map of the current Czech Republic

Why Our Czech Ancestors Came To America

    During the 19th century our ancestors in Bohemia and Moravia were citizens of the Austrian Empire, ruled by the Habsburg dynasty. Bohemia was bounded by Austria on the south, Bavaria on the west, Saxony on the north, and Moravia on the east. (Most of the present Czech Republic was formed from the region of Bohemia.)
    Living as peasants, the common people of central Europe were kept in virtual slavery, with no political or religious freedom. A peasant worked for free sometimes for up to 6 months per year for the royal landowner. One could not marry someone of a different parish or travel to another village without special permits from the feudal lords. The aristocratic families owned all land and controlled all aspects of village life.
    A revolution in 1848 was quickly suppressed, but resulted in the abolition of serfdom. Peasants were then permitted to resettle or move. Because of the industrialization of Europe, rural families increasingly found it difficult to survive or offer a suitable future for their children. There were constant threats of wars and too often the young men of Bohemia and Moravia were drafted to fight and die in Habsburg wars far from home.
    During these challenging times news from America reached the rural villages. The young United States needed farmers to colonize the rural states, such as Nebraska. The allure of free land prompted many to emigrate, though it was surely a challenge to obtain the necessary funds and permits. Most Czech immigrants came from economically depressed rural areas in central Europe and were intellectually and culturally unsophisticated. They left Bohemia and Moravia primarily for economic reasons, not to escape political oppression or to seek religious freedom. Our forefathers were not refugees nor visionary radicals. They were simple peasants in search of land.
    Probably never having left their village before, they traveled to Hamburg or Bremen in northern Germany to embark, crossing the ocean under unimaginable, cramped conditions with hundreds or thousands of others traveling in the last of the tall sailing ships or sail-steam ships. Finally reaching their new home in Nebraska, they made the transition from village peasant to frontier farmer.

area of Knínice and Budec

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