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Where is my home?

Slovak Immigration to North America (1870–2010)


Mark Stolarik

Between 1870 and 2010 over half a million Slovaks migrated to the USA and Canada. As other ethnic groups from East Central Europe, they headed principally to the industrial triangle of the USA and to central Canada’s cities in search of work. Finding themselves in strange surroundings, they quickly established institutions that helped them to survive in a capitalist economy and to also preserve their religion, language and culture. As for many other ethnic groups, the border between the USA and Canada was to them irrelevant. Slovaks crossed it according to economic need and stayed in touch with each other. Meanwhile, they also remained in touch with their families in Europe and helped their people to survive Magyarization in Austria-Hungary, to achieve self-determination in the new Republic of Czechoslovakia and, finally, independence.
For the first time ever, the author has told the epic story of Slovak immigration to North America. Based upon forty years of archival and library research, supplemented by the life histories of over two dozen families scattered across the USA and Canada, and lavishly illustrated, this book will satisfy both academics and the general public who have long been waiting for a comprehensive history of this significant member of the family of Slavic nations.


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Chapter 5 - Happy Reunions, Hull and Cleveland 141


Chapter 5 Happy Reunions, Hull and Cleveland After half a century apart, portions of the Stolárik and Vavro fami- lies reunited in Canada and in the United States. The Stolárik fam- ily traveled to Canada by rail and boat in conditions similar to those of the millions of nineteenth century immigrants who had made the journey in “steerage.” Their new life in Canada made it all worthwhile. The Slovak community of Cleveland, where some of their relatives already lived, was one of the oldest and most numerous. It exemplified all the trials and tribulations of such communities and contained some of their most important institu- tions. It also reflected the tensions that arose between descendants of the “old” Slovaks who had emigrated before 1914 and the “new” Slovaks who arrived after the Second World War. “Mariánko, wake up! We’re going to Canada!” announced his mother to the groggy seven-year-old in the early morning of November 27, 1950. He had trouble opening his eyes since, at 6:00 a. m., it was still dark out. “Take a last look at our room,” advised his mother after he had dressed. “We’ll never see it again.” He looked around at the only home he had known in his short life: the blue tile stove to the left of the entrance, which they never used because it was heated by coal, which they never had; the wood-burning cast-iron stove just beyond it, on which his mother had cooked, and with which...

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