A Journey to America
We left Austria in 1956 for America, when I was 4 years old. My parents lived in Gottschee until 1938 when my father opened a clothing store in Ljubljana, where he sold clothes made by the Kresse company in Gottschee. When the second world war ended my parents were living in Jesenice and their Slovenian friends suggested that it was best for them to flee the country, so my parents packed up and left. My father drove his “Holtz Gazer” truck across the border with a few personal belongings.
The main cherished items thereof, which I still own are family photographs made by my father in Gottschee and also bound in a book format, original “Gottscheer Kalendars” from 1921 to 1941 which my mother received from her father, who was a teacher and writer, he wrote articles for the “Gottscheer Kalendar.” The “Gottscheer Kalendars” were annual magazines with articles, poems and pictures about life in Gottschee.
Living in a Gottscheer community in Ridgewood, New York
We arrived in the United States and found an apartment in a six family apartment house owned by the Michitsch family who also came from Gottschee 10 years earlier. On our street in Ridgewood, New York, there were other Gottscheer families with the surnames, Kikel, Loser, Tramposch, Jurkowitsch and Urbanitsch. One could hear Gottscheerisch being spoken in the neighborhood on a daily basis.
Gottscheer Club in Ridgewood
Once a week my sister and I would go to the Gottscheer Clubhoose, our community center, to sing in the “Kinder Chor” where we would learn German and English songs for the annual performance in a Brooklyn concert hall. At the community center also called “Gottscheer Halle” there are club meetings for the “Blau Weiss Gottschee Fussball Verein”, “Damen und Maenner Chor”, “Gottscheer Relief” founded to help immigrants from Gottschee, the “fishing and Hunting Club’, and the “Bowling Club.” At the bar in the “Gottscheer Hall” Mr. Samide would bring his accordion and play Gottscheer and Slovenian melodies for the patrons who were drinking beers and talking Gottscheerisch.
In the Clubhouse there is a big room for weddings, dances and parties. By the bar there is a big framed map of Gottschee and near to the entrance there are photos of women who were “Miss Gottschee” at our annual picnic, where thousands of people of Gottscheer heritage still meet annually and enjoy accordion music, eat Roast beef, “Krainerwurst”, “Pobolitzen” and apple strudel. In the spring time every club sponsors a dance where we dance to polkas, waltzes and popular American music.
We moved four different times in Ridgewood, each time to a bigger and better house but what is interesting is that wherever we moved in Ridgewood there were always Gottscheer people living nearby. Some of the surnames of the new neighbors were, Stalzer, Siegmund, Stampfel, Kostner, Stritzl, Lukan, Morscher, Morschner, Petschauer, Hutter, Maurin, Krainer and Stiene.
The Christian Holidays are celebrated in Ridgewood with German Mass at St. Mathias Church, St. Nicholas Day at the Gottscheer clubhouse and Easter weekend with blessing of Easter food at the four catholic churches in my New York City neighborhood.
Keeping contacts with Gottschee
My uncle Albert Loser was a writer for the “Gottscheer Zeitung” newspaper, because I studied photography in college and became an avid photographer, he published my photographs of Gottscheer events in the monthly newspaper. Now I have a Gottscheer internet site: www.gottschee.us where I publish subject matter relevant to the Gottscheer community and my documentary videos can be viewed on Youtube in the “Gottscheerisch” Channel. By travelling to Slovenia every year I also enjoy photographing and videotaping the scenery where Gottscheers lived for 600 years.
I have friends and relatives who also publish information about Gottschee on the internet so therefore our cultural heritage passes on to the next generation who speak and read mainly English. Thousands of people left Gottschee for the new world abroad but many of their cultural activities, customs and language are still practiced and carried on to the next generation, thanks to the democratic aspect of the internet where everyone can broadcast information freely.
John B. Gladitsch shared with us his experience of living in a Gottscheer community in the United States. You can also read Urška Kop’s post about the activities of the Gottscheer – natives from Občice (Krapflern).
This post is also available in: Slovenian