Milada and Naďa Dobiášová
“Our grandfather František came to America in 1906, our grandmother Anna even two year before that. Both of them, of course, were headed to an unknown, foreign land for work. Grandfather was a skilled baker, and soon also in the States, he started working as a baker. Grandmother was employed as a laundrywoman. They met each other there, and in the end, settled in Chicago. They gradually had three children – daughter Boženka, who died from diphtheria when she was five years old, son František and another daughter Boženka.
In 1922, he decided to move back to his country of birth. Grandfather bought a large farm in Vlčtejn with money he had saved. It was really big. It had 106 hectares, and he decided to take up farming. In addition, he operated a bakery in Blovice. The children liked it there, they knew perfect Czech, and there were no problems integrating into Czech society. František, our father, loved the nature there. He was a good student at school, and several times in front of the whole class, he had to demonstrate his talents at playing the violin. We had a good life there.
Our most beautiful and earliest memories are of playing games together in the garden with stones and paths of yellow sand.
We two were born during the Second World War. The German soldiers from the garrison in Nepomuk were, of course, curious about the “American at the top of the hill” (the whole family had American citizenship) and they visited us quite often. I have to say that they behaved well. They calculated the area of the fields and the average revenues and imposed mandatory payments. We also gave them eggs, meat, and other farm products. There wasn’t much left from this, but we did not mind living modestly.
Thinking about it, our most beautiful and earliest memories are of playing games together in the garden with stones and paths of yellow sand.
After the war, everything started to change, and as father inferred, not in a positive direction. So in 1947, he went back to Chicago to find work and to support our home. In less than a year, me, my sister, mother, grandfather, and grandmother followed. My sister and I did not know a word of English. We were dressed differently, and the others laughed at us. At each school recess, we cried and ran home. We didn’t want to return anymore. The people from the Czech community called us greenhorns. But Mother was the most homesick for Czechoslovakia. She missed the nature and the possibilities for sports, since she was a great athlete.
Father got work in a Czech newspaper Hlasatel and earned 40 dollars a week. That was the family’s only income. We were a lot worse off than in Czechoslovakia. We were unhappy that we didn’t have anyone to talk to or to be friends with – at least during the first year until we learned English. In addition, we were always sick. The climate there did not suit us. We moved about seven times. In the end, father bought a two story house in Cicero that was big enough for the whole family – grandfather, grandmother, aunt, and her daughter.
In the autumn of 1948, the communists in Czechoslovakia confiscated our farm and villa. Understandably, our family was angry since this was theft, but we kept hoping that we could return to Czechoslovakia someday. We corresponded with relatives and friends, and thanks to this, we knew a little bit about what was happening there. In 1959, we managed to visit our home country. We were at my grandmother’s place in Plzen, and all of our relatives and friends met and we went to the theatres. Since that time, we have returned a total of ten times. We met quite frequently with many people, and others were afraid to have any contact with us, mainly because of state police surveillance. They also watched us. Mother one time decided to ask the man sitting in the car in front of our grandmother’s house every evening if he wanted to come inside and have a cup of coffee. She actually went outside, but he was scared and drove off.
We could have had a completely different life, different education. Me and my sister could have studied ballet, which we both loved and were talented at.
When Czechs were finally free again in 1989, the whole family was very happy. My father was no longer alive at that time, but mother travelled here every other year. We also got back our confiscated property in restitution. When we returned to our villa and saw the interior, the rooms, the library, the balcony where father’s flowers used to hang, our hearts almost broke. It was practically in ruins. But above all, we were sorry for the lost time and opportunities. We could have had a completely different life, different education. Me and my sister could have studied ballet, which we both loved and were talented at. In America, we didn’t have a lot of money. Instead of studying, we both had to work, and in the end, support the whole family. Luckily, we also met many good people in America, mostly of Czech origin, mainly through the Sokol society, which organised many social events and entertainment.
My sister and I were last in the Czech Republic a few months ago, and we felt really good there. In fact, for a little while, we had the feeling that everything we experienced during those years of emigration actually never happened. And do you know what – we could breathe better, the food seemed to taste better and seemed to be healthier than in America, people more intelligent … In our home in America, people only talk about work and sports. It’s hard to say exactly, but even now, we probably feel more at home in the Czech Republic.”
Sisters Mildred and Naďa Dobiášová – twins, born on 23 May 1942 in Czechoslovakia.