Going Back to the Roots: My Visit to Slovakia

For the past month I spent time in the Czech Republic. One of the primary reasons I decided to travel to the country was because my mother always told me that my Great Grandfather came to the United States from that country. I was very interested in seeing the place that a part of my family was from.

My Great Grandfather was born in September 2, 1889. At the time in what was Czechoslovakia, there was very hard economic times. The United States was seen as a place of opportunity, which is most likely why he left the country. He left on a boat from Prague when he was only sixteen years old. He ended up working as a watchman at a steel mill and worked the night shift.

While I was staying with a host family in the Czech Republic, I showed them my Great Grandfather’s baptismal record. I found out that he was baptized in a church in a small village called Lutiše. It is located in northern Slovakia. Finding out I could visit the village, I was very excited. The idea of seeing my “roots” always had appealed to me. No one else from my family had visited the village, so I had a feeling it would be a big moment for me and my family.

John and Anny Harnadek, my great Grandparents.
John and Anny Harnadek, my great Grandparents at their wedding in 1916.

We visited the village on Friday, July 3. The village was very small, with maybe only a couple of hundred people living there. We met the mayor of the village and he invited us to eat Goulash later.

In the mean time, we visited the church that my Great Grandfather was baptised at. Looking at the church, it brought a sense of disbelief. It was strange feeling seeing the village that a family member once lived. While the church was sadly closed that day, seeing the outside was enough.

The church where my Great Grandfather was baptized, in Lutiše, Slovakia.
The church where my Great Grandfather was baptized, in Lutiše, Slovakia.

I have never had Goulash until that day, and it was probably the best I will ever have. It was made in a very traditional way, in something like a cauldron. Although none of the people from the village spoke English, they were all very friendly. While I do most likely have distant family in the village, I would have no way to really communicate with them because we do not speak the same language. I gave the baptismal record to the mayor so he could give it to any distant relatives.

The last stop was very special. We went to the village graveyard to maybe see if some relatives were buried there. Based on the dates we think we found either my Great Great Grandmother’s, or my Great Grandfathers younger sister. All we really know is that it is most likely one of my relatives based on the dates and last name.

I think that was the most surreal moments of my visit, to see one of my relatives graves. Seeing where a part of my family was from formed a connection with the village and country.

I wrote a haiku that day to express that connection and the visit to the village.

And in that moment, 

the past started to blend in 

what was the future

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