigration were mostly blue-collar workers and peasants. But the Czechs who immigrated to the USA in the 1930s, 1940s and later decades were well-educated; they already knew some English and if not, they managed to learn it very fast. These Czechs assimilated much faster than the earlier generations of immigrants.  To prevent this Czechoslovak “brain-draining” from dissolving in the United States, the Czechoslovak Society for Arts and Science (SVU) was established in 1958. SVU has connected thousands of members of the American intelligentsia originating from Czechoslovakia (see section 4.1.5.1.4 of chapter II) (Polišenský, 1996.)

 

2.3.4.2 Czech Immigration after the “Prague Spring”

 

      The next influx of Czech immigrants to the United States happened to be one of the consequences of the “Prague Spring” in 1968 and the following Soviet army occupation of Czechoslovakia which stopped the democratic reforms. This generation of immigrants arrived in the USA with vocational, secondary or university education. They had very often participated in the political life during the “Prague Spring”. This generation of Czech immigrants also consisted of many people who had immigrated to a western European country and then later chose the USA as their final destination. “The Czech Americans of 1968” have been very active in the USA; however, they did not really enrich traditional Czech-American societies or SVU. The Czech-American community of the 1970s and the 1980s can be characterized by a conflict between the new generation of political immigrants from Czechoslovakia, who called themselves “members of the exile,” and the generations of those Czech Americans and their descendants who arrived in America before 1920. In this state of disunity the Czech Americans faced the political changes in the old country after 1989. (Polišenský, 1996.)

 

2.3.5 Modern Czech Immigration to the USA

 

      Confusion after 1989, improvement of the economic situation and the desire to learn about life beyond the “iron curtain” have probably been the main reasons for a new tendency in migrating from the Czech Republic to the United States in the 1990s. This predominantly economic immigration does not have a permanent character. Mostly single young people from the Czech Republic arrive in the USA to work there illegally at low paying jobs. After they make a certain amount of money, they return back home. However, some illegal Czech workers want to legalize their stay and live permanently in the USA. It is estimated that there are tens of thousands of Czech citizens working illegally in the USA. (Otta, 2001.)

 

 

 

3 Famous Personalities of Czech-American Descent

 

      Since their arrival in America, Czechs have contributed to all possible spheres of human endeavor. The 19th century Czechs rarely received recognition outside the Czech-American community, although they could be considered as excellent musicians, dramatists, journalists, politicians and businessmen. The reality of the 20th century gave a chance to Czech Americans to succeed even outside the Czech-American community. Famous Czech Americans include for example Eugene Cernan, Martina Navrátilová, Miloš Forman or Madeleine Albright. (Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

3.1 Ray Kroc – The Founder of the McDonald’s Restaurants

 

      Ray Kroc began his life in Chicago, Illinois in 1902. He was a descendant of Czech immigrants. His grandparents came from Stupno near Plzeň, where his grandfather ran a small restaurant and inn. He liked music very much; he fell in love with jazz music and made some money by playing piano. As a teenager he started selling paper cups for the Lily Tulip Cup Company. This occupation brought him into contact with a person who invented a five-spindle multimixer. He obtained exclusive distribution rights to the appliance and spent the following 17 years selling this invention. (Czech, …, 2002; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      In 1954, Kroc visited a restaurant of Dick and Mac McDonald in San Bernardino, California. They had ordered eight of his mixers and he hoped that he can sell some more, but when he saw their “Speedee Service System”, he came up with the idea of franchising this self-serve, limited-menu concept. Kroc convinced the brothers to let him found a chain of drive-in hamburger restaurants identical to their own. At the age of 52 he opened his first McDonald’s restaurant in 1955 in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines. (Czech, …, 2002; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      By 1973, McDonald’s opened its 2500th restaurant. Today there are McDonald’s in more than 120 countries. Kroc did not invent the fast food restaurant, but he recognized its potential and made it into an international company. Ray Kroc remained a director of the largest franchise company in the world, the McDonald’s Corporation, until his death in 1984. (Czech, …, 2002; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

 

3.2 James Lowell and Eugene Cernan – Lost Moon and the Last Man on the Moon

 

      James Lowell is probably best known as the commander of the harrowing Apollo 13 mission. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, a traditional destination city of Czech immigration, in 1928. His maternal grandparents immigrated to the USA from Dolní Lukavice, Bohemia. He actually became the first Czech who entered space in 1965. In 1970, Lowell was aboard Apollo 13 on its way to make the Apollo program’s third lunar landing when an oxygen tank in the service module ruptured, resulting in a three-day life-and-death struggle to return safely to earth, using the still-attached Lunar Module as a lifeboat. Lowell was one of the co-authors of a book about the Apollo 13 experience called “Lost Moon”, which was made into the film “Apollo 13” starring Tom Hanks. (Czech, …, 2002; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      James Lowell almost became the first Czech on the moon, but he had to relinquish this honor to another astronaut of Czech-American descent, Eugene Cernan. He was born in a Chicago suburb in 1934 to parents of Czech and Slovak origin. In 1964, Cernan orbited the earth for three days to become the youngest astronaut ever to fly in space. He orbited the moon for the first time in 1969 aboard Apollo 10 just two months before the first moon landing. Cernan returned to the moon as commander of Apollo 17 in 1972. He spent three days on the moon surface, walking, driving a moon rover and collecting rocks for scientific study. He became not only the first Czech on the moon, but also the last man on its surface so far, as Apollo 17 was the last flight of the moon program. He wrote a book about his experiences called “The Last Man on the Moon”. He is also aware of his Czechoslovak heritage and visits the homelands of his grandparents once a while. He also became a member of the National Advisory Board for the Czech and Slovak National Museum and Library. (Czech, …, 2002; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

3.3 Madeleine Korbel Albright – The Highest-ranking Woman in the U.S. History

 

      Madeleine Korbel Albright was born in Prague in 1937 as a daughter of diplomat Joseph Korbel, but she lived in several countries during her childhood. Her family fled Czechoslovakia twice, in 1938 to escape WWII and after the communist takeover in 1948. Albright received a degree in political science from Wellesley College and earned her masters and doctoral degrees from Columbia’s Department of Public Law and Government. (Czech, …, 2002; Rechcígl, 2000; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      She started her political career as a staff member for the National Security Council and served as chief legislative assistant to Senator Edmund Muskie. Albright was also named director of the Women in Foreign Service Program at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. President Bill Clinton surprised many people by appointing her U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 1993. As U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright became a member of President’s Cabinet. In January 1997 she was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate as the Secretary of State. She became the first woman to hold this office and also the highest-ranking woman in U.S. history. (Czech, …, 2002; Rechcígl, 2000; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

3.4 Miloš Forman – Academy Award Winner

 

      Milos Forman is probably the most celebrated Czech film director of all time. He was born in Čáslav in 1932, but very soon he lost both his parents to Nazi concentration camps.  He studied at the Prague Film Faculty during the early 1950s. His films of the 1960s, such as “Loves of a Blonde” or “The Firemen’s Ball”, established Czechoslovakia as one of the most important film centers. “The Firemen’s Ball”, a political allegory, unfortunately outraged the firemen of Czechoslovakia, 40,000 of them went on strike in protest. (Czech, …, 2002; Novak, 2000; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      Forman moved to the United States in 1971 to become almost instantly famous worldwide. “Taking Off” became his first American film. Forman won his first Academy Award for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975). He gained another Oscar for “Amadeus” in 1984. Forman’s other  famous movies include “Hair”, “Ragtime”, “The People vs. Larry Flint” or “The Man on the Moon”. His themes and style are often considered controversial. (Czech, …, 2002; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

3.5 Martina Navrátilová – The Greatest Woman Tennis Player of All Time

 

      Czech-born tennis star Martina Navrátilová dominated the woman’s tennis scene for remarkable two decades. Navrátilová was born in Prague in 1956. She began to attract a broader attention to her tennis at the 1973 French Open. She was not successful as she was overweight, but she showed for the first time how talented she was. In 1975, the Czech Sports Federation expressed disapproval of Navrátilová’s increasing “Americanization”. This fact led Martina Navrátilová to request political asylum from the United States in 1975. She became a U.S. citizen in 1981. (Czech, …, 2002; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      She returned to her home country in 1986 to lead the United States team to a Federation Cup victory, as she had done for Czechoslovakia 11 years before. During her outstanding career she won a record total of 167 singles titles, including 18 majors, along with 162 women’s doubles titles and eight mixed doubles titles. Navrátilová was ranked number one in the world for a record run of 150 weeks from 1982 to 1987 and gained $20 million in prize money. (Czech, …, 2002; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

3.6 Other Czech Americans Who Left a Mark in the American Hall of Fame

 

      In addition to the personalities of Czech-American descent mentioned already above there are many other famous Czech Americans who have enriched American society.

      Louis Brandeis became the first U.S. Supreme Court justice not only of Czech-American but also of Jewish-American origin in 1916. Brandeis also contributed very much to Czechoslovak independence. Anton Cermak, represents another important political figure who originates from the Czech-American community. He was born in Kladno, Bohemia and immigrated with his parents as an infant to the USA. He was elected mayor of Chicago in 1931 for the Democratic Party. Cermak was assassinated in Miami when helping President Roosevelt with his campaign. It remains a mystery who was intended to be the real target. (Czech, …, 2002; Gilbert, 2002; Rechcígl, 2000; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      Frank Malina is another Czech American whose inventions in rocketry made him famous. Malina designed America’s first rocket-propelled missiles during the 1940s. Carl and Gerty Cori became the third married couple to receive a Nobel Prize. Both natives of Prague and later American citizens were honored for their research in the physiology of glucose metabolism and the enzymes that control it. Kurt Gödel achieved great success with a discovery of one of the major theorems of 20th century mathematics. (Czech, …, 2002; Rechcígl, 2000; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      Rudolf Friml delighted American audiences with 33 light operas. Another Czech American who made himself famous through music was Rudolf Serkin, a great pianist. To conclude the list of famous Czech American musicians we can not forget the third Rudolf who is the composer Firkusny. Actresses Kim Novak and Sissy Spacek are also among the famous American entertainers of Czech origin. (Czech, …, 2002; Rechcígl, 2000; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

Picture no. 5: Anton Cermak, Mayor of Chicago (1st from the right)

Source: Saxon-Ford, 1998

 

      Aside from Martina Navrátilová, there are other successful Czech American sportsmen who should not be forgotten. The life story of Ivan Lendl is almost the same as that of Martina Navrátilová. He was also the number one tennis player of the 1980s and he even beats Navratilova in the amount of the prize money. Stan Mikita and Bobby Holik succeeded in ice-hockey. The most famous Czech American in baseball was the legendary Stan “the Man” Musial. He became National League champion seven times with the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1940s and 1950s. (Czech, …, 2002; Rechcígl, 2000; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      The Korbel brothers soon after their arrival in California in the middle of the 19th century began their new life as successful businessmen in various fields. They started in the cigar business, later searched for an opportunity in the lumber industry, and finally ended as famous American champagne producers. Nowadays, the Korbel wine production still includes the world’s finest champagnes. (Czech, …, 2002; Rechcígl, 2000; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

 

 

 

 

4 Czech-American Cultural Institutions from Past to Present

 

     In the following part of this diploma work I will present an overview of the life of Czech Americans from various points of view, including social and cultural institutions, such as Czech-American press and societies of the past and present, music and dance, political attitudes, attitudes towards education, and the religion. After that, this chapter will deal with other important aspects of the lives of Czech Americans, such as the importance of their origin, preservation of Czech language and habits, and relationship to the Czech Republic.

      The research which was conducted to answer questions about the maintenance of Czech identity in contemporary America deals with most of the issues listed in the paragraph above. Therefore this chapter has to focus on these issues from a different point of view, as it is a part of the historical background. In contrast to the practical research, this overview of the social and cultural lives of Czech Americans will be focused not only on the contemporary situation but also on its historical development. Because so many aspects of life could be included, this chapter should be taken only as an outline of the social and cultural situation of Czech Americans, from the past to present.

 

4.1 Czech-American Society

 

      Once Czechs established themselves in rural areas and in urban ethnic neighborhoods, they began to look beyond the challenge of daily survival. Czech Americans became active members of various associations and societies during the “Golden Age” (see section 2.3.3 of chapter II) of the Czech-American community in the first decades of the 20th century. For example, Czech Americans devoted part of their lives to fraternal societies, sokols or church groups. Most Czech American activities were based on an ideology. Catholics, socialists, freethinkers or intellectuals joined together in their own groups. (Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

4.1.1 Czech Americans and Their Relationship towards Religion

 

      The earliest Czech immigrants in America, the Moravian Brethren, searched for religious freedom and it became the most important reason why they actually came to America. The later immigrants of the main immigration waves after 1850 have been divided in different groups according to their interests, education, ideas or convictions. However, the major division was between those who practiced the Catholicism and those who did not. There were three main opinions concerning religious belief which distinguished Czech Americans: Catholicism, Protestantism and Freethinkers.

 

Picture no. 6: St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Spillville, IA (2002)

Source: David Bíróczi

 

4.1.1.1 Czech-American Catholics

 

      The Majority of Czech Americans belonged to the Catholic Church as it was the only recognized religion of the Hapsburg Empire. In fact, many Czechs associated the Catholic Church with the Austrian oppression, German language and Hapsburg rulers. Czechs had bitter memories of the Hapsburg re-Catholicization of the Czech lands which used to be predominantly Protestant. To avoid punishment and restrictions from the official authorities many Czechs affiliated to the Catholic Church. Therefore, many Czechs who arrived in the USA and faced religious freedom said farewell to Catholicism. Approximately one-third to one-half of all Czechs ceased to practice Catholicism when they came to America. Despite this fact, the greatest number of Czech Americans, especially in rural areas of Midwest and Texas, still belong to the Catholic Church. Those Czech Catholics who lived in areas without a Czech congregation very often joined Catholic congregations of other European Catholics, including the Irish, the German or the Polish. By 1920 about 350 Czech priests served in 268 Czech parishes. There were 200,000 Czech Catholics in the United States in 1961. (Chada, 1980; Fischetti, 1997; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

4.1.1.2 Czech-American Protestants

 

      Because Protestantism was strictly opposed by the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, it did not have as many confessors as the Catholic Church, even though many Czechs followed the tradition of Jan Hus. Before the Hapsburgs took power over the Czech lands, Czechs had been traditionally Protestants. Many Czechs felt positive about Protestantism because it symbolized the Czech fight against the Hapsburg oppression of their nation. Czech Protestants in America consisted of the descendants of Hussites and the Moravian Brethren. Other groups that could be included as Czech Protestants were Presbyterians, Episcopalians and other sects. The most famous Czech Protestant congregation in the United States has been the Jan Hus Presbyterian Church in New York City which was founded in 1888. Czech Protestants attracted thousands of newcomers. Most of those chose the Presbyterian sect. By 1920, Czech Presbyterians claimed 3,500 followers. (Chada, 1980; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

4.1.1.3 Czech-American Freethinkers

 

      The biggest rivals of the Catholics and Protestants happened to be the Czechs who refused all religions, the Progressives or the Freethinkers. They believed that people should be guided by reason rather than faith. The Freethinkers movement started in Bohemia in the1870s and very soon became a radical anti-Hapsburg and antichurch organization. But the Progressives enjoyed the greatest development of their movement in America where they were not threatened by official authority. (Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      Czech-American historian Joseph Chada states four possible explanations of the reasons why the Freethinkers movement became so popular in America: “According to one argument, progressivism was a logical result of the Czech’s inborn spirit of rebellion, which had been planted in his subconscious mind by the Hussite Revolt of the 15th century. Another argument states that spiritual indifference had been implanted in the Czech by the highly formalized character of religious life in the homeland. Still another ascribes the secular current to the absence of Czech-speaking clergy and the lack of parishes in the days of the early Czech-American settlement. Finally, some trace its nucleus to the Czech’s rejection of Catholicism and acceptance of the philosophical materialism popular in the America Midwest during the second half of the 19th century” (Chada, 1981, p. 82).

      In the Czech lands freethinkers respected the right of other people to believe in God and worship as they chose, but only to the extent that they did not force other people to the same. However, when settling in America Czech Freethinkers changed this attitude as they remembered the restrictions from the Hapsburgs. In the United States, they opposed any consolidation of power by the Roman Catholic Church. They received sympathy from two other anti-church movements that were popular in the Czech community, the socialists and the atheists. Czech Freethinkers in America established free-thought schools and created original rites and ceremonies for marriages, funerals and other important events. (Saxon-Ford, 1998)

     

4.1.2 Czech Americans and Their Relationship towards Education

     

      One of the most important priorities of many newcomers to America from the Czech lands was to provide quality education for their children. Czechs always kept education in high regard, which can be illustrated by the high literacy rate of Czechs compared to other immigrant groups. Ninety-seven percent of Czechs who arrived to the United States could read and write, although the average of all Slavic groups was just sixty-six percent. (Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      As soon as the Czechs settled in the United States, they searched for opportunities to educate their children. As the Czech communities started to grow, they could afford to found a school and hire a teacher. Czech Americans carefully decided what teachers were hired and what subjects were taught in their schools. Czech Americans very often wanted to teach their children about their heritage and that was something that the public school system could not provide. Therefore, the Czech communities established their own schools where their children could learn about the Czech language, history or literature. (Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      One of the earliest newcomers to America from the Czech lands, the Moravian Brethren, had a reputation as effective educators. The Moravian Brethren focused their attention on all Americans. They implemented the ideas of Jan Ámos Komenský in their schools, which were opened to a wide spectrum of students, not particularly Czech in their origin. The Moravian Brethren founded the sixth oldest college in America, the Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1742. They also organized the first interdenominational college for women in America. (College …, 7-18-2003; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      Various Czech-American interest or religious groups founded their own schools. It was common that in addition to the Czech schools which were attended by a wide spectrum of students of different convictions, interests etc., there were also Czech Catholic or Czech Protestant schools. Czech Freethinkers also established their schools, which were in big cities part of their most important institution, the Slavic Linden (Slovanská Lípa). One difference between the Catholic schools and the Progressive schools was in the extent of their instruction. The Czech Catholic school replaced the public elementary school and part of its curriculum included Czech language skills and Czech history. The Progressive (Freethinkers) school was supplementary. Students met after regular school hours during the week and on weekends. All its subjects, which included also mechanical arts or home economics, were taught in Czech.  (Chada, 1981; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

Picture no. 7: Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois

Source: Saxon-Ford, 1998

 

      The first Czech school was founded by the Catholics in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1854. By 1930 approximately 21,000 Czech Americans attended 121 parochial elementary schools and one high school founded by Czech Catholics in the United States. The Benedictines’ College of St. Procopius in Lisle, Illinois was also established by Czech Catholics to prepare Czech and Slovak boys for priesthood. Today it is named The Benedictine University and offers a liberal arts curriculum for both men and women. With the increasing assimilation of Czech Americans, most Czech schools in the United States had to be closed. Nevertheless, Czech Americans contributed to the preservation of Czech heritage in America in the past by founding schools. Nowadays, Czech is taught at several American universities, also some Czech-American organizations offer courses of Czech language not only for adults but also for children. For example, Czech school at the Bohemian Hall in New York offers free quality education.  Children learn reading, writing and grammar not only out of text books, but also during painting, singing, dancing, social games and education in drama. During this interesting program the children are getting an education in Bohemian history, geography and ethnic life style. The Children meet every Friday afternoon for two hours. (Chada, 1981; Saxon-Ford, 1998; Czech School, 7-18-2003.)

 

4.1.3 Political Attitudes of Czech Americans

 

      When the first Czechs began arriving in America in the 1850s they soon discovered that many political positions were already filled by other immigrant groups, most often by the Irish. Therefore, those Czechs with political ambitions started their careers in municipal politics of small towns of the Midwest and Texas where most Czech Americans lived. It was for the benefit of Czech Americans to elect someone of their origin to defend their rights and needs. But as Czechs established themselves in the United States, many of their politicians managed to get important positions in state or national politics as well. (Polišenský, 1996; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      Most Czech Americans sympathized with the Democratic Party, whose political program probably constituted their ideals best.  The first noticeable politician of Czech-American origin was Augustin Haidusek, who made his career in the state legislature of Texas. In 1870, Haidusek became the first Czech Texan to earn a legal degree and five years later he was elected the mayor of La Grange, Texas. He quickly advanced from his municipal post to service in the Texas legislature. Adolf Sabath, who was born in Písek, Bohemia, became the longest-serving U.S. congressman in history. He was elected for the first time in 1906 and then he was yet reelected twenty-three times and served in the U.S. Congress till the end of his life. Another Czech-American politician for the Democratic Party was Otto Kerner, who became the Governor of Illinois in the 1960s. In 1967, he was appointed by President Johnson the chairman of the Presidential National Advisory Committee for Civil Disobedience. In his official message, known as the “Kerner’s Report”, he warned the United States that the country had began to divide into two separate societies, the white and prosperous and the black and aggrieved. (Rechcígl, 2000; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      Anton Cermak became in 1931 Chicago’s first foreign-born mayor. During his short two-year term he fought against gangsters who profited from prohibition and it could have been the reason of his assassination in 1933 in Miami, where he made a public appearance with President Roosevelt during his campaign. It remained a mystery who had been the real target of the assassin. However, the highest-ranking Czech American politician, as well as the highest-ranking woman in the history of the USA, was Madeleine Albright, who served as the U.S. Secretary of State during the second term of President Bill Clinton (see section 3.3 of chapter II). (Czech, …, summer 2002; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      But some Czechs, especially those from New York City, supported the socialists. Many Czechs in New York worked in the cigar making industry or they had other subordinate jobs where they had to face inhuman conditions from their employers. Therefore, socialist ideas became popular in the New York Czech community. In fact, Czech immigrants brought the tradition of socialism from their homeland, where it developed as a political ideology in the middle of the 19th century in response to the drastic changes in the continent’s economy caused by the Industrial Revolution. Czech-American socialists attempted to end the inequities which were the results of this situation and devoted themselves to organizing factory workers into labor unions. The first Czech-American socialist political club was established in 1866. In 1872, Czech New York City cigar makers formed their own trade union. And in 1878, Leo Meilbek, a representative of the Czech labor movement, won a seat in the Illinois state legislature. Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist candidate for President at the beginning of the 20th century, could lean on the big support of the Czech-American socialists. (Polišenský, 1996; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

4.1.4 Arts in the Life of Czech Americans

 

      Czechs have always been a highly educated and culturally mature ethnic group, with a long history in the various arts. This characteristic has been typical also for the Czechs living in the USA. Czech immigrants in the United States of course brought Czech traditional music and dances which reminded them of their former life in the Czech lands. They also brought an appreciation of “higher” forms of the arts, including classical music and the tradition of Czech drama as one of the most important elements of the Czech national revival.

 

 

 

4.1.4.1 Music and Dance

 

      Music was always one of the most important aspects of the life of the Czech people in Bohemia and Moravia (Saxon-Ford, 1998.). And it played even a bigger role in the lives of Czech Americans, because music of their homeland could help them cope with the difficulties of the hard life they had in their beginnings in America. When they played or listened to Czech music, the Czech Americans recalled their home country and relaxed after the hard work they had during the day.

      Music filled the lives of Czech Americans, who took pride in the old Czech saying: “Whoever is Czech is a musician.”  Numberless choirs, orchestral ensembles, brass bands and individual performers were associated with the Czech immigrants. Czechs used music as a natural means of expression to introduce their culture to all Americans. Musical styles the Czech Americans performed varied from polkas to hymns and chants which Czechs, especially those belonging to the Moravian Brethren, sang during church ceremonies. (Chada, 1981; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

Picture no. 8: Czech Polka Band playing at Czech Days in Protivin, IA (2002)

Source: David Bíróczi

 

      Czech Americans did not hesitate to travel quite a long distance to listen to Czech music played by fellow farmers or traveling musicians. Polka became the favorite dance. Polka was invented by a Czech band to honor the Polish people and achieved great popularity in America. Although originally quite simple, polka dance steps became increasingly elaborate and the province of professional dancers. By the end of the 19th century the catchy rhythm of the polka sparked a craze that swept America. Polka was played by Czech musicians who earned a reputation by performing on brass, woodwind and stringed instruments. Czech Americans became known as performers in orchestral associations, such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra or Boston Symphony Orchestra. Czech Americans were extremely proud of artists from Bohemia who gave performances in the United States. The most popular Czech artists were violin virtuoso Kubelík and prima donna of the Metropolitan Opera, Emma Destinnová. (Chada, 1981; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

Picture no. 9: Dvořák Memorial Highway in Winnishiek County, Iowa (2002)

Source: David Bíróczi

 

      However, the Czech of whom Czech Americans were most proud was Antonín Dvořák. Dvořák spent three years in the United States as director of New York’s National Conservatory of Music from 1892 to 1895. He was very much interested in the life of his countrymen in America and this was probably one of the reasons why he spent the summer of 1893 with his family in the Czech community of Spillville, Iowa. The Spillville citizens are proud that this world-famous musician composed his “American Quartette” and worked on his famous “New World Symphony” here. Dvořák’s visit to Spillville is nowadays remembered with his memorial and a museum which was established in the building where he and his family stayed. (Bily Clocks Museum, Spillville; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      Evidence of the important role of music in the lives of Czech Americans can be also found in Willa Cather’s novel “My Antonia,” where the violin brought to America by Mr. Shimerda symbolizes the determination of Czech Americans to preserve their culture in a new environment. Mr. Shimerda’s refusal to play it illustrates how much he misses his homeland. (Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      Even nowadays, Czech Americans are very often associated with music, especially polka music. Many radio stations broadcasting in areas where there is a Czech population play polka in Czech because it is still popular among them. Czech communities have their Czech bands and choirs. These ensembles record their own tapes which enjoy good sales. The Czech-American communities hold dance and music festivals which are very popular even among other Americans, not particularly of Czech descent. Looked at from the point of view of music, the Czech-American society definitely seems to be thriving.

 

4.1.4.2 Czech-American Drama

 

      Czech Americans love for music was not the only cultural activity that they enjoyed. They admired drama as much as their music. The stage in Bohemia became one of the most important instruments of the Czech national cultural revival in the 19th century. New plays with national themes were written or rewritten; almost every Czech town established its own theatre and most importantly the National Theatre in Prague was erected by popular subscription. Czechs from all over the world contributed to this cultural shrine, and Czech Americans were no exception. (Chada, 1981.)

      Czech immigrants in the second half of the 19th century were coming to America filled with the spirit of this Czech national revival, at which one symbol was the Czech drama. Therefore, it was not long before the first Czech American theatrical group was established. Drama served as a popular means of educating the Czech Americans about their ethnic traditions. But because it also presented American plays in Czech translation, drama showed the life in the new world to them. The Czech-American drama was encouraged especially by Slavic Lindens (Slovanské Lípy), Czech Freethinkers’ organizations. The first theatres were founded by Czechs living in the big American cities which were the target destinations of the Czech urban immigration to the United States. Since the Civil War New York City was never without a Czech-American dramatic society. Chicago’s Slavic Linden presented its first play in 1863. In the 1860s Czech-American dramatic clubs sprang up in Saint Louis, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland and in the rural areas of Nebraska and Texas. Národní listy, a Czech newspaper, stated in 1871 that Czech Americans “love the theatre with passion and fill their playhouses to overflowing.” (Chada, 1981.)

      Amateur dramatics brought the first theatrical plays to the Czech-American audience. The Czech-American stage welcomed its first professionals in 1893 when Ludvík Theatre arrived from Bohemia and made its permanent base in Chicago. Ludvík Theatre staged one production a week until its dissolution in 1932. The Ludvík players produced plays of various well-known authors, such as Shakespeare, Moliere, Ibsen, and Hauptmann. But the leading dramatists of Bohemia of that time were also authors of many plays presented by the Ludvík Theatre. They served as a source of encouragement and inspiration for other Czech-American professional groups. (Chada, 1981.)

      The assimilation of Czech Americans did not cause the end of Czech drama in America. Nowadays, the Czech American organizations supporting the cooperation between the Czechs in America and the Czech Republic are proud to present Czech theatre to Americans of Czech descent. Czech artists never visited the United States as often as they do now. One of the organizations which support this cultural exchange most is the Czech Center in New York.

     

4.1.5 Social Institutions of Czech Americans

 

      As soon as they settled in the new country, Czechs in America began to develop their own social institutions. To make it easier to cope with the new reality in a different country, they established many institutions or organizations which helped them to live a similar life in the United States as they had lived in their homeland. They formed various Czech fraternal organizations, started to publish Czech-American periodicals and held various festivals in their communities to help to preserve their Czech origin.

 

4.1.5.1 Czech-American Fraternalism

 

      As most aspects of the lives of Czech Americans were divided in two main streams, the Progressive and the Conservative, the choice of the right fraternal society for Czech Americans was also determined by their denomination. Czech fraternalism took the form of benevolent societies; dramatic, choral, cultural and sports clubs; or educational and charitable associations. Although the Czech-American organizations were divided by affiliation and membership, they had something in common. They wanted to preserve the old-world values and grant social aid to the families who lost their breadwinners to illness, death or unemployment. The fraternalism actually took the role of the state in its second purpose, because there were no economic cushions offered by the government or private companies at the turn of the 19th and 20th century as it is now. (Chada, 1981; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      The first Czech-American fraternal organizations already functioned in the pioneer days of Czech settlement in America, in the 1850s and 1860s. By this time four organizations existed: the Czech-Slav Union (Česko-Slovanská jednota), the Slavic Linden (Slovanská lípa), the Czech-Slav Benevolent Society (Česko-slovanský podporující spolek) and the Saint Wenceslaus Society (Spolek svatého Václava). The Czech-Slav Union did not grow into an important Czech-American organization. But the others played a considerable role for Czechs in America. All except the last organization represented the Czech freethinkers. The Saint Wenceslaus Society included members of the Roman Catholic Church. (Chada, 1981.)

 

4.1.5.1.1 Czech-American Benevolent Organizations

 

      The Slavic Linden, one of the first Czech-American organizations, was established by Czech Americans who realized the danger of the loss of the sense of national feelings and interests in the homeland which was taking place in Czech America at that time. The Slavic Linden became the most important propagator of the Progressive movement among Czech Americans. For several decades in the second half of the 19th century, the Slavic Linden influenced the Czech community’s affairs most. It sponsored Czech schools, financed the establishment of Czech libraries, initiated choral societies and assisted the poor. Its funds were financed predominantly through drama plays, dances, receptions and picnics for Czech Americans. The Slavic Linden’s another goal was to attract the attention of other Slavic ethnic groups in America. However, the Slavic Linden was never successful in uniting all American Slavs. (Chada, 1981.)

      The popularity and activity of the Slavic Linden declined by 1880 and was succeeded by organizations offering advantageous systems with protective health and death benefits.The Czech-Slav Benevolent Society (CSPS) took the role of the most important Czech American Progressive organization after the influence of the Slavic Linden had decreased. The CSPS served as an example for many other Progressive organizations which sprung up in Czech America later. By 1892, the CSPS was represented by 211 local lodges in sixteen states. However, the CSPS and other fraternal organizations symbolized more than just life insurance. They were followers of the Slavic Linden, and therefore they provided ethnic and cultural programs for its members to help them realize and preserve what they were. By the end of the 19th century Czech fraternalism was struck by fractionalism. The Slavic Benevolent Union of Texas (Slovanská podporující jednota státu Texas) and the Western Czech Fraternal Union (Západní česko-bratrská jednota) separated from the CSPS. Today the CSPS is known under its new name the Czechoslovak Society of America and comprises more than 31,000 members. (Rechcígl, 7-18-2003; Chada, 1981.)

      The Bohemian Roman Catholic First Central Union (BRCFCU) was established in 1877 by a merger of nine Czech-American Catholic parish societies after the proposal of the Saint Wenceslaus Society (Spolek svatého Václava). The BRCFCU was the leading fraternal organization of the Czech-American Catholics for several decades in the second half of the 19th century. But similarly to the CSPS, the BRCFCU was hurt by the tendency of fractionalism at the end of century. In addition to the BRCFCU, there were other Czech-American Catholic organizations at the end of the 19th century including the Czech-Slav Fraternal Benevolent Union (Česko-slovanská bratrská podporující jednota), the Czech Catholic Union of Texas (Česká katolická jednota texaská), the Bohemian Roman Catholic Union of Wisconsin (Česká římsko-katolická ústřední jednota státu Wisconsin), the Western Catholic Union (Západní katolická jednota), and the Catholic Worker (Katolický dělník). (Chada, 1981; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

     

4.1.5.1.2 Czech Women’s Fraternal Organizations

 

      At first only men could be members of Czech fraternal organizations. Their lodges adopted a promotion system similar to the military. Czech-American women also wanted to profit from the benefits of fraternal organizations. But many Czech-American societies refused to admit female members for a long time and therefore Czech-American women decided to form their own fraternal societies. Because the existing organizations did not offer any possibility of insurance for women, the establishment of the female fraternals did not cause further fragmentation of the Czech fraternal system in the United States. (Saxon-Ford, 1998, pg. 92)

      The Unity of Czech Ladies (Jednota českých dam) was founded in 1870 as the female counterpart of the Czech-Slav Benevolent Society. The Czech-American Catholic women were represented by the Czech Roman-Catholic Central Union of American Women (Česko-římská katolická ústřední jednota amerických žen). Both organizations became very popular among the Czech women in America and grew into sizable benevolent organizations. After WWI, the Unity of Czech Ladies included about 23,000 members and its Conservative competitor had a membership of almost 13,000. (Chada, 1981.)

 

4.1.5.1.3 The American Sokol (Falcon)

 

      This gymnastic society established its first unit in Saint Louis in 1865, just three years after Dr. Miroslav Tyrš founded the Sokol society in Bohemia. Czech-American Freethinkers of that time saw in Sokol an instrument by which they could promote two ideals of the free-thought movement, to help people to discipline their body and develop moral character and intelligence. The Czech national element was essential to the Sokol movement. The Sokol became popular in America very soon after its foundation especially because its openness to all people regardless age, sex, athletic ability, culture or occupation. It offered physical fitness, social and cultural activities and ethnic spirit. (Chada, 1981; Saxon-Ford, 1998; What is ..., 7-18-2003).

      In 1878 there were so many Sokol societies in America that the American Sokol movement was centralized under the National Sokol Union in the United States. The peak of the American Sokol was reached in 1927 when it comprised 125 units with 14,000 members. After WWI, American Sokol wanted to include other Slavic Sokol organizations into its organization but this attempt was only partly successful. As the Czech-American society was divided by ideological opinions, the Sokol as an organization implementing the ideals of free-thought movement had to face another gymnastic organizations based on different ideals, the Catholic Falcon (Katolický sokol) and the Czech-American Socialist American Workingman’s Falcon (Dělnický americký sokol). (Chada, 1981; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      The Sokol rallies (slets) included spectacular demonstrations of simultaneous performance of a huge mass of people who moved in time to music. “Thus each member was able to take pride in both, individual and group accomplishment – an ideal of the sokol philosophy” (Saxon-Ford, 1998, p. 94). The American “falcons” did not attend only the national American Sokol rallies, but also the slets of all Sokol units worldwide which took place in Prague. Reports about the Sokol rallies did not fill only the Czech-American newspapers but also other American periodicals. Currently the American Sokol claims 7,000 members in 44 units. The number of units of the American Sokol decreased significantly, but still it remains a thriving Czech-American organization. The Sokol in the United States does not deny its Czech-American character; however, increasing assimilation puts in front of the “falcons” new challenges. For example, now membership of the American Sokol organization is not subject to Czech origin. This smart policy gives the chance that the Sokol will stay attractive even for the next generations. (Chada, 1981; Saxon-Ford, 1998; What is ..., 7-18-2003).

 

Picture no. 10: Part of the American Sokol Organization Pamphlet

Source: The American Sokol Organization

     

4.1.5.1.4 Czech-American Fraternalism from Another Perspective

 

      In addition to the fraternal societies already described in this chapter, there are also other Czech American organizations whose primary objective is not connected with offering life insurance. One of them, the American Sokol Organization, was already described in the previous section (see 4.1.5.1.3 of chapter II) because of its exclusivity in the Czech-American community. Some authors make a division between the fraternal organizations, in which they see organizations offering life insurance, and other Czech American societies which do not sell life insurance. Joseph Chada (1981), however, considers fraternal organizations as all societies, clubs and associations which were established by Czechs in America in order to fulfill their individual needs and interests. Therefore, fraternalism in Chada’s consideration serves as a general term for all Czech-American organizations, which can be divided into different categories according to their purpose, i.e. benevolent, religious, heritage, genealogical, educational, scientific, cultural, sports, hobby, charitable, veterans organizations and societies dealing with public affairs and promotion of business and trade between the USA and the Czech Republic. (Rechcígl, 7-18-2003; Chada, 1981.)

      One of the organizations dealing with public affairs is the American Friends of the Czech Republic (AFOCR), whose purpose is to support the free and democratic Czech Republic and the mutual cooperation between the United States and the Czech Republic. Among its most recent accomplishments have been a project for 2002 flood relief, building of the Masaryk Memorial and park in Washington D.C. and support of the entry of the Czech Republic into NATO. The importace of another Czech American organization, the Czechoslovak National Council of America, declined after the Velvet Revelution in Czechoslovakia in 1989 because its main purpose was the liberation of Czechoslovakia from Communism.
(Rechcígl, 7-18-2003.)

      The Czech-North American Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1998 by leading Czech-American businessmen to promote trade, investment and tourism ties among the Czech Republic and the US, Canada and Mexico (NAFTA countries). With its head offices in Atlanta, GA, CNACC plans to establish an affiliation with all existing organizations involved in Czech Republic trade and business issues, as well as to develop new regional chapters in states and provinces (Rechcígl, 7-18-2003.). Czech Americans are also very interested in their ancestors and relatives who still live in the Czech Republic, but about whom they have no information. For this purpose many Czech-American genealogical organizations operate in the USA; one of them is the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International (CGSI). (Rechcígl, 7-18-2003.)

      The immigrants from Czechoslovakia running away from Communism were predominantly well educated people. In 1958, these Czech exiles founded the Czechoslovak Society for Arts and Science (SVU). Its present president, Miloslav Rechcígl, describes its purpose as an international non-profit, nonpolitical cultural organization dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, the free dissemination of ideas, and the fostering of contacts among people. It brings together scholars, scientists, artists, writers, students, lawyers, businessmen, and others throughout the world who have a professional, family or other interest in the Czech Republic and  / or Slovakia, their histories, peoples, or their cultural and intellectual contributions.“ It is definitely worth mentioning that the SVU held its last world congress in Plzeň, Czech Republic. (Polišenský, 1996; Rechcígl, 7-18-2003.)

 

4.1.5.1.5 Final Words on the Czech-American Fraternalism

 

      The Czech American fraternalism reached its greatest success before WWI. By this time there were more than 123,000 members in the total of 13 Czech-American Progressive societies and about 33,000 Czech Americans accepted membership in one of the 10 Conservative fraternal unions. If we consider only Czech Americans of the first and second generation, every third Czech American was a member of a fraternal organization before WWI. Many fraternal organizations had to face dangerous competition with commercial insurance companies which sprung up. Many of the founders and directors of the Czech fraternals were not skilful in business and as the result of this situation some Czech American organizations offering life insurance did not succeed. Young Czech Americans affiliated more often with the organizations promoting the American life style and were not attracted by the ethnic exclusivity of the Czech-American organizations. Those organizations which changed their policy and transformed themselves still operate in the United States. They very often had to retreat from their strict ethnic character to succeed in the commercial competition. (Chada, 1981.)

      “Today the Czech-American fraternal organizations offering insurance are grouped under several major societies, including the Czechoslovak Society of America (formerly the CSPS)” (Saxon-Ford, 1998, p. 92) The Czech Catholic Union of Texas, also known as the Catholic Union of Texas, became the leading Czech-American Catholic organization. These two major fraternal organizations have functioned independently of each other to symbolize the division of the Czech-American community. However, this division is not taken too seriously by the Czech Americans nowadays since many Catholics are members of non-catholic organizations and the same situations is the other way round. In addition to these two organizations which are founded on an ideological basis, there are other even bigger fraternal societies but not based on any particular ideology, including Mutual Protective Association of Texas (RVOS), Slavonic Benevolent Order of the State of Texas (SPJST) and Western Fraternal Life Association (WFLA). (Rechcígl, 7-18-2003; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      However, Czech-American fraternalism does not cover only organizations offering the life insurance but also associations, clubs or societies which meet particular needs of the Czech Americans determined by their interests and region where they live.

 

4.1.5.2 Czech-American Press

 

      The first Czechs who came to the United States in the first wave of immigration in the 1850s wanted to be informed about the happenings in their community and in their homeland, but because they did not speak English very much, the first Czech-language newspapers gave them also an opportunity to learn about news in the United States. The Czech-language newspapers served as means where Czech Americans could represent their ideas and view and therefore most periodicals of Czechs American were divided again according to an ideology on which they were based. Czech Christians, Socialists and Freethinkers formed their own newspapers. However, the Czech press did not lack objective periodicals. (Chada, 1981; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      In 1860 the first two Czech American newspapers started to be published, the American Slav (Slowan amerikánský) of Racine, Wisconsin and the National Gazette (Národní noviny) in Saint Louis, Missouri. But already one year after their establishment both periodicals faced serious financial crisis and therefore decided to merge into a semi-weekly called Slavie. Slavie survived and was printed in Racine until 1946. Slavie’s chances to stay in business were increased in 1863 when Karel Jonáš, a Czech political refugee and journalist, became its editor. Jonáš advocated objective reporting and commentating and “carefully avoided the religious controversy which wracked the Czech-American community.” (Chada, 1981, pg. 129) Slavie helped Czechs to understand the American way of life and to adjust to a multicultural community. (Chada, 1981.)

      In addition to unbiased newspapers, e.g. Slavie, there were many other periodicals influenced by an ideology or a conviction. Czech-American Catholics subscribed to Catholic News (Katolické Noviny), Voice (Hlas) or the publications of Benedectines Katolík and the Nation (Národ). The Worker’s Gazette (Dělnické listy) and Justice (Spravedlnost) were mostly read by the Socialists. The Czech-American Freethinkers had the chance to choose from numerous publications. Many Freethinking periodicals attacked the Czech-American Catholics very much. The most lurid was Pokrok, which presented stories of lascivious priests and sinful nuns. But also more specific interest groups could enjoy reading newspapers which fulfilled their interests, e.g. feminists, agricultural experts or even poultry farmers had their own publications. (Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      Between 1875 and 1911, a total of thirty different dailies were published in the Czech-American community. The semi-weeklies were very popular among Czech Americans; before 1911 eighteen Czech semi-weeklies were published in the United States. 160 weeklies in Czech language were printed in America before 1911, which made them the most popular kind of periodical. Finally, there were also ninety-six monthlies and semi-monthlies published in Czech America before 1911. Annual almanacs also became favorite readings for Czech Americans since they helped to fill the long winter’s evenings. The topics of the almanacs varied a lot. A subscriber could read in them about the American Constitution, issues concerning the Civil War, excerpts of Don Quixote. Other topics were e.g. biographies, information about Czech Americans and events in their community etc. From 1861 to 1930 thirty different almanacs were published. Czech Americans could become subscribers of 326 newspapers between 1860 and 1910. After WWI only a fraction of them still published. (Chada, 1981; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

 

Picture no. 11: Hospodář (Present Czech-American Newspaper)

Source: Hospodář, 2002

 

      The change of the situation of Czechs in America after WWII, most importantly growing assimilation of the new generations, caused the weakening position of the Czech American press. Luckily, a new influx of political refugees from Czechoslovakia after 1948 helped to revive the Czech American press. Today Czech language periodicals include over half a dozen daily newspapers. However, there are still other periodicals published in English but intended for Czech Americans. Also many Czech-American organizations and interest groups print for their members various newsletters informing about their activities. Chada (1981) speculates that the task of the Czech-American periodicals is difficult and temporary as the first generation of immigrants will continue to subscribe, but the Americanization which undoubtedly affects their children will turn them away from the values and interests of their parents. He suggests, in 1981, that the Czech press can exist in the United States for a few more decades. However, more than two decades after this speculation, the Czech American press has not disappeared. Maybe, the political changes in the homeland caused increasing interest in the Czech issues. (Chada, 1981; Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

     

4.1.5.3 Czech-American Festivals

 

      The Czech festivals in the United States are one of the most important ways by which Czech Americans present the pride of their heritage not only to themselves, but also to all Americans who enjoy visiting the festivals and are very eager to learn about the Czech American community and their traditions and habits. There are many Czech American festivals taking place in the United States every year. This quantity of Czech ethnic events in different Czech American communities across the United States can be considered as evidence of the prosperity of the Czech communities. It also proves that, despite the increasing mobility and Americanization of the people of Czech descent, many Czech Americans are still concentrated in the traditional areas of Czech settlement and that these Czech communities are thriving, otherwise these events could not take place. The frequent occurrence of these ethnic events also suggests that the Czechs are still very proud of their heritage and want to show it to others.

      Visitors of Czech festivals are mostly attracted by the traditional Czech food, the most popular is probably typical Czech pastry “koláče”, and the Czech music, which is most commonly represented by brass bands and polka. Czech festivals very often offer additional attractions, such as individual or team sport competitions, card games, baking contests, arts or crafts exhibits or Miss pageant, parades and the like. People very proudly wear Czech national costumes, kroje, during the Czech festivals. The Czech festival in Wilber, Nebraska, proclaimed the Czech Capital of the USA, is famous for its Miss Czech-Slovak USA Queen Pageant. The more than local importance of this competition can be guessed from the value of the prizes for the winner, which include $2,000 in Savings bonds, a one year-college scholarship and a trip to either the Czech Republic or Slovakia. This competition helps young generations of Czechs appreciate their heritage. The Wilber Czech Festival attracts an average of 20,000 to 30,000 visitors, which make it Nebraska’s largest ethnic festival. Another famous Czech festival, the Westfest, takes place in West, Texas every year on Labor Day. Very often the Czech festivals are connected with “Dožínkya traditional Czech holiday which is celebrated annually to give thanks for the bountiful harvest. “Dožínky” are celebrated in New Prague, Minnesota and many other towns. (Dožinky, …, 7-18-2003; Fiala, 2002; Kral, 2002; Westfest, …, 7-18-2003.)       

 

Picture no 12: Polka Dancing at Czech Days in Protivin, IA (2002)

Source: David Bíróczi

 

      But there are far more Czech festivals in the United States than just those listed above. But whether mentioned or not, all have something in common and that is that they bring people of Czech origin together and help them realize and be proud of their heritage. The festivals also work as an instrument which helps to preserve the Czech culture in the United States in the future.  Another very important role of these Czech ethnic events is that they introduce the Czech-American culture to other Americans who can this way learn about Czech habits and traditions more closely. This understanding of different cultures makes people more tolerant of each other.

 

4.1.5.4 Czech-American Weddings

 

      The character of a wedding in the Czech-American community has differed significantly from weddings in other ethnic groups living in the USA. A Czech-American wedding also shows typical features of the Czech American social life and therefore can serve as an example of how ethnic traditions survive.

       According to Saxon-Ford (1998), the Czech wedding has been described as “a virtual orgy of eating, drinking, dancing, and visiting (Saxon-Ford, pp. 75-76).” Months or even a full year of planning and preparing was nothing uncommon for a Czech-American wedding. A Czech band could not be missing. In the past, the bride’s family raised additional chickens, turkeys, geese and an extra calf or hog just for the purpose of this lifetime occasion of their daughter. All was roasted and served to the wedding guests at the reception which followed the ceremony. The other dishes which were served at the reception were e.g. cooked pork, homemade bread, sauerkraut and pastries. Women and men wore their best clothing for this special occasion, many of them put on the Czech folk costumes (called kroje). (Saxon-Ford, 1998.)

      In the paragraph above, the Czech American wedding of the past was described. However, some Czech American weddings of the present, especially in the rural areas, do not differ too much. I had a chance to attend one of these. The bride’s family also raised four hogs just for the wedding guests. The reception had to take place in a school gymnasium, which was rented for this purpose, because it was attended by about 150 people. The main dishes served there were typical Bohemian and included roasted pork and sauerkraut and koláče, which were baked by the women from the community, served as desserts. The wedding party did not end until the next day morning.  The Czech-American wedding can be one of the examples showing that the Czech tradition in the United States has not disappeared yet.

 

4.1.6 Another Important Aspects of the Lives of Czech Americans

 

      This section will deal with the most important aspects of the present life of Czechs in America, as they all deal with the preservation of their national identity in contemporary America. The following parts of this section will try to illustrate the state of assimilation of Czech Americans and the importance of their origin to them. The importance of preserving the Czech language and traditions and the main characteristics of the relationship of Czech Americans to the old country will also be discussed.

 

4.1.6.1 The Process of Assimilation and the Importance of Origin

 

      Although Czech Americans always considered the ethnic affairs in their lives, everyday demands continued the process of assimilation to the prevailing American (Anglo-Saxon) culture. Czech Americans became unconsciously part of this process. The assimilation process is a logical result of the new challenges which Czechs had to face when they arrived to America. The intensity of the process, known as the “Melting Pot,” differed from location to location and it progressed slowly, but no areas avoided it. (Chada, 1981.)

      We can determine four different ways Czechs in the United States face their origin. Some Czech Americans were embarrassed by their origin and suppressed their inherited culture and totally accepted the prevailing culture, which they considered more acceptable to Americans. Another group of Czech Americans decide to settle outside the Czech community; however, they unconsciously retained sentiments for their origin. Though they ceased to maintain their ethnic contacts, they did not openly deny their origin and “occasionally paid lip service to their Czech heritage (Chada, p. 229).” The relationship of the third group of Czech Americans to their heritage was influenced very much by American materialism. They forgot about their national origin because of the pleasure and novelty the American culture could offer them and replaced Czech values with American ones. The last group of Czech Americans consists of people who accepted the American way of life but still did not give up their ethnic origin. These people kept in high regard the Czech tradition their ancestors had left them and at the same time they “accommodated to the pragmatic aspects of the American life (Chada, p. 229).” This combination of Czech tradition and American pragmatism was reflected in the civic, economic and public activity in their communities. (Chada, 1981.)

      The idea of America as the “Melting Pot” was replaced with a different idea in the 1960s when John F. Kennedy became President of the United States. Kennedy proclaimed that America is a country of immigrants and its unity is based on the distinctness of its individual components. The idea of America as a “nation of nations” caused increasing interest in the historical and ethnic roots of each individual; Czech Americans were no exception. Children of Czech immigrants started putting together their family trees, contacted their forgotten relatives and visited places in the homeland where their ancestors came from. (Polišenský, 1996.)

      However, the process of assimilation can not be stopped. There is no point saying if it is a positive or negative process. Definitely it is a natural process which is difficult to fight against. New generations of Czechs who had more opportunities in education, choice of occupation and in mobility had to leave their communities to meet these opportunities and eventually acquired the American value system. Another factor which influenced the assimilation was that the longer Czechs were in the United States, the less firm were their ties with the traditions in their homeland. Frequent marriages with non-Czechs lessened the chances of preserving Czech traditions for the next generations even more. (Chada, 1981.)

      The political changes in Czechoslovakia in 1989 opened the old country to the Czech Americans who began to strengthen the ties again. The process of globalization also reduces the differences between nations. Therefore, one day the Czechs in the Czech Republic and in the United States may be a lot closer to each other. However, this can eventually end up with the Americanization of the Czech Republic.

 

4.1.6.2 Preservation of Czech Language and Customs

 

      Despite the unavoidable effects of increasing assimilation described in the previous section, many Czech Americans do not want to surrender their heritage and try to preserve as much of it as possible. The Czech language and Czech national habits create the most important and visible part of their heritage. In the preservation of what makes Czechs different from other ethnic groups in America, we can see the main purpose of the Czech American organizations, although their names very often suggest that their primary goals are different than the preservation of the Czech heritage.

      According to Chada (1981), one of the results of assimilation is the loss of the native language. However, Czech language has not disappeared totally from the Czech-American communities. Many Czechs of older generations still speak Czech fluently in everyday situations and even the younger Czech people still know some expressions which they like to use when there is somebody who understands them. But most Czech Americans are forced to use English in most daily situations and therefore the importance of the existence of the Czech language in the USA can be considered doubtful. Czech must seem to younger Czechs American as an archaic language of their ancestors. But despite these factors, Czech communities across the United States offer Czech language classes, which are very popular not only among Americans of Czech descent. Czech is taught at several American universities. Courses of Czech for children are also arranged. This is a proof that some Czech Americans think that the Czech language is very important for preservation of their heritage and that they do not want to let it die.

      That Czechs in America are also very proud of their various customs and that they want to preserve them can be seen at numerous Czech festivals (see section 4.1.5.3 of chapter II) and other events all over the United States. These customs include traditional Czech cooking and baking, music and dance, holding Czech national holidays or sewing and wearing Czech folk costumes, called kroje in Czech, on special occasions. The Czech folk costumes function as one of the symbols of Czech heritage and therefore they are often considered as the most important artifacts in the family’s possession. Many folk costumes have a historical value, too, as many of them were brought from the Czech lands by the ancestors of today’s Czech Americans. Czech Americans also created their own American versions of kroje. The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa displays the largest collection of kroje outside the Czech Republic (Kroje …, 7-18-2003). The points presented in this paragraph demonstrate that the traditional Czech customs are very important for many Czechs Americans and also very interesting for the younger generation, and therefore they have a chance to survive in America.

 

4.1.6.3 Relationship to the Czech Republic

 

      The intensity of the relationship between Czechs in America and Czechs in the homeland has changed over time according to the moods, prevailing ideology or political regimes either in the United States or in the area of today’s Czech Republic. These relationships can be divided into three categories: the first type of relationship is between individuals, the second on the level of various organizations and the last is the relationship between the official governments of the United States and the Czech Republic.

      Especially in the time of the big immigration waves, Czech Americans fought in the United States for the improvement of the situation in the old country and had undoubtedly one of the most important influences on the formation of independent Czechoslovakia. The new Czech exiles who ran away from Czechoslovak communists had a similar effect on the change of the political conditions in Czechoslovakia in 1989. (Chada, 1981.)

      The relationship of Czech Americans and the Czech people in the old country in the present can be considered as one of the best ever. The political changes in Czechoslovakia enabled the improvement of the mutual relations, which were not very good before 1989. Czech Americans themselves are now freer to come to the Czech Republic to learn about the culture of their ancestors and look for their relatives. Also many Czechs visit the Czech communities in the United States and are surprised how much of Czech identity they have preserved. New cooperation was created between various institutions, e.g. between Protivin, Iowa and Protivín, Czech Republic. New organizations, such as the American Friends of the Czech Republic or the Czech-North American Chamber of Commerce, were established in the United States and their primary task is to help the Czech Republic and improve the mutual relations between both countries. Undoubtedly we can expect a good future for Czech-American cooperation. (Polišenský, 1996; Rechcígl, 7-18-2003.)

     

5 Conclusion

 

      The first permanent resident from the Czech lands came to the American continent in the first half of the 17th century. The largest influx of Czech immigrants happened, however, during the large waves of immigration in the second half of the 19th century. This immigration, of a predominantly economic character, was aimed at either big American cities or rural areas of the Midwest and the Southwest, where Czechs very soon established thriving communities. Czech immigration reached its peak at the beginning of the 20th century. This period is considered the “Golden Age” of Czechs in America. The character of Czech immigration to the United States changed to political before and during WWII and after the communists seized power in Czechoslovakia. In fact, many of hese Czechs refused to be marked as immigrants and considered themselves exiles, who fought for a free Czechoslovakia.

      The Czech community also produced many Americans whose accomplishments were acknowledged by broad public. Czech Americans became famous in various fields of human activity including business, science, astronautics, politics, arts and sports.

      Czech immigrants who arrived to the United States presented a broad spectrum of people who differed in their religious conviction, ideological opinions and in political attitudes. Czech immigrants in the United States included Catholics, Protestants and Freethinkers. Czech Americans had also various political opinions, however; most of them preferred the liberal ideas. Czechs always kept education in high regard and therefore they very soon began to establish Czech schools where they could educate their children.

      Czech Americans were known for their rich cultural life, especially for their love for music, dance and drama. To adapt themselves better to the new reality of the new world, Czech Americans established many organizations which differed in their purpose as they were created by people of various interests and priorities. They included benevolent, religious, heritage, genealogical, educational, scientific, cultural, sports, hobby, charitable, veteran, public affairs or trade promotion organizations. Various Czech-American periodicals informed Czech Americans about happenings in their community and about national and international issues.

      The most common way in which Czech Americans present their pride in their heritage is by holding Czech ethnic festivals and other events across the United States. These events serve as places where the Czech effort to preserve the national customs, traditions and Czech language is demonstrated to fellow Czechs and other Americans. Czech Americans are very proud of their origin and many of them try to preserve their heritage despite the fact that they are slowly Americanized. One way in which they want to reverse the process of assimilation is to strengthen the ties between them and the Czech Republic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

III Research Study: Methods

 

      A research study was designed in order to find out to what degree Americans with Czech origins maintain a Czech identity in contemporary America. This chapter will describe the research questionnaire, the procedures used to conduct the research and the respondents.

 

1 Research Questionnaire

 

1.1 Description of the Questionnaire

 

      The research questionnaire has two versions, the printed and the internet version (see appendix 1). The questionnaire begins with an introductory paragraph about the purpose of the research. The function of the next part of the research questionnaire is to obtain general information about the respondent (gender, age, education, profession/job and place of living). In fact, it was later decided to use only age categories when analyzing the findings. The following seventeen questions of the questionnaire deal with the research topics of this diploma work described in the next section. The questionnaire ends with a space where a respondent can add additional comments about the research. The question about the place of living and the space for additional comments are not included in the first printed versions of the questionnaire distributed in northeastern Iowa.

      Most questions are of Y/N type with additional possibility of explaining the reasons of the particular choice. Only questions number 2, 3 and 17 are of multiple choice character, number of choices is varying from 3 to 5 in these questions. The only open ended is question number 14. According to comments of the respondents, for most of them the process of filling out the questionnaire was a “breeze” and the questions were very clear and covered all aspects of the Czech-American life.

 

1.2 Research Topics of the Questionnaire

 

      To obtain information about the extent of Czech identity, 17 questions were asked. The individual questions were composed to deal with the following aspects of the maintenance of a Czech identity among Czech Americans: 

 

Ø      Knowledge of the origin of their ancestors

Ø      Knowledge and usage of Czech language

Ø      Czech-American press and websites

Ø      Level of involvement in Czech-American affairs (e.g. membership of a Czech-American organization)

Ø      Preservation of Czech traditions and heritage in Czech-American communities

Ø      Activity of an individual in preserving Czech heritage

Ø      Possible schooling in a Czech educational institution

Ø      Significance of being Czech

Ø      Awareness of Czech contribution to American society

Ø      Relationship to the Czech Republic.

 

1.3 Conduct of the Research

 

      The research was first conducted only with the printed version of the questionnaire, which was distributed to people of Czech descent in the area of Northeast Iowa during the summer of 2002. However, far fewer questionnaires were returned from the respondents than had been expected and therefore the author decided to place the online version of the questionnaire on the internet (http://www.czechsinamerica.wz.cz) where it could be easily reached by Czechs living in the United States. A list of the Czech-American organizations from David Muhlena, librarian of the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids in Iowa, and a list of the same compiled by Miloslav Rechcígl, the President of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Science, which is presented on the internet (http://www.svu2000.org/whatwedo/ c5gc5.htm), were used to contact by email various Czech-American associations, societies, clubs or communities. The Czech-American organizations were asked to inform their members about the internet version of the questionnaire.

      The internet version of the questionnaire was significantly more successful than the written one. Some Czech organizations placed a link to the questionnaire on their internet presentations (e.g. Bexar County Czech Heritage Society, St. Wenceslaus High School Alumni Association), others printed the email informing about the questionnaire in their periodicals and newsletters (e.g. New Prague Times) and some printed the whole questionnaire in their publications (e.g. Louisiana Czech Heritage Association). However, the most common way in which the Czech-American organizations informed their members was through their meetings or by forwarding the email. After the process of filling out the internet version of the questionnaire was completed, the respondent clicked on the send button at the end of the questionnaire and the results were immediately emailed, already in the electronic version, to the email address of this author. When filling out the internet version of the questionnaire, the process of inserting the survey into an envelope and mailing it to the Czech Republic was not necessary. Therefore, the use of the internet version was for both the author and the respondents more advantageous than the use of the written form.

     

2 Respondents

 

2.1 General Characteristics of the Respondents

 

      The people who eventually filled out the research questionnaire are people who can trace their origin back to ancestors who arrived on the American continent from the Czech lands. These people were asked to fill out the questionnaire either by the author of this diploma work in person or through various Czech-American organizations who were informed about this research.

      The Czech Americans who were willing to participate in this research cover all the important influxes of Czech immigration to the United States from the 1850s till the 1990s. That means that the respondents include people who are descendants of Czechs who arrived in America from the 1850s as well as those who immigrated themselves and are the first generation Czech Americans. The latter group decided to emigrate predominantly because of political reasons and experienced in person a life in a non-democratic regime and different culture. These aspects make the group of political immigrants different from the former group, which consists of descendants of immigrants who arrived during the large waves of immigration in the second half of the 19th century, when the reasons for immigrating were mostly economic. These respondents were born as Americans and therefore have logically weaker ties with the Czech Republic. The respondents, who represent the group of Czech exiles, are mostly Czech-Americans of the first and second generation. Therefore, the degree of preservation of Czech identity is higher among them than among the descendants of the Czech immigrants of the 19th century. However, these recent Czech immigrants represent only very few of the respondents and therefore, they could not significantly influence the result of this research study.

      The respondents live across the United States, covering the area from the east coast to the west coast and from the Canadian to Mexican border. Probably the most active were the Czech Texans, who completed, most questionnaires received. To learn more about the places of living of the respondents, see appendix 2.

 

2.2 Limitations of the Research

 

      The people who filled out the questionnaire, mainly those contacted through the Czech American organizations, are already more involved in the happenings in the Czech American community and for this reason the research could not include people who do not concern themselves about their Czech-American identity. Therefore, the respondents in this research study cannot be representative sample of Czech Americans. Despite this fact, results of the research show the main tendencies in the preservation of Czech identity in contemporary America, especially the differences among generations.

 

2.3 Number of Respondents and Their Basic Grouping in the Research

 

      By July 16, 2003, the deadline for the respondents to fill out and send the questionnaire, as much as 290 Czech Americans had participated in this project by completing the research questionnaire. The respondents included people 16 years and older, further divided into the following age groups: 16-30, 31-45, 46-60, 61 and more years old. This grouping according to the age of the respondents became the most important division in this research; it is the only distinction used for analysis. The most questionnaires were received from older respondents. All completed questionnaires will be used in this project despite the different number of respondents in the age groups. The analysis will use percentages. The total of all respondents will be calculated as an average of percentages of all age groups in order to make this item more accordant with the reality. The number of respondents in each age group, the percentage of each age group on the total number of respondents, and other characteristics can be seen in the following tables:

 

 

 

 

 

Table no. 1: Number and Percentage of Respondents

Age Group

No. of Respondents

Percentage

16 - 30

52

18

31 - 45

40

14

46 - 60

102

35

61 -

96

33

Total

290

100

Source: own research

 

Table no. 2: Gender of Respondents

Age Group

Number of Respondents

Number of respondents (%)

female

male

total

female

male

total

16 - 30

34

18

52

65

35

100

31 - 45

27

13

40

68

32

100

46 - 60

62

40

102

61

39

100

61 -

56

40

96

58

42

100

Total

179

111

290

62

38

100

Source: own research

 

Table no. 3: Education of Respondents

Age Group

Completed Education (%)

elementary

secondary

university

16 - 30

19

17

64

31 - 45

x

35

65

46 - 60

2

29

69

61 -

6

31

60

Total

7

28

65

Source: own research

      According to the charts above, about sixty percent respondents were women. The most typical respondent of this research was very well educated. Only very small portion of the people participating in this survey received basic education. This fact either shows that better educated people are more interested in the matters of their ethnicity or that they are more willing to help with researches in total.

 

 

 

 

 

IV Results and Commentary

 

1 Introduction

 

      This chapter of the diploma work is dedicated to the presentation and description of the results of the questionnaire survey which was conducted among Czech Americans to find out the state of the maintenance of Czech identity in contemporary America.

      The results from all seventeen questions of the questionnaire are described in the following sections. Some questions are described separately, other questions which have similar topic are described in one chapter. The results are presented and commented first according to the individual age groups and then as a total of all 290 respondents. All results in the tables and graphs are shown in percents.

 

2 The Maintenance of Czech Identity in Contemporary America

     

2.1 Awareness about Ancestry

 

      The results to the question dealing with the knowledge of Czech Americans about their ancestors, who arrived as first-generation immigrants to the United States, are presented and described in this section. The respondents were supposed to answer the following question: “Do you know where and when your ancestors came from?” If their answer was positive, they should have added the place of origin of their ancestors and the time of their arrival to America. The results are presented in the following table and graph. Items place and time in table no. 4 were calculated from the total of respondents in each age group and in the last line from the total of all respondents who answered this question.

     

Table no. 4: Awareness about Origin* (%)

Age Group

Positive Answer

Negative Answer

total

place

time

16 - 30

71

65

44

29

31 - 45

78

75

63

22

46 - 60

95

93

72

5

61 -

96

90

74

4

Total

85

81

63

15

Source: own research

*Do you know where and when your ancestors came from?

 

Graph no. 1: Awareness about Origin*

Source: own research

*Do you know where and when your ancestors came from?

 

 

      The results from this question show very clearly the connection between each respondent’s age and their awareness of their family history. Awareness is relatively high across all age groups; however, the difference between the youngest age group and the two oldest is significant. One-third of the youngest do not know the origin of their family; whereas, only 1 in 20 Czech Americans aged 46 and over do not know this. The young people also more often know only the place of the origin of their ancestors and are uncertain about even the approximate time of entry to the United States. Their answers are also mostly very general, e.g. Czechoslovakia, Bohemia, Moravia etc. On the contrary, with older respondents, the answers become more detailed and specific.

      However, other questions of the questionnaire, which are described in the next sections, also show that the older people are more often members of various genealogical organizations or at least they visit genealogical websites. Therefore, we cannot exclude the possibility that when the younger respondents become older, they will be more active in the search for their family history, as their priorities change. Records about the arrivals of the ancestors of Czech Americans to the United States have been in many cases kept in the families and passed on to following generations. However, in some families this information has been lost and if the new generations want to find out more about their ancestry, they must use the services of various genealogical organizations.

 

2.2 Importance of Czech Language

 

      Three questions of the research questionnaire dealt with the preservation of Czech language among Czech Americans. Respondents had a choice of five levels of knowledge of Czech with the following question: “What is your knowledge of Czech?” In another question of the questionnaire, respondents were asked about their mother tongue. Finally, the last question about Czech language was aimed at finding out the importance of Czech for Czech Americans.

 

Table no. 5: Knowledge of Czech among Czech Americans

Age Group

Knowledge of Czech (%)

none

some words

basic situations

most situations

fluent

16 - 30

30

52

6

4

8

31 - 45

21

58

8

5

8

46 - 60

18

61

12

6

3

60 -

9

35

26

16

14

Total

20

52

13

8

8

Source: own research

 

Graph no. 2: Knowledge of Czech among Czech Americans

Source: own research

 

      The results, presented in the table and graph above, show the levels of knowledge of the Czech language among Czech Americans. These results again present significant differences between the younger and older respondents. Almost one-third of the youngest respondents do not speak any Czech. On the other hand, only 1 in 10 of the oldest have no knowledge of Czech. Knowledge of some words of Czech was the most common option in all age groups; however, this option was chosen significantly less often by the oldest respondents than by the respondents in the remaining age groups. The individual options in this question also seem more balanced in the results of the oldest respondents than in the other age groups. There are very few respondents, who speak Czech fluently. These people are mostly first-generation immigrants. However, the fact that 14% of the oldest respondents speak Czech fluently, compared to not more than 8% of respondents in other age groups, suggests that Czech was spoken in America more often in the past.

 

Table no. 6: Mother Tongue of Czech Americans

Age Group

Mother Tongue (%)

Czech

English

Other

16 - 30

6

92

2

31 - 45

10

90

x

46 - 60

6

94

x

60 -

21

77

2

Total

11

88

1

Source: own research

 

Graph no. 3: Mother Tongue of Czech Americans

Source: own research

 

      Which language Czech Americans consider to be their mother tongue is very much connected with the previous question dealing with knowledge of Czech. Respondents, who consider Czech to be their mother tongue, are mostly fluent in Czech. However, English is the mother tongue of the vast majority of respondents. Czech Americans who were born in Czechoslovakia constitute the majority of respondents whose mother tongue is Czech. These people; however, use English in their everyday lives too, as there is no other choice for them in order to succeed in American society. Therefore, regardless of the actual mother tongue, English is the first language for most respondents.

 

Table no. 7: Importance of Preservation of Czech Language* (%)        

Responses

Age Group

Total

16 - 30

31 - 45

46 - 60

61 -

Positive Answer

68

80

84

89

80

preservation of heritage

88

65

57

52

66

connection of CZ and US

15

6

13

12

12

better understanding of oneself

3

x

9

16

28

Negative Answer

32

20

16

11

20

 Source: own research

* Do you think it is important for Czech Americans to preserve the Czech language?

 

Graph no. 4: Importance of Preservation of Czech Language*               

Source: own research

* Do you think it is important for Czech Americans to preserve the Czech language?

 

      All respondents in principle agree that the preservation of Czech language in the United States is important. But again, we can notice a connection between the results and the age of respondents. The older generations think more often that the preservation of the Czech language in America is more important than the younger generations, as can be seen in graph no. 4. The respondents were also asked to answer why they think that preservation of Czech is important. They could list as many reasons as they wanted. The most common answer to this open-ended question is that keeping Czech in the United States helps to preserve the Czech heritage in America for the next generations (see table no. 7). Surprisingly, almost 90% of the youngest respondents want to preserve Czech because of their heritage; on the other hand, only half of the oldest think so. The older respondents more often listed different reasons for the preservation of Czech including usefulness of knowing another language and better understanding of oneself. The second most common reason for preservation of Czech in America among all respondents is that knowing the Czech language connects Czech Americans with the Czech Republic. The most frequently stated reasons against the preservation of Czech in America were, uselessness of the knowledge of Czech, and that it can cause disunity of the United States.

      The results presented in this section show that many Czech Americans are still aware of their heritage as they know at least some Czech words. They agree that it is important to preserve the Czech language in the United States; however, English is the most important language for most Czech Americans at present. The results also present a tendency towards the decreasing importance of the knowledge of Czech for younger Czech Americans.

 

2.3 Czech-American Press and Websites

 

      Results from questions dealing with Czech-American newspapers, magazines, and internet websites, presented in the table and graph below, will be described in this section. The respondents were asked whether they read Czech-American periodicals and whether they visited Czech-American websites. If they answered positively, they should have listed which periodicals and websites they read or visited.

 

Table no. 8: Cz.–Am. Press and Websites Read and Visited by Czech Americans       

Age Group

Czech-American Periodicals* (%)

Czech-American Websites** (%)

positive answer

negative answer

positive answer

negative answer

16 - 30

13

87

30

70

31 - 45

20

80

38

62

46 - 60

25

75

51

49

61 -

37

63

50

50

Total

24

76

42

58

Source: own research

*Do you read any newspapers or magazines in Czech language or in English for Czech Americans?

**Do you visit any websites on the Internet in Czech language or in English for Czech Americans?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graph no. 5: Cz.–Am. Press and Websites Read and Visited by Czech Americans      

Source: own research

*Do you read any newspapers or magazines in Czech language or in English for Czech Americans?

**Do you visit any websites on the Internet in Czech language or in English for Czech Americans?

 

      The results indicate that Czech-American periodicals are not too popular among the majority of respondents. As in the previous sections, there is again a connection with the age of respondents. The older respondents tend to read Czech-American periodicals more often than the younger ones; even though those who read Czech-American newspapers and magazines represent only about one-third of the oldest age group. Newsletters of various Czech-American organizations are the kind of periodical that is read most often by the respondents. Periodicals that are not connected with any particular organization are also read by many Czech-Americans. These include Americké listy, the Prague Post and others. In fact, many participants of this research who subscribe to Americké listy are the first-generation Czech Americans. The Prague Post does not represent the typical Czech-American periodical as it is published in Prague and comments on events in the Czech Republic; however, this fact shows that many Czech-Americans are interested in what is happening in the old country.

      The position of Czech-American websites is more positive. Various Czech-American websites on the Internet are visited by almost half of the participants in this research. The differences between individual age groups are not as big as in the other aspects of the lives of Czech Americans described in the previous sections; however, the older respondents still visit Czech-American websites more often than the younger ones. The smaller difference between the older and younger respondents can be explained by the fact that, in general, younger people use the Internet more often than older people.  Many Czech-American periodicals have their Internet versions and many Czech-American organizations also present their newsletters and other interesting information on their websites. The participants in this research visit various websites including Internet periodicals, presentations of Czech-American organizations, genealogical servers, on-line discussions about Czech-American topics, listen to Czech radio stations, and watch Czech news on the Internet.

      The Internet facilitates a cheaper and quicker way of finding information than periodicals in their physical form and therefore, it is more popular among many Czech Americans. The results presented in this section indicate that the Internet versions of Czech-American periodicals will in future be more typical and they will gradually replace classical newspapers and magazines. The relatively high percentage of young Czech Americans who visit Czech-American websites (30%) suggests that the Czech-American culture on the Internet is likely to survive.

 

2.4 Awareness about Czech-American Organizations

 

      This section will describe results from a question which asked about membership of Czech-American organizations. Another question was aimed at finding out the awareness of Czech-American organizations among Czech Americans. If the answers of the respondents were positive, they should have written down which Czech-American organizations they either knew, or were members of. The fact that mainly Czech-American organizations were contacted to inform their members about this research probably influenced the results of these two questions. Therefore, this fact must be taken into consideration.

 

Table no. 9: Membership and Awareness of Cz.-Am. Organizations (%)

Age Group

Awareness of Cz-Am Org.*

Membership of Cz-Am Org.**

positive answer

negative answer

positive answer

negative answer

16 - 30

21

79

13

87

31 - 45

46

54

38

62

46 - 60

69

31

55

45

61 -

70

30

66

34

Total

52

49

43

57

Source: own research

*Do you know any state or national organizations which were established by and for Czech Americans?

**Are you member of any organization or club in your community which was established by and for Czech Americans?

 

Graph no. 6: Membership and Awareness of Cz.-Am. Organizations

Source: own research

*Do you know any state or national organizations which were established by and for Czech Americans?

**Are you member of any organization or club in your community which was established by and for Czech Americans?

 

      Membership of various ethnic organizations by Czech Americans is also determined by the age of respondents. Compared with respondents who are aged 46 and over, only a few of the youngest respondents are involved in Czech-American organizations as their members. The respondents aged 46 and over who are members of Czech-American organizations represent the majority within their age group. On the other hand, younger members of ethnic Czech organizations are in the minority within their age group. But again, we cannot exclude the possibility that when they get older, they will become members of Czech-American organizations. The participants in this research are most often members of various benevolent and genealogical organizations. Many Czech Americans are also members of various heritage societies and the American Sokol Organization.

      Awareness of Czech-American organizations highly corresponds with the membership of Czech-American organizations. However, the positive percentages are higher in this case. More than half of the respondents know of at least one Czech-American organization. Most young Americans of Czech descent are unaware of any ethnic Czech organization. The best-known Czech-American organizations are presented in table no. 10. This table indicates that the respondents most often know of benevolent, genealogical and heritage organizations. However, the gymnastic organization American Sokol is also well known among many Czech Americans. The awareness about the AFOCR among the respondents suggests that many Czech Americans are interested in the improvement of the cooperation between the Czech-American community and the Czech Republic.

 

Table no. 10: Best Known Czech-American Organizations*

Best Known Czech-American Organizations

1) Slavonic Benevolent Order of the State of Texas (SPJST)

2) American Sokol Organization

3) Czech Heritage Society of Texas

4) Western Fraternal Life Association (WFLA)

5) Catholic Union of Texas (KJT)

6) Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International (CGSI)

7) Catholic Family Fraternal Society

8) Czech and Slovak American Genealogy Society of Illinois

10) National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library (NCSML)

11) American Freinds of the Czech Republic (AFOCR)

12) Texas Czech Genealogical Society

Source: own research

* In order of frequency.

 

      According to this research study, membership of ethnic Czech organizations is not too common in America. Most Czech Americans are aware of various Czech-American organizations, but they are not members of them.

 

2.5 Preservation of Czech Traditions

 

      This section will deal with the preservation of Czech traditions in the United States. Czech Americans were asked in two questions whether they kept any Czech traditions and whether they thought it was important to preserve them in the United States. If their answers were positive, they could have added which traditions they preserved and why they thought it was important.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table no. 11: Preservation and Importance of Preservation of Czech Traditions (%)

Age Group

Preservations of Czech Traditions*

Importance of Preservation of  Czech Traditions**

positive answer

negative answer

positive answer

negative answer

16 - 30

44

56

65

35

31 - 45

45

55

87

13

46 - 60

56

44

93

7

61 -

67

33

90

10

Total

53

47

84

16

Source: own research

*Do you keep Czech traditions in your community?

**Do you think it is important for Czech Americans to keep Czech traditions?

 

Graph no. 7: Preservation and Importance of Preservation of Czech Traditions

Source: own research

*Do you keep Czech traditions in your community?

**Do you think it is important for Czech Americans to keep Czech traditions?

 

      About half of the respondents keep Czech traditions in their community. The results again show very clearly the connection between the responses and the age of respondents. The older Czech Americans are more likely to preserve Czech traditions than the younger ones. However, almost half of Czech Americans aged from 16 to 45 years keep Czech traditions. In fact, this is a bigger percentage than the other aspects of the lives of Czech-Americans described in the previous sections. However, there is still a significant difference between the older and younger generations (see table no. 11 and graph no. 7). The difference between the responses of older and younger Czech Americans can be explained by the fact that the younger respondents probably keep some Czech traditions, but they are not aware of them being particularly Czech; according to the older respondents traditions are kept more in their communities. Traditions which are kept by many Czech Americans include (in order of frequency):

1)      Czech food

2)      Music and dance

3)      Czech holidays

4)      Czech weddings

5)      Czech language

6)      Folk costumes.

 

      Younger people most often listed Czech food as being one of the Czech traditions they preserved. About one third of the respondents in each age group preserve traditional Czech music and dance. On the other hand, knowledge of Czech language and wearing Czech folk costumes are preserved only by a minority of Czech Americans aged 46 years and over. No respondent aged under 45 years keeps traditions described in the previous sentence.

      According to table no. 11 and graph no. 7, the vast majority of the respondents aged 31 and over think that it is important to preserve Czech traditions in the United States. Two-thirds of the youngest Czech Americans have the same opinion. When we compare results from these two questions, we come to an interesting fact; there are more Czech Americans who realize that keeping Czech traditions is important than those who actually preserve them. Therefore, there must be people who are aware of the importance of preserving Czech traditions, but they do nothing to keep them in America. These people represent about one-third of the respondents. The main reasons for preservation of Czech traditions in the USA are the following (in order of frequency):

1)      Preservation of Czech heritage in the USA

2)      Understanding oneself better

3)      Keeping Czech traditions enriches the American society.

 

      To conclude, Czech traditions, which in America are mainly symbolized by Czech food, music, dance and the way of practicing holidays, are relatively well preserved in contemporary Czech-American communities. Realization of the importance of Czech traditions among many respondents, including the youngest generation, gives certain hope for their preservation in future America.

 

2.6 Schooling in Czech Educational Institutions

 

      The results from a question of the research questionnaire whose goal was to find out how many Czech Americans attended any Czech school either in the Czech Republic or in the United States will be described in this section.

 

Table no. 12: Schooling in Czech Educational Institutions (%)

Age Group

Schooling in Czech Educational Institutions*

positive answer

negative answer

16 - 30

18

82

31 - 45

15

85

46 - 60

10

90

61 -

35

65

Total

20

80

Source: own research

*Have you ever attended any Czech school?

 

Graph no. 8: Schooling in Czech Educational Institutions*

Source: own research

*Have you ever attended any Czech school?

 

      Before analyzing the state of ethnic Czech education in the United States, we have to mention that first-generation Czech immigrants considerably influenced the results of this question, as most of them had attended schools in the Czech Republic before they immigrated to the United States. This fact must be taken into consideration when describing the state of ethnic Czech education in the United States.

      First-generation immigrants comprise the majority of people who attended Czech schools in the first three age groups. Therefore, these results do not really show the state of Czech education in the United States, although these people attended Czech schools, they did so in the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia). However, there is a significant difference between the oldest respondents and the rest. More than one-third of Czech Americans aged 61 and over, who participated in this research, stated that they had attended a Czech school. These results are not influenced by first-generation immigrants as much as they are in the other age groups of respondents. This fact suggests that ethnic Czech educational institutions were quite common in America about fifty years ago. Later their influence declined and they were closed.

      Nowadays, young Czech Americans do not have many opportunities to study at an American school which would prioritize their ethnic exclusivity. However, Czech language classes are being offered by various Czech-American organizations or communities, which are popular among all generations of Czech Americans. Czech studies are also taught at several American universities, including the University of Texas and the University of Nebraska. Some American students of Czech descent also take advantage of participating in various exchange programs and study for a certain period at a Czech university. In fact, the cooperation between the Czech Republic and Czech Americans can also be realized in this way.

 

2.7 Ethnic Czech Festivals and Other Cultural Events

 

      This section will deal with the preservation of Czech identity in America through various ethnic cultural events. The respondents were asked whether their community held any ethnic Czech festivals or other ethnic Czech cultural events. They could also add what kind of events they organized.

 

Table no. 13: Holding of Czech Festivals and Other Cultural Events (%)

Age Group

Holding of Czech Cultural Events*

positive answer

negative answer

16 - 30

41

59

31 - 45

46

54

46 - 60

54

46

61 -

65

35

Total

52

48

Source: own research

*Does your community organize Czech festivals or other cultural events?

 

 

Graph no. 9: Holding of Czech Festivals and Other Cultural Events*

Source: own research

*Does your community organize Czech festivals or other cultural events?

 

      Many Czech-American communities hold Czech festivals as can be seen from the results presented in table no. 13 and graph no. 9. About half of Czech Americans participating in this research stated that their communities organize Czech festivals or other cultural events. The differences in the percentages of individual age groups could be caused by two reasons. Firstly, various people have a different understanding of the notion of community; for some it is just an area of their city, and for others it can be a broader interpretation. The second reason is that younger Czech Americans live less often in the traditional Czech-American communities. As the people move all the time from place to place, the Czech-American population becomes less concentrated than it used to be. Many young people leave the Czech-American communities; while at the same time, people of various origins settle in the former traditional Czech communities. However, there are still many Czech Americans who stay in the communities to which their ancestors came to begin new lives in America. Therefore, it still makes sense to organize ethnic Czech cultural events in America, as there are enough people to enjoy them.

       The ethnic Czech cultural events in America are organized most often as festivals with various themes celebrating typical aspects of Czech-American society, including food, music, dance, and folk costumes. Therefore, Czech events include Kolache festivals, Sausage festivals, Polka festivals, Czech dances and Kroje festivals. “Dožínky are held in several Czech-American communities to give thanks for the bountiful harvest. Many other Czech towns across America organize festivals as celebrations for Czech Americans; where all aspects of the Czech identity are part of their programs.

      To sum up, there are numerous ethnic Czech cultural events in the United States which show that the Czech-American community is still strong and culturally very active. It also proves that Czech Americans are very proud of their heritage and want to preserve it for following generations, even though they will have to overcome more and more obstacles.

 

2.8 Significance of Being Czech American

 

      Participants in this research were also asked if they thought that Czech Americans share any common characteristics. If they thought so, they could have written down which characteristics were, in their opinions, common for people of Czech descent in America. We will deal with these results in this section.

 

Table no. 14: Common Characteristics of Czech Americans (%)

Age Group

Common Characteristics of Czechs*

positive answer

negative answer

16 - 30

62

38

31 - 45

81

19

46 - 60

87

13

61 -

85

15

Total

79

21

 Source: own research

*Do you think people of Czech origin in the USA share any common characteristics?

 

Graph no. 10: Common Characteristics of Czech Americans*

Source: own research

*Do you think people of Czech origin in the USA share any common characteristics?

 

      Most respondents realize that there are some characteristics that are shared by Czech Americans. We can again see a significant difference between the youngest and the oldest respondents; however, almost two-thirds of the youngest Czech Americans participating in this research think that there are some shared characteristics among Americans of Czech origin, which is a relatively high percentage. The difference between the younger and older Czech Americans is probably caused by a more intensive process of assimilation taking place amongst the younger generations. Therefore, many young people are less aware of common characteristics of Czech Americans, as some of them are totally assimilated into American society and do not realize their ethnic Czech heritage.

      The characteristics shared by Czech Americans are following (in order of frequency):

1)       Love for Czech traditional food

2)       Love for music and dance

3)       Good work ethic

4)       Close family ties

5)       Frugality

6)       Pride in their heritage

7)       Physical characteristics

8)       Love for beer

9)       Honesty

10)   Sense of humor

11)   Awareness of the importance of good education

12)   Czech language.

 

      According to the characteristics shared by Czech Americans, which are listed above, a typical American of Czech descent is someone who works hard, loves his family, is not foolish about spending money, is honest, is proud of his heritage, wants to be well-educated, likes good food with good beer, loves music and dancing, and is very happy.

 

2.9 Awareness of Czech Contribution to American Society

 

      This section will describe results from the only open-ended question of the research questionnaire: “How in your opinion have Czechs contributed to the American society?”

      The main ways in which Czechs have contributed to American society are following (in order of frequency):

1)      Bringing good work ethic to America

2)      Czech music and dance

3)      Bringing respectable citizens to America, who contributed in various spheres of human society, including business, arts, science, politics, sports and others

4)      Cultivation of the wilderness

5)      Good food

6)      Close family relations

7)      Bringing educated people to America.

 

      Some ways in which Czechs have contributed to American society correspond with the shared characteristics of Czech Americans described in the previous section; these include good work ethic, arts, cuisine, close family relations and appreciation of education. Many respondents know that their ancestors were among the first farmers in America and they had to work hard to cultivate the land to make not only their lives possible, but also the lives of other Americans.  Many Czech Americans are also aware of various famous Americans of Czech descent who greatly contributed to American society; some of them were described in section 3 of the historical background.

      The results suggest that there are many ways in which Czech people have contributed to American society. In fact, Czech Americans enriched American society mainly by being themselves, as most ways in which they contributed (listed above) correspond with their previously stated characteristics.

 

2.10 Relationship of Czech Americans to the Czech Republic

 

      The relationship of Czech Americans towards the old country will be analyzed in this section. To find out the state of the relationship, two questions were asked.  The first question was aimed at finding out how many Americans of Czech descent had visited the Czech Republic. They could add to their response how much they liked it and whether something surprised them. If their answer was negative, they could have noted if they planned to go there once. Another question was composed to find out if some Czech Americans would like to live in the Czech Republic, either temporarily or permanently.

 

 

 

Table no. 15: Visit to the Czech Republic (%)

Been to the Czech Republic*

Age Group

Total

16 - 30

31 - 45

46 - 60

61 -

Positive Answer

25

27

43

75

43

Negative Answer

75

73

57

25

57

plan to visit one time

33

22

47

8

28

Source: own research

*Have you ever been to the Czech Republic?

 

Graph no. 11: Visit to the Czech Republic

Source: own research

*Have you ever been to the Czech Republic?

 

      According to table no. 15 and graph no. 11, almost half of the respondents have been to the Czech Republic. A very surprising fact is that as many as two-thirds of Czech Americans aged 61 and over have visited the Czech Republic. There is a significant difference between older and younger respondents; “only” one-third of Czech Americans between 16 and 30 years old have traveled to the old country. The high percentage of the oldest people who have visited the Czech Republic compared with other respondents can be explained by more opportunities for them to travel.

      About one-third of those Czech Americans who have not been to the Czech Republic yet plan to visit it in the future. However, only 8% of the oldest respondents, who have not visited the old country yet, plan to travel there. This can be explained by the fact that most of the oldest respondents have already been to the Czech Republic and that they are too old to travel. Czech Americans have mostly positive feelings about their visits to the Czech Republic. Some Americans of Czech descent did not like the xenophobia of the Czech people, increasing commercialism, or graffiti on historical buildings. However, most often they were surprised by the beauty of the country, friendliness of the Czech people, rich culture, deep history, or fast recovery from Communism.

 

Table no. 16: Interests in living in the Czech Republic (%)

Want to live in the Czech Republic in the future*

Age Group

Total

16 - 30

31 - 45

46 - 60

61 -

Positive Answer

37

45

47

40

42

temporarily

42

56

70

70

60

permanently

5

6

4

3

5

Negative Answer

63

55

53

60

58

Source: own research

*Would you like to live in the Czech Republic sometime?

 

Graph no. 12: Interests in living in the Czech Republic*

Source: own research

*Would you like to live in the Czech Republic sometime?

 

      More than 40% of Czech Americans participating in this research would like to live in the Czech Republic. It is, in this case, a relatively high percentage; however, it is doubtful that all of them will realize their wish to live in the Czech Republic sometime. Most of them, i.e. 60%, want to stay in the Czech Republic only on a temporary basis and just 5% of the respondents want to live in the Czech Republic permanently. The remaining 35% of the respondents who stated that they wanted to live in the Czech Republic did not add whether temporarily or permanently. Percentages of responses are in this question very similar in all age groups (see table no. 16 and graph no. 12), so there is no significant difference between younger and older Czech Americans. The main reasons against living in the Czech Republic were satisfaction with life in the United States, fear of the unknown, and old age among the older respondents. An interesting fact is that many first-generation Czech Americans are very critical about the conditions in the Czech Republic; on the other hand, many young Americans of Czech descent admire the way of life in the old country.

      To conclude, the popularity of the Czech Republic among Czech Americans is surprisingly high, which can be proved by the frequency of visits of Czech Americans to the Czech Republic and by their desire to live in the Czech Republic for some time. Their experience of the Czech Republic is in most cases very positive. These frequent visits of Americans of Czech origin to the Czech Republic help to improve the cooperation between the old country and its countrymen in America. The visits to the Czech Republic help Czech Americans to understand themselves better, as they discover the birthplace of their ancestors. In fact, the experience of the reality of Czech life helps Czech Americans to preserve Czech identity in the United States.

 

2.11 Czech vs. American

 

      Results from the last question of the research questionnaire will be described in this section. The respondents were asked what they thought they were. They could choose from four options: Czech, American, Czech American and American Czech. The results are presented in the table and graph below.

Table no. 17: Who Do You Think You Are? (%)

Age Group

What do you think you are?

Czech

American

Czech American

American Czech

16 - 30

0

60

26

14

31 - 45

10

30

30

30

46 - 60

0

37

29

34

61 -

0

19

38

43

Total

3

37

31

30

Source: own research

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graph no. 13: Who Do You Think You Are?

Source: own research

     

      Before any analysis of the results, we have to mention that the differences between individual options are difficult to define. The difference between being Czech or American is quite clear; on the other hand, there is no certain distinction between being Czech American and American Czech. Some people consider the first item of the compound words more important, other people think it is the other way round.  Therefore, for the purpose of this analysis, both compound words will be considered as having the same meaning.

      According to many comments of the participants in this research, this question was the most difficult to answer. The question did not offer enough options for some respondents, especially those from Texas. There were such suggestions as adding Czech Texan or Moravian Texan to the options. But even despite all the difficulties, the results show some interesting facts about Americans of Czech descent. About two thirds of all respondents consider themselves either American Czech or Czech American. This fact indicates that most respondents are aware of their ethnic origin and are proud of it; on the other hand, they are also American as the United States is their home. Another one third of the respondents consider themselves to be pure American. In fact, according to their responses they are still aware of their ethnic heritage, but being American for them is the most important thing, as most of them were born in America and are U.S. citizens. Only a few people considered themselves to be pure Czech. These people were only in the age group 31-45 years old and the majority of them were first-generation immigrants.

      The results show a significant difference between the youngest group of the respondents and the other age groups. Almost two-thirds of Americans of Czech descent aged from 16 to 30 years old labeled themselves as pure American; on the other hand, the three options (American, Czech American and American Czech) are relatively balanced in the other age groups. This fact shows how the young Americans of Czech origin gradually shift away from their ethnic exclusivity and are being wholly assimilated. However, according to their responses to the other questions, many young participants in this research are aware of their Czech heritage. This fact gives hope for the preservation of some Czech element to contemporary America. At the end of this section, it must be said that some respondents stated that their opinions changed after 9-11 and that they considered themselves being most importantly American.

 

3 Conclusion

 

      This research was conducted to find out the state of the maintenance of Czech identity in contemporary America among Americans of Czech descent. The results of this research study present some interesting facts and tendencies in the preservation of Czech elements in the United States.

      Most Czech Americans know when and from where their ancestors came. Older people are more aware of the origin of their ancestors; however, a relatively high percentage of the youngest Czech Americans know some facts about their origins.

      The Czech language is still partly preserved in the Czech-American community. The vast majority of Czech Americans participating in this research know at least some Czech words. Many people can use Czech in many life situations; however, these people are mainly among the older generations of Czech Americans. The most important language for the majority of Czech Americans is English. Many Czech Americans agree that to preserve Czech in America is important, as it is one of the symbols of their Czech heritage.

      Only a minority of all respondents subscribe to Czech-American periodicals. On the other hand, the popularity of the websites of Czech-American institutions is higher. Many respondents visit various websites with Czech-American themes. Therefore, the Internet will become one of the most important means of preservation of Czech culture in America, in the future.

      Many Czech Americans are members of various ethnic organizations; however, most of them are not. Young Czech Americans are especially uninterested in the membership of Czech-American organizations. However, about half of the respondents are aware of some Czech-American organizations. Genealogical, benevolent and heritage organizations are best known among Czech-Americans.

      Czech traditions in America are preserved by about half of the respondents; on the other hand, only a few of the youngest Czech Americans keep some Czech traditions. Most Czech Americans realize the importance of the preservation of Czech traditions; however, less people actually preserve them.

      Nowadays, there are not so many opportunities for Czech-American students to receive education which would prefer their ethnicity. However, various Czech language courses offered by Czech-American organizations and the possibility of studying Czech issues at some American universities show that there are still some ways in which Czech Americans can improve their knowledge of Czech culture.

      Czech festivals and other cultural events are the most common way in which Czech Americans introduce their heritage to other Americans. The numerous ethnic Czech events across America show how proud of their origins Czech Americans are. Czech festivals are also a very good means of preserving Czech identity in America.

      Most Czech Americans think that Czech people in America share some common characteristics. Many of these characteristics are ways in which Czech Americans contributed to American society.

      The frequent visits of Czech Americans to the Czech Republic and their admiration of its beauty, culture and people, show the deep interest of Americans of Czech descent in the old country. Therefore, we can say that the relationship of Czech Americans and the Czech Republic is very good.

      No matter if Americans of Czech descent consider themselves to be Czech, American, Czech American or American Czech; they are still aware of their Czech origin and heritage and many of them are willing to preserve it, even though they will have to struggle.

      To conclude, the most important fact of the research is that the Czech identity is more preserved by older Czech Americans. The younger generations are more assimilated to American society than their older relatives; however, they are still aware of their Czech heritage, and we can only hope that in the future they will preserve what their ancestors passed on to them.

 

 

 

V Conclusion

 

      The main aim of this diploma work was to find out the state of the maintenance of Czech identity in contemporary America. The first chapter of this thesis deals with the history of Czech immigration to America and with other aspects of the lives of Czech Americans, including famous American personalities of Czech descent; relationship towards religion and education; political attitudes; cultural and social life; importance of their origin; state of assimilation; preservation of Czech language and customs; and their relationship to the Czech Republic.

      The actual research discovered many interesting facts and tendencies in the Czech-American community. The analysis of the results shows us how the Czech identity is maintained in the United States today. In fact, most Czech Americans are aware of their origin, as they know where and when they ancestors came from. Czech Americans are also proud of the Czech language and want to preserve it for future generations; however, only a few of them speak Czech fluently. On the other hand, the vast majority of Czech Americans know at least some Czech words.

      The future of Czech-American press can be seen on the Internet, as about half of Czech Americans participating in this research visit websites with Czech-American themes. Only a minority of Czech-Americans are members of Czech-American organizations; on the other hand, Czech-American organizations are relatively well known among many Czech Americans. Most Czech Americans realize the importance of the preservation of Czech traditions in America. Therefore, Czech traditions are preserved by many Czech communities. In fact, these traditions are practiced at numerous ethnic Czech events across America, where Czech Americans express pride in their Czech heritage.

      Most ethnic Czech schools in America were already closed; however, Czech Americans still have opportunities to learn Czech on various courses offered by ethnic Czech organizations. Czech studies are also offered by some American universities.  According to participants in this research, Czech Americans share many common characteristics by which many of them contributed to American society. The relationship between Czechs in the new and old country is very good, which can be proved by frequent visits of Czech Americans to the Czech Republic.

      This research study shows that the maintenance of Czech identity in contemporary America is relatively good, since many Americans of Czech descent realize their Czech ethnicity and the importance of its preservation. However, some aspects of Czech identity in America will probably disappear. On the other hand, the fundamental elements of Czech identity will certainly survive on into the future in America, since they represent such an important part of the Czech American that it would be very difficult for most individuals to surrender them.

      Most importantly, the results of the research study show very clearly that the assimilation process does not bypass the Czech communities in America, as the older Czech Americans preserve their Czech identity more than the younger generations. However, the situation is not so critical, since many young Czech Americans are aware of their heritage. This fact might be very useful in the future preservation of Czech identity in the United States.

     

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Čapek, Thomas. The Czechs in America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1920.

 

Chada, Joseph. The Czechs in the United States. New York: SVU Press, 1981.

 

College History. Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA. Retrieved 7-18-2003 at http://www. moravian.edu/about/history.htm.

 

Czech School. Bohemian Hall, NYC. Retrieved 7-18-2003 at http://www.bohemianhall.com/ school.htm.

 

“Czech, Slovaks, and Twentieth-Century Culture.” Slovo. Vol. 2. No. 1. Summer 2002, pp. 20-26.

 

Dožinky, A Czech Harvest Festival. City of New Prague, MN. Retrieved 7-18-2003 at http:// www.newprague.com/Currently/Fests/dozinky.htm.

 

Fiala, John L. “Annual Pageant Encourages Youthful Appreciation of Heritage. Miss Czech-Slovak USA.” Slovo. Vol. 3. No. 1. Summer 2002, p. 28-29.

 

Fischetti, P.R. The Ethnic Cultures of America. Washington: Educational Extension Systems, 1997. (search result in ProQuest database)

 

Hospodář. Vol. CXII. No. 9. September 2002.

 

Gilbert, Frank B. “U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: Czech-American Voice for ‘the right to be let alone…’” Slovo. Vol. 2. No. 1. Summer 2002, p. 14-15.

 

Kral, E. A. “A Community Reborn Through Celebration of Its Heritage. Wilber, Nebraska.” Slovo. Vol. 3. No. 1. Summer 2002, p. 24-27.

 

Kroje Exhibit Gallery Walk. The NCSML, Cedar Rapids, IA. Retrieved 7-18-2003 at http:// www.ncsml.org/gallery_walk.htm.

 

Laska, Vera. The Czechs in America 1633-1977: A Chronology and Fact Book. Dobbs Ferry:

Oceana Publications, 1978.

 

Martínek, Josef. Století jednoty Č.S.A. Cicero, Illionois, 1955.

 

Novak, Jan. “Confessions of an Autobiographer.” Slovo. Vol. 1. Spring 2000, p. 36-42.

 

Otta, Tomáš. Florida: Ráj českých gastarbeitrů.” Týden. No. 36. 2001, p. 28-33.

 

Polišenský, Josef. Úvod do studia dějin vystěhovalectví do Ameriky II. Češi a Amerika. Praha: Univerzita Karlova, 1996.

 

Rechcígl, Miroslav. Czech Societies in the US. SVU. Retrieved 7-18-2003 at http://www. svu2000.org/whatwedo/c5gc5.htm.

 

Rechcígl, Miloslav. Počátky české emigrace do zemí latinské a severní Ameriky. Brno: Nakladatelství a vydavatelství Miroslav Nehyba, 1999.

 

Rechcígl, Miloslav. Postavy naší Ameriky. Praha: Pražská edice, 2000.

 

Saxon-Ford, Stephanie. The Czech Americans. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1998.

 

“Swisher Native Lisa Volesky is Crowned Miss Czech-Slovak USA.” Most, The Bridge. NCSML newsletter. Vol. 7. No. 2. Summer 2001.

 

Westfest 2003, 28th Annual. Westfest. Retrieved 7-18-2003 at http://www.westfest.com/ wf2003/index.cgi.

 

2003 Slovak and Czech Events. Aviso. Retrieved 7-18-2003 at http://www.aviso.net/dir/usa/ czech_slovak/events/.

 

What is Sokol? The American Sokol Organization. Retrieved 7-18-2003 at http://www. american-sokol.org/history.html.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

List of Tables

 

Table no. 1: Number and Percentage of Respondents     ……………………………………….53

Table no. 2: Gender of Respondents   …………………………………………………………53

Table no. 3: Education of Respondents     ……………………………………………………...53

Table no. 4: Awareness about Origin    ………………………………………………………...54

Table no. 5: Knowledge of Czech among Czech Americans       ………………………………..56

Table no. 6: Mother Tongue of Czech Americans     …………………………………………...57

Table no. 7: Importance of Preservation of Czech Language      ………………………………..58

Table no. 8: Cz.–Am. Press and Websites Read and Visited by Czech Americans       …………59

Table no. 9: Membership and Awareness of Cz.-Am. Organizations       ……………………….61

Table no. 10: Best Known Czech-American Organizations      ………………………………....63

Table no. 11: Preservation and Importance of Preservation of Czech Traditions        …………...64

Table no. 12: Schooling in Czech Educational Institutions        ………………………………….66

Table no. 13: Holding of Czech Festivals and Other Cultural Events        ……………………….67

Table no. 14: Common Characteristics of Czech Americans      ………………………………..69

Table no. 15: Visit to the Czech Republic     …………………………………………………...72

Table no. 16: Interests in living in the Czech Republic        ……………………………………...73

Table no. 17: Who Do You Think You Are?    ………………………………………………...74

 

List of Graphs

 

Graph no. 1: Awareness about Origin    ………………………………………………………..55

Graph no. 2: Knowledge of Czech among Czech Americans       ……………………………….56

Graph no. 3: Mother Tongue of Czech Americans     …………………………………………..57

Graph no. 4: Importance of Preservation of Czech Language      ……………………………….58

Graph no. 5: Cz.–Am. Press and Websites Read and Visited by Czech Americans       ………...60

Graph no. 6: Membership and Awareness of Cz.-Am. Organizations       ………………………62

Graph no. 7: Preservation and Importance of Preservation of Czech Traditions        ……………64

Graph no. 8: Schooling in Czech Educational Institutions        …………………………………..66

Graph no. 9: Holding of Czech Festivals and Other Cultural Events        ………………………..68

Graph no. 10: Common Characteristics of Czech Americans      ……………………………….69

Graph no. 11: Visit to the Czech Republic     …………………………………………………..72

Graph no. 12: Interests in living in the Czech Republic        ……………………………………..73

Graph no. 13: Who Do You Think You Are?    ………………………………………………..75

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

List of Pictures

 

Picture no. 1: Christening of Black Slaves by the Moravian Brethren        ………………………..4

Picture no. 2: Illustration of Prosperity in America in a Czech Periodical (late 1800s)          ……....7

Picture no. 3: Czech Immigrants in Wisconsin (1937)       ………………………………………..8

Picture no. 4: Czech Women in a Cigar Factory (1905)     ……………………………………..10

Picture no. 5: Anton Cermak, Mayor of Chicago     ……………………………………………21

Picture no. 6: St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Spillville, IA (2002)        ……………………..23

Picture no. 7: Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois         ………………………………………26

Picture no. 8: Czech Polka Band playing at Czech Days in Protivin, IA (2002)        …………….29

Picture no. 9: Dvořák Memorial Highway in Winnishiek County, Iowa (2002)          ……………30

Picture no. 10: Part of the American Sokol Organization Pamphlet        ………………………...36

Picture no. 11: Hospodář (Present Czech-American Newspaper)        …………………………40

Picture no. 12: Polka Dancing at Czech Days in Protivin, IA (2002)        ……………………….42

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix 1

 

Czech Immigrants in America - The Maintenance of Czech Identity in Contemporary America

 

Questionnaire

 

Hello everyone, My name is David Biroczi and I am a student of the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen, Czech Republic. Studies at a university in the Czech Republic must be completed by writing so called “diploma work” (final thesis) which is based on own scientific research. The results from this survey will serve as a core of my “diploma work” which deals with the people of Czech origin and the maintenance of Czech culture in the USA. I really need you to fill out this questionnaire. I know it is not a short questionnaire; however, it is not even really long. You will have to think about some questions, but on the other side you might have fun while filling it out. I really appreciate it. If you have any questions, please, email me. You can also use one of the contacts below. Thank you very much.

 

David Biroczi

Pribilova 850

274 01 Slany

CZECH REPUBLIC

email: brewski@email.cz

tel.: +420 608 456 281

 

þ Please check your answer where necessary.

 

Sex:                                         ¨ Male            ¨ Female

 

Age:                                        ¨ 16 - 30        ¨ 31 - 45        ¨ 46 - 60        ¨ 61 -

 

Education:                                ¨ Elementary   ¨ Secondary   ¨ University

 

Profession/Job:

 

City, State: 

 

1.   Do you know where and when your ancestors came from?

 

                                               ¨ YES            ¨ NO

 

If so, where from?

         When (approximately)?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.   What is your knowledge of Czech?

 

          ¨ none

          ¨ only some words

          ¨ can express myself in basic situations

          ¨ can express myself in most situations

          ¨ fluent

 

3.   What do you consider your mother tongue?

 

                                               ¨ Czech          ¨ English         ¨ Other

 

4.   Do you read any newspaper or magazines in Czech language or in English for Czech Americans?

 

                                               ¨ YES            ¨ NO

 

If so, which?

 

 

 

 

5.   Do you visit any websites on the Internet in Czech language or in English for Czech Americans?

 

                                               ¨ YES            ¨ NO

 

If so, which?

 

 

 

 

6.   Do you think it is important for Czech Americans to preserve the Czech language?

 

                                               ¨ YES            ¨ NO

 

Why?

 

 

 

7.   Are you member of any organization or club in your community which was established by and for Czech Americans?

 

                                               ¨ YES            ¨ NO

 

If so, which?

 

 

 

8.   Do you know any state or national organizations which were established by and for Czech Americans?

 

                                               ¨ YES            ¨ NO

 

If so, which?

 

 

 

9.   Do you think people of Czech origin in the USA share any common characteristics?

 

                                               ¨ YES            ¨ NO

 

If so, which?

 

 

 

 

10. Do you keep Czech traditions in your community?

 

                                               ¨ YES            ¨ NO

 

If so, which?

 

 

 

 

11. Do you think it is important for Czech Americans to keep Czech traditions?

 

                                               ¨ YES            ¨ NO

Why?

 

 

 

12. Have you ever attended any Czech school?

 

                                               ¨ YES            ¨ NO

 

If so, in what years?

 

 

13. Does your community organize Czech festivals or other cultural events?

 

                                               ¨ YES            ¨ NO

 

If so, which?

 

 

 

 

14. How in your opinion Czechs contributed to the American society?

 

 

 

 

15. Have you ever been to the Czech Republic?

 

                                               ¨ YES            ¨ NO

 

If yes, how did you like it? What surprised you?

If not, do you plan to go there? Why or why not?

 

 

 

16. Would you like to live in the Czech Republic sometime?

 

                                               ¨ YES            ¨ NO

 

If so, permanently or temporarily and why?

If not, why?

 

 

 

 

17. Who do you think you are?

 

¨ Czech

¨ American

¨ Czech American

¨ American Czech

 

Thank you for filling out this questionnaire. Your information is very important for me. If you would like to add any comments or if you want to be informed about results of this survey, please, use the space below.

 

Your comments:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix 2

 

 

Shrnutí

 

      Hlavním cílem této diplomové práce je zjištění úrovně udržování české identity v soudobé Americe. K vlastnímu zjištění úrovně udržování české identity ve Spojených státech sloužil  výzkum, jež byl založen na dotazníkovém průzkumu. Vlastní dotazník byl distribuován mezi Američany českého původu osobně autorem diplomové práce. Ovšem většina Čechoameričanů vyplnila dotazník na internetových stránkách, které byly k tomuto účelu vytvořeny. Autor kontaktoval různé českoamerické organizace a komunity, které pak dále informovaly své členy o tomto výzkumu. Nakonec bylo k zjištění úrovně české identity v Americe použito 290 dotazníků.

      První kapitola této práce se zabývá historií české imigrace do Spojených států, dále představuje slavné americké osobnosti českého původu a popisuje různé složky českoamerické společnosti, tj. vztah Čechoameričanů k náboženství a vzdělání, jejich politické názory, kulturní a společenský život, důležitost původu, udržování českého jazyka a českých zvyků v Americe, stav asimilace a vztah k České republice.

      Vlastní výzkum objevil mnoho zajímavých fakt a tendencí. Analýza výsledků dotazníkového průzkumu ukazuje, že většina Čechoameričanů zná svůj původ a ví odkud a kdy jejich předci do Ameriky přišli. Čechoameričané jsou také velmi pyšní na český jazyk a chtějí ho uchovat i pro další generace. Ovšem jen pár z nich mluví plynně česky. Na druhé straně mnoho Čechů v Americe zná alespoň několik českých slov.

      Na základě výzkumu bylo usouzeno, že budoucnost českoamerických novin je představována internetem, protože téměř polovina respondentů navštěvuje různé internetové stránky s českoamerickou tématikou. Vlastní českoamerické periodika jsou odebírána pouze menší částí účastníků výzkumu. Pouze menšina Čechoameričanů tvoří členskou základnu různých českých národnostních organizací v Americe. Na druhé straně mnoho Čechoameričanů zná alespoň některé českoamerické krajanské společnosti. Většina Američanů českého původu si uvědomuje důležitost udržování českých tradic v Americe, proto jsou také české tradice udržovány v mnohých českoamerických komunitách. Ve skutečnosti mnohé z těchto tradicí představují hlavní body programů početných českých festivalů a dalších národnostních událostí, které se pořádají v českých městech po celé Americe, a ve kterých Čechoameričané vyjadřují pýchu ke svému původu.

      Většina českých národnostních škol v Americe byla už dávno zrušena, ale navzdory této skutečnosti mají Češi v Americe mnoho možností zdokonalit své znalosti češtiny a české kultury. Mnohé českoamerické organizace totiž pořádají kurzy češtiny a českým studiím se lze věnovat i na některých amerických univerzitách. Na základě výzkumu bylo zjištěno, že si většina Čechoameričanů myslí, že Češi sdílejí některé společné prvky. Mnohé z těchto společných prvků využili k obohacení americké společnosti. Vztah Čechoameričanů ke staré vlasti je na velmi dobré úrovni, což dokazují i jejich velmi časté návštěvy České republiky.

      Tento výzkum ukazuje, že úroveň udržování české identity v soudobé Americe je relativně dobrá, neboť většina Američanů českého původu si uvědomuje jejich národnostní výjimečnost  a důležitost jejího udržování. Na druhé straně mnoho českých prvků z Ameriky pravděpodobně zmizí. Ale s určitostí můžeme říci, že základní prvky české identity v budoucnosti v Americe přežijí, protože představují velmi důležité součásti amerických Čechů, kteří se jich nemohou vzdát.

      Nejdůležitější poznatek, který nám tento výzkum nabízí je, že proces asimilace se nevyhýbá ani českoamerické komunitě, což může být dokázáno tím, že starší Čechoameričané udržují svou českou identitu daleko více než jejich mladší potomci. Na druhé straně musíme podotknout, že situace není tak vážná, neboť si je většina mladých Čechoameričanů vědoma svého původu. Tato skutečnost může velmi napomoci v budoucí snaze amerických Čechů o udržení jejich národnostní identity ve Spojených státech.