Especially in the summer months, increasing number of cars with foreign registration plates can be seen driving on Kočevska roads, sometimes even some buses. In addition to visitors attracted to Kočevska by its unspoilt nature, there are also those who are looking for their roots in Kočevska. Gottscheers and descendants of Gottscheers visit the villages where their parents or grandparents lived. They also visit archives to find information about their ancestors.
Emigration from Kočevska region
Although the history of the Kočevska region was tragically marked mainly by the emigration of Gottscheers during the World War II in 1941/42, emigration, as elsewhere in Carniola, was particularly high during the global economic crises. From the mid-19 th century until the 1930s, Gottscheers went abroad seeking one’s fortune. The modest natural conditions (karst terrain, lack of water and arable land, etc.) and the unfavourable economic situation in Kočevska region were the main reasons for the mass emigration to the USA, where it is believed that more Gottscheers lived before the World War II than in Kočevska region. Until the World War II, Gottscheers were leaving for European countries as far away as the Czech Republic, mainly as hawkers. In the major cities of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, some even opened their own shops, while others left in search of an education.
Gottscheers in Cleveland
Gottscheer Kalender from 1926 reports that the first four Gottscheers that came to the USA left in 1853. A little less than 30 years later, around 1880, there were reportedly already a large number of Gottscheers in Cleveland, who were employed in the local industrial companies. In Cleveland, where there was little or no social support for workers from the state, the First Gottscheer Society was founded by Gottscheer industrial workers as early as 1889 – Erster Österreichischer Unterstützungs Verein, literally translated as the First Austrian Mutual Aid Society. After the World War II, in March 1946, the Society, together with another Gottscheer Society, the Deutsche Österreichischer Unterstützungs Verein, also based in Cleveland, founded the Gottscheer Relief Committee. The new organisation was set up to help the Gottscheers in Europe who were left without a homeland after the war. In 1955, the two societies merged to form the Erster Österreichischer Unterstützungs Verein, abbreviated EOUV, which is still active today.
In 1983, with the voluntary work of its members and donations, the society built a new cultural centre or club with a football pitch, a pavilion and a caretaker’s house. At the Gottscheer Park, visitors can stroll through a grove of trees, through which the Gottscheer Weg walking path leads. The club has a brass band, a dance group and a choir.
The Gottscheer women are particularly proud of the society’s Ladies Auxiliary women’s section, which today caters for the cuisine and culinary delights at various events. At the beginning of the 20 th century, women were also politically active, as women in Cleveland, like men, organised to fight for more workers’ rights.
The club’s activities used to include other activities, such as a theatre group and a winter sports group. Founded in 1953, the football club was still active in the 1980s under the name Blau-Weiss Kickers, or the white and blue Kočevje colours.
– Sieder, Joseph at al. 1989. 1889-1989 E.O.U.V.
– Ferenc, Mitja. 2005. Kočevska – pusta in prazna. Ljubljana: Modrijan.
In the next article, you can learn where else you can find Gottscheer communities. About the activities of Gottscheer soccer players here.