Gottscheers in New Yorku: First stop – Brooklyn
Church life played a very important role in the integration of the first immigrants from Kočevje in the USA and for their adjustment to life in a new environment. The first meeting center of the New York Gottscheers was the All Saints Church in Brooklyn. Since 1886, when the first Gottscheer couple married there, the number of Gottscheer marriages has steadily increased. They reached a peak in 1907 with 46 marriages, which represented more than half of all marriages in the parish on an annual basis.
Couples would most often marry two or three years after arriving in America, even if they have not yet solved their residence problem by the time they got married. By the end of 1908, 817 Gottscheer marriages had been conducted in All Saints Church. While Gottscheer men married exclusively Gottscheer women, while Gottscheer women sometimes wed an outsider.
Following 1930, the All Saints Church lost its importance for the Gottscheer community, as Brooklyn was just a stopover for many, from where they scattered across the USA. By the 1930s, most of the Gottscheers from Brooklyn had moved to Ridgewood (Queens).
Gottscheer Hall Club House – a community centre: Ridgewood, Queens
The Gottscheer community in Ridgewood grew in numbers, especially after the World War II, when Gottscheer refugees from the old homeland joined their American compatriots. In the 1950s, when America opened its doors to them, the Gottscheers, who had spent the first post-war years mostly in Austrian refugee camps, once again left in large numbers for the Promised Land. The so-called “Gottscheer Hall” Club House became the heart of the community, where members of various clubs and interest groups such as the hunting club, choir, football club, dance group and others still meet.
The clubhouse accommodates rooms for various activities, a large hall for events and dancing, and a bar. The Gottscheer club is full of memorabilia of the “old homeland”. The main wall of the large hall is decorated with an image of the town of Kočevje, a large map of Kočevje hangs in the bar, and there are also images of Kočevje villages. On the street lamp next to the entrance of the society’s premises hangs the symbolic inscription “Gottscheer Avenue”, although this is not the official name of the street.
Today, not only Gottscheers visit the Gottscheer Hall. The ground-floor bar is also popular with other Americans who want to relax with a “Gottschee 1330” beerstein or a Carniolan sausage. The large hall, which is used several times a year for various events (dances, Christmas celebrations, etc.), can also be rented out for weddings and other events. This covers the maintenance costs of the clubhouse. In the past decades, the number of the Gottscheer community in New York has declined significantly due to the assimilation and displacement of younger generations.
Gottscheer Volksfest – Gottscheer Picnic
In June 1947, the Gottscheer Relief Association organised the first ever Gottscheer Picnic in the Franklyn Square to raise funds for the relief of the Gottscheer refugees in Austria. The music and dance event is now held every year on the first Saturday in June. Today, the event is an important element of the social life of the Gottscheers, as it is an opportunity for members of the community to come together in large numbers. It is marked by a procession of flags and colours of Gottscheer organisations, performances by dance groups and a choir, while the crowning of “Miss Gottschee” is one of the most attention-grabbing events After dancing to the sounds of the accordion, visitors also like to refresh themselves at the sausage stall with sausages, pastries or American sandwiches.
– Hutter, Martha. 1999. Die ersten Amerika-Gottscheer. Festschrift: 80 Jahre Gottscheer Landsmannschaft in Graz. Gradec: Gottscheer Landsmannschaft in Graz.
– Moric, Anja. 2014. Domovina globoko v srcu: Kočevski Nemci v diaspori. Etnolog: https://www.dlib.si/stream/URN:NBN:SI:doc-CQV11TNM/6aa9d7f7-e8dc-4f26-acd6-f072cf26c4bd/PDF
– Moric, Anja. 2016. Slovenski Nemci v diaspori : doktorska disertacija. Doktorska disertacija. Ljubljana: Univerza v Ljubljani.