Once upon a
time, in a little Austrian village, Maria Redek, the daughter
of the Burgermeister Franc Redek, fell in love. Johann Radovan, the overseer of
her father's vineyard, was an imposing figure as he rode about on horseback
along the hillsides and through the town. They were married and two sons
were born, but as time passed, all was not well... and one day Radovan ran off
to America, abandoning his family. Undaunted, Maria packed up and followed
with the boys to the USA, from the little village of her childhood to a
Chinatown boarding house in Chicago. We may never know if she ever
tracked Radovan down, but it would seem she found happiness at last, however
briefly, with a new husband and a new life as owner of her own boarding house
and tavern on Chicago's East Side. She would die at age 44 leaving most of
her past a mystery.That's the story, admittedly
romanticized, which we've pieced together over the years, and until the facts
reveal otherwise, I like to think of Maria as the Burgermeister's
Daughter. But discovering the truth has not been
for more information about Maria and her later years in
Maria's younger son
Louis - our grandfather - would grow up American, a tinkerer, lover of
cars, steel worker, husband, father, and grandfather -- and would completely
deny his European birth, admitting only that his mother had emigrated from
Austria. His brother John, however, remembered clearly their family, their childhood, and
the voyage of emigration. It was one of the things the brothers argued about and
which kept them apart. (Another thing was their father. John may one time have
located the elder Radovan in a California nursing home, but Louis had no desire
to see him again.) The facts were revealed only after Louis's death. His widow,
Brennan Radovan, had been contacted by a relative in Yugoslavia.
Gradually pages of the truth unfolded. The Radovans had called their homeland
Austria, but it was a slavic, not a German land where they were born. Our
genealogy had taken a turn!
and letters from a cousin of Louis, named Franc Mozina, in what was then
Yugoslavia. It seemed he and a sister were reclaiming some of the family land
from the Communist government,and needed surviving cousins to relinquish any
claim to the property. From the one letter in my possession, it appears
Franc, a retiree, was busy repairing the house and had plans to restore
the vineyard, somewhere in the vicinity of his home in Novo Mesto. He mentions
his sister Mimi, and also three sons named Bojan, Toma, and
to see more correspondence from Franc Mozina.
Ironically, it also came
out that another 1st cousin to this Yugoslav Franc, Stanley Mozina, lived right
nearby in the Chicago area. Unfortunately, he had died in 1962, long
before I found out about him. Subsequent research showed Stanley was born
Stanislaw on April 11, 1895, in Novo Mesto, and that his father was also named
Frank. He emigrated via Trieste on the Martha Washington to New York
arriving on the 1st of September, 1913. He petitioned for naturalization in
1924. His wife Emily, also born in Yugoslavia, thought that Stanley was a cousin
of Louis Radovan, but it was not known exactly how the families were related. The Mozina brothers in Slovenia were not acquainted with Stanley.
Slovenia is a small, mountainous country about the size of the
state of New
Jersey, situated south of Austria, on the "Sunny Side of the Alps." Its famous
Triglav Peak overlook the Julian Alps. Carved by the swift Sava River and its
tributaries, Slovenia is also called the "Green Piece of Europe", as forest
covers half the country; its unique karst landscape of limestone caves and
disappearing lakes, as well as the skiing, draw increasingly more
tourists. The deep valleys and woods have been occupied since the Bronze
Age, homeland to Celts and finally the slavic ancestors of the
modern Slovenes. But those
fertile hillsides and river valleys have always been a temptation to invaders,
from the Romans and Huns, Germans, Franks, and Magyars. The Austrian princes, especially
the Habsburg dynasty, absorbed Slovenia into their empire as the province of
Krain, or Carniola. Holding on through peasant revolts, invasions by the
Ottoman Turks, and a brief Napoleanic period, the Austrian Empire prevailed
for centuries. Somehow the Slovenes were able to retain their own
cultural identity while always seeking more autonomy from their Austrian
rulers. Repression may have been one of the things that compelled
more than 300,000 Slovenes to emigrate in the years following the failed
revolution of 1848. Our great-grandparents had their own reasons for leaving,
A lot happened back in Slovenia
after the Radovans had left after the turn of the century. With the
world at war in 1918, Slovenia united with Serbs and Croats to form
an independent kingdom, which became Yugoslavia in 1929. Invaded
by Nazi Germany in 1941, the peaceful hills became enclaves
of fierce resistance. Liberation in 1945 set the stage for a communist
takeover of the government under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito. The
Slovenian communist kept Yugoslavia at a distance from the Soviets until his
death in 1980. As Serbian leaders such as Slobodan Milosevic dominated
Yugoslav government, Slovenians protested, and in a historic move, voted
to secede from Yugoslavia. After a 10-day war of independence, Slovenia
emerged in 1991 as a new
ABOUT MARIA REDEK RADOVAN * MOZINA
For years I have been searching for
immigration records of Maria Radovan and her sons. At last, the ship's passenger
list of the Kaiser Wilhelm's 1905 voyage seems to identify them. From the on-line Ellis Island records,
comes the following entry:
They arrived in New York June 7,
1905 from Bremen aboard the Kaiser
previous residence is shown as "Trzkagora", Slovenia/Austria. (Refer to
the complete entry by viewing an image of the actual ship's passenger
list, or manifest.)
- Marija Radovan, age
- Janez, age
- Alois, age
Without any other corroboration, I
could be jumping to conclusions, but I don't think so. Too many things
work out too close to previous information, even if off a little:
- Ages -- The relative ages of
Maria and the boys are right, and the birth years are
- Names -- There's Alois as the Slovenian Louis, sure
enough. I should have checked the Slovenian spelling of Maria long
ago! And I never connected the Slovenian Janez with John. Now
I'm wondering about Louis's middle name "James" (also not too slavic!) and
John's "Howard" (where'd that come
from? A fellow researcher of Slovenian descent has informed me that middle names were not customary in Slovenia in any event, so these are likely later American add-ons).
- Date of Emigration -- Later than
we thought! Of course, Louis swore he'd been born in the USA. John
said he remembered the journey. I guess so! And so did Louis, at age
- No husband -- That's according to
family tradition. So we still needed to find Radovan, Sr. on his
own -- and he eventually turned up. (SEE BELOW)
- Home Village -- Trska Gora (See
map below) is only a few kilometers from Novo Mesto, where Franc Mozina
lived, and also not far from Otocec, which an informant suggested may have once been
St.Peter, Louis's birthplace. (Louis's daughter Alice
Radovan Ziemer remembers seeing a certificate of her father showing St. Peter,
Austria as his birthplace. There are several St.Peters in Slovenia, but after visiting the area we are convinced St. Peter at Otocec was the home parish of the Radovans and Redeks.
- In vino veritas -- The
area around Trska Gora is noted for its
An examination of the Kaiser Wilhelm manifest entry reveals some
interesting new details: For instance, Marija's destination is listed as
Thomas, West Virginia - at that time a bustling town attracting many European
workers to its mining industry. Listed as Marija's contact person is
"brother-in-law" Gaspar Miklich, to which the immigration inspector has added
the words "Husband: John", followed by a cryptic notation.
What does it mean? Did Marija and the boys actually travel to West Virginia
before settling in Chicago? Who was Gaspar Miklich and how was he really
related? And - as alway- we are left with the big question: What became of
Action to be taken? I had no luck finding Gaspar Miklich in the West
Virginia census. A little side trip to Thomas in 2002 was interesting, but brought no new information to light. As for Slovenia, we did see the name Miklich on at least one headstone in the St. Peter Cemetery.
Another break-through came when
Johann Radovan, the
Runaway Overseer, at last was found! An alternate on-line index led to his discovery in the Ellis Island database.
The ship's manifest of the S.S.Barbarossa lists him clearly enough by name, 38 years old, a married farmer traveling alone, with $10 in cash. The printed text of the database, however, has him incorrectly listed as Hungarian. There's no figuring why - an examination of the actual manifest image shows him grouped at the end of a list of slavs from Austria. His name is the last one in the group, and someone drew a line after his name to separate that group from the next, and the line partly obscures his entry, so perhaps this led to a misreading. The Ellis Island web site also lists his age incorrectly.
The ship's manifest lists "friends" in New York as Johann's final destination.
One important piece of information is the identification of his last residence: Jelsa, a small community near the Krka River right near Otocec, which turns out to be the St. Peter parish where Grandpa Louis (Alois) was born. (All this has been verified by our visit to Slovenia in September of 2003.)
We may never know what happened to him after he arrived in the US (According to Mom, his son John traced him to California, but I have yet to see a state or federal record of a "John Radovan" the right age.) But with the village of Jelsa as a focal point, we were able to begin searching backwards in time for his origins in Slovenia.
In September of 2003, I had planned to join members of the Slovenian Genealogical Society in Ljubljana for the "Roots and Branches" Genealogy Conference, but the trip and the whole event was cancelled. However, another trip was being run by the same travel agency a week sooner . (Kollander World Travel, which, based in Cleveland with its large Slovenian-American population, seems to be most active in trips to Slovenia.) This trip had been organized by Tony Petkovsek, a Cleveland area radio personality who had signed up a number of local folks and their families for a bus tour. Mom, wife Dawn, and I decided to join this group and tack on a few extra days in Ljubljana for our own research and exploration. We were also excited about meeting our cousins Mozina for the first time, to reunite the family, and hopefully learn more about our relationship and common ancestors.
Research in the archives of the Roman Catholic Church in Ljubljana yielded some results -- from the Church Records of St. Peter at Otocec:
The birth record of Johann (Janez) RADOVAN, father of our grandfather Louis was found -
Born Nov. 6, 1863, in the village of Sredno Gercevje (Mittergerzhberg, or "Middle Gerzhberg"); christened Nov. 7
Father: Johann RADOVAN
Mother: Anna TEKSTAR
Midwife: Maria TEKSTAR
I was unable to read sponsors' names and Father's occupation
Click on the thumbnail to view original document,
Marriage Record of same Janez RADOVAN and Marija REDEK -
July 30, 1893 at Srednjo Gercevje #15
Janez RADOVAN, hisarje sin, 30 years old
Marija REDEK, age 16
Parents of Groom: Janez RADOVAN, hisar and Ana TEKSTAR
Parents of Bride: Franc REDEK and Neza (Agnes) KASTCLIR (spelling uncertain)
Witnesses: Josef and Anton TEKSTAR
Urkunden (Documented?) St Peter, July 2, 1893
Click on the thumbnail to view original document,
Click on the thumbnail of the map here for detailed map (1.33 MB)showing Otocec and surrounding area, including St.Peter Church, Trska Gora, Jelse, and Srednje Grcevje.
Numerous other REDEKs and RADOVANs were also noted in the birth and in the marriage registers, including brothers of Johann RADOVAN. It was also interesting to note that relatives of the REDEK, RADOVAN, and TEKSTAR familiesperformed as midwives at births in several of the neighboring villages in the mid- to late 1800's.
However, the birth volume researched was for 1835-1875; hence the later birth of our Grandfather Louis and his brother were not included. Cousin Bojan Mozina inquired over the phone into the later books (which are not available to the public), and was able to have the record looked up. The information he was given listed a different birth date for Louis, and a house address, #1, in the village of Jelsa. He was also told of a sister, born previous to Louis, who died in infancy.
The Mozina brothers organized an outing for us to visit the area of Trska Gora, about an hour's drive east of Ljubljana.
After meeting at the castle of Otocec for morning coffee, we visited the churchyard of the church of St. Peter, which sits along the road above the bank of the River Krka.
There we took note of several gravestones marked with the names REDEK and RADOVAN, a name which was also inscribed on a monument to victims of the war in 1945.
Next, in the village of Jelsa, inquiries led us to House #1.
As it turned out, the building there was built in 1940, on the site of Louis RADOVAN's birthplace. Here had been the home of the Franc REDEK family for several generations. Marija apparently grew up here, with a sister Nezha (Agnes); and here Marija raised her own family after her marriage to Janez Radovan. (Agnes married a Mozina and was the mother of a daughter Mimi and son Franc -- who was the father of Bojan, Tomaz and Joze.)
A little harder to find was the village of Sredno Gercevje. The names and house numbers have changed somewhat over the years, so we drove up and down the hills for a while before identifying the childhood home of Janez Radovan and his family. Here the neighbors seemed acquainted with the family history; the old woman next door spoke of a sister and two other brothers besides the one - our great-grandfather Johann RADOVAN - who ran off to America, leaving his wife and children behind.
If finding these historic sites was not enough, our day was climaxed by a trip up to the top of Trska Gora, where the village church was built in 1620, and a wonderful lunch at the vineyard below. The hillside vineyard of the Redeks has stayed in the family, and thanks to the hard work of Franc Mozina and his sons, the vines are fruitful, the little house cozy -- and I can tell you that the cvicek wine from the old family vineyard could never have tasted sweeter than the afternoon we spent with the Mozina brothers looking out through the vines from the shelter of the old house, as clouds gathered over the Krka River Valley. The year 2003 was definitely a vintage year for our genealogy!
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