Charities/Volume 13/Number 16/The Slavic Races in Cleveland

Charities, vol. 13, no. 16  (1904) 
The Catholic Church and Bohemian Immigrants by John G. Kissner

The Slavic Races in Cleveland

Magdalena Kucera[1]

The Slavic races in Cleveland number one-fourth of the population and include Bohemians, Slovaks, Slovenes, Poles, Croatians and Russians. The most numerous are the Bohemians, Poles, and Slovaks.

Of the Bohemians there are about forty thousand. Like other foreigners they choose to live in groups and have three large settlements. They are among the most intelligent and progressive of our immigrants. Nearly all of them have had a common school education and their record as useful citizens is one to be proud of. They strive to own their homes and many of them already possess comfortable, attractive houses.

The Bohemians have representatives in nearly all the trades and professions, the younger generation, especially, turning to law, medicine and business. There are thirty doctors, twenty lawyers and many successful business men who have an established reputation for honesty and fair dealing. In the department of education they are also doing their share. Several of the young women are school teachers, one being on the teaching staff in one of the high schools, another a member of the Board of Examiners, a third, in the training school for teachers.

In politics they belong chiefly to the two great parties. For a dozen years or more some of the best men in the city council have come from the districts settled by Bohemians. Others have held responsible positions in the administrative work.

In, religious belief they are mainly Catholic. A small number have become Protestants, but many have drifted into indifference and agnosticism or positive atheism. The Catholics have five large churches and parochial schools connected with them, while the Protestants have four mission churches and their branches.

Like all foreigners the Bohemians bring with them their customs and retain them for a long time. They like their beer and as the best beer in the world is made in Bohemia this is not surprising. Music and dancing they are also very fond of; it seems to be a part of their very nature.

Next to the Bohemians, in point of numbers, come the Poles. They were attracted to Cleveland during the strike at the rolling mills in 1882, and made a settlement in the vicinity of the mills. Most of the men are common laborers, and, on the whole, they are industrious and law-abiding. What was said at the time of McKinley's death about the prevalence of anarchy among Poles, does not apply to those in Cleveland, as it is rare to find an anarchist; even the socialists are not many.

In religion the Poles are the Irish of the Slavs. The people are largely influenced by the priests, and their children, to a large extent, are educated in the parochial schools. Protestantism did not take root among them because of the absence of any middle class, there being only two classes, the lords and the serfs. The Poles have doctors and lawyers of their own, and publish two weekly papers in their own tongue.

Unlike the Poles, the Slovaks amalgamate readily with the Bohemians. There are about ten thousand of these grouped in four or five centers. Naturally of a simple and honest disposition, they show also in their characters the effect of the oppression and persecution they have suffered from the ruling race of Hungary. This oppression may partly account for their comparative illiteracy. Many can neither read nor write and until recently they had no literature of their own, and they used Bohemian in writing.

Though their home life has been much improved since they came to this country, they have not yet progressed as have the Bohemians. So far, they have no lawyer of their own, and only one physician. Alcoholism has been and still is, one of their curses. Most of the men are day laborers, the few who have succeeded in larger ways being saloon-keepers, small butchers and grocers.

The Croatians and Russians form only a small percentage of the total Slavic population. Of the former there are about five thousand. The number of the latter has not been estimated. The Russians have a church of their own which receives some support from the Holy Synod of Russia.

  1. Miss Kucera is a nurse, Bohemian by birth.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.