Maria Redek Radovan: The Burgermeister's Daughter



Once upon a time, in a little Austrian village, Maria Redek, the Maria Redek Radovan Zupan daughter of the Burgermeister Franc Redek, fell in love. Johann Radovan,  the overseer of her father's vineyard, was an imposing figure as he rode about on horseback along the hillsides and through the town.  They were married and two sons were born, but as time passed, all was not well... and one day Radovan ran off to America, abandoning his family.  Undaunted, Maria packed up and followed with the boys to the USA,  from the little village of her childhood to a Chinatown  boarding house in Chicago.  We may never know if she ever tracked Radovan down, but it would seem she found happiness at last, however briefly, with a new husband and a new life as owner of her own boarding house and tavern on Chicago's East Side.  She would die at age 44 leaving most of her past a mystery.

That's the story,  admittedly romanticized, which we've pieced together over the years, and until the facts reveal otherwise, I like to think of Maria as the Burgermeister's Daughter.   But discovering the truth has not been easy...

           Click HERE for more information about Maria and her later years in Chicago.

 Maria's younger son Louis - our grandfather -  would grow up American, a tinkerer, lover of cars, steel worker, husband, father, and grandfather -- and would completely deny his European birth, admitting only that his mother had emigrated from Austria.  His brother John, however, remembered clearly their family, their childhood, and the voyage of emigration. It was one of the things the brothers argued about and which kept them apart. (Another thing was their father. John may one time have located the elder Radovan in a California nursing home, but Louis had no desire to see him again.) The facts were revealed only after Louis's death. His widow, Dorothy Brennan Radovan, had been contacted by a relative in Yugoslavia.  Gradually pages of the truth unfolded. The Radovans had called their homeland Austria, but it was a slavic, not a German land where they were born.  Our genealogy had taken a turn!


Christmas Card - Franc Mozina to Dorothy Radovan Dorothy received several cards and letters from a cousin of Louis, named Franc Mozina, in what was then Yugoslavia. It seemed he and a sister were reclaiming some of the family land from the Communist government,and needed surviving cousins to relinquish any claim to the property.  From the one letter in my possession, it appears Franc, a  retiree, was busy repairing the house and had plans to restore the vineyard, somewhere in the vicinity of his home in Novo Mesto. He mentions his sister Mimi, and also three sons named Bojan, Toma, and Josip.

Click HERE to see more correspondence from Franc Mozina.

Ironically, it also came out that another 1st cousin to this Yugoslav Franc, Stanley Mozina, lived right nearby in the Chicago area.  Unfortunately,  he had died in 1962, long before I found out about him. Subsequent research showed Stanley was born Stanislaw on April 11, 1895, in Novo Mesto, and that his father was also named Frank. He emigrated via Trieste on the Martha Washington to New York arriving on the 1st of September, 1913. He petitioned for naturalization in 1924. His wife Emily, also born in Yugoslavia, thought that Stanley was a cousin of Louis Radovan, but it was not known exactly how the families were related. The Mozina brothers in Slovenia were not acquainted with Stanley.


Slovenia is a small,  mountainous country about the size of the state of New Republic of Slovenia 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 Coat of Arms of the Austrian Province of Krain (Carniola) - Slovenia 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 Shield of the Republic of Slovenia 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.