Czech americans

by Christine Molinari


Under Communist rule until 1989, the Czech Republic (Ceska Republika), which shared a common federal government with Slovakia until 1992, is now an independent state with democratic, multiparty institutions. Located in central Europe and occupying a territory of 78,864 square kilometers, it is bordered on the northwest and southwest by the Federal Republic of Germany, on the south by Austria, on the southeast by Slovakia, and on the north by Poland.

The Czech Republic has a population of 10,339,000. Of that number, 81.3 percent claim to be of Czech ethnic origin; 13.2 percent are Moravian; and the remaining 4.5 percent belong to other groups, notably Slovak, Polish, German, Silesian, Romany (Gypsy), Hungarian, or Ukrainian. The majority of Czechs (39.2 percent) are Roman Catholic, with a smaller number (4.1 percent) adhering to Protestant denominations. Czech is the official language. The capital city, Prague, preserves one of the oldest and richest architectural traditions in Europe, with many buildings, such as the Romanesque Church of St. George and the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral, dating back to the Middle Ages. The flag of the Czech Republic, designed and first flown in New York to honor the visit of the World War I patriot Tomaš G. Masaryk, consists of a blue triangle on a rectilinear background of white and red.


The Czechs are a Slavic people, closely related to the Slovaks in speech and custom, but with a distinct history and national identity. The term "Czech" denotes the inhabitants of historic Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia, while "Slovak" is reserved for those people who settled on the southern slopes of the Carpathian Mountains and who historically were dominated by the Hungarians.

Between the fifth and seventh centuries, the Slavic ancestors of the Czechs swept across the region that subsequently became known as Bohemia. Although for a time assimilated into the neighboring Moravian Empire, Bohemia emerged as the stronger power and absorbed Moravia in the eleventh century. Under its ruling dynasty, the Přemsylides, Bohemia became Christian in the ninth century and a member of the Holy Roman Empire in the eleventh century, led by the German kings but retaining its own monarchy. Two prominent rulers of the House of Přemsyl were Wenceslas the Holy (c. 907-929) and Otaker II (1253-78), who extended Bohemia's territorial borders to the Adriatic. After the decline of the Přemsylides, Bohemia was ruled for a time by the House of Luxembourg. The union of King John of Luxembourg with the Czech princess Elizabeth produced a son, Charles IV (1346-1378), who, as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, established Bohemia as the center of the empire and made Prague its cultural center. He founded the University of Prague in 1348. In the fifteenth century the university became the center of a church reform movement led by Jan Hus (1369-1415), who was burned as a heretic in 1415. Divided between the followers of Hus—the Hussites—and the Catholics, the country was attacked by crusaders and plunged into turmoil.

Through a dynastic union with the Jagiello family in Poland, the kings of Bohemia eventually became linked to the House of the Austrian Habsburgs, which ruled there from 1526 to 1918. Favoring monarchical control over the Protestant Reformation, the Habsburgs opposed the Bohemian estates, a struggle that resulted in the defeat of the Bohemian Protestant insurgents at the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620. Many thousands of noblemen were expelled from the country, and Bohemia was completely absorbed into the Habsburg empire, with German becoming the primary language of instruction in the schools. However, a national awakening in the nineteenth century, culminating in the political protest movement of 1848, reestablished a sense of Czech identity. After the Austrian declaration of war on Serbia and Russia in 1914, the Czechs and Slovaks, in a struggle to establish a common republic, joined the side of the Allies. Under the leadership of Masaryk, Edvard Beneš (1884-1948), and Milan Rastislav Štefanik, they were able to persuade the Allied governments to dissolve the Habsburg Empire. With the surrender of Austria on October 28, 1918, a revolutionary committee in Prague declared the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic.


The Czechoslovak Republic, a parliamentary democracy, was governed from 1918 to 1935 by Masaryk, who was succeeded by his pupil Beneš. But after occupation by the invading forces of Adolph Hitler in 1939, the republic never completely regained autonomy. In the aftermath of World War II, the Soviet Union began to tighten its control over central Europe, and in February 1948 it staged a governmental crisis in Czechoslovakia that solidified Communist control over the Czech government. A trend toward democratic liberalization in the 1960s culminated in the events of the Prague Spring in 1968, when a cultural revolution headed by the reformer Alexander Dubček was suppressed by the military intervention of the Soviet Union. Under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, a further period of liberalization began in the 1980s that led to the downfall of Communism in 1989, when largely peaceful strikes and demonstrations in Prague swept aside the old regime and elevated dissident playwright Vaclav Havel to the presidency. After a brief coexistence in a federation with Slovakia, the Czech Republic became fully independent in 1992.


Prior to the nineteenth century, few Czechs had immigrated to the United States, and evidence of their presence during the colonial and revolutionary periods is sketchy. Hermann Augustine (1605-1686), one of the founders of the Virginia tobacco trade and compiler of the first map of Maryland and Virginia, is thought to be the first Czech immigrant. In 1638 Czech Protestant exiles, who had set sail for America in the service of the Swedish army, assisted in the building of Fort Christina on a tributary of the Delaware River.

The first major immigration wave occurred in 1848 when the Czech "Forty Eighters" fled to the United States to escape political persecution by the Habsburgs. This year also saw the arrival of Vojta Naprstek, a radical free thinker and a vocal opponent of the Austrian government who, as part of a general amnesty extended to political refugees, returned in 1857 to his native land where he opened an American museum to acquaint European Czechs with America.

By the late 1850s there were an estimated 10,000 Czechs living in the United States. Chicago, tied to the West by rail and more readily accessible to the immigrants, became the most populous Czech settlement. By 1870, other cities with Czech concentrations included St. Louis, Cleveland, New York, and Milwaukee.

At the turn of the century, Czech immigrants were more likely to make the journey to the United States with their families. This marks a contrast with the immigration patterns of other ethnic groups, such as the Germans, English, Poles, and Slovaks, who tended to come over individually, as exhibited by the high ratio of male to female immigrants in the U.S. demographic statistics of the period. Moreover, it was not uncommon in large families for the head of the household to make more than one trip to the United States, bringing along one or more children each time. In addition, many of those who immigrated in the late nineteenth century were of Moravian ancestry. One important characteristic of this group was their staunch adherence to the Catholic faith at a time when membership among Czech Americans was declining and a distinct anti-Catholic spirit prevailed.


By the turn of the century, a widening gap between the first and second generations was already in evidence. In 1900 there were 199,939 American-born Czechs as opposed to 156,640 Czechs who had been born in Europe. The number of Czechs entering the country was further reduced by the temporary Emergency Quota Act, legislated by Congress in 1921, and the National Origins Act of 1924. Settlement patterns were also changing. Perhaps as a reflection of the growing trend toward urbanization in the United States, two-thirds of Czech Americans now lived in urban areas.

The next major immigration to the United States occurred during the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, when approximately 20,000 fled to escape Nazi persecution. About one-quarter of these were professionals, including scholars and artists.

Between 1946 and 1975, 27,048 Czechs immigrated to the United States. With the Communist takeover in 1948, a large number of refugees, many of them students, teachers, journalists, and professional people, began pouring into the United States. Financial support for these refugees was provided by the American Fund for Czechoslovakia,

These Czech American women have just completed their registration at Ellis Island.
These Czech American women have just completed their registration at Ellis Island.
established with the assistance of Eleanor Roosevelt. Subsequent immigration of refugees was supported by the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, which permitted the admission of refugees of Communist countries.

In 1968 the relaxed atmosphere in Czechoslovakia under the Dubček regime was conducive to the immigration of hundreds of refugees to the United States. Many of them were middle-aged, skilled, and educated; consequently, they had little difficulty finding employment. Although they made significant contributions to American society, this recent community of immigrants has been characterized more by its capacity for assimilation than by its ability to stimulate a resurgence in Czech American culture.

According to the 1990 U.S. Census, 1,296,000 Americans reported themselves to be of Czech ancestry, with 52 percent residing in the Midwest, 22 percent in the South, 16 percent in the West, and ten percent in the Northeast. The number of foreign-born Czechs in the United States has been steadily decreasing, and with the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, Czech immigration to the United States has significantly slowed.


The oldest significant Czech colony in the United States is in New York, which by 1854 had about 40 families. In Texas, the first Czech settlement was established at Catspring in 1847. In 1848 the Czechs settled alongside Germans, Irish, and Norwegians

Czech Americans celebrate their ethnic heritage at the 1994 Czech Festival.
Czech Americans celebrate their ethnic heritage at the 1994 Czech Festival.
in Wisconsin, mainly in the counties of Adams, Kewaunee, Manitowok, Marathon, and Oconto, with the first major Czech farming town established at Caledonia, north of Racine. Other settlements followed in Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska. The first Czech settlers to arrive in Chicago in 1852 settled in what is today the Lincoln Park area, assisting in local building by cutting trees and loading lumber. Minnesota Territory was populated by the first Czechs in 1855, while the Dakota Territory saw its first Czech settlements in 1870. Czech Americans also lent names to several U.S. towns and cities in which they settled, including New Prague and Litomysl in Minnesota, and Pilsens, Iowa, to name a few.

Acculturation and Assimilation

The Czechs were uniquely suited to assimilate into American society. Although they lacked direct experience with democratic institutions, the first generation—many of whom left their homeland to escape the oppression of the Austrian Habsburgs— nevertheless brought with them a love of liberty and social equality. A relatively large proportion of nineteenth-century Czech immigrants were literate, a result of the educational policies of the Austrian regime that made education compulsory to age fourteen throughout Bohemia and Moravia.

On arrival, many Czechs Americanized their last names. Some last names were translated into English (e.g., Jablečnik became Appleton or Krejči became Taylor), while others were changed to American-sounding equivalents (e.g., Červeny became Sweeney, and Vlk became Wolf).

The years between 1914 and 1941 marked a turning point for the Czech community in two important ways. First, as a result of World War I, the Czech community became less isolated. A growing trend toward Americanization could be seen in the second and third generations, which were already moving out of the Czech communities and marrying into families with ethnic backgrounds that differed from their own. Second, perhaps partially in response to this trend, the Czech American community was becoming more protective of its traditions, emphasizing the study of Czech language and culture.

As relatively recent arrivals in the United States, the Czechs were forced to deal with prejudice as they established their homes in the midst of other immigrant communities. The self-sufficiency of Czech urban settlements, with their assemblage of Czech-owned banks, theaters, amusement halls, and shops, may have contributed to a perception of Czechs as "clannish." Despite the Czechs' insistence that they be referred to as "Czechs," many Americans persisted in calling them by the pejorative "Bohunks" or by the less pejorative, but equally unacceptable "Bohemians." When the Czechs began moving out of urban neighborhoods into the suburbs after World War II, their search for new homes was not always greeted with enthusiasm. Some efforts at community expansion were met with strong prejudice, as when a Czech real-estate developer attempting to purchase land in a Chicago suburb returned home to find a burning cross on his land.

To many early twentieth-century observers, the Czechs were a relatively "successful" immigrant community. They were perceived as law-abiding and family- and community-oriented, and because they were dedicated to becoming fully Americanized, their assimilation into American culture was relatively smooth and complete.


Community festivals such as polka celebrations and houby (mushroom) hunting contests continue to play a prominent role in Czech American culture. Some traditions celebrated in the early days of immigration were centered around the church. At box-supper church fund raisers, women baked their fanciest dinners and put them into boxes decorated with crepe paper, hearts, and ribbons to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Customs frequently were derived from old pagan traditions. On Palm Sunday, children created an effigy of Smrt ("death"), a lifesize straw doll that might be dressed in rags and have a necklace of eggs. The straw woman, who symbolized the end of winter, was then cast into a river as the children sang a welcome to the beginning of spring. On New Year's Eve, young men would gather in circles and fire their rifles into the air three times, a practice known as "shooting the witches."

Czech superstitions include the belief that a bird that flies into a house is an omen of death. A dream about a body of water could also mean that a death would occur. Pebbles were placed inside eggshell rattles made for children, to drive away evil spirits. A garnet that dimmed while worn on the body was thought be a sign of melancholy.


Czech proverbs express popular wisdom on themes such as the family, labor, fortune, and benevolence. Common proverbs among Czech Americans in the United States include: Father and mother have taught us how to speak, and the world how to keep quiet; Too much wisdom does not produce courage; A pocketful of right needs a pocketful of gold; The poor are heaven's messengers; He who has daughters has a family, and he who has sons has strangers; If there were no children, there would be no tears; All the rivers do what they can for the sea; Better a lie that heals than a truth that wounds; As long as the language lives, the nation is not dead.


Czech American cooking boasts a range of savory meat dishes and rich, flavorful desserts that can be prepared with simple ingredients. Potatoes, mushrooms, and cabbage are the staples of Czech cooking. To make a potato strudel, flour was added to mashed potatoes to form a stiff dough, which was then sprinkled with cinnamon and melted goat's milk butter and baked in the oven. Mushrooms picked during autumn field trips were brought home in bushels and set out in neat rows to dry. They were then turned into a sour mushroom soup which contained sauerkraut juice and fried onions. Sauerkraut, made from boiled cabbage, could also be mixed with pork and rice to make a cabbage roll.

The best-known Czech dessert is kolače, a sweet, squared-shaped dough bread filled with cheese; stewed prunes, apricots, or other fruit; or a mixture of poppy seed, custard pudding, and honey. Traditional at Christmas time was vanočka, a Christmas twist loaf flavored with mace, anise, and lemon and sprinkled with almonds and seedless raisins.


Czech American traditional costumes were worn as everyday apparel in some parts of the country until the twentieth century, when they were worn only on ceremonial occasions. Women's billowy skirts, multicolored or solid, were topped by a gold-trimmed black vests and blouses with full puffed sleeves that might be trimmed in gold or lace and embroidered with a floral geometric motif. Women's bright caps were worn flat on the head and had flaps on either side. Men's trousers were of a solid hue but often were decorated according to individual taste. Men wore a black vest over a full embroidered shirt.

Bridal costumes were particularly ornate. The bride wore a crown covered with rosemary wreaths made by the groom; this crown might also be strewn with long, flowing ribbons. Her white vest was covered with light sea beads or with red, yellow, or green streamers. The groom wore a close-fitting blue or red vest and a plumed hat.


Most Americans are familiar with the polka, but few of them know that it is a Czech courtship dance. The polka originated in Prague in 1837. Derived from the Czech word for "half," it is danced with a half step to music written in two-quarter time, with the accent on the first three eighth notes. Another

These Czech emigrants are waving from the S.S. President Harding, which landed in New York City on May 25, 1935. They later joined relatives in Ohio.
These Czech emigrants are waving from the S.S. President Harding, which landed in New York City on May 25, 1935. They later joined relatives in Ohio.
popular Czech dance is the beseda, a collection of mazurkas, polkas, and waltzes arranged according to local tradition and performed at festivals.

Czech melodies, strongly Western European in character, were usually composed to accompany dances. The koledy —ritual carols that were sung at Christmas, the New Year, and Easter—date back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. A typical rustic band included a clarinet, violins, and the dudy, a shepherd's bagpipe that had a goat's head on top. Another traditional Czech instrument played in the United States is the tamburash, a stringed instrument similar to the lute.


For Czech Americans, Christmas began on December 24 with a Christmas dinner that was served as soon as the first stars came out. Before dining, it was customary to eat consecrated bread dipped in honey; extra place settings were made for deceased members of the family, who were said to be present in spirit. Christmas Day, December 25, was celebrated at church in an extended ceremony where the women and girls stood in front of the altar for the duration of the service. New Year's Eve (sometimes called St. Sylvester's) was celebrated in the streets, with revelers spending all night in song and dance. Also commemorated were Epiphany (January 6), to honor the journey of the Magi; St. Valentine's Day; and Whit-sunday, in remembrance of the Ascension. On Sprinkling Day, the first Monday of Easter week, boys would go through the town spraying the girls with little homemade "spritzers" or, if lucky enough to abduct one of them, would throw her into the river; the girl was required to show her gratitude for this treatment by baking the boy a homecooked meal. Czechs also observe St. Joseph's Day (March 19), a day honoring their national heritage.

Mother's Day was more than just the promotional holiday it is today. It was celebrated either at church, if it fell on a Sunday, or at a separate festival, and was marked by the wearing of red and white carnations grown especially for the occasion, a red carnation signifying that one's mother was living, the white carnation that she was no longer living.

A festival celebrated by Czech Americans in Iowa and Minnesota is the Rogation Days—the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before the Feast of the Ascension. After the mass, the congregation would follow the priest through the fields, reciting the Litany of the Saints and praying for a good harvest.


Czech immigrants sometimes turned to home remedies to cure common ailments. A wedding ring tied around the neck of a child was believed to cure fever. Poultices made of bread and milk were used to heal cuts. Concern about scoliosis prompted Czech women to ensure that their babies had adequate calcium, and at one time it was mandatory for newborns to have their hips examined to see whether they would develop the disease. Czech Americans have always been very diet conscious. When fruits were in scarce supply in the winter, they served rosehip tea as well as sauerkraut, a rich source of vitamin C.

Czech Americans believe that there is a strong connection between mental and physical wellbeing. Their commitment to physical fitness led to the establishment of the Sokol (Falcon) gymnastic organization, which strives to develop a person "perfect physically, spiritually, and morally, of a firm and noble character, whose word is irrevocable, like the law."


Czech is a Slavic language with a declension system based on seven cases. The present orthographic system was introduced in the fourteenth century by the religious reformer Jan Hus, who instituted a system of diacritical markings to eliminate consonant clusters. Thus, the consonants "ž," "š," "č," "ř," "ň," "t "' and "d "' stand for "sh," "ch," "rzh," "zh," "ny," "ty," and "dy," respectively. Czech is a phonetic language; every sound is pronounced exactly as it is written, with the accent always on the first syllable.

Because of the differences between Czech and English—Czech is a Slavic language, while English is Germanic—the acquisition of English as a second language presents a challenge to Czech Americans. The U.S. public school system and Czech American benevolent organizations have provided systematic English-language instruction to assist Czech American immigrants in learning English. Numerous American colleges and universities also teach the Czech language, including Stanford University, Yale University, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, and Harvard University.


Greetings and expressions include dobre jitro —good morning; dobrý den —good afternoon; dobrou noc — good night; nazdar — hello; s Bohem —good-bye; na shle-da-nou —till we meet again; prosim —please; and děkuji pěkne —thank you very much. Other polite expressions are Jak se mate? —a polite form of "How are you?"), and Jak se maš (the familiar form); Jak se jmenujete? — What's your name? (polite form), and Jak se jmenujěs (familiar form); Těši mne —Nice to meet you; and Dobre chutnani —Enjoy your meal.

Family and Community Dynamics

The lifestyle of nineteenth-century Czech immigrants was determined by the region and community in which they settled. Those who came to New York in the 1860s lived in sparsely furnished rented quarters, and it was not uncommon to find two families sharing the same small apartment. Immigrants who came to Chicago in the early 1850s had trouble settling permanently there: driven from place to place, they resided in makeshift housing until they could find permanent lodging. While the men loaded lumber to assist in the new building in the area, the women and children did the chores and went to the slaughterhouse where they could obtain the poorer cuts of meat, often purchased on a cooperative plan.

Hardships also were endured in rural communities. Dwellings in Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa were simple sod houses—no more than underground burrows. Immigrants to rural Wisconsin built log cabins and lived off meager provisions, in some cases subsisting on cornbread and on the "coffee" that they made from ground roasted corn.

The accumulation of wealth by first-generation families made it easier for the second generation to purchase property. They began by building wood-frame homes and eventually saved enough money to build with brick. In the early twentieth century, an estimated 64 percent of Czech families living in Chicago owned their own dwellings, a high proportion for an immigrant community at that time. Children were sent to college and frequently went on to pursue professional vocations, such as law, education, or medicine.

Historically, the Czechs have been markedly active in community groups that have assisted immigrants and have promoted greater familiarity with Czech culture. In 1854 Czechs in Ripon, Wisconsin, formed the Czech-Slavonic Benevolent Society, the oldest continuous benevolent society in the United States, to provide insurance and aid to immigrants, as well as social services to the young, the elderly, and the poor. The Sokol (Falcon) gymnastic organization, established in St. Louis in 1865, continues to attract people of all ethnic backgrounds to its sponsored gymnastic meets.

Czech American women have played an exceptionally important role in community life, forming a number of active social and political organizations. By 1930 approximately one-third of the membership of Czech American benevolent societies was consisted of women. The National Council of Women in Exile, convened in 1948, provided assistance to Czech refugees. Although Czech women were prominent in their communities, the women's suffrage movement in the early twentieth century was viewed with either polite tolerance or outright scorn and had difficulty winning acceptance among Czech Americans.


Traditional Czech weddings were announced by the groom's attendants, who would go from house to house extending the invitations. Food and drink were prepared days in advance. On the day of the wedding, the couple, their parents, and the bridal party would gather for the wedding breakfast. The groom was not allowed to see the bride in her gown until 2:00 in the afternoon, when the sponsor would present the bride and the parents to the groom, admonishing him to be kind, gentle, and worthy, and telling the bride to be moral, obedient, and submissive. After the wedding ceremony, as the guests proceeded to the feast, friends of the couple would stand along the path and tie a ribbon from one side to the other, requesting a donation. This gift was later presented to the couple or was sometimes given to the musicians as a gratuity. At the wedding feast, the bridesmaids would present the guests with sprigs of rosemary, a symbol of fidelity, and a collection would be taken up for the birth of the first child.


Preparation for the birth of a child traditionally began even before the wedding, when the bride-tobe would knit a set of white bonnets, boots, jackets, and shawls—sometimes enough for a family of six children—which were then carefully arranged in neat, ribbon-tied bundles and set aside until the arrival of the firstborn. Baptisms occurred a week after birth. They were followed by baptismal parties, where the godfather recited a customary toast and the godmother presented the gifts. Godparents adhered to their pledge to safeguard the child in the event of the parents' death. Six weeks after the baptism, the baby was taken to the church, where the religious officiant joined with the parents at the altar to say prayers of thanksgiving for the baby's arrival and health.


In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, vigils were still kept in the home, a custom brought over from Europe. The casket might be brought to the home by the undertaker, if the village were prosperous enough to have one; in some villages, the caskets were kept in the general store. Family members would take turns sitting by the side of the deceased, who was waked in the home for a period of days.

On the day of the funeral, the religious officiant came to pray over the coffin with the family. In some rural areas, as in central Texas, businesses might be closed one hour before a funeral. The town bells summoned the townsfolk to the service. After the procession to the cemetery, the family would gather around the grave and sing hymns while the earth was shoveled into the grave. In My Ántonia, a novel about the life of a Czech immigrant family on the Nebraska plain, Willa Cather related the superstition that a suicide could not be buried in the cemetery, but only at a crossroads. In populous areas, the Czechs sometimes established their own national cemeteries; Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago is one example.

After the funeral, not just the surviving husband or wife, but the entire family would observe a period of mourning, usually for several months. Widows observed the custom of wearing black; other family members, children included, were expected to preserve an atmosphere of deep solemnity, neither laughing nor indulging in games or amusement.


The earliest immigrants settled in proximity to ethnic groups for whom they had a strong affinity. In an important early study on Czech immigration ( The Čechs (Bohemians) in America. ), Thomas Čapek noted that many Czech settlements were located near German settlements (e.g., in St. Louis and Milwaukee) and observed that "the Čechs were drawn to the Germans by a similarity, if not identity, in customs and mode of life." By 1900, intermarriages with other nationalities were more common, most of them occurring with Germans, but also with Austrians, Hungarians, and Poles.

During World War II, Czech Americans participated in the national American Slav Congress, which convened in Detroit in 1940 and 1942. The war effort brought them closer to other Slavic ethnic groups, particularly to the Poles, an alliance that had its international parallel in a European concord of November 1940, when Czech and Polish refugees living in Europe agreed to establish friendly relations after the conclusion of the war.


Many of the Czechs who immigrated to the United States were Roman Catholic when they arrived. But the Czech immigration movement is unique in that as many as 50 percent of the Czechs immigrants broke their religious ties when they arrived in the United States. Their arrival in this country gave many Czechs an opportunity to sever their relationships with the Roman Catholic Church, an institution that was closely associated with the oppressive Habsburg regime that they had left behind. Some of them were also influenced by movements that questioned all forms of religious dogma.

The first Roman Catholic church was established in St. Louis. According to Kenneth Miller in The Czech-Slovaks in America, in 1920, Katolik, the official almanac of the Czech Benedictines, listed as many as 338 Roman Catholic parishes and related organizations. Traditionally, the Roman Catholic Church was strong in Texas, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Minnesota and had a greater following in rural than urban areas. Among urban centers, Chicago and St. Louis had the strongest Czech Roman Catholic following. The Roman Catholic Church maintained its following by establishing churches or mission stations, founding benevolent chapters, publishing Catholic periodicals, and opening schools, which included a Czech college and seminary: Illinois Benedictine College (formerly St. Procopius), located in Lisle, Illinois.

In the early part of the twentieth century, approximately two percent of the Czechs living in the United States were Protestant. Unlike the Slovaks, who tended to adhere to the old-world Calvinist and Lutheran denominations, Czech Protestants tended to affiliate with American denominations. Common affiliations were Presbyterian, Methodist, the Bohemian Moravian Brethren, and Congregational. The predominantly high number of Presbyterian adherents was due both to the perceived similarities between the Presbyterian Church and the old-world Reformed Church and to early missionary efforts.

The Moravian Brethren, who settled in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, were descendants of the followers of Jan Hus, the initiator of the reform movement. During the persecution of Protestants by the Habsburg dynasty in the seventeenth century, the Moravians, who had converted many German Waldensians living in Moravia, emigrated to Saxony. In time, members of this group, the majority of whom were German, made their way to Pennsylvania, where they purchased a large tract of land from William Penn. The Brethren established a number of schools; in keeping with the precepts of the educator Comenius, who believed in equal education for women, they founded the first American preparatory school for girls in 1742.

Employment and Economic Traditions

Many of the Czechs who immigrated to the United States in the late 1850s were farmers or laborers. Of the three classes of Czech peasants who lived in Europe—the sedlak, or upper-class farmer, who owned 25-100 acres and a farmhouse; the chalupnik, or cottager, who owned 5-25 acres and a small cottage; and the nadenici, or day laborer, who dwelt on the nobleman's estate or on the farm of the sedlak and owned no property—Czech immigrants to the United States most frequently derived from the middle, or cottager, class. This was probably because the sedlak had little to gain by leaving behind his rich farmland, while the nadenici did not have the means to emigrate.

Settlers who came to the Midwest lived in log cabins; those on the plains resided in dugouts and sod houses. With no tools at their disposal, farmers were limited to hard manual labor. In the off-season they focused on survival, migrating to the cities or to the lumber and mining camps to find what work they could.

Occasionally, Czechs specializing in a certain industry—such as the cigar-making industry in New York—had emigrated from a particular region, in this case, Kutna Hora, which was preeminent in the cigar trade. In the 1870s, 95 percent of the Czechs in New York were employed in the cigar-making industry. Working conditions were harsh, and wages poor. Joseph Chada noted that it took the average Czech industrial laborer ten years to attain the economic status of the average American laborer. Many women and children were also employed in these factories.

Urban-dwellers were eager to purchase property. Community-minded and thrifty, the Czechs created the building and loan association, an institution which became one of their most significant contributions to U.S. economic life. The building and loan association, introduced in Chicago in 1873, was a small cooperative agency to which shareholders made minimal weekly contributions with an aim toward eventually purchasing a home. So successful were these agencies that during the Great Depression, when other banks were failing, Czech building and loan associations posted a total of $32,000,000 in deposits, a substantial figure for that period.

"T he factories in the regions of Seventieth street, New York, are filled with Bohemian women and girls employed in the making of cigars.... [They] dread going into the cigar factories. The hygiene is bad, the moral influences are not often the best, and the work is exhausting."

Jane E. Robbins, "The Bohemian Women in New York," cited in The Czechs in America, 1633-1977, edited by Vera Laska (Dobbs Ferry, New York: Oceana Publications, 1978, p. 111).

By the first half of the twentieth century, Czech businesses were flourishing. Czech breweries (Pilsen and Budweiser are both derived from Czech place names) kept pace with the best German establishments. The Bulova watch company, a Czech enterprise, is an example of a successful, well-stablished Czech American business. And the character of the Czech labor force was changing as well. By the second generation, among Czech laborers, there was a greater proportion of salesmen, machinists, and white-collar laborers.

Politics and Government

The Czechs were relatively slow to take part in U.S. political life. By the 1880s, however, Czechs were playing an increasingly active role in government, both at the state and local levels. Most Czechs voted the Democratic ticket, in part because of the perception that the Democrats favored labor. Some Czechs ran successfully for high public office. Charles Jonaš served as senator of Wisconsin in 1883 and as governor of Wisconsin in 1890.

By the 1880s support had grown among Czech American labor for the socialist movement. But in the aftermath of the Haymarket Riot of 1886—a violent confrontation between labor protesters and police in Haymarket Square in Chicago, initially triggered by the crusade for the eight-hour work day—the movement was forced underground. With the emergence of the American Socialist Party, Czech Americans renewed their membership, many of them recruited by appeals in the ethnic press. By 1910, Czech American socialists numbered approximately 10,000. They reduced their activities during World War I, however, as the concerns of nationalism began to loom over those of internationalism. And as the lifestyle of second- and third-generation Czech Americans improved, they became less concerned with the labor situation. By the 1920s the movement had all but come to a standstill.

The prospect of establishing Czech independence from Austria led Czech Americans fervently to support the Allied cause during World War I. Prior to the outbreak of the war, Czech Americans openly demonstrated their support for the Serbs and rallied for the establishment of an independent Czech homeland. The Czech National Alliance was established in Chicago to provide political and financial support to the Czech cause in Europe. Also characteristic of this period was the willingness of the Czech American community to band together with the Slovak American community to establish a common political framework that would unite Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia under a single government. On October 25, 1915, the Czechs and Slovaks met in Cleveland to agree on such a program. In April 1917, the Czechs succeeded in gaining the introduction of resolutions in Congress supporting the establishment of an independent European homeland.

Czech Americans also played an active role in supporting the cause of Czechoslovakia during World War II. During the Munich Crisis, Czechs organized a protest rally of 65,000 at Chicago Stadium. The war efforts of Czech Americans were coordinated primarily by the Czechoslovak National Council. In addition to publishing News Flashes from Czechoslovakia, with a circulation of 5,000-105,000, the council aided soldiers and refugees who participated in the Allied campaign. Czech Americans effectively used propaganda to direct world attention to the Nazi massacre of the village of Lidice.

After the Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia, Czechs were admitted to the United States under the American Displaced Persons Act. The Czechoslovak National Council assisted these individuals in their struggle to regain their homeland, primarily through the publication of anti-Communist propaganda. In addition to requesting that members of the Czech American community sign affidavits that would assist refugees in obtaining shelter and employment, on June 3, 1949, the Council presented a memorandum to President Harry Truman, asking that the United States push for United Nations-sponsored free elections in Czechoslovakia.


Czech Americans on the whole were opposed to slavery and therefore supported the North during the U.S. Civil War, serving at Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, and Bull Run. Many of those living in the Confederacy (primarily in Texas) avoided conscription into the Southern army at enormous cost to their lives, hiding in the woods or swamps or serving as drivers on perilous journeys to Mexico.

Czech Americans in the First World War either served in the Czechoslovak Army on the Western Front (if they were immigrants) or enlisted as draftees in the U.S. Army. Approximately 2,300 Czech immigrants served in European Czech contingents. During World War II Czech American loyalties were divided between providing active military service to their country and providing moral support to the Czech community in Europe, both duties which they admirably fulfilled. They also made a financial contribution to the war effort by investing substantially in war loans.

Individual and Group Contributions


Aleš Hrdlička (1869-1943), curator of the physical anthropology division at the Smithsonian Institution, developed the theory that Native Americans migrated to North America from Asia across the Bering land bridge and did extensive research on Neanderthal man. Jaroslav Pelikan (1923– ) is the author of the five-volume The Christian Tradition, an authoritative work on the history of Christian doctrine. Francis Dvornik (1893-1975) was a noted Byzantine scholar affiliated with the Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies. Managed by Harvard University, the center is located in Washington, D.C.


Miloš Forman (1932– ), who immigrated to the United States in 1969, won Academy Awards for best direction for One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and Amadeus (1984). Actress Kim Novak (1933), who made her screen debut in 1954, starred in such films as Pal Joey and Boys Night Out. Television and screen actor Tom Selleck (1945– ) is best known for his role in the television series "Magnum P.I." (1980-1988). John Kriza (1919-1975) was a ballet dancer who performed with the American Ballet Theater and the Chicago Opera Ballet.


Charles Jonaš (1840-1896), who served in the Wisconsin state legislature, founded Pokrok (Progress), an anticlerical weekly. In 1869 Frank Kořizek (1820-1899) established the weekly Slowan Amerikanský in Iowa City. Lev J. Palda (1847-1912), the founder of Czech American socialism, established the first Czech social-democratic or socialist newspaper, Narodni noviny ( National Newspaper ), in St. Louis, Missouri. Josephine Humpal-Zeman (1870-1906), an important figure in the women's suffrage movement, founded the <caron>Zenske Listy ( Woman's Gazette ).


Rene Wellek (1903– ), a member of the Prague Linguistic Circle, settled in the United States in 1939, where he established the field of comparative literature at Yale University. Bartoš Bittner (1861-1912) was an essayist and political satirist. Paul Albieri (1861-1901) wrote stories of military life.


The composer Antonin Dvořak (1842-1904) lived in the United States from 1892 to 1895, where he wrote the New World Symphony, a piece inspired by American folk motifs, particularly Native American rhythms and African-American melodies. Rafael Kubelik (1914– ), son of the violinist Jan Kubelik, studied music at the Prague Conservatory and conducted the Czech Philharmonic (1936-39, 1942-48) and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1950-53). In 1973-74 he was musical director of the Metropolitan Opera. Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1950), a contemporary composer whose music exhibits French and Czech influences, wrote the Double Concerto (1940), an expression of grief at the partition of Czechoslovakia. Jarmila Novotna Dauberk (1907-1993) was an opera singer with the Metropolitan Opera Company who studied under the renowned Czech opera singer Emmy Destinn; she also performed at the Salzburg Festival and the National Theater in Prague. Ardis Krainik (1929– ) is general director of the Lyric Opera in Chicago. The pianist Rudolf Firkušny (1912-1993) made his first appearance with the Czech Philharmonic in 1922 and played with numerous orchestras in the United States, including those in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, and Detroit.


Ray Kroc (1902-1984), founder of McDonald's restaurants, was a pioneer in the establishment of the fast-food industry. Francis Korbel (1830-1920), who entered the United States in cognito to avoid an arrest warrant, purchased redwood forest in northern California and established the Korbel winery. Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941), descended from a Jewish family that immigrated to the United States in 1849, became the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice (1916-39). He helped to draft the Czechoslovak Declaration of Independence, issued in 1918. Anton Joseph Cermak (1873-1933), a mayor of Chicago who established Illinois as a stronghold of support for Franklin D. Roosevelt, was killed in Miami by an assassin intending to kill President Roosevelt. Eugene A. Cernan (1934– ) was copilot on the Gemini 9 mission, lunar module pilot of the Apollo 10 mission, and spacecraft commander of Apollo 17. James Lovell (1928– ) served on the Apollo 8 mission, the first manned flight around the moon.


Biochemists Gerty Cori (1896-1957) and Carl Cori (1896-1984) won the 1946 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine, for their studies on sugar metabolism. The physician Joseph Goldberger (1874-1929) discovered a cure for pellagra, which he correctly attributed to diet deficiency, against the prevailing view that it was due to infection. Frederick George Novy (1864-1957) made important contributions to the field of microbiology. Joseph Murgaš (1864-1930) was a pioneer in wireless technology who, although never able to amass sufficient resources to carry out his research, shared research with Guglielmo Marconi that contributed to the invention and patenting of the device.


George Halas (1895-1983) was founder and owner of the Chicago Bears football team. As head coach he led his team to seven championship seasons. Jack Root (1876-1963) was the first world champion lightweight boxer in 1903. Stan Musial (1920– ) was an outstanding baseball hitter and outfielder with the St. Louis Cardinals who won seven batting championships. Martina Navratilova (1956– ) dominated women's tennis in the 1970s and 1980s, winning the U.S. Open and Wimbledon numerous times and becoming only the fifth person in history to win the Grand Slam. Ivan Lendl (1960– ) has likewise dominated men's tennis in the 1980s, winning the U.S. Open in 1985 and the Australian Open in 1989. Stan Mikita (1940– ) was an outstanding hockey center with the Chicago Black-hawks, with 541 career goals.


Andy Warhol (1927-87) was an artist and filmmaker whose name is particularly associated with the Pop art movement. He is perhaps most famous for his paintings of mass-produced images of consumer goods, such as the Campbell's soup can. Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) was an Art Nouveau decorative artist, recognized for his posters promoting the actress Sarah Bernhardt.



Hlas Naroda (Voice of the Nation).

Publishes items related to religious and political topics and events in both the United States and the Czech Republic.

Contact: Vojtech Vit, Editor.

Address: 2340 South 61st Avenue, Cicero, Illinois 60650-2608.

Telephone: (708) 656-1050.


Prints general news, letters, and features on farm topics.

Contact: Jan Vaculik, Editor.

Address: P.O. Box 301, West, Texas 76691.

Nedelni Hlasatel (Czechoslovak Herald).

Subtitled "The Oldest Czechoslovak Newspaper in the World." General interest newspaper published in Czech, English, and Slovak.

Contact: Josef Kucera, Editor and Publisher.

Address: 5906 West 26th Street, Cicero, Illinois 60804.

Telephone: (708) 863-1891.

Fax: (708) 863-1893.


KMIL-AM (1330).

Broadcasts eight hours weekly in Czech.

Contact: Joe Smitherman.

Address: Drawer 832, Cameron, Texas 76520.

Telephone: (817) 697-6633.

Fax: (254) 697-6330.


Online: .

WCEV-AM (1450).

"Czechoslovak Sunday Radio Hour" in Chicago is a weekly one-hour broadcast in Czech.

Contact: Diana Migala.

Address: 5356 West Belmont Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60641-4103.

Telephone: (773) 282-6700.

Fax: (773) 282-0123 .

WRMR-AM (850).

"Czech Voice of Cleveland" broadcasts in Czech on Sunday, 11:00 to 12:00 p.m.

Contact: Thomas J. Embrescia.

Address: 1 Radio Lane, Cleveland, Ohio 44114.

Telephone: (216) 696-0123.

Fax: (216) 566-0764.


Organizations and Associations

American Sokol Educational and Physical Culture Organization (ASEPCO).

Founded in 1865, ASEPCO is a physical fitness organization for children and adults of all ages, with 8,500 adult members and 8,000 gymnasts. It sponsors gymnastic meets and competitions, clinics, workshops, and schools; conducts educational activities; and offers lectures and films.

Contact: Mildred Mentzer, Secretary.

Address: 6424 South Cermak Road, Berwyn, Illinois 60402.

Telephone: (708) 795-6671.

Fax: (708) 795-0539.


CSA - Fraternal Life (Ceskoslovenske spolky americke).

Founded in 1854, CSA is a fraternal benefit life insurance society that hosts contests, including a Miss National CSA competition; bestows awards; and coordinates scholarship programs. The CSA also maintains a museum, biographical archives, and a library of Czech books and periodicals.

Contact: Vera A. Wilt, President.

Address: 122 West 22nd, Oak Brook, Illinois 60523-1557.

Telephone: (630) 472-0500.

Fax: (630) 472-1100.

Czech Catholic Union (CCU).

Founded in 1879, the CSU is a Catholic fraternal benefit life insurance society that makes an annual donation to the Holy Family Cancer Home, bestows awards, participates in local civic and cultural events, and provides services for children.

Contact: Mary Ann Mahoney, President.

Address: 5349 Dolloff Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44127.

Telephone: (216) 341-0444.

Fax: (216) 341-0711.

Czech Heritage Foundation.

Individuals interested in Czechoslovak heritage and culture. Purpose is to foster interest in Czechoslovak culture, heritage, language, and the collection of artifacts of Czechoslovak origin, especially in the Cedar Rapids area.

Contact: Russell Novotny, President.

Address: P.O. Box 761, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52406.

Telephone: (319) 365-0868.

Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International (CGSI).

Founded in 1988, CGSI supports research in Czechoslovakian culture and genealogy, hosts workshops, and maintains a research library. Publishes a quarterly newsletter, Nase rodina and a journal entitled, Rocenka.

Contact: Mark Bigaouette.

Address: P.O. Box 16225, St. Paul, Minnesota 55116-0225.

Telephone: (612) 595-7799.


Online: .

Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (CSAS).

Founded in 1958. CSAS sponsors lectures, concerts, and exhibitions. It promotes the activities of professors, writers, artists, and scientists interested in Czech or Slovak concerns.

Contact: Dr. Vera Ulbrecht, Secretary General.

Address: 1703 Mark Lane, Rockville, Maryland 20852-4106.

Telephone: (301) 279-2498.

Fax: (301) 279-8973.

Museums and Research Centers

Czechoslovak Heritage Museum and Library.

Founded in 1854, the museum houses a large collection of books, periodicals, and historic documents, as well as costumes, dolls, and antiques.

Contact: Dagmar Bradac.

Address: 2701 South Harlem Avenue, Berwyn, Illinois 60402.

Telephone: (708) 795-5800.

Moravian Historical Society.

Hosts guided tours through its collection of art and artifacts on the history of the Moravian Church. The museum also exhibits paintings by John Valentine Haidt, as well as early musical instruments.

Contact: Rev. Charles Zichman, President.

Address: 214 East Center Street, Nazareth, Pennsylvania 18064.

Telephone: (215) 754-5070.

National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library.

Located in the restored home of a Czech immigrant, this museum preserves national costumes, as well as porcelain ethnic dolls, handwork, wood-carved items, paintings, prints, maps, and farm tools. There is also a library with reference materials and oral history videotapes.

Contact: John Dusek.

Address: P.O. Box 5398, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52406-5398.

Telephone: (319) 362-8500.

The Western Fraternal Life Association.

Houses a library and archives and sponsors educational lectures on Czech language and culture.

Contact: Charles H. Vyskocil.

Address: 1900 First Avenue, N.E., Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52402.

Wilber Czech Museum.

Maintains a collection of dolls, dishes, murals, pictures, laces, costumes, and replicas of early homes and businesses.

Contact: Irma Ourecky, Chairman.

Address: 102 West Third Street, Wilber, Nebraska 68465.

Telephone: (402) 821-2183.

Sources for Additional Study

Čapek, Thomas. The Čechs (Bohemians) in America. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920.

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

Dvornik, Francis. Czech Contributions to the Growth of the United States. Washington, D.C., 1961.

Habenicht, Jan. History of Czechs in America. St. Paul, Minnesota: Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International 1996.

Laska, Vera. The Czechs in America, 1633-1977. Dobbs Ferry, New York: Oceana Publications, 1978.

Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Minnesota. The Bohemian Flats. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1986.

User Contributions:

Katie Lawrence
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I am doing a cultural narrative of my background and have struggled to find any cultural information on czech immigrants. This article has everything I need. What a complete relief.
Tom Ulcak
I am a Czech-American. This site is a jewel. I have not found anything better in one spot that is so succinct and illuminating. I am totally flabergasted and blown away. For Czechs and Czech-Americans, this should be the portal to their culture. I am sending the URL to this site to everyone I know.

Thank you so very much.
amanda schnupp
Thank you so much!!
im doing a reseach paper on my Ethnicity and this website helped a lot! Its very hard finding information on Czechs.
thanks again!
THANK YOU! This page was wayyy better then Wikipedia and gave the reasons why the Czech immigrated to America. THANKS.
I was doing a report on immigration for school and your site helped a lot. Thank you!
THANK YOU! I am doing a report on Czech immigration! This page helped a lot. I still need a book source, does anybody have any recommendations? Also I need info about Czech immigration to Kansas!
This article helped me alot on my Texas History project.
Are there any new Czech's coming to this country. If so how many and where do they go.


1/2 Czech William
Thanks so much! Helped a lot w/ my ethnic identity paper
I would like to know the current (2010) estimated Czech population in the state of Washington, USA.
I have been trying to find a list of all Czech towns in the US. I met a guy from Silver Hill, Alabama, and several from Brainard, Nebraska, but I would like to know all the towns that have mostly Czechs or large numbers of them. Feel free to email suggestions, thanks!
This site is amazing! I am searching for some information for my kids homework. As a Czech-American family we always educating people around us about our backround. This very helpful, thank you so much!!!
This site helped so much for my immigration study project, thanks a lot
This site is the best site from czech immigration facts.
I'm doing a project on immigration in world geography,and since I have a czech background the teacher forced me to do it. This has helped so so much! Thank you Thank you Thank you!
This site confirms what my all Czech grandparents and parents were trying to teach me.
I can't wait to share it with my children! Thank you so much.
Robert C Shaffer
I enjoyed the website very much. It helped me recall memories of growing up in a Czech community.
I am Czech (living in the Czech Republic) and it was very interesting for me to read this comprehensive overview of a Czech track in the American history. Namely, I enjoyed the view based on the sources not not limited to those written in Czech. Sometimes it brings interesting results :-). Thank you!
The site says that Å  is pronounced ch but other sites indicate that it is pronounced sh.
My family name of Å ott was "Americanized" to Schott.
Thank you very much, you have saved me again with my seminar paper! I simply love this page:-)

I am living in the Czech Republic, is there anyone who would like to share his or her experience living in the US? feel free to contact me...
Loretta Oliva Maldonado
This article was illuminating! I had no idea why the census would list my great grandfather's occupation as cigar maker! Now I have some background information about the place he may have come from I can further investigate my hermitage...I have not been able to follow the Oliva name back to Bohemia...there seems to be not many with that surname...but find that my great grandmother's name was quite common, so no luck there either...her maiden name was Matousek (spelling?).

I have also not found too many friendly websites...this was the jewel in the crown, so to speak. I am ever so grateful to all of the people who worked to put this together.
I I find and information about my Czech Heritage I will gladly share it.

Thank you
Loretta Oliva Maldonado
This article is great! You see, I'm doing a research project about Czech immigration to the US, and my history teacher warned me that finding decent sources for this topic was more difficult (as opposed to most immigrant groups) and might be more frustrating. But this article has greatly enhanced my knowledge for this topic, and has kicked my essay off to a good start, and I proclaim it an illuminating, truly informational, and well written article!
Dear forum. I am searching for my ancestor Marie Chejlava, born on the 28th of december 1881 in Milzice, Böhmen (Czech Republic). She was married to Vaclav Havranek on the 25th of october 1908 in Chicago, Illinois. If anyone knows about them or their descendants, I would very much like to hear from you. You can write me at Kind regards Ludmila (maiden name Markova).
Thank you for all the great info on this site!I am the granddaughter of Czech Immigrants who lived in New York. My Grandmother was one of 3 sisters who immigrated to the US before the war. My Grandfather's family name was changed from Drohoukoupil (spelling?)to Drake. The other side of the family was Mikus and I heard that that great-grandmother was an Austrian who migrated to Slovakia. Either the husband or an uncle in that family helped to build the first Lutheran church outside of Prague. Does anyone know the name of this church or what town it is in? I'd like to visit the Czech Republic and Slovakia and try to find my relatives and roots. Any suggestions are welcome. You may E-mail me. Sincerely, Anna
Note:(Most of the women in my Mom's family seemed to be named Anna or Anya.)

I must say that I did find you by accident and I must give you credit for such a interesting site.
Congratulations! Keep on this good work.
Thank you for such an outstanding article on Czech history and immigration to the US. This has helped tremendously as I am working on a paper regarding the Czech language for a linguistic anthropology course. This is just fantastic. I am half Czech, and this explains to much! Cheers and kind regards,
Jan Blanický
Czechia (read "checkia") is the English short name of the Czech Republic. It is the English equivalent and translation (in proper transcription [ˈtʃɛki.ə]) of the short name "Česko" [ˈtʃɛskɔ] in Czech. The name was registered by the United Nations and included in the UNO Gazetteers of Geographical Names when the Czech Republic was formed in 1993. The name "Czech Republic" is the administratively-political name of the current state formation, while "Czechia" is the denomination for the Czech state as a more than 1200 years old geographical and settlement-historical unit, which is independent of actual political regimes.

Czechia (ÄŒesko) consists of three historical lands: Bohemia (ÄŒechy), Moravia (Morava) and Czech Silesia (Slezsko). In the past, the entire country used to be called Bohemia in English. The term Bohemia originated from the Latin name of the territory that was settled by Celtic tribes Boii before the arrival of Czech tribes into the Czech Territory. Consequently, the Czech people and their language were formerly called "Bohemian" in English. The term Czechia was first used in Latin at the beginning of the 17th century and the first evidence of its use in English is from 1866. The name was also commonly used in the United States in the first half of the 20th century during the existence of "Czechoslovakia" for the Czech part of Czechoslovakia and in historical meaning by newspapers, such as the New York Times or Herald Tribune.

Thus, the name Czechia is not completely new and has a long lradition in English. Foreign countries and their politicians expressed their willingness to accept and use the short name Czechia when the Czech Republic was formed in 1993. In other languages, the equivalent of "Czechia" is commonly used (Chequia in Spanish, Tchéquie in French, Tschechien in German, Chéquia in Portugal, Cechia in Italian, Чехия in Russian, Tjeckien in Swedish, etc.). Why then do we refuse to use Czechia in English and continue to mistakenly translate the short name Česko as "The Czech Republic"? The history of our country did not start in 1993 when it officially became the Czech Republic. The great Czech composer Antonín Dvořák - inter alia the founder of the American classical music in the 19th century - was not from the Czech Republic, because such country did not exist in that time, but he was from Czechia. Czechia is not so hard to learn and it is much easier to pronounce than Czechoslovakia, which so many people still remember today and pronounce with ease. Therefore, we do not see any problem in using Czechia by English speakers.

Some people call our country "Czech", which is wrong. "Czech" is an adjective, the name of the inhabitant of Czechia and of the Czech language, but surely not the country name. English speakers do not use French for France, Japanese for Japan or German for Germany. So, please, remember that we are not from Czech but we are from Czechia.
Vaclav Sulista
Dear all

If you would like to search, where your family comes from in Czechia, this is a useful page , you have to use Czech diacritics and the site shows you in which part of Czechia your family name is mostly present.
And yes, I fully agree with the statement of Jan Blanicky, Czechia ias the correct short name of the Czech Republic in English. It make no sense to use the cumbersome political name at all occassions. At you can find myths and facts about it. Antonon Dvorak was for sure not born in Czech Republic, which exists since 1993, but for sure in Czechia (aka Croatia, Serbia, Austria, Estonia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, Colombia, India and so on)
Very cool site found a lot of good info here. My family is Coufal from Cou Falls Iowa very proud of my Heritage.. If you no anything about Cou Falls ia would like to chat with you thanks.
Joanne Bates
I found this site very interesting, as the previous writers did. My maternal ancestors settled in Wisconsin. I've learned that my grandfather and his mother arrived via Ellis Island in 1905, and met up with his father, who was already in Ohio. If anyone knows or has heard of anyone from the Kougl or Svehla families in Wisconsin, I'd love to hear from you.
Margie Ray
My Grandfather.was John Kuchera, or Kucera.He settled in Dallas, Texas.Would love to hear from any and all!
John Kucera, what a nice Czech name, go to Texas Czech Heritage & Cultural in La Grange, Tx.
There is the name of Kucera in the Genealogy Library, you will find there what you locking for.
Thats a great Museum, now have got back couple of day to the Czech Repablic.
Susan Chandler
Please include the Czech Heritage Museum & Genealogy Center at 119 W. French Ave. Temple, Texas 76501 254-899-2935
Contact: Susan Chandler
Open Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tracy Reeves
I AM HALF CZECH or CZECHIA! Proud to call myself a CZECH AMERICAN.. Or wait, actually it's a CZECHIA AMERICAN! (?) (That's correct, right, if I understand Jan Blanicky's post, which was also fantastic & informative! Thank you, Jan)
WONDERFUL information! I was taking down so many notes as I was reading all of this, I finally just printed the whole article! Thank you! Thank you! ..for all of this information & also the comments.. Best detailed facts & history I have found in my search about my heritage/family.. My maternal family name is Stasney, my Great-Grandparents, Joseph & Josephine Stasney immigrated to American around the late 1800s, early 1900s.. We do know they are from Bohemia, but the immigration documents found from Ellis Island states Austria.. I am not sure why.. Adds to the long time mystery & unanswered questions no one knows or cares about.. Other than me & my Sister.. We do not know a lot about them or their lives prior to moving to a very rural area of South Carolina, where there's not a lot of recorded history or documents available.. We do not know why they left their home country or who they left behind.. It's always fascinated me, in a sad way but also so thankful & proud they brought our family here.. It's not taken for granted the sacrifice and hardships they more than likely had traveling so far & re-establishing their lives here.. Settling in/around Pendleton, South Carolina. Which even now is still considered rural.. I can see how the beautiful farm lands may have reminded them of home.. I do know there's several variations of the surname 'Stasny' (which means 'Happy' in Czech- which I found out on my incredible amazing visit to the Czech Republic last year.) My sister, cousin & I traveled all over the Czech Republic or as much as possible in the 9 days we were there.. AND we hope to go back! The people were so amazing & so friendly! One of the MOST beautiful places in the world! Almost as if it was frozen in time, untouched from wars, weather & time.. Just incredible! I would live there if I could.. It was almost magical! Castles everywhere.. The Charles Bridge views breathtaking.. The history so rich.. I could go on & on.. :)
Thank you again for all this fantastic research & info.. Cannot wait to share this with my Sister, Cousin, Mother & 2 Aunts.. My Mother & Aunts are late seniors and hard to get anything out of them.. Just vague memories, eye rolls & shrugs.. Such stubborn strong women., this sheds a lot of light! ;) Thanks again, Tracy Reeves
If you have any info on the Stasney Family, I would love to talk to you.
Wonderful article. My ancestors settled in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. Many family members still live there. It has been passed down through the generations that some Bohemians kept the original spellings of their surnames, while others Americanized them. Careful scrutiny of census records may locate ancestors with incorrectly spelled names. (A person of Swiss decent trying to spell a Bohemian name.)
For those searching for immigration information be aware that the immigration workers were not always accurate in the country of birth. The were at liberty to list the country they felt was (fairly) accurate, and since the European country boundaries were ever-changing long ago, your ancestors' place of origin may be inaccurate in census/immigration records. Go with the information passed on through your family.
The Manitowoc County Historical Society has excellent resources including listings for all local cemeteries with links to obituaries and other published articles.
Kathy Gault (Semrad )
I am a decendant from a Czech immigrant family. I had children later in life when my grandparents had passed away and felt at a loss to help my son's understand their rich ancestral history . This site has a plethora of accurate information and wonderfully you states the history of Czechs in Americal. Especially in the days now where we are oft times negligent of passing along this wonderful history of "family". Thank you very much .
Kytka Hilmar-Jezek
My parents came here in 1968 and were sent to Mount Airy Lodge where Mr. Emil Wagner placed and assisted numerous refugees. I am a publisher and writing a book on the subject and looking for anyone who knows any of the Czechs who may have been there or have any history pertaining to that wave of Czechs. My daughters are born in the USA and are proud of their heritage, they keep a blog at tresbohemes (dot)com which shares a lot of Czech culture. Come and visit!
Denise Bartosh Stevens
My relatives came to Texas in the 1850s alsong with others from Moravia fleeing the Austria-Hungarian draft. So large and strong was the community that I am part of the first generation that did not marry decendants from these brave, successful people. Born in the 1950s-60s my siblings and I share DNA that is 78% eastern european. P.S. My grandmother made sure we knew we were NOT Bohemian!!:)
I've been in search of learning as much as possible of my Bohemian heritage through my Moms family. Semerad and Privratsky are main names besides Kovash, Dvoraks and other Bohemian names. I'd love to learn where the family was in Bohemia. Grandparents pushed heavy on the "Bohemian" part of us. Alas my Grandpa gone now- the second generation born here in US.

So many men in these generations married a Czechia "Anna". Be great if i could learn the meaning of that name in that language. My grandma wouldnt allow her kids to learn Bohemian-- something happened to her to cause this social sorrow-- but her accent is still so heavy. Grandparents woukd argue or spek in Bohemian, yet refuse rest of us learn, opposite heir nieces/ nephews were fluent. They were started in sod houses or cabins early 1900's between Dickinson and New Hradec, ND. If any info can be granted, it'd be a delight for me to hear it. Interestingly, many generatiins in family, one spouse adored color Red, and each ironically married the spouse attached to Blue- despising Red color. Also, stuttering was heavy through men on grandpas side. May we Czechia's all share more! Btw, both Bohemian sides sternly described us as Czech's when meeting strangers.

Thank you!
Pam Schmidt Lacuesta
I grew up thinking I was German, my grandparents came over as young adults from Deutschliebough, Austria after the turn of the century. It is very difficult to get my father and aunt in their 90's to give me much personal information about my grandparents. On asking if my grandmother was a good cook,"She did the best she could with what she had." I was also warned not to reveal a Bohemian relative in the family lineage. My great grandfather started and headed up a co-operative. My father and brothers are involved in the farmers co-op in ND.
Richard Klima
Thank you for this information on Czech history. I know so little about my heritage. I asked so few questions, when my father was alive. My grandparents came to this country about 1900 and settled in the upper east side of Manhattan New York, where there was a thriving ethnic neighborhood. I would love to know more of this time. At some point my grandparents moved to South Queens, New :York, where my father and his two sisters grew up and I was raised. However this was not a Czech community. I am starting a family tree on Ancestry,com I do know that one of my grandparents was born in Silverbell. But it does not show up on any map, I now live in Atlanta, Ga. I would love to discuss this on email Thank you
My grandfather's name is Valcav Klima
My email is
Margaret Miller
What a wonderful wealth of information! I happened upon this article while looking for more information after reading an article in an October 28, 2018 New Yorker Magazine. Six Glimpses of the Past by Janet Malcolm. A Czech immigrant arriving in 1939. I am from Manitowoc WI and my mothers Madain name is Chermak(Cermak). Her father became a sausage maker and many of her relatives settled in the Chicago area as well. Very interesting to learn more of my rich heritage.
Sally (Selner) Teresinski
As a second generation Czech, I found this to be a wonderful history in a large nutshell. Is this available and still in print in book form? I am searching for a history and information about Bohemian Day, begun by Joseph Kadlec, in the late 1800s. it ran into the 1950s. It was held in the Town of Spruce, Oconto County on the third weekend in June.
Thank you for any information that could be sent to me.
My grandparents on my Dad's side are Czech and Slovakian and immigrated from their respective countries. I'm a second-generation American. I'm proud of my heritage and I'm an author. I'm writing a Czech fairytale with the working title "The Book". It is based in Southern Moravia in the past and Clarksville New Hampshire in the present. It weaves magical elements into the story of Lilly Racek, a 25-year-old history teacher who has to make amends for her great, great, grandmother Theresa's misdeeds. Theresa was a witch in the old country and is now an Earth-bound spirit. Lilly is the first female born into the Racek family in 100 years.

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