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A Little Background: Growing Up in Tennessee

Growing up in a small town in Tennessee was exciting to me. Neighborhood families were always watching out for one another. Doors were never locked. Walking home in the dark was not frightening. Children didn’t have to be warned about strangers.

As an only child I had playmates such as: B.D., G.A., Tight-Eye and Acorn Head. Football, marbles, hide-and-seek, and especially mumblety-peg were everyday games that drew the boys together. A childhood friend back in those days lasted forever. We had homes near the southern railroad tracks and every train that passed by shook our houses. The lonely train engine whistles coming from far away alerted us that a freight or passenger train was due very shortly. Walking along the railroad tracks, crossing the nearby railroad bridge that crossed the Emery River and picking wild Muscadine added to our adventures.

One of my favorite adventures was walking up to grandpa's farm on Oakdale Mountain. It was only one and half miles away from my house but as I look back it seemed like several miles to my short legs. My memories of those days included hearing the locals who had homes near grandpa. They spoke a strange language among themselves and a distinct different dialect among the southern-drawled outsiders. I was one of those who had a southern drawl and wondered why those folks sounded different.

Later in life I learned that those folks on the mountain were immigrants from a far-away country called Austro-Hungary. Not knowing where that was I often wondered how they got to Oakdale mountain. As I got older I was told grandpa had come from Czechoslovakia and that my heritage was Czechoslovakian. This was never mentioned during my many, many visits to the farm of my grandfather. Only after grandpa died and all his children had left for other areas did I learn of this connection.

After high school I joined the air force and traveled to Germany for a four-year tour of duty. This was in 1949 and even though I wanted to visit this land near Czechoslovakia, my hopes were dashed when I found out that it was located behind the Iron Curtain and controlled by the Russians. Entry by me would be forbidden.

I finished my twenty years in the Air Force and still found it impossible for me to visit the land of my roots. Long forgotten and twenty-five years later I decided it was time to start a search for my heritage.

Checking with several first cousins located in Indiana and Tennessee I soon discovered that none of them knew much about our heritage. At this point I decided it was time to get deep into a research system.

Niečo o mne: Ako som vyrastal v Tennessee        

Vyrastať v malom meste v Tennessee bolo pre mňa vzrušujúce. Susedia sa o seba vždy navzájom starali, dvere neboli nikdy zamknuté, cesta domov potme nebola nebezpečná a deti nebolo treba varovať pred cudzími ľuďmi.

Ako dieťa som sa hral s kamarátmi: B.D., G.A., Tight-Eye a Acorn Head. Futbal, guľôčky, hra na skrývačku ale najmä hra s vreckovým nožíkom boli hrami, ktoré nás chlapcov spájali. Vtedy kamarát z detstva bol kamarátom navždy. Bývali sme blízko železničných tratí a vtedy každý prechádzajúci vlak otriasol našimi domami. Píšťalka prichádzajúceho vlaku z diaľky naznačovala, že sa blíži nákladný či osobný vlak. Naše zážitky obohacovali aj prechádzky po koľajniciach, prechod po železničnom moste cez rieku Emery a zbieranie divého hrozna.

Mojím obľúbeným dobrodružstvom bola prechádzka na farmu môjho starého otca na Oakdale Mountain. Bolo to len jeden a pol míle od nášho domu, ale keď sa teraz obzriem, mojím krátkym nohám to pripadalo ako niekoľko míľ. Medzi moje spomienky na detstvo tiež patrí počúvanie miestnych ľudí, ktorí boli dedovi susedia. Medzi sebou hovorili čudným jazykom a s južansky zaťahujúcimi cudzincami sa rozprávali výrazným dialektom. Ja sám som mal južanský prízvuk a tak som sa čudoval, prečo tí ľudia hovoria čudne.

Neskôr v živote som pochopil, že tí ľudia na kopci boli prisťahovalci z ďalekého Rakúsko – Uhorska. Netušil som, kde to bolo a rozmýšľal som, ako sa dostali do Oakdale Mountain. Keď som vyrástol povedali mi, že môj dedo pochádzal z Československa a že aj môj pôvod je československý. Toto som nikdy nepočul počas mojich početných návštev na farme môjho deda. Zistil som to, až keď dedo zomrel a všetky jeho deti sa odsťahovali.

Po skončení strednej školy som vstúpil do leteckých síl a odcestoval do Nemecka na štvorročnú službu. Bolo to v roku 1949 a aj keď som chcel navštíviť Československo, moja nádej sa rozplynula keď som zistil, že to bolo za železnou oponou a kontrolované Rusmi. Vstup by mi tak nebol povolený.

Po dvadsiatich rokoch som doslúžil v letectve a stále som nemohol navštíviť krajinu mojich predkov. O dvadsaťpäť rokov neskôr som sa rozhodol, že je čas začať po predkoch pátrať.

Rozprával som s niekoľkými bratrancami v Indiane a Tennessee, ale nikto z nich nevedel veľa o našich predkoch. Vtedy som sa rozhodol pustiť do intenzívneho pátrania.