SLOVENIA Slovenia is a small, mountainous country about the size of the state of New Jersey, situated south of Austria, on the "Sunny Side of the Alps." Its famous Triglav Peak overlook the Julian Alps. Carved by the swift Sava River and its tributaries, Slovenia is also called the "Green Piece of Europe", as forest covers half the country; its unique karst landscape of limestone caves and disappearing lakes, as well as the skiing, draw increasingly more tourists. The deep valleys and woods have been occupied since the Bronze Age, homeland to Celts and finally the slavic ancestors of the modern Slovenes. But those fertile hillsides and river valleys have always been a temptation to invaders, from the Romans and Huns, Germans, Franks, and Magyars. The Austrian princes, especially the Habsburg dynasty, absorbed Slovenia into their empire as the province of Krain, or Carniola. Holding on through peasant revolts, invasions by the Ottoman Turks, and a brief Napoleanic period, the Austrian Empire prevailed for centuries. Somehow the Slovenes were able to retain their own cultural identity while always seeking more autonomy from their Austrian rulers. Repression may have been one of the things that compelled more than 300,000 Slovenes to emigrate in the years following the failed revolution of 1848. Our great-grandparents had their own reasons for leaving, no doubt.
A lot happened back in Slovenia after the Radovans had left after the turn of the century. With the world at war in 1918, Slovenia united with Serbs and Croats to form an independent kingdom, which became Yugoslavia in 1929. Invaded by Nazi Germany in 1941, the peaceful hills became enclaves of fierce resistance. Liberation in 1945 set the stage for a communist takeover of the government under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito. The Slovenian communist kept Yugoslavia at a distance from the Soviets until his death in 1980. As Serbian leaders such as Slobodan Milosevic dominated Yugoslav government, Slovenians protested, and in a historic move, voted to secede from Yugoslavia. After a 10-day war of independence, Slovenia emerged in 1991 as a new Republic.
For years I have been searching for immigration records of Maria Radovan and her sons. At last, the ship's passenger list of the Kaiser Wilhelm's 1905 voyage seems to identify them. From the on-line Ellis Island records, http://www.ellisislandrecords.org/ comes the following entry:
Without any other corroboration, I could be jumping to conclusions, but I don't think so. Too many things work out too close to previous information, even if off a little:
An examination of the Kaiser Wilhelm manifest entry reveals some interesting new details: For instance, Marija's destination is listed as Thomas, West Virginia - at that time a bustling town attracting many European workers to its mining industry. Listed as Marija's contact person is "brother-in-law" Gaspar Miklich, to which the immigration inspector has added the words "Husband: John", followed by a cryptic notation.
What does it mean? Did Marija and the boys actually travel to West Virginia before settling in Chicago? Who was Gaspar Miklich and how was he really related? And - as alway- we are left with the big question: What became of John Radovan?
Action to be taken? I had no luck finding Gaspar Miklich in the West
Virginia census. A little side trip to Thomas in 2002 was interesting, but brought no new information to light. As for Slovenia, we did see the name Miklich on at least one headstone in the St. Peter Cemetery.
Research in the archives of the Roman Catholic Church in Ljubljana yielded some results -- from the Church Records of St. Peter at Otocec:
The birth record of Johann (Janez) RADOVAN, father of our grandfather Louis was found -
Born Nov. 6, 1863, in the village of Sredno Gercevje (Mittergerzhberg, or "Middle Gerzhberg"); christened Nov. 7
Father: Johann RADOVAN
Mother: Anna TEKSTAR
Midwife: Maria TEKSTAR
I was unable to read sponsors' names and Father's occupation
Marriage Record of same Janez RADOVAN and Marija REDEK -
July 30, 1893 at Srednjo Gercevje #15
Janez RADOVAN, hisarje sin, 30 years old
Marija REDEK, age 16
Parents of Groom: Janez RADOVAN, hisar and Ana TEKSTAR
Parents of Bride: Franc REDEK and Neza (Agnes) KASTCLIR (spelling uncertain)
Witnesses: Josef and Anton TEKSTAR
Urkunden (Documented?) St Peter, July 2, 1893
Numerous other REDEKs and RADOVANs were also noted in the birth and in the marriage registers, including brothers of Johann RADOVAN. It was also interesting to note that relatives of the REDEK, RADOVAN, and TEKSTAR familiesperformed as midwives at births in several of the neighboring villages in the mid- to late 1800's. However, the birth volume researched was for 1835-1875; hence the later birth of our Grandfather Louis and his brother were not included. Cousin Bojan Mozina inquired over the phone into the later books (which are not available to the public), and was able to have the record looked up. The information he was given listed a different birth date for Louis, and a house address, #1, in the village of Jelsa. He was also told of a sister, born previous to Louis, who died in infancy.
The Mozina brothers organized an outing for us to visit the area of Trska Gora, about an hour's drive east of Ljubljana.
Next, in the village of Jelsa, inquiries led us to House #1.
A little harder to find was the village of Sredno Gercevje. The names and house numbers have changed somewhat over the years, so we drove up and down the hills for a while before identifying the childhood home of Janez Radovan and his family.
If finding these historic sites was not enough, our day was climaxed by a trip up to the top of Trska Gora, where the village church was built in 1620, and a wonderful lunch at the vineyard below. The hillside vineyard of the Redeks has stayed in the family, and thanks to the hard work of Franc Mozina and his sons, the vines are fruitful, the little house cozy -- and I can tell you that the cvicek wine from the old family vineyard could never have tasted sweeter than the afternoon we spent with the Mozina brothers looking out through the vines from the shelter of the old house, as clouds gathered over the Krka River Valley. The year 2003 was definitely a vintage year for our genealogy!
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