When Martin was doing his genealogy research, as both of his grandmothers were born in the US (Pennsylvania and Cleveland), he gathered a huge amount of information and artifacts. He also noticed that almost every family in Eastern Slovakia has at least one of its relatives who lived in North America. Although this emigration plays such an important role in the Slovak’s history, it has not been thoroughly documented yet and is not even a part of the school curriculum. This is why Martin Javor, a professor at the Institute of History of the University of Prešov, decided to take matters into his own hands, launching a project of the Museum of the emigration from Slovakia to North America .
“It is incredible that one third of Slovaks left overseas and we forgot them!”, Martin eagerly claims. The emigration started in the middle of the 19th century and lasted approximately 150 years. There were 6 major waves of emigrants who left due to poverty, plague and the consequential hunger that followed. Eastern Slovakia (including Spiš, Šariš and Zemplín) was very much affected. According to a documentation from the Ellis Island Museum, only 18% of these people were literate. Yet, against the odds, they were able to succeed economically, develop magazines and support a national and social life in Slovakia. Also, some World-famous people today have Slovak ancestors, such as Paul Newman, whose mom originated from Ptičie (close to Humenné) and Jon Bon Jovi whose grandmother came from Kecerovce (next to Košice) and was also Martin’s grandma’s neighbor.
Martin is planning to build a database of all the people who emigrated overseas from the region known today as Slovakia. It will be displayed as an interactive map. The museum’s web site already has made available few other maps: one with churches, one with associations and one with magazines, each sorted by date during a period of 19th and 20th century. In addition to these interactive maps, there are digital exhibit of ribbons, corporate seals and other artifacts donated by diaspora.
A museum should also have a physical building. It will be situated in Ťahyňa (part of the town Pavlovce nad Uhom), in a house originally built in 1882 with money sent home from New Jersey by Julius Harajda, a native of this village. The name of the museum was thoughtfully chosen: Kasigarda. It’s a Slovak distortion of the English name of “Castle Garden” – a gate that every emigrant needed to cross to enter the American land. It is a name that reflects well the issues of emigration: the fact that these people did not speak English when coming to the America and the tough conditions they needed to overcome to start a new life.
Martin is inviting anyone who has found artifacts like postcards, boat tickets, or similar memorabilia, or even has a story to tell, to share with the museum. But before opening to the public, the building of the future museum needs some renovation, namely the roof restoration. Donations to support this project financially will gladly be accepted. You can contact Martin by email and become a museum sponsor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: Kasigarda
The main picture: an iconic photo, Lunch atop a Skyscraper, taken in 1932 by Charles Clyde Ebbets, atop the ironwork of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, in Manhattan, New York City. The first worker from the right side, was a Slovak emigrant who wrote to his wife: “Don’t worry, my dear Mariska, as you can see, I’m still with my little bottle.”
By Martina Hornakova, Founder of KITnDO