The first settlers in Bohemia came from what is now the Czech Republic. In strategic central Europe, the regions called Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia at different times played important parts in the history of Europe. In 1620, they were all forcibly incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This situation lasted until the end of World War I, when in the remaking of Europe after the defeat of Germany and the Austrian Empire, Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia were formed into the new nation of Czechoslovakia. However, free existence was short-lived. In 1939, Hitler's armies occupied Bohemia and Moravia and made Slovakia nominally independent. With the end of World War II, Czechoslovakia was restored to its former status. This, too, was just a brief moment. By 1949, it had a Communist government and became a satellite of the Soviet Union. With the collapse of the Communist empire in 1989, Czechoslovakia once again returned to democracy. However, Slovak nationalism had always been an issue. Slovakia wished its own independent identity. This was achieved in 1993 with the peaceful separation of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Today the Czech Republic covers 30, 450 square miles, about two-thirds the size of the state of New York, and has a population of about 11,000,000. The capital and largest city is Prague, with a population of about 1,250,000. For the first 100 years of its existence, from 1855 to after World War II, most of the inhabitants of Long Island's Bohemia either were or were descendents of Czechs from Europe. The town's population was about 1200 in 1940, rose to 3000 in 1955 and now is 11,000. There are still some Czech names in the village but with the influx of new people and intermarriage with people of different ethnic backgrounds, Bohemia is like all towns on Long Island with a rich mixture of nationalities and races.
St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague
Wenceslaus Square, Prague
Statue of St. Wenceslaus
The first three couples who settled in Bohemia, Vavra, Kratochvil and Koula had come from small villages not far from Prague and to the west and southwest. Mnichovice, below, was one of the larger communities in the area. The church is famous for its pulpit in the form of a whale, from whose mouth the speaker preaches.
The Dancing Building
The Vavras had no children. Mrs. Vavra's sister had a daughter, Barbara Kotek, born June 4, 1861. She was baptized the same day and her baptism is registered in the tiny parish church pictured at left. When she was 10, she was sent by her mother to live with the Vavras in Bohemia. At the age of 18, she married Frank Benedict, at that time living in Riverhead. Like many of their compatriots, they made their living by making cigars. Barbara and Frank eventually had five children and lived most of their lives in Bohemia. Frank died in 1926 and Barbara in 1944. Both are buried in Union Cemetery, Bohemia, in the same plot as the Vavras. Many of those who came to Bohemia came from the district or county with its seat in the city of Kutna Hora. The city had been important from the 13th century because of its silver mines. For many years, one of its silver coins had been the standard of exchange in Europe, almost like the euro.
St. Barbara Cathedral, Kutna Hora
Jan Kovarik Albina Knakal Kovarik
Jan and Albina Kovarik arrived in Bohemia in 1895. The family had owned a mill in the village of Malesov in the district of Kutna Hora. Jan had also served in the army from 1857 to 1867.
Village square and church in Malesov.