Grandpa’s House

Also recorded were their occupations. Emilia was a worker in a shoe factory. Perhaps not surprisingly, Stefan was a manager in a shoe factory. Shoes! My team and I had had a conversation two years ago about shoes!! Miloš had said there was a shoe factory in this area years ago. That conversation had prompted me to do some research when I returned home in 2015. A librarian from The Czech-Slovak National Library in Iowa shared this: “The sad tale of Slovakia’s Bata Shoes,” by Michael J Jordan. It documented a now-defunct shoe factory in Partizánske, Slovakia. The story, I remembered reading, mentioned that the name “Partizánske” was originally “Baťovany,” located in the Danubian hills, but renamed by the communists. Bingo! I connected the dots and realized that was where Emilia’s groom was from! This factory had been a Czech-owned shoe business that opened in Partizánske around 1938-39 and was under communist control in the ’40s. It continued to operate until the early 1990s, declining with privatization and the separation of the Czech Republic from Slovakia. Economic times were tough in central Europe in the ’30s and ’40s, and jobs scarce, so it seems reasonable to speculate that Emilia and her Stefan were employed by Bata Shoes. How unfortunate that we would not be visiting the Partizánske village today. Oh, what secrets lay there? Were other pieces of Emilia’s life hidden in Baťovany – now Partizánske? Did she have children? Did they live their lives out in Partizánske, are they buried there? Another adventure for another trip!

One last tidbit of information – the witness to this marriage was Rudolf Tlsty. Was he related to either Emilia or Stefan? Or just a passerby, asked to be a witness? Always more questions!

We turned our attention to the other book. Line # 20, page 104 of the older volume recorded the marriage of Emilia’s parents, Josef Diviš and Maria Jedlicka. Josef’s birth information was a perfect match with what Miloš had copied from the church records in Vysočany. I was convinced Josef was my great uncle, youngest brother of my Grandfather Stefan Diviš. The marriage record also offered more information about his bride, Maria. (And MY mother thought she picked the name “Marie” for me to represent the French in her family! She probably had no idea how many “Maria”s were in the Divišh family!) Maria’s father was Prarrtisek Jedlicka, and her mother was Helena Podoba. Maria was born in Pravatice, or something like that (Pravotice, Travatice?). Josef and Maria were married on April 17, 1921, in Vysočany, where Josef was baptized. Interesting that the marriage was recorded in this book as well as the church registry. He was nine years older than his bride. Josef may have been a shoe cobbler by trade, but as he was born 45 years ahead of the communist shoe factory, it is unlikely that he worked where his daughter and son–in-law did.

Having squeezed out as many clues as we could from the contents of the Marriage Registry, we examined the book itself. Vlasta and Miloš were searching other records and possible sources in an adjoining office, which left Ivana, Lýdia, Julia and I alone with the historic volumes. Hesitant to even touch the books, we seized our chance to closely examine them. Each book had a paper cover that was worn and tattered. The bindings were fragile; the strings that bound the middle of the book were visible. With great care, I lifted one book. It was as heavy to hold, as it was heavy laden with the lives of the local people. Here I was, holding this precious treasure – quick, someone take a picture! I carefully placed it back on the table. It was time to move on.

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11 Responses to Grandpa’s House

  1. Kathy Blair says:

    Such a heart-warming story! I thoroughly enjoyed it! Congratulations on finding some of your roots.

  2. Irmgard Swanson says:

    Loved reading this story! The pull of one’s ancestral land is very tangible, and this article said it so well. Thank you.

    • Marie Coffey says:

      It does! It sheds so much light and life to a man I barely knew. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!


  3. Sue Barrows says:

    I really enjoyed your description of your trip to your ancestor’s homeland and the historical framework in which he lived and the circumstances surrounding the decision he made to migrate to the U.S. I love the fact that sunflowers blanket the country. I too aspire some day to travel back to the places my great grandparents left behind.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Sherry Braga says:

    What a wonderful story of how we can all help each other, even with the challenges of speaking different languages. We are all people and inside each person is a heart!
    Reaching out to others often makes it reveal itself. It is a beautifully written journal and very inspirational!

    • Marie Coffey says:

      Thanks, Sherry! It has been an amazing journey – literally and figuratively! The Slovaks have been wonderfully kind to help me. God willing, I will return again!


  5. What a blessed journey! It is a gift to read of your adventure, especially as I had shared your enthusiastic anticipation and planning. Nice narrative, smooth writing. Nicely done!

    • Marie Coffey says:

      Thanks, Bryan! It’s all amazing. A new piece of this puzzle is the representative at the Archives near Nedasovce. She has researched my great grandmother and will be sending me what she’s found. What a treasure hunt! thanks for your encouragement!


  6. Gary & Marcia Christensen says:

    Very nicely written, Marie. What an adventure! Thank you for writing it.

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