CGSI Quarterly Meeting - May 2007

A CGSI Quarterly meeting was held May 5, 2007 at the Luther Seminary’s Northwestern Hall St. Paul, MN.

                 Frank Soural
                                      Presenter Frank Soural

A presentation Czechs in Vienna was given by Frank Soural. Frank grew up in Moravia, and now lives in Ottawa, Canada.

In 1848 Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph allowed the Crown Lands of the Empire to send representatives to Vienna to discuss their problems. In 1880, 65% of Vienna was made up of new arrivals. From 1880 to 1890 an additional 203,000 persons from Bohemia arrived in Vienna.

Vienna population growth

1820 – 1840 37.3%
1840 – 1860 30%
1860 – 1880 35%
1880 – 1900 130%

The prime cause of the movement to Vienna was the Industrial Revolution which influenced the expansion of the industrial base. Additional workers were needed to support the war machine with the Austrian – Prussian war of 1866 and skirmishes with Bosnia. The arrivals lived among themselves in favored boroughs, congregated in their own churches, theatres and sporting events, and practiced their mother tongue. Vienna offered better pay, better opportunities and the freedom to be yourself. Vienna was “The place to be”. Vienna was a city of wine, music and song where Strauss, Lehar, and Lanner were at the lips of everyone who was a Romantic at heart.

The Czechs as a nationality followed the call, they came in droves. They came as cooks, maids, tailors, housekeepers, waiters and Maitre D’s, doctors, lawyers and politicians, as well as, day laborers and bricklayers. When the 19th century ended, they counted over 12,000 workers from Bohemia and Moravia specializing in the manufacture of bricks. One source has it, that Vienna in the second half of the 19th century was built by Czech bricklayers and brick makers. Everywhere stood the Czech-built mansions and palaces, particularly along the great Ringstrasse. There were many Sokols in Vienna. Each district had its own Sokol branch. These branches were used not only to train the body and mind but to further the national interests of Czech compatriots everywhere.

It was paramount in the Bohemian collective mind to educate their children in their mother tongue. The city fathers did not recognize the right for cultural minorities to educate their children in their mother tongue. In 1882 a compromise was reached which would allow the education of the children in their National Interest but the minorities had to finance the schools themselves. Descendants of the Czech adventurers who made the move to Vienna played a large role in the development of the modern Austrian Nation. One such descendant of the Watzlawick family made it big in the modern world. We know him as the former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim.

Another well-known individual, by the name of Klement Gottwald, who became the first Communist president of the postwar Czechoslovakia, learned his carpentry trade in Vienna. They found ways to fit in; they became Viennese with a cute accent that gave away their ethnicity. They knew they had become accepted when the Mayor of Vienna remarked to a challenge of the Czechs “Lasst’s mir meine Tschechen in Ruh” Leave my Czechs in peace as he recognized that they have become an essential ingredient in the Infrastructure of the city.