by Edward Gobetz
Slovenia measures 7,896 square miles (20,256 square kilometers), which is slightly less than Massachusetts or half the size of Switzerland. About two-thirds of Slovenia is located in the Alps, the remaining third gradually melts into the Pannonian Plains. Correspondingly, the climate of tiny Slovenia is Mediterranean along the Adriatic Sea, alpine in the mountains, and continental (Central European) in the plains. Bordering on Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Hungary to the east, and Croatia to the south, Slovenia has a population of just a little over two million. In 1999, about 92 percent of the population are Slovenians. The largest minority groups are Serbo-Croatians (2 percent), Hungarians, Italians, and Gypsies. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion. The flag consists of three equal horizontal stripes—from top to bottom—of white, blue, and red with a blue and white (sky and mountain) coat of arms in the upper left side corner. The capital is Ljubljana. The official language is Slovenian. Milan Kucan has been the president since 1990.
Slovenians, the westernmost Slavic people, have always been geographically and culturally a part of Central Europe rather than of the Balkans. Outside of Slovenia, significant Slovenian communities live in Italy and Austria, and a small community exists in Hungary. Slovenia is sometimes confused with Slavonia (a region in Croatia) or Slovakia. Since its independence in 1991, intensified tourist and other economic relations with Western countries, and admission as a member of the European Union, the country has received more attention.
While most historians believe that Slovenia was settled between 568 and 650 a.d., this has been challenged by a group of writers who argue that Slovenians are descendants of an ancient West Slavic people called Veneti, Vendi or Wends—a people that predate the Romans. All scholars agree that Slovenians settled in present-day Slovenia by 650 a.d. They enjoyed a brief independence at the dawn of their known history when they developed a form of representative democracy, which was well known to several leading figures, including Thomas Jefferson; this ancient Slovenian democracy was, according to Harvard historian Crane Brinton in the Catholic Historical Review, a variable that "went into the making of modern Western institutions."
After allying themselves with the Bavarians against the warlike Avars and jointly defeating them in 743, the northern Karantanian Slovenians lost their independence to their Bavarian allies who refused to leave, and a year or two later to the Franks who subdued the Bavarians. After the mysterious disappearance of Prince Kocelj, the Slovenians of Pannonia came under the rule of a Frankish overlord in 874. For over a millennium the Slovenian people were under the political administration of their more powerful neighbors: the Bavarians, the Franks, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Austrian Empire.
The Christianization of the Slovenians had been conducted by missionaries from Aquileia (now in northern Italy) and Salzburg (then an ethnically mixed territory). The most famous missionaries were the Irish bishop St. Modestus in the mid-eighth century who labored in Karantania, and the brothers St. Cyril and St. Methodius from Salonica who spread the Christian faith in Slovenian Pannonia in the late 860s and 870s and established a seminary to educate Slovenian boys for the priesthood.
In addition to constant Germanization pressures, which began with the Christianization process, the Slovenians suffered almost two centuries of sporadic Turkish raids, especially from 1408 to 1578. An estimated 100,000 Slovenians perished and an equal number of young boys and girls were taken to Turkey where boys were trained as Turkish soldiers (janizaries ) and the girls were put into harems. In 1593, however, the united Slovenian and Croatian forces decisively defeated the Turks in the battle of Sisak, Croatia. Due to the leadership of Count Andrej Turjašski (Andreas of Turjak, Slovenia), the threat of subsequent Turkish raids on Slovenian lands was considerably diminished. Slovenians were also involved in numerous uprisings against the exploitative foreign nobility, the most famous of which was the joint Slovenian-Croatian revolt of 1573 in which over a third of the revolutionaries perished in battle, while many of the survivors were tortured and executed. Although German-speaking Austrians and Germans wanted to Germanize the Slovenians in order to establish a secure land-bridge to the Adriatic and the Mediterranean Seas, the bulk of Slovenians resisted bribes and threats, occasionally gaining genuine friends and supporters, thus preserving their ethnic and cultural identity.
Slovenians learned to read and write as early as the 860s. The Slovenians established the Jesuit College in Ljubljana in 1595, Academia operosorum —the first Slovenian Academy of Arts and Sciences—in 1673, and Academia philhamionicorum in 1701. They created a beautiful literature, culminating in the poetry of Dr. France Prešeren (1800-1849), and in the prose of Ivan Cankar (1876-1918), and share with the Scandinavians the reputation of being the best-read people of Europe. They have also made numerous contributions to the world, including Jurij Slatkonia, who became the first regular bishop of Vienna in 1513 and founded the internationally acclaimed Vienna Boys choir. Many prominent scholars and scientists were Slovenian, including: Joseph Stefan (1835-1893), a physicist and author of Stefan's fourth-power law, who was also one of the many Slovenian rectors of the University of Vienna; Frederic Pregl (1869-1930), father of micro-analysis and Nobel prize winner in chemistry in 1923; Leo Caprivi (Kopriva; 1831-1899), the chancellor of Germany in 1890s; Kurt von Schuschnigg (Sušnik; 1897-1977), the last chancellor of Austria prior to Hitler's Anschluss; Misha Lajovic (1921– ), the first immigrant and the first non-Anglo-Saxon federal senator of Australia; and Dr. Aloysius M. Ambrožič (1930– ), the first immigrant and Slavic archbishop of Toronto, the largest Catholic diocese of Canada.
A part of Austria until 1918 and then Yugoslavia, with a period of German and Italian occupation and the brutal communist revolution between 1941 and 1945, Slovenia organized the first free post-war elections in the spring of 1990. Slovenia declared independence from the Federation of Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991, and after inflicting surprising defeats on the communist-led Yugoslav Army under the leadership of defense minister Janez Janša, achieved peace on July 7, 1991. On December 23, 1991, the Slovenian Constitution was adopted. On January 15, 1992, while Christian Democrat Lojze Peterle was prime minister, the European Commmunity led by Christian Democratic governments recognized independent Slovenia. On May 22, 1992, Slovenia became a permanent member of the United Nations. Subsequently, constant democratic development and a successful market economy were recorded. Slovenia is aspiring to become a NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) member, and its admission will be considered in the year 2002.
Louis Adamic in 1913, cited in Ellis Island: An Illustrated History of the Immigrant Experience, edited by Ivan Chermayeff et al. (New York: Macmillan, 1991).
"T he first night in America I spent, with hundreds of other recently arrived immigrants, in an immense hall with tiers of narrow iron-and-canvas bunks, four deep.... The bunk immediately beneath mine was occupied by a Turk.... I thought how curious it was that I should be spending a night in such proximity to a Turk, for Turks were traditional enemies of Balkan peoples, including my own nation.... Now here I was, trying to sleep directly above a Turk, with only a sheet of canvas between us."
THE FIRST SLOVENIANS IN AMERICA
The first proven settler of mixed Slovenian-Croatian ancestry was Ivan Ratkaj, a Jesuit priest who reached the New World in 1680. He was followed by Mark Anton Kappus, S. J., who came to America in 1687 and distinguished himself as missionary, educator, writer, and explorer. In the 1730s Slovenians and Croatians established small agricultural settlements in Georgia. A number of Slovenian soldiers fought in George Washington's revolutionary forces. Between 1831 and 1868, the Slovenian-born scholar, missionary, and bishop, Frederic Baraga, labored on a vast 80,000 square mile piece of virgin territory, including parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Canada, where he and his followers built some of the first churches and schools. Father Andreas Skopec (Skopez) reached Fryburg, Pennsylvania, in 1846 and was joined by several of his Slovenian compatriots. Other Slovenian settlements followed in the mining town of Calumet, Michigan, in 1856, the farming community of Brockway, Minnesota, in 1865, and several rural areas in Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa. Settlements were also established in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1868, Joliet, Illinois, in 1873; New York City in 1878, and Cleveland, Ohio, in 1881. Following the missionaries and other trailblazers, the largest numbers of Slovenian immigrants reached America between 1880 and World War I, particularly from 1905 to 1913, although the exact numbers are impossible to pinpoint because Slovenians were then shown either as Austrians or jointly with Croatians, or under a number of other broader labels.
The 1910 census reported 183,431 persons of Slovenian mother tongue, 123,631 "foreign-born" and 59,800 born in America. These numbers are clearly an underestimate of the actual Slovenian population since descendants of earlier settlers often no longer knew Slovenian. Many Slovenians coming from Austria tried to escape the anti-Slavic prejudice by identifying themselves as Austrians, and many who should have been reported as Slovenian appeared under such general headings as Slav, Slavic, Slavish, or Slavonian. The actual number of Americans of Slovenian descent was probably somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000. The underestimate was even more pronounced in the 1990 census, which listed only 124,427 Americans of "Slovene" ancestry. Since the ancestry was the identifying criterion, including persons with single and multiple ethnic ancestry, regardless of whether or not they knew the Slovenian language, the actual numbers of Slovenian Americans has been growing approximately to the same extent as the total population of the United States.
From the very beginning, Slovenian immigrants have been widely scattered in many states. However, despite the underestimates, the U.S. census probably identifies correctly the states with the highest concentration of Slovenian Americans. Ohio, where about 40 percent live, is the unrivaled leader, with greater Cleveland as the home of the largest Slovenian community. It is followed by Pennsylvania, with about 12 percent, and Illinois with less than ten percent. Minnesota and Wisconsin each have a little over five percent Slovenian population, followed in descending order by California, Colorado, Michigan, Florida, New York, Texas, Indiana, Washington, Kansas, and Maryland. There is, however, no single American state in which Slovenians have not been represented in the 1990 census.
Acculturation and Assimilation
Until 1918 the bulk of Slovenian immigrants were Slovenian by ethnicity and Austrian by citizenship or statehood. They usually knew German, which facilitated their adjustment in the American work place where, at that time, many foremen were from German-speaking countries. Yet, the American population began to differentiate between genuine German Austrians, other German-nationality members, and various non-German ethnic groups, including the Slovenians who were looked down upon as inferior and given such pejorative labels as "Polacks," "Hunkies," and "Bohunks." Residents of cities with larger settlements of immigrants became aware of further subdivisions and reserved "Hunkies" for Hungarians, "Bohunks" for Czechs and Slovaks, and "Grainers" or "Grenish" (a corruption of the term "Krainers," i.e., from the Slovenian province of Krain, Kranjska, or Carniola) for Slovenians. Numerous accounts and studies suggest that for over half a century after 1880 there was strong anti-Slavic and anti-Slovenian prejudice in America. Although Slovenians were not included among the 40 "races" or ethnic groups whose hierarchical position in America has been studied since 1926 by means of the Bogardus Social Distance Scale, statistical scores and narrative reports in leading textbooks suggest that there was an intense and widespread prejudice against all Slavic groups.
Initially most Slovenians coped with the problems of being low-status or despised strangers in a foreign land by establishing their own ethnic communities, including churches, schools, and business establishments. They also organized self-help groups such as fraternal societies, social and political clubs, and national homes as their new community centers. A high degree of self-sufficiency among Slovenians helped them adjust relatively well within their own ethnic community and facilitated adjustment in the American work place and in society at large. Many applied the leadership skills they had learned in their ethnic neighborhoods to wider American society, rising from club or lodge officers to become members of city councils, mayors, and other American political, business, and civic leaders. With few exceptions this piecemeal adjustment to America seemed to proceed remarkably well. Similarly, the Slovenians avoided being on welfare; in times of crises they helped each other.
Slovenian Americans have acquired English with impressive speed and facility. They have been anxious to own homes, often with vegetable and flower gardens. Approximately 48 percent of Slovenian refugees bought their homes after being in America on the average of ten years. Yet, in the spirit of a pluralistic, multicultural America, many are anxious also to preserve the best elements of their ethnic culture. Since the 1970s there has been an unprecedented surge of interest in Slovenian music (especially the accordion as the national instrument), language, genealogy, history, culture, customs, folklore, and other aspects of Slovenian heritage. The belief that the American and Slovenian cultures at their best are not only compatible but complement and enrich each other seems to appeal to large numbers of Slovenian Americans who have visited the country of their ancestors.
Slovenian immigrant women and many of their descendants traditionally have been excellent cooks and bakers; many of their culinary specialties are sold in ethnic communities today at fund raising projects. Some of the most popular goodies include potica, which is as Slovenian as apple pie is American. Among the usual varieties are walnut, raisin, and tarragon poticas. Apple, cherry, apricot, cheese, and other varieties of štrudel are also tempting delicacies, as are krofi, the Slovenian variety of doughnuts, and flancati, a flaky, deep-fried pastry. Dumplings (cmoki and štruklji ), meat-filled or liver-filled for soups, are also popular, as well as those filled with apricots, plums, finely ground meat, or cheese, which can be served as the main meal, or as dessert. In addition to all kinds of chicken and other meats, the Carniolan sausage (kranjske klobase ) and for Easter, "filled stomach" (zělodec ) are also favorites. Slovenian wines have won many international prizes and some Slovenian Americans continue to make their own wine, even if they no longer grow their own grapes. Slovenians in the "old" country traditionally have been known for their hospitality.
TRADITIONS, CUSTOMS, AND BELIEFS
In several Slovenian communities some group-specific customs survive. One of these is miklavzěvanje, celebrations of sv. Miklavzě or the old St. Nick's feast when the good saint, dressed up as a bishop and accompanied by angels and parkelji (little devils), visits Slovenian communities, exhorts children to be good, and distributes gifts, usually from a throne put in the center of the stage. Vintage festivals (trgatve ) at recreation farms or parks and in national halls attract merrymakers, with dancing or socializing under clusters of tempting grapes; those who reach for them and are caught by the "police," are taken to the "court" and sent to a "jail" where all can see their sad "fate." Then, a loved one pays the ransom or fine, which is used for a worthy cause, while the "thief" (or tat ) is set free. There is also martino-vanje, a public celebration of St. Martin's feast when the good saint changes lowly grape juice into tasty wine. This is another good opportunity for socializing, a banquet with wine-tasting, and a dance of waltzes and polkas. Concerts and festivals, plays and sports events, bazaars and exhibits, benefit brunches, lunches, and suppers all keep Slovenians in ethnic communities busy and happy.
June 25 is celebrated to mark the country's independence from the former Yugoslav Federation. Slovenian Americans also celebrate New Year's Day, Catholic Easter and Christmas, as well as the feast days of various saints in the Catholic calendar.
Slovenian culture has emphasized the value of good health. One of the most frequently quoted sayings states, "Zdravje je največje bogastvo "—"Health is the greatest wealth." Following the Czech lead, the most influential Slovenian youth organizations, which often included "youngsters" 50 or 70 years old, were the Eagles (Orli ) and the Falcons (Sokoli ). They adopted an ancient Roman guideline as their own slogan,"Mens sana in corpore sano "—"A heathy mind in a healthy body," paying attention to development of both good character and physical fitness. Active participation in athletics, gymnastics, walks, hikes, mountain climbing, and a variety of sports, including skiing, contribute to good health. Alcohol consumption and smoking, on the other hand, have been among the unhealthy practices in which large numbers of Slovenians indulge.
In America, overcrowded boarding houses and life in depressing urban areas with air, water, and noise pollution contributed a new variety of health hazards for early immigrants. In places such as steel mills and coal mines, occupational risks lurked for workers. Many often experienced unavoidable accidents, increased air pollution, extremes of heat and cold, and pollution with coal dust resulting in black lung disease that drastically shortened the life of countless miners. In some mining towns, from Pennsylvania to Wyoming, there is an alarming absence of older men; and their widows survive with nothing but their modest homes and low retirement pensions to compensate them for their families' share in building a more prosperous America.
As working and living conditions have generally improved, and some good health habits learned in childhood have persisted, the health and mental health of Slovenian Americans is now comparable to that of other Americans. It is unclear whether or not home remedies, such as a small pharmacy of medicinal herbs that many Slovenian immigrant households maintained, have been among the contributing factors to better health. A conclusion of "slightly better" than "national health" was reached by Dr. Sylvia J. O'Kicki, who examined a group of Slovenian Americans with comparable cohorts selected from the National Health Interview Survey of 1985. She states in Ethnicity and Health that "when the group of Slovene Americans without any regard to the level of ethnicity is compared to the national American sample they differ favorably in health status and the practice of health behaviors.... Those who are actively involved in the heritage and traditions of the ethnic group report a more favorable health status and practice of more favorable health behaviors."
In general, there was a remarkable resilience among earlier immigrants who were confronted by adverse conditions and problems that few could imagine today. Post-World War II refugees also went through years of deprivations, hardships of camp life, and a series of new problems in a strange new country, which often left them physically and emotionally exhausted and penniless. Some of them even survived death camps such as Dachau; two of them, Milan Zajec and Frank Dejak, miraculously escaped from a communist mass grave.
Slovenian is a Slavic language that utilizes the Latin alphabet. It is also the language of the oldest preserved written documents of any Slavic people, the so-called Brižinski spomeniki (the Freising Monuments), dating from 1000 a.d. Prlmož Trubar published the first printed books in Slovenian starting in 1551, less than a century after the invention of the Guttenberg press. Through the millennium of incorporation into German-speaking lands the Slovenian language was the pivotal vehicle of Slovenian culture, consciousness, identity, and national survival. Because the Slovenians were few in number they were anxious to preserve their mother tongue while simultaneously learning other languages.
Slovenians have long been noted for their exceptional linguistic skills. For example, many Slovenian missionaries in America preached in five or more languages. Several colleges and universities teach the Slovenian language: University of Illinois, Indiana University, University of Kansas, Kent State University, Ohio State University, and the University of Pittsburgh. There are also several libraries with Slovenian language collections, which contributes to preservation of the language. About 30 percent of all Slovenians in the United States are bilingual—English and some Slovenian—but the younger generation tends to use English to the exclusion of their ancestors' language.
The Slovenian writing system is phonetically precise in that a letter, with very few exceptions, has the same sound. Most letters are the same as in English (except that Slovenian lacks the letters "w"and "y") and many letters have the same sound as in English. For the rest, the following pronunciation guide may be of help: "a" is pronounced as in art; "e" as in get (never as in eve); "i" as in ill (never as in like); "o" as in awe; "u" as in ruler (never as in use); "c" as in tsar (never as in cat); "i" as the "ch" in church; "g" as in go (never as in age); "j" as the "y" in yes (never as in just); "lj" as "lli" in million; "nj" as the "gn" in monsignor; "š" as in she; "z" as in zipper; and "ž" as the "ge" in garage.
GREETINGS AND OTHER POPULAR EXPRESSIONS
Dobro jutro —good morning; dober dan —good day; dober vecěr —good evening; dobrodošli —welcome; jaz sem (Janez Zupan) —I am (John Zupan); to je gospod (gospa, gospodicňa) Stropnik —this is Mr. (Mrs., Miss) Stropnik; kako ste —how are you; hvala, dobro —thank you, well; na svidenje —so long; zbogom —goodbye; lahko noč —good night; prosim —please; hvala —thank you; na zdravje —to your health; dober tek —enjoy your meal; vse najboljsě —the best of everything; oprosite —excuse me; cěstitke —congratulations; kje je —where is; kje je restavracija (hotel) —where is a restaurant (hotel); kje je ta naslov —where is this address; me veseli —I am pleased; žal mi je —I am sorry; sem ameriški Slovenec (ameriška Slovenka) —I am an American Slovenian; vse je zelo lepo —everything is very nice; Slovenija je krasna —Slovenia is beautiful; s ě pridite —come again; srecňo pot —have a happy trip!
Family and Community Dynamics
Until World War I, men usually emigrated first; after they had saved enough money, they arranged for their wives or sweethearts to follow. Early entrepreneurs, such as owners of boarding houses, restaurants, and saloons, also lured many young women to come and work for them in America; however, the men were anxious to marry them as soon as they could get to know them. As in Slovenia, divorce among Slovenian Americans has been extremely rare, although it has recently increased especially in ethnically and religiously mixed families. In general, immigrant parents are anxious for their children to marry someone from their own ethnic and religious group, although ethnic homogamy has been decreasing among members of American-born generations.
Until recently, Slovenians have also frowned upon putting their parents or elderly relatives into homes for the aged. Since employment of women has increased and families have become more mobile, an increasing proportion of the elderly are now being placed into homes for the aged. Extended families were common among early immigrants, while nuclear families prevail today. Increasingly, children move away from their parental homes once they are permanently employed, believing that this is expected in America. However, many parents still prefer to have their children live at home until marriage and save money for their own home. The oldest child is often expected to be more responsible and a role model for younger children; the youngest child is widely believed to be given most affection by all, although actual differences by order of birth are now probably comparable to those of American families. Women have played a pivotal role not only as homemakers but also in Slovenian ethnic churches, language schools, charity projects, and increasingly in political campaigns. There is a Slovenian proverb: " Žena tri vogle podpira "—"The woman supports three corners [of a four-corner home]."
Young people have adopted such American wedding customs as showers. However, they often still prefer huge ethnic weddings with hundreds of guests in attendance, delicious meals, and Slovenian varieties of pastries.
At wakes and funerals, organizations to which the deceased belonged are represented; occasionally there are honor guards in uniforms or national costumes. After the funeral all guests are invited to a meal to show the bereaved family's appreciation for their attendance and to ease the transition for the family and community deprived of one of its members.
Coming from a country with strong Catholic traditions where hills and valleys are dotted with many beautiful, century-old churches, most Slovenian immigrants cling to their religious roots. They have built their own churches and other religious institutions all over America. Following the example of the missionaries, priests and seminarians came from Slovenia, and American-born descendants of immigrants gradually joined the clergy. Since 1924 the Slovenian Franciscan Commissariat of the Holy Cross in Lemont, Illinois, has played a pivotal role among Slovenian Catholics in America. It established the Mary Help of Christians Shrine (with a replica painting from Brezje, Slovenia)—the most popular Slovenian pilgrimage in North America. It comprises a monastery and seminary, a high school, a retreat house, the Alvernia Manor for the Aged, annual Koledars, with a Slovenian Cultural and Pastoral Center of Lemont scheduled for completion in 1994. It also publishes the religious monthly Ave Maria. In 1971 a Slovenian Chapel of Our Lady of Brezje was dedicated inside the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., becoming another significant Slovenian religious landmark in America.
Many Slovenian parishes have been struggling for survival in recent years, mostly because of the changing nature of neighborhoods, the flight of Slovenian population to the suburbs, increased Americanization and secularization of the younger generation, and the lack of Slovenian priests. In very rare instances, ethnic churches that have closed have been replaced by new ones in new neighborhoods, as happened in Milwaukee-West Allis, Wisconsin, or in Bridgeport-Fairfield in Connecticut.
There is also a small number of Slovenian Protestants who refer to themselves as Windish. Although numerically small, this community has long used a Slovenian dialect in interaction, its services, and its press, and has displayed considerable ethnic and religious vitality, as exemplified by St. John's Windish Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and a few other Slovenian Protestant institutions.
Many Slovenians worship in other American Catholic parishes, while an extremely small number have joined other religions. Geographic and social mobility and intermarriage have caused the absorption into other Catholic churches. The children of young couples are frequently enrolled in local Catholic schools, which means that their parents also join the usually non-Slovenian parish. Many of these people still return to Slovenian parishes on special occasions—Christmas and Easter, annual festivals, celebrations of holidays, Corpus Christi processions, Palm Sunday festivities with Slovenian butare (ornamented bundles of branches). St. Mary's Parish in Cleveland even presents the Passion liturgy in Slovenian, all conducted by school children in biblical attire (ranging from Roman soldiers to Mary and Christ).
Employment and Economic Traditions
With the exception of missionaries, priests, and some 6,000 to 10,000 ideological dissenters, especially post-World War II refugees from Marshall Tito's communism, the bulk of Slovenians in America were economic immigrants. As in most groups, they tended to come from the poorest areas and most economically disadvantaged families. With the exception of persons who wanted to avoid being drafted, a few adventurers, socialist or other political dissenters, post-1947 refugees, and farm laborers have also immigrated in significant numbers.
The earliest immigrants often took advantage of the open lands and homesteading, and established such Slovenian pioneer farming communities as St. Stephen's and St. Anthony's in Minnesota, or later Traunik in Michigan. Many immigrants initially intended to return to Slovenia after they had earned enough money to establish themselves in their native country. When the land became more difficult to obtain, however, the major wave of Slovenian immigrants settled in industrial cities and mining towns where their unskilled labor earned them meager wages.
It is impossible to discover an exact breakdown of employment since Slovenians were shown as Austrians or Yugoslavs, or combined with Croatians or South Slavs on most documents. While Slovenians were better educated than other South Slav groups, the statistical distribution was probably more favorable for them than shown. The available data on the South Slavs in general are nevertheless suggestive. Thus, in 1921, 42 percent of the South Slavs were workers in steel, iron, and zinc mines, smelters, and refineries; 12 percent worked in the coal mines; 6.5 percent in the lumber industry; six percent in stockyards, and five percent in fruit growing; chemical works, railroads, and electrical manufacturing employed four percent each; professions accounted for 3.5 percent, and farming for only three percent.
Considerable numbers of Slovenian immigrants, however, soon became skilled workers. In the early decades of the twentieth century many Slovenian Americans worked in the automobile industry in Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. They were also well represented in the hat industry in New York. They were highly appreciated and much sought-after because of their skill and experience, having learned the trade in their home country. Included in this group were both men and women. Thus, hat making, especially straw-hat making, was a group-specific skill that many Slovenians found useful in their American employment. Other skills survived as useful hobbies: home-building and carpentry skills; butchering, sausage making, and meat-processing skills; wine making; and apiculture, which helped many Slovenian immigrants provide honey for family and friends. Women were highly skilled cooks, bakers, and gardeners, and canned large quantities of fruit and vegetables. Habits of hard work, honesty, frugality, and mutual help, particularly in times of hardship, helped Slovenian immigrants survive and succeed in a strange land.
Today, Slovenian Americans can be found in all occupations. Many are now professionals; others own businesses, agencies, and factories; still others are workers, foremen, or executives with large American companies. As research on Slovenian contributions to America shows, a large number of Slovenian Americans have achieved positions of leadership and prominence in American society.
Politics and Government
Like other ethnic groups, Slovenian Americans were targeted by American politicians as soon as they had become citizens and were able to vote. As a rule, Slovenian Americans were attracted to the Democratic Party, viewed as the party of the working class people. Republicans have recently won a substantial number of adherents. Rising from minor political positions, such as ward leaders and members of council, Slovenian American politicians now increasingly reflect the American political spectrum, including a presidential candidate.
Slovenian American congressional representatives include John A. Blatnik (1911– ) from northeastern Minnesota, who served from 1947 to 1975; he was succeeded by James L. Oberstar (1934– ); Ray P. Kogovesk (1941– ), was elected from Colorado in 1978; Philip Ruppe (1927– ) represented Michigan between 1967 and 1979. The last was a Republican while the others were Democratic. While very few Slovenians are attracted to independent candidates, there was a substantial number of Slovenian American Democrats for Republican Ronald Reagan.
In numerous towns, such as Ely, Eveleth, Chisholm, and Gilbert in Minnesota, Slovenian Americans have long been strongly represented on city councils, and as mayors of such larger communities as Euclid and Wickliffe, Ohio. Slovenian candidates were also elected mayor in such cities as Portland, Oregon, and Indianapolis, Indiana, where the proportion of Slovenian voters was insignificant. In Cleveland, the city with the largest number of Slovenians in America, Slovenians have long served as ward leaders, council members, and heads of various branches of municipal government. They also served in Cleveland as judges, a chief of police, a council president, and a mayor. Frank J. Lausche first won national attention as a fearless judge who, and the help of Gus Korach, a Slovenian worker, broke up the widespread organized crime and corruption in a true-life drama that resulted in local and national publicity.
Slovenian Americans have been well represented in the military. Slovenian immigrant Louis Dobnikar, serving on the destroyer Keamey, was the first Clevelander and one of the first 11 Americans to be killed during World War II. John Hribar, a volunteer marine from Krayn, Pennsylvania (named after Kranj, Slovenia), was one of several Slovenian heroes of Iwo Jima. At least seven Slovenian Americans became generals, including three-star general Anthony Burshnick of the U.S. Air Force and four-star general of the U.S. Army Ferdinand Chesarek. The Archives of the Slovenian Research Center of America also contain materials on six Slovenian American admirals (with the seventh still being researched), including Ronald Zlatoper who received his fourth star in 1994.
RELATIONS WITH SLOVENIA
Slovenian Americans have not established permanent lobbying organizations in Washington, D.C., but they frequently have used existing societies and institutions, ad hoc committees, or temporary councils or unions to advocate or support various causes on behalf of their home country. These include: the Slovenian League, Slovenian National Union, and Slovenian Republican Alliance during World War I; various relief committees, the Union of Slovenian Parishes, and Slovenian American National Council during World War II; the Slovenian American Council, which substantially supported the first free elections that toppled the communist dictatorship in Slovenia in 1990. A special ad hoc committee, Americans for Free Slovenia, together with scores of other organizations and institutions, especially the American Home newspaper, the Slovenian Research Center of America, and thousands of individuals, helped secure the American recognition of independent Slovenia in 1992. For several decades after World War II, the Slovenian Language section of Voice of America Information Agency, played an important role by bringing objective information to its listeners in Slovenia.
Individual and Group Contributions
Slovenia, despite its small size, has made many important contributions to the world.
Emil Mrak, chancellor of University of California at Davis, and Frederick Stare, founder of Harvard University's Department of Nutrition, were America's foremost authorities on nutrition. John Nielsen (Sesek) was a leading metallurgist; Joseph Koffolt was a leader in chemical engineering; Anton Peterlin was a leader in macromolecular chemistry; Stephen Malaker was prominent in nuclear physics and cryogenics; Robert A. Pucel contributed to microwave science and technology; Anton Mavretic and Mark Dragovan distinguished themselves in astronomy; and Daniel Siewiorek was a leader in computer architecture.
Max Stupar, an early designer and manufacturer of airplanes, was considered the father of mass airplane production. Dr. August Raspet, a noted inventor and designer of modern airplanes, was president of American Aerophysics Institute. Adrian Kisovec invented the Convertiplane-Rotafrx models. Dr. Ronald Sega became the first Slovenian astronaut.
Araldo Cossutta, who designed L'Enfant Plaza in Washington and numerous landmark buildings throughout America and in Europe, won, with I. M. Pei, the 1968 Architectural Firm Award. Alexander Papesh became America's foremost designer of stadiums, including the Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington, D.C. Simon Kregar won national awards for design of industrial buildings.
Slovenian American artists include Gregory Prusheck, Michael Lah, Stephen Rebeck, France Gorse, Donald Orehek, Lillian Brulc, Lucille Dragovan, Frank Wolcansek, John Hapel, Paul Kos, Bogdan Grom, three generations of Prazens, Joseph Opalek, Nancy Bukovnik, and Gary Bukovnik, Emilia Bucik-Razman, Miro Zupancic, Joseph Vodlan, Erica Bajuk, Vlasta Radisek, August Pust, and Damian Kreze, to mention but a few.
FILM, TELEVISION, AND DANCE
Among movie and television personalities, Laura LaPlante and Audrey Totterare are part Slovenian. Also Slovenian are actors George Dolenz and Frank Gorshin; ballerinas Veronica Mlakar of the New York City Ballet Theater and Isabella Kralj of Chamber Dance Theater in Milwaukee. Anton Schubel was director of the International Ballet Company in New York; Milko Sparemblek, a Slovenian immigrant, served as ballet director of Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center; Charles Kuralt, widely known as a CBS correspondent and a capable writer, has also recently discovered his Slovenian roots.
Karl Mauser (1918-1977) was an author whose work was translated into German, French, and Spanish. Frank Mlakar (1913-1967), author of the acclaimed novel, He, the Father. Louis Adamic (1899-1951), whose widely translated books have been included as Book-of-the-Month Club and Obras Famosas selections, became a pioneer of multiculturalism in America with the publication of his From Many Lands, My America and A Nation of Nations.
There is also a proud, if seldom known, record of contributions made to America by Slovenian missionaries. Mark Anton Kappus, a Slovenian-born Jesuit missionary, scholar, and superior of Jesuit missions in the enormous territory of Sonora and Pimeria Alta in northern Mexico and southern Arizona, came to America in 1687 and returned to Europe in 1701 to report that California was not an island, as it then had been generally believed; the most prominent Slovenian missionary was Frederic Baraga, who from 1831 to 1868, labored among Native Americans of the Upper Great Lakes region on an enormous territory of over 80,000 square miles and wrote several books, including Indian dictionaries and grammars still in use today. In numerous areas of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and elsewhere Slovenian missionaries built the first churches and schools; they pioneered in the establishment of dioceses of Marquette, Duluth, and St. Cloud; they secured financial support from several European courts and religious organizations, while importing to America shipments of seedlings, vestments, and religious art.
Notable musicians include: Grammy Award-winning Polka King of America, Frankie Yankovic; the "Polka Ambassador" Tony Petkovsek; Polka Priest Frank Perkovich; America's Tamburitzan King Professor Mat Gouze; Metropolitan Opera singer Anton Schubel, who was also the talent scout for Carnegie Hall where he gave concerts with finalists of his nationwide auditions, among them his 13-year-old discovery Van Cliburn; Ivan Zorman, Dr. Sergij Delak, and Dr. Vendelin Spendov, who enriched Slovenian American music with their compositions; and John Ivanusch, known as the Father of Slovenian Opera in America; Paul Sifler is an internationally known organist and composer of such works as Despair and Agony of Dachau; Professor Raymond Premru's Concerto for Orchestra was selected in 1976 for the famous Cleveland Orchestra's Bicentennial Program conducted by Lorin Maazel.
Senator Tom Harkin, whose mother was a Slovenian immigrant, was one of the 1992 presidential candidates; he pioneered legislation on behalf of the disabled. George Voinovich served as mayor of Cleveland and governor of Ohio. Ludwig Andolsek was a U.S. Civil Service commissioner. John Blatnik, U.S. congressional representative from Minnesota from 1946 to 1974, chaired the Congressional Public Works committee and authored legislation that opened the St. Lawrence Seaway, established the current interstate highway system, and initiated standards for clean air and water.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Frederic Pregl pioneered the field of organic chemistry; Hermann Potočnik Noordung, a pioneer in space science, authored the first scientific book on manned space travel and had a considerable impact on the development of American space program. John Bucik's car of the future was one of America's leading attractions at the New York World Fair in 1964-1965. Dr. France Rode co-invented HP-35 pocket calculators, which Richard Nixon's party took to China as an example of modern U.S. technology.
Notable sports figures include: football players Tony and Mike Adamie, Randy Gradishar, Mark Debevc, Don Vicic, and Ken Novak; baseball players Frank Doljack, Joe Kuhel, Al Vidmar, Walter Judnich, and Al Milnar; bowlers Charles Lausche, Marge Slogar, Mary "Whitey" Primosh Doljack, "Stevie" Rozman Balough, Sophie Rozman Kenny, Andrew Stanonik, Vince Bovitz, and Jim Stefanich; the Marolt brothers in skiing; Olympic swimmer Ann Govednik; Vicki Foltz (šega); long-distance running champion; and Hubby Habjan, National Golf Professional of the Year (1965); Eric Heiden, winner of five gold medals at the Winter Olympics of 1980; Peter Vidmar, U.S. team captain and winner of two gold medals and a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics, was the highest scoring gymnast in U.S. history (with a 9.89 average).
Amerika Domovina ( The American Home ).
This was published under a variety of names, starting as Narodna beseda (The Word of the People ) in 1899. Privately owned and long a Slovenian-language daily, it is now a bilingual weekly newspaper, with about 3,000 subscribers. It publishes news about Slovenian communities and individuals, various ethnic affairs, and Slovenian reprints. It is the only one of the many non-fraternal Slovenian newspapers that has survived to this day.
Contact: Jim Debevec, Publisher and English Section Editor; or, Dr. Rudolph Susel, Slovenian Language Section Editor.
Address: 6117 St. Clair Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44103.
Telephone: (216) 431-0628.
Amerikanski Slovenec ( American Slovenian ).
This is the oldest Slovenian paper, published without interruption since 1891. Since 1946, when it merged with the Glasilo KSKJ (Herald of KSKJ ), it has been an official organ of KSKJ, the American Slovenian Catholic Union. While most of the materials published pertain to activities of the KSKJ, it also carries a variety of news and comments of ethnic and general human interest. It is currently a bilingual (English and Slovenian) biweekly, with 10,700 subscribers.
Contact: Robert G. Gibbons, Editor.
Address: 708 East 159 Street, Cleveland, Ohio 44110.
Telephone: (216) 541-7243.
Our Voice—Glas ADZ.
This is a biweekly bilingual official organ of American Mutual Life Association (AMLA). While Clevelandska Amerika (now Ameriška Domovina ) was chosen as the official organ of what was then Slovenska Dobrodelna Zveza (Slovenian Benefit Society), the seventh convention approved the establishment of its own official organ and the first issue was published early in 1932. In addition to news items about AMLA's lodge activities, Our Voice publishes many reprints from Slovenian magazines, both in Slovenian and English languages, and numerous photographs of banquets, parties, and other social and cultural affairs.
Contact: Dr. Rudolph Susel, Editor.
Address: 19424 South Waterloo Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44119.
Telephone: (216) 531-1900.
Prosveta ( Enlightenment ).
Long a Slovenian daily, it is now an English weekly organ of the Slovene National Benefit Society (SNPJ), devoted predominantly to news items about the fraternal organization and its local lodges and their activities. It also publishes selected items of Slovenian and general human interest, including news on various cultural programs and reprints from Slovenia. By 1994, the Slovenian language entries have been reduced to a single weekly page or less. Prosveta has 20,000 subscribers.
Contact: Jay Sedmak, Editor.
Address: 247 West Allegheny Road, Imperial, Pennsylvania 15126.
Telephone: (412) 695-1100.
This is the official organ of Slovenian Women's Union (SžZ) and was established as its monthly magazine in 1928. This bilingual magazine, with 6,500 subscribers, remains the only surviving Slovenian American monthly magazine. It is rich with news items about activities of its sponsoring organization, as well as with articles on Slovenian American families, with an emphasis on the role of mothers, and on Slovenian heritage.
Contact: Corinne Leskovar, Editor.
Address: 431 North Chicago Street, Joliet, Illinois 60432.
Telephone: (815) 727-1926.
Fax: (312) 268-7744.
"Songs and Melodies from Beautiful Slovenia" presents a rich variety of Slovenian songs and music, community news and news from Slovenia, excerpts from Slovenian literature, Sunday spiritual thoughts, special occasion programs, interviews, and political commentaries, all in the Slovenian language. It is currently broadcast on Sundays, 9:00 to 10:00 a.m., and on Wednesdays, 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Contact: Dr. Milan Pavlovčič, Producer.
Address: WCSB, Cleveland State University, Rhodes Tower, Room 956, Cleveland, Ohio 44115.
Telephone: (216) 687-3523.
Tony Petkovsek's radio program broadcasts Slovenian and other polka music daily, 3:30 to 5:00 p.m., in addition to providing current community news and news from Slovenia, interviews, and radiothons in support of charitable and civic causes. Together with the Cleveland Slovenian Radio Club it has also organized annual Tony's Thanksgiving Polka Parties, which have been among the best attended Greater Cleveland community affairs.
Contact: Tony Petkovsek, Producer.
Address: 971 East 185 Street, Cleveland, Ohio 44119.
Telephone: (216) 481-8669.
"Slovenia Radio" presents Slovenian and other ethnic music, together with Slovenian and English broadcasts of community news, commentaries, and transmission of news from Slovenia. It is aired on Saturdays, 9:00 to 10:00 a.m.
Contact: Paul M. Lavrisha, Producer.
Address: 6507 St. Clair Ave., Cleveland, Ohio 44103.
Telephone: (216) 391-7225.
"Slovenian Radio Cultural Hour" presents customs, literature, songs, and music of Slovenia, together with programs dedicated to special cultural topics and news items about the Slovenian community and Slovenia. It has been conducted since 1963 by Vladislav and Isabella Kralj. The program is currently broadcast each Saturday from 11:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m.
Contact: Vladislav Kralj, Producer.
Address: 690 Meadow Lane, Elm Grove, Wisconsin 53122.
Telephone: (414) 785-2775.
Organizations and Associations
American Mutual Life Association (SDZ).
Organized in 1910, it functions through 40 lodges, with a total of 12,769 members in Ohio. In addition to non-profit insurance programs and promotion of Slovenian traditions and customs, the association lists the following activities: Christmas parties for children, bowling and golf tournaments, family day picnics, clambakes, anniversary banquets honoring 50-year members, scholarship award banquets, and Christmas open house for lodge officers and board members.
Contact: Joseph F. Petric, Jr., Secretary.
Address: 19424 South Waterloo Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44119.
Telephone: (216) 531-1900.
Fax: (216) 531-8123.
American Slovene Polka Foundation.
Established in 1988, aims to preserve the American Slovene Polka style of dance. Organizes festivals, maintains a National Polka Hall of Fame, and collects memorabilia and artifacts related to the history of Polka.
Contact: Fred Kuhar, President.
Address: Shore Cultural Centre, 291 E. 22nd St., Euclid, Ohio 44123.
Telephone: (216) 261-3263.
American Slovenian Catholic Union (KSKJ).
Established in 1894 as a self-help organization which would also strive to preserve and promote Catholic and Slovenian heritage, while helping its members to be active American citizens, has 28,685 members and is the largest Slovenian Catholic organization in USA. Like SNPJ, it functions through local lodges scattered throughout America, but is coordinated by a national board of directors and an executive committee. It provides to its members payments of death and sickness benefits, scholarships, low-interest loans; it promotes friendship and true Catholic charity and conducts numerous religious, educational, cultural, recreational, and social activities.
Contact: Robert M. Verbiscer, Chief Executive Officer; or Anthony Mravle, Secretary/Treasurer.
Address: 2439 Glenwood Avenue, Joliet, Illinois 60435.
Telephone: (815) 741-2001.
Progressive Slovene Women of America (PSWA).
Founded in 1934, it has 575 members, and its purpose is: to arouse interest in knowledge; to improve social and economic conditions of women, family, and humanity in general; to promote familiarity and understanding of New and Old World cultures; and to encourage members to be good citizens and useful members of society. A philanthropic and service organization, it raises money for humanitarian/cultural causes.
Contact: Florence Unetich, National President.
Address: 19808 Arrowhead Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44110.
Telephone: (216) 481-0830.
Slovene National Benefit Society (SNPJ).
Founded in 1904, it is currently, with about 40,000 members, the largest Slovenian American organization. Once a stronghold of labor movement, with some prominent socialists among its leaders, it is now administered mostly by American-born, English-speaking leaders of Slovenian descent. As a non-profit fraternal benefit society, it offers low-cost insurance, tax-deferred savings plans, scholarships, pageants and debutante balls, singing and music circles, Slovenefests and other heritage programs, and a wide variety of various other benefits and activities, athletic, cultural and social projects, and recreational facilities.
Contact: Joseph C. Evanish, National President.
Address: 247 West Allegheny Road, Imperial, Pennsylvania 15126.
Telephone: (800) 843-7675.
Fax: (412) 695-1555.
E-mail: [email protected]
Slovenian Women's Union (SžZ).
Organized in 1926, this organization of 6,100 members has united American Slovenian women of Catholic orientation. Fraternal activities are organized on local (lodge), regional and national basis and include scholarship and educational programs, heritage projects, visits of sick members and paying tribute to deceased members, numerous charity and athletic projects, tributes to honorees such as mothers of the year; uniformed, baton-twirling drill teams, cooking classes and contests.
Contact: Olga Ancel, National Secretary.
Address: 431 North Chicago Street, Joliet, Illinois 60432.
Telephone: (815) 727-1926.
Museums and Research Centers
Museum of the Slovenian Women's Union of America.
The museum has a collection of Slovenian memorabilia, books, pictures, slides, records, Slovenian national costumes, and handicrafts. It also functions as a gift shop where various Slovenian items, including books and souvenirs, can be purchased.
Contact: Mollie Gregorich.
Address: 431 North Chicago Street, Joliet, Illinois 60432.
Telephone: (815) 723-4514.
Slovenian Heritage Center.
The center has a museum with three specified categories. One is dedicated to Slovenia alone, with maps, coats of arms, books, pictures, and artifacts. The second covers the Slovenian American history and houses a library of Slovenian and Slovenian American authors. The third area deals with the SNPJ history and also serves as a lecture and conference room.
Contact: Lou Serjak.
Address: 674 North Market, East Palestine, Ohio 44413.
Telephone: (412) 336-5180.
Slovenian Research Center of America, Inc.
This organization is dedicated to research, education, exhibits, publications, and information service on Slovenian heritage. An American and international network of Slovenian volunteer associates assist in research on Slovenian contributions to America and the world, establishing the richest contemporary collection of its kind. Other areas of research include activities and integration of Slovenian immigrants and their descendants, and their organizations.
Contact: Dr. Edward Gobetz, Director.
Address: 29227 Eddy Road, Willoughby Hills, Ohio 44092.
Telephone: (440) 944-7237.
Fax: (440) 289-3724.
Sources for Additional Study
Anthology of Slovenian American Literature, edited by G. Edward Gobetz and Adele Donchenko.
Willoughby Hills, Ohio: Slovenian Research Center of America, 1977.
Arnez, John. Slovenian Community in Bridgeport, Connecticut. New York: Studia Slovenica, 1971.
Gobetz, G. Edward. Adjustment and Assimilation of Slovenian Refugees. New York: Arno Press, 1980.
Govorchin, Gerald Gilbert. Americans from Yugoslavia. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1961.
Prisland, Marie. From Slovenia to America: Recollections and Collections. Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing, 1968.
Slovenian Heritage, Volume I, edited by Edward Gobetz. Willoughby Hills, Ohio: Slovenian Research Center of America, 1980.
"Slovenian Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 26, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/slovenian-americans
"Slovenian Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America. . Retrieved March 26, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/slovenian-americans
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