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The Czechoslovak Talks is a project that embraces the life stories of Czechoslovaks around the world – the stories of the personal ups and downs, the opportunities and obstacles, and especially the life experiences that we would like to preserve for future generations.

 

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Marie Výborná – Berounsky

“I was born on August 20, 1886, when my older brother Josef was already 4. Over 20 years, our Mother gave birth to 9 children. We had a little farm in the village of Sulovice near Kutna Hora. When I was in Grade 3, we moved to the neighboring Lišice, where our Dad had bought a bigger house. We all helped our parents a lot, even though schoolwork always had to be our priority. I was the first daughter to get married. Little Mařenka Výborná became Marie Berounská. My husband Bohuslav and I lived at his parents’ in Pilsen, where our first daughter Jarmilka was born in 1911. We have a beautiful family portrait from a local photo parlor. Bohuslav was so handsome!

The day was May 4, 1912. Our cabins had been booked. The desire to reunite the Berounsky family was stronger than the fear of the 9-day-long voyage or the unknown ahead of us.

At that time, both his brothers – Eduard and Jaroslav – were already living in America, in the town of Amesbury in Massachusetts. All three Berounsky sons had trained as car-body workers. Their parents wanted to unite the family so that they could live close to each other and the Berounsky men could run a family enterprise. Bohuslav’s father sold some of their property and paid for our journey to Bremen in Germany, and for the voyage to New York on the mighty George Washington ocean liner, the then third biggest world’s vessel. Our Jarmilka was only eight months old. To our horror, two weeks before our leaving, we learnt about the Titanic tragedy!

The day was May 4, 1912. Our cabins had been booked. The desire to reunite the Berounsky family was stronger than the fear of the 9-day-long voyage or the unknown ahead of us. At New York’s harbor, we were picked up by Bohuslav’s brother Eduard, who took us to his home in Amesbury. The local Walker Body Company was originally a bustling carriage producer, but right upon our arrival, they were quickly and successfully transitioning to automobile manufacturing. There was plenty of work for my Bohuslav too, so we soon managed to save up enough money to be able to live on our own.

We were very happy, soon welcoming five more children into our family: daughters Jiřinka (Georgina, Jo) and Lillian, sons Henry and Adolf (Ardie), and the youngest Rutička (Ruth).

Before the Black Friday of 1929 ran all the Amesbury automobile enterprises out of business, my Bohuslav (now anglicized as Ben), his brother Jaroslav (Jerry), and their brother-in-law Štěpán Spáčil (Stephen) established a new firm in the near Newburyport. “Pike Auto Body” was very conveniently located on State Street, near the Boston Route 1 Exit. In January 1932, my husband opened his own garage – Ben’s Auto Body – in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where Bohuslav and I, with our six teenage children, found a new home. All our daughters graduated from a business high school, while both sons received a secondary technical education.

In 1940, I was dealt a heavy blow. My Bohuslav passed away. Henry and Ardie had to take the company into their own hands. We had a new modern building built, which could fit up to 20 cars and 13 employees.

After the Pearl Harbor attack, my sons were drafted into the service, and I had to close the business down. For four years I had no income but a monthly $37 from the state. Henry sent me half of his army salary so that the youngest Ruth could finish her studies. Thankfully, my boys returned in one piece and reopened the firm in July 1946. The older daughters were already married, and I wished for nothing else but to see my old homeland one last time…”

After the Pearl Harbor attack, my sons were drafted into the service, and I had to close the business down

From a letter to nephew Josef Výborný in Lišice, written on October 12, 1948:

“… I was so much looking forward to seeing you all this year, but my wishes have not been granted yet. I had already arranged the journey, paid a deposit for a boat, but everyone was telling me that I should not be going as I would not be able to get back. We were reading a lot about the putsch in Czechoslovakia… I am hoping to go next year. I wish for nothing but to see Bohemia, see my home one more time, and see the places where I spent my youth…”

In the spring of 1949, thirty-seven years after the courageous voyage, Marie’s dream did come true. She came to Bohemia at least for a short visit…
69 years later, her grandchildren are successful businesspeople, teachers, scientists…, spread all over the US. Ben’s Auto Body in Portsmouth still ranks among New England’s best of the best. Marie died on March 1, 1977, at the age of 90.

December 11, 2017
Eva Rohan
"One day I was offered to participate in an audition for a cabaret dancer...

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