The Peoples of Utah, ed. by Helen Z. Papanikolas, © 1976
“Falcons in Flight: The Yugoslavs,” pp. 373–83
by Joseph Stipanovich
Oh, rocky Lika,3your soil is poor and barren, but for every one of your stones you have a gray falcon.
Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes began arriving in Utah in the last decade of the nineteenth century. The majority of them came to seek employment in the mines, smelters, and railroads of the state. They settled primarily in Bingham Canyon, in the Midvale-Murray area, and in the coal camps and towns of Carbon County. They were more often called Austrians than Slays and lived in neighborhoods called Bohunk Towns. The exact number of Yugoslavs who came to Utah will probably never be determined, but various indicators point to the presence of at least four thousand of them, including all generations, at the time of the enactment of the restrictive immigration legislation of 1924. They were a small group in comparison with others, such as the Scandinavians who preceded them, hut because of their concentration in laboring occupations in the smelting and mining industries, they formed a significant portion of the industrial working class in the state of Utah.4
The South Slays came from Austria-Hungary, from the provinces of Croatia-Slavonia, Camiola, Dalmatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina. They came for the most part from farming villages that were homogeneous units in culture, language, and religion. The Slovenes and Croats were Roman Catholics; the Serbs were Serbian Orthodox, an autocephalous national church in Christian Orthodoxy. The Slovenes spoke a distinct language and used a Latin alphabet for writing with modifications for Slavic sounds; the Serbs and Croats spoke several major dialects. There is controversy as to whether the Serbs and Croats spoke separate languages, but despite the differences they were mutually intelligible. The Serbs, however, used the Cyrillic alphabet while the Croats used the same modified Latin alphabet as the Slovenes, with only a minor deviation.5
The South Slav villages were composed of single nationalities. Serb villages may have been located in proximity to Croat villages and vice versa, but it was extremely rare for them to be mixed. Contacts with outside areas were few and subsistence farming and cottage industry occupied most of the time of the villagers. Compulsory legislation for the education of children was enacted toward the end of the nineteenth century by the imperial government, but it was enforced unevenly. The work in the household and in the fields required the assistance of the children in the poorer areas, especially during planting and harvesting of crops.6 As one Croatian woman explained:
Yes, yes…we go to school maybe a couple of years. That’s all we go. Maybe a couple of years. You see, my mother and nobody be home but me, I oldest one there. And then I didn’t go to school. Have to work home, you see.7
Because of the day-to-day grind for survival, the sons and daughters of the poor farmers were required to sacrifice the long-term benefits of education in order to ease the economic burdens that laid heavily upon all of them. The frustration resulting from the cycle of poverty was the strong element in the decision to emigrate. The wealth ofAmerika had become common knowledge and the subject of a thousand rumors in the inns and coffeehouses of the villages.8
The grim nature of South Slav peasant existence in the preemigration period is difficult to exaggerate or ignore; its impact can lead one to forget that very real as well as symbolic forces were at work in the emigration-immigration processes.
In the regions where Yugoslavs emigrated, agriculture was unable to provide adequate food, fodder, and fibers for the indigenous populations without periodic interruptions. When crops failed or were below average in yields, famines occurred or conditions were created that insured famine would come the following year. The problem was compounded by the continual rise in population, particularly in the nineteenth century. The people lacked the means of acquiring money that would have enabled them to buy the food they failed to produce. When opportunities for emigration to industrial areas appeared, they seemed a solution to the Malthusian dilemma that was shared by the majority of South Slav peasants in Austria-Hungary. With the memory of famine and its concomitant ills fresh in their minds, the original immigrants found the industrial environment much less forbidding than it appears in retrospect.
Once the Yugoslav immigrant committed himself to his existence as an industrial worker in America, a profound change took place in his attitude. The dangers of industrial work were much more swift in their realization than had been true of the dangers of subsistence agriculture. In the coalmines, the metal mines, and the smelters, death and disabling injury were frequent. The daily struggle for bread became a struggle to survive: borba za opstanak. The commitment to unionization can only be understood in this context, for this commitment became a continuation of the Yugoslavs’ earlier struggles against the Turks and the German-Austrians. Industrial managers and corporations controlled their environment; the Yugoslavs felt that if they could not modify the conditions, they would be destroyed.9
Many of the South Slav villagers had always sought seasonal employment in the industrial areas of Austria and Germany. At first they went at the instigation of labor agents and, later, on their own initiative. They traveled north to work for several months, to save as much of their wages as they could, and then to return home in early spring. The Slovenes were among the first to go. The fabled wealth of America, however, soon overshadowed the harsh German industrial environment, despite the latter’s nearness to the South Slav lands. One Serb reflected the change when he told of his experience:
I work in Germany eight months. I made money in Germany and I saved. And I don’t think it cost me more than sixty dollars…to buy ticket for America.10
The labor gangways and factories of Germany and Austria thus began to serve as the training area for many future Utah workers and to provide a means of accumulating the fare to America without going into debt. This was an important consideration for those who were primarily concerned with saving their wages and returning to their villages, rather than going to a distant land to work out their lives as industrial laborers.
The movement to America was at first similar to the seasonal migrations to Central Europe. The greatest difference lay in the scale of the trans-Atlantic movements: the distances traveled and the time spent working in the new lands were both much greater. Most of the workers in this period returned to their villages if they survived the dangers of industrial work, and a great many of them made the journey several times. One Serb explained how his family was affected by this process and how he interpreted the significance of the process:
Well, just like the rest of the immigrants, you know, my father didn’t figure to stay. He earned a little bit of money and then go back home. That’s where he made a great mistake, you know. In those days people think a lot about home…They didn’t care much, they didn’t know the language, the English, and that was why they got lost. All they could speak was, those days, the German language (besides their native tongues). That’s why those days you could get pretty good jobs if you spoke German language.11
As sons began to follow fathers, subtle changes took place in attitudes toward immigration. The idea of getting one’s daily bread by working for cash wages for a lifetime slowly took hold. One Serb, who arrived before his sixteenth birthday, recalled the mood of the people:
At that time people just started to come over to this country and everybody said that there was wealth here and you make fast money and all that. My father was already here and come back. He was working down here in Midvale smelter and he come back to the old country…But that was hard life when I come here and start working and wasn’t easy like now…12
And so the gradual transition from short-term migrants to long-term immigrants began. The transition was never complete, for aged immigrants still returned to the old country, or stari kraj, for prolonged stays or even in old age to retire there on their Social Security payments.
Many of the short-term migrants did not survive the illnesses and accidents resulting from industrial work. The death of the head of household placed greater strains upon other male members of the family to emigrate and to replace the relative who had been sending cash to help support the family. The small farms could afford the absence of several males because of the general rural overpopulation that existed in the South Slav lands in Austria-Hungary throughout the nineteenth century. As one woman pointed out:
They didn’t need every man. Just woman work. Woman work. Woman work harder than a man in the village.13
And in the decade between 1904 and 1914 a great number of males, between the ages of fourteen and thirty years, went to America and some to Utah.
The period of migration to America tended to be longer than the period of migration to Austria and Germany had been. One result of this was the emigration of women to Utah, and to other places in America, to join husbands already there or to many. The arrival of the first woman in each South Slav community was a memorable event for the men and for the arriving women. One of the original Serbs in Midvale recalled what occurred there:
They had saloon there in Midvale and some Serb used to run saloon there. First woman come there. His wife come there…God, well, you know, we crazy. See her, first woman from, come from Yugoslavia. We give her $800 that night. Wedding present …you know how people use to marry. They never give anything but money.14
The raising of a family on American soil proved to be an important element in the decision of many Yugoslavs to remain. As children were born, it became almost impossible for the workers to save the money that would make their return to the village economically feasible. Recessions, depressions, and panics consumed precious savings. When this happened, some people with money went home, while those who had none went into debt. One man recalled the effect of the Panic of 1907:[My father] came right here in Midvale and worked in the smelter until 1907. There was a panic in here for about seven months and they had no money and most of them that had money went back home.15
The dangers of industrial work and the cyclical fluctuations of the American economy required the South Slays to develop additional means of acquiring and maintaining stable economic positions. These dangers also required them to depend upon many of their traditions that assumed added significance in their new industrial environment.
Godfatherhood, the extended family, fraternal organizations, and boardinghouse life gave the Slav immigrants solidarity in an unwelcome environment. Kumstvo, or godfatherhood, among the Serbs and Croats, insured the immigrants that their children would be protected if they died. The roles of the male kum and the female kuma (boter and botra among the Slovenes) antedate Christianity among the South Slays. One Croat told of the meaning of the godfather to the Slavic immigrants:
Kum, yeah, that means “godfather.” I’m godfather to several…I’m godfather both in the Roman Catholic church and the Orthodox church…You see, a kum is a very important part of the Slav people’s background. What I mean, if you’re a kum or godfather, if anything happened to you, to your mother or father, it is my responsibility to see that you have a proper bringing up both in education and health-wise and physical wise…they stress that quite a bit it was a sacred thing in the Slav people’s language. They make fun of, the American people make fun of it by this Godfather deal …actually a godfather, in the Slav, among the Slav people is a fellow that is looked up to and is very well thought of…16
In the mines and smelters of Utah many Yugoslav workers lost their lives, and the godfather and godmother often fulfilled their maximum duties.17
The tradition of the extended family gave security in alien surroundings and tempered longings for home. Called zadruga, the extended family, like the kumstvo, traces back to pre-Christian times.18 In America the extended family appeared as more and more male members of one patronymic group clustered together in one geographical space. In Utah this happened frequently among the Serbs and Croats in Bingham Canyon and in Midvale, and among the Slovenes in Carbon County. For example, one man came to Highland Boy in 1907 from a Serbian village in Croatia. By 1910 three brothers with their wives and children had joined the man as had their father. The three-generation zadruga that was formed continued to function for approximately ten years.19 Such familial groupings were common among the Yugoslav people in Utah; it was a subtle blending of elements of their own cultural past with the realities of industrial employment and immigration.
Fraternal organizations, too, helped mitigate the ill effects of industrial employment in a strange environment. These were different types: some were politically oriented like the Yugoslav Socialist Federation; others were oriented to the basic economic and artistic needs of the people. Insurance for deaths, disabling accidents, and unemployment arising from sickness or economic slowdowns was provided by several national and regional organizations. Slovenska Narodna Pod porna jednota (“Slovene National Benefit Society”), or “Snappy J” as it is referred to affectionately, was created in 1904 in Cleveland, Ohio, to serve Slovenian workers in America. SNPJ lodges were created simultaneously in Bingham Canyon, Murray, and Carbon County, Utah, that same year. Most of these lodges continue to function.20
Hrvatska Bratska Zajednica (“Croatian Fraternal Union”) dates back to 1894.21 The first Croatian lodge in Utah was founded in Bingham Canyon in 1908. It served the Croatian communities in Midvale and in Bingham Canyon. There are two Croatian lodges functioning in Midvale at the present time, and there are others in Murray and Carbon County. The Srpski Narodni Savez (“Serb National Federation”) organized a lodge in Bingham in 1928 on the framework of a lodge that was originally established in the canyon in 1908. A remnant of this lodge continues to function, but the majority of the Serbs now belong to the Slovenian or Croatian lodges or to the Zapadni Slavenski Savez (“Western Slavonic Association”), an insurance organization in Denver, Colorado, that serves all Slays in the western United States.22
Although the South Slav insurance organizations paid out thousands of dollars in benefits to their members in Utah, they provided other functions that were of equal if not greater importance. Each organization printed newspapers in the Slovenian or Serbo-Croatian languages, and later in English, that gave news and views of America, the old country, and the world to their readers. The SNPJ printed Pros veta (“Enlightenment”); the Serb National Federation printed Amerikanski Srbo bran (American edition of “Serbian Defense”); the Croatian Fraternal Union published Zajednicar (“The Unionist”); and the Yugoslav Socialist Federation printed the Proletarec (“Proletarian”). Also, these organizations provided literary works, dramatic and musical entertainment group tours, and books and pamphlets to the Slav communities in Utah and across the nation through the matica (“cultural society”). Each South Slav organization maintained a matica, and it was through these organizations that the national literature, the national romantic history, and the then current cultural activities of the Yugoslavs in America and in the old country were transmitted to the Yugoslav communities scattered throughout the United States.23
The work of these formal institutions tended to be secondary, however, to the oral traditions maintained in many South Slav families. For centuries the Slovenes, the Croats, and the Serbs in Croatia had maintained their culture and historical consciousness primarily through their separate oral traditions.24 This occurred because the majority of the people were unable to read or write and because it was not until the nineteenth century that the Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs developed their modern grammatical styles. The oral tradition was carried over to the Yugoslav communities in Utah. The following passage from a much longer discourse on the origin of Zumbercani, a subgroup of the Croatian people, made by a man who had emigrated from Zumberak to America, reflects this:
See, this Croatian come. Greek Catholic came away from Serbia when the Turks and Serbia had war. Maria Theresa, queen of Austria, she declare war on the Turk and take Serbia away. And Maria Theresa she wanted everybody to join Catholic Church to Rome. And a lot of people says, “Well, I be good honest soldier to you, but don’t take my cross.” See, the Greek cross with three fingers and Catholic with one hand. So she divided the part of Croatia I come from, from Serbia, away from the Turks. And [the people] said, “We’ll be honest to you as soldiers, fight for you, die for you, but let [us] believe [our] religion.” So we used to hold the Christmas on January 7, like old ordered us to do, of Serbia. But [they] says, “We’ll believe in the Rome.” So they start believing in the Rome, but they still had Christmas on different than Catholic day. Austria think better to split up three brothers [Serb, Croat, Slovene) like this so they can’t get together and be afraid, maybe, that they work against the government of Austria…25
The oral tradition was continued in the lodges of the national and regional fraternal-insurance organizations. The local of the Serbian national organization in Bingham Canyon and in Midvale was named Milosh Obilich i Tsar Dushan.26 In Serbian legend and the narodni epi (“national epics”), Milosh Obilich was the Serbian knight who rode into the Turkish camp after the Serbian defeat at Kosovo Polje (June 28, 1389) and slew the Turkish sultan, Murad II. Tsar Stephen Dushan, the greatest of the Nemanjid emperors of Serbia, in his last years, challenged the Turks and the Byzantines for political and spiritual control of the Balkan peninsula. The Croats and the Slovenes named their lodges in a similar fashion, drawing upon the imagery and symbolism of their history to reinforce their identity in the new environment.
Added to godfatherhood, the extended family, and fraternal organizations, the boardinghouse completed a circle of protection and support around the South Slays. Boardinghouses were developed by workers, industrial management, and entrepreneurs wherever housing was in short supply. In a variety of ways they were utilized by workers of many different nationalities and races, and, except for the huge company-managed boardinghouses, they tended to be segregated according to the race or nationality of the occupants. Boardinghouses varied in size from the small, usually private home that boarded two or three countrymen, to the large, often company-owned structure that could house more than a hundred workers. For the average Yugoslav family taking in boarders meant a little extra income and a lot of extra work for the woman or women of the household. Laundry, cleaning, and cooking chores were increased for those already burdened with children, communal plumbing, and primitive cooking and laundering facilities. The Yugoslav women strove to end the boarding system in their homes and were relieved when the practice died out after 1924.27
The kumstvo, the extended family, the national and regional fraternal-insurance societies, and the taking-in of boarders were just a few devices that the Serb, Croat, and Slovene immigrants used in their efforts to improve and maintain their economic status in the industrial environment in Utah and in other industrial areas of the United States. All stressed the ethnic bonds which united the Yugoslav people even before their arrival in the United States. The South Slays, however, were also participants in organizations that were not based on ethnic exclusiveness but reflected interests common to other people as well as themselves. The most prominent of these organizations were the labor union and the church.
Labor unions attracted the interest of the most transitory of Yugoslav workers in Utah, perhaps as a result of their exposure to the German and Austrian trade union movement. In 1903 South Slav coal miners in Utah supported Italian coal miners in a strike in Carbon County.28 Many of the Slavic coal miners, who did not first emigrate to Germany or Austria, were also exposed to trade unions and their beneficial effects prior to their arrival in Utah. One Slovene recounted his exposure to unionism:
Well, I go from Colorado then I went to Red Lodge, Montana…This was coal mine, Butte was metal mine. And they was paying dues, they had union up there. And so that’s where I went and they were paying better wages up there than they were here so that’s where I went. I stayed there for two years.29
A large number of other Yugoslav miners passed through the coalmines of the Red Lodge area and came to the coalmines of Carbon County, already in possession of their membership cards in the United Mine Workers of America (UM WA). As a result of this early exposure to unions and belief in their efficacy, the Yugoslav miners supported other coal industry strikes in 1922 and 1933. In 1933 the South Slav miners were the main supporters of the National Miners Union strike that led directly to recognition of the UMWA by the companies. Prior to 1933 and for several years after, the newly recognized union succeeded in achieving little for its membership. The labor union’s main function, in effect, was to serve as a social organization that bridged, but did not destroy, the ethnic and cultural differences between Utah workers.
In the Catholic churches in Utah, Slovenes and Croats shared pews with Italians and other nationalities. These churches did not, however, function as “melting pots” where ethnic differences were dissipated, as has been postulated by some scholars.30 Except for the Mass, the people used the church in ethnic groups, not as a congregational whole. For example, the christening of a Croatian child would be attended by Croats and an Italian wedding by Italians. In addition, many men from all nationalities did not attend even the Mass because of the demands of their work and disinclination. A similar relationship developed between the Orthodox Serbs and Greeks in the Greek Orthodox churches in Utah. The first marriage to be solemnized in the newly built Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Salt Lake City in 1905 was Serbian.31 The Serbs continued to use the “old” calendar and to celebrate Christmas on January 7, even though the Greek Orthodox adopted the “new” date of December 25.
In part a carry-over from pre-Christian attitudes and in part because of a mistrust in conspicuous displays of piety by lay church members since conversion to Christianity, the South Slays displayed ambivalence toward the formal manifestations of their religions. The acceptance of the basic religious values, as evidenced through customary behavior and by social interchange with one’s neighbors, was the true worth of religion to many Yugoslavs. As one man put it:
Churches all the same, just different religion. But if people believe any church–you won’t be bad fellow.32
Because of the opposition of the Catholic church to labor unions, many conflicts arose between Catholic workers and the local clergy. This tended to reinforce the ambivalent attitudes of the South Slays toward formal religion and its role in their lives. A crisis between Catholic Yugoslav workers and the clergy developed in 1933 when, out of desperation, the former supported the Communist National Miners Union (NMU) in a strike. Although the NMU was broken, the strike led directly to recognition of the UMWA and to deep antagonisms between the Yugoslav workers and their priests. The wounds of this period did not heal for a decade.
The central theme of Yugoslav immigration to Utah is that of struggle for existence. The South Slays called the struggle borba za nasusni hieb, or “the fight for daily bread.” It involved all members of the family, and it required a great deal of their energies. Such struggle did not originate in America. Most of the immigrants’ attitudes toward the conflict were partially formed through the prism of their previous collective and individual history. These attitudes received their final shape in the crucible of industrial conflict in America.
A sense of isolation and defensiveness had developed between the Yugoslavs and their work environment. Occasionally, this sense of hostility developed between Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, and between the Slays and their Mormon neighbors. Because religion was central to their concept of nationality and culture (i.e., adherence to Roman Catholicism for Slovenes and Croats, and Orthodoxy for Serbs), there developed fertile ground for internecine conflict primarily between Serbs and Croats, and, secondarily, between the Yugoslavs and the Mormons.
Feuding continued between Serbs and Croats in Bingham Canyon from 1908 to 1918. It was based on several disparate factors, most of which were rooted in the experience of the old country. In some areas of Croatia, for example, there had existed a tradition of hostility, or at best, friendly competition, between Serbs and Croats. As one immigrant remembered:
Well, of course, I didn’t have no problem, but in my village there wasn’t any mixed religion at all. They was all Serbian people. But, generally, between those peoples, Serbs and Croats, there was an unfriendly feeling between them–Never was too friendly, anyhow…33
The vagne hostility was fed by political events in the Balkans in 1908 when Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina lands that were desired by the kingdom of Serbia and whose people would probably have preferred union with Serbia rather than with Austria. Ultra-nationalist Serbs in Bingham Canyon used such events to provoke arguments with the Croats who were already displeased with Serbian labor contractors who hired Croatian workers for Utah Copper Company.34 A Serb who was residing in Midvale at the time recalled his fears of going to Bingham, especially Highland Boy, and his feelings about the general situation:
In stari kraj we use to celebrate Christmas and have a good time [together]. And up the son of a gun Bingham Canyon there was murder. Born in same country, talk same language, and everything else and just because of church. Well, that’s that damn couple of guys up there making the trouble between the people.35
The conflict reached ominous proportions when World War I began and the United States entered the war against the Central Powers.
The Croats and Slovenes in Utah were not anxious to serve in the United States Army in World War I because they dreaded the possibility of fighting their relatives, many of whom were serving in the Austrian and even the German armies.36 The Serbs in Utah, on the other hand, looked upon the war as a veritable crusade and as the concluding episode in the five-hundred-year struggle for national liberation. More than two hundred young Serbian men from Bingham Canyon volunteered and served in the Serbian and French armies during 1917 and 1918.37 As the Serbs watched their sons and brothers marching off to war while the Croats and Slovenes did not, hostilities began. The absence of young male Serbs proved a blessing for community relations in Bingham Canyon; it removed a vociferous and energetic element that had kept the feuds alive. With the cessation of hostilities and the creation of the kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (renamed Yugoslavia, Land of the South Slays, in 1929) the tensions between the Serbs and Croats were lessened.
World War I had an interesting side effect on the Yugoslav community in Utah. Many Slovenes and Croats who had served in the Austrian army emigrated to Utah between 1919 and 1924. A large number of these men had served on the Russian front and had been captured. As prisoners of war they witnessed the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Bolshevik coup d’etat of the same year. Many of the South Slays joined the Bolsheviks in the course of the Russian Civil War, including one Joseph Broz who was to become President Tito of Yugoslavia in 1945. One Serb immigrant recounted what happened to his brother:
That’s my brother, yes. He is in Russia since the First World War. And he’s got three doctors in his family. One son and two daughters is doctor…First World War we was under Austrians. He don’t like Austria and he went over to Russia. To fight against the Austrians. He stayed there, yes, he did and he married there twice.38
A Slovene who fought in Russia for the Austrians told of his experience:
- They sent my company to Russia, you know, to fight Bolshevik. We fight those communists there in Russia and I stay in Russia one year…I don’t care what kind of soldier come into your country, you’re not going to like it. I don’t care what it is. Now American is in Germany, you know German hate American…When I been in Russia they like me personally, but they don’t like us being there. They tell me, “You go to your territory. That’s mine. You got nothing here. That’s nothing but right, isn’t it? That’s the way its supposed to be.”39
These later immigrants brought not only a cosmopolitan element to the South Slav communities in Utah but also firsthand information of momentous events in Europe, including the Russian situation, the Italian occupation of parts of Slovenia and Croatia, and the formation of the new South Slav kingdom.
The secondary area of interethnic friction for the Yugoslavs lay in their relations with the Mormons. Much of this friction was generated by socio-economic factors, especially the competition between Yugoslav and Mormon workers and between Yugoslav and Mormon businessmen. (Other nationalities from southern and eastern Europe, primarily the Greeks and Italians, were also competitors.) The ideological background to the conflict was based in the separateness that the Yugoslavs maintained in language, culture, and community and in the primacy that the Mormons felt was their birthright in the land that their ancestors had settled and subdued.
Labor disputes brought mutual antipathies into public view and deepened antagonisms that developed over several decades. Mormon businessmen and political leaders took advantage of labor strife to stress the “un-American” and “Bolshevik” proclivities of the Yugoslavs and other ethnic workers. Epithets such as “No-name-ovich” and “Bohunk” were used in identifying the Yugoslavs. They were held up to ridicule for their accents and their “obscure” origins by the progeny of the “blood of Israel.” The result of these social encounters, particularly those that occurred during the twenties and thirties, was to strengthen the internal bonds of each group and to perpetuate. albeit to a lesser degree, the suspicions and fears that each group held for the other.40
The overall impact of the immigration experience in Utah upon the Yugoslavs and their descendants is almost impossible to determine with the data that is presently available. Vital information, for example, remains restricted from historians in the manuscript census collections that have been taken by the United States government since 1910. Various local sources of information, including newspapers that were printed by the South Slays in Utah and personal records, are still being sought for collection, deposit in library or museum, and for analysis. It will take more time and effort, however, to amass and sift the materials for comprehensive analysis. Three general observations about the Yugoslavs in Utah and their history can nevertheless be made.
First, the South Slays in Utah are still in the immigration and accommodation process. The decisions made by each succeeding generation determine the overall meaning of the experience of the original immigrants. Continually, behavior, values, and organizations are changed, discarded, or developed anew; and it is extremely hard to make observations beyond the superficial and the truistic. The lodges are still flourishing, for example, but they have lost many of their cultural and social functions. The kumstvo is still in use as are various forms of the extended family. Slovenian and Serbo-Croatian are still used as linguistic mediums in the press and in everyday communication. Recently aSlovenski Dom (“Slovenian Home”) was established in Helper to serve the cultural and social needs of the South Slays in Carbon County.41 The continuity between past and present is strong and causes the observer to look for the end to the migration cycle.
Second, the Yugoslav communities in Utah form only a part of an extensive network of Yugoslav settlements that still exist in the western United States. The coal mines of southeastern Colorado and Washington, southwestern Wyoming, and northern New Mexico attracted the South Slays as did the copper mines of Nevada and Montana. The communities in Utah are the geographical and historical center of these Yugoslav settlements in the Inter-mountain West. Better understanding of these other settlements will result in a better understanding of the settlements in Utah. Comprehensive programs of oral history and documentation should be undertaken for all of them.
Third, and in conclusion, a word should be said about the role of ethnic history. A noted historian of American immigration has written that:
The histories of single ethnic groups…are open to the criticism that they neglect the common aspects of that experience which transcend ethnic differences.42
It can be contended, however, that the most common aspect of the transcendental in American history is that we are all ethnics. The acceptance of this hypothesis does not require the filiopietal worship of our ancestors, but it frees us from the rigidity of the concept of the new American man; and it forces us to explore the ethnic dimensions of our social, economic, and cultural history with a critical eye, grace, and compassion. Such an injection into the realm of American history could bring more quality to our scholarship and, perhaps, to our lives.
1 The Yugoslavs, or South Slays, are those ethnic, linguistic, and cultural groups known as the Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Macedonians, and Bulgarians. Only the Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs from Croatia, however, are treated in this paper. The terms “Yugoslav” and “South Slav” refer only to these three groups, unless otherwise indicated.
2 Lika is a region of Croatia, on the Adriatic Sea. Approximately 50 percent of the Yugoslav immigrants in Utah came from this region.
3 “Gray falcon” is a poetic image connoting “hero.”
4 A detailed description of the causes and the techniques of immigration from South Slav lands to Utah is contained in Joseph Stipanovich, The South Slays in Utah: A Social History (San Francisco, 1975), p. 119.
5 The early development of the Slavonic languages is treated in Dmitri Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth: Eastern Europe, 500–1453 (New York, 1971), p. 445.
6 For descriptions of life among the South Slav peasants in Austria-Hungary prior to World War I see Emily Greene Balch, Our Slavic Fellow Citizens (New York, 1910), p. 536; R.J. Kerner, ed., Yugoslavia(Berkeley, 1949), p. 558; C.A. Macartney, The Habsburg Empire, 1790–1918 (New York, 1969), p. 886; and R.W. Seton-Watson, The Southern Slay Question and the Hapsburg Monarchy (1911; reprint ed., New York, 1969), p. 463.
7 Interview with Tonka Bolic, August 14, 1972, Salt Lake City, Utah; American West Center Minorities Collection No. C-2, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.
8 Jozo Tomasevich, Peasants, Politics, and Economic Change in Yugoslavia (Stanford, 1955), p. 80-131.
9 For an individual statement of this position see interview with Mile Dragosavac, June 22, 1972, American West Center Minorities Collection No. C-12.
11 Interview with Joseph Church, October 28, 1972, Leadmine, Utah, American West Center Minorities Collection No. C-18.
12 Mile Dragosavac interview.
13 Bolic interview.
14 Interview with Joseph Mikic, January 27, 1973, Midvale, Utah, American West Center Minorities Collection No. C-23.
15 Interview with Joseph Hinich, June 27, 1972, Salt Lake City, Utah, American West Center Minorities Collection No. C-23.
16 Interview with George Pezell, July 17, 1972, Salt Lake City, Utah, American West Center Minorities Collection No. C-1.
17 For frequency of industrial accidents see, for example, Utah, Facts and Figures Pertaining to Utah (Second Report of the State Bureau of Immigration, Labor, and Statistics) (Salt Lake City, 1913) ; Death Benefit Payment 1904–1924, by lodge, SNPJ Collection, Immigrant Archives, University of Minnesota; and Isaac F. Marcosson, Metal Magic, The Story of the American Smelting and Refining Company(New York, 1949), p. 313.
18 Literature on the zadruga and kinship ties among the South Slays is extensive. Some helpful works include Philip E. Mosely, “The Peasant Family: The Zadruga or Communal Joint Family in the Balkans and its Recent Evolution,” C.F. Ware, ed., The Cultural Approach to History (New York, 1940), pp. 95–108; Eugene A. Hammel, Alternative Social Structures and Ritual Relations in the Balkans(Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1968), p. 110; Joel M. Halpern, The Serbian Village (New York, 1958), p. 325; and Vera St. Erlich, Family in Transition: A Study of 300 Yugoslav Villages (Princeton, N.J., 1966), p. 469.
19 Interview with Gray Melich, January 24, 1973, Murray, Utah, American West Center Minorities Collection No. C-22.
20 Slovenska Narodna Podporna Jednota, Manuscript Collection, Immigrant Archives, University of Minnesota.
21 George J. Prpic, The Croatian Immigrants in America (New York, 1971), pp. 125, 264.
22 Interview with Milka Smilanich, December 1972, Leadmine, Utah, American West Center Minorities Collection No. C-21.
23 Prosvetna Matica, JSZ, Manuscript Collection, Immigrant Archives, University of Minnesota.
24 For a critique and theory of South Slav epic poetry see Albert Bates Lord, The Singer of Tales (Cambridge, Mass., 1960), p. 309.
25 Interview with John Dunoskovic, September 20, 1972, Midvale, Utah, American West Center Minorities Collection No. C-3.
26 Dunoskovic Manuscript Collection, South Slav Archives, Western Americana, Marriott Library, University of Utah.
27 Interview with Milja Dragosavac, June 22, 1972, Salt Lake City, Utah, American West Center Minorities Collection No. C-12.
28 State of Utah, Coal Inspector’s Report (Salt Lake City, 1904), p. 66.
29 Interview with John Skerl, January 12, 1973, Helper, Utah, American West Center Minorities Collection No. C-7.
30 For a view of the ethnic community church functioning as a “melting pot” see Timothy L. Smith, “New Approaches to the History of Immigration in the Twentieth Century,” American Historical Review 71 (1966): 1265–79.
31 Stefanos Lazarovitch and Anna Bonasovitch were married by Father Parthenios Lymheropoulos on November 9, 1905.
32 Dunoskovic interview.
33 Interview with Joseph Hinich, June 19, 1972, Salt Lake City, Utah, American West Center Minorities Collection No. C-22.
34 For information concerning Serhian labor contractors see the copies of Utah Copper Company Employment Records (1908–1918) presently housed in the American West Center, University of Utah.
35 Mikic interview.
36 Dunoskovic interview.
37 Bingham Press Bulletin, March 22, 1918, and Church interview.
38 Mile Dragosavac interview.
39 Interview with Anton Klarich, January 13, 1973, Price, Utah, American West Center Minorities Collection No. C-9.
40 For detailed accounts of one conflict between Mormons and the ethnic workers, see Rolla West Manuscript, American West Center, University of Utah, and Helen Z. Papanikolas, “Unionism, Communism, and the Great Depression: The Carbon County Coal Strike of 1933,” Utah Historical Quarterly 41 (1973): 254–300.
41 Interview with Joseph Chesnik, January 12, 1973, Helper, Utah, American West Center Minorities Collection No. C-8.
42 Rudolph J. Vecoli, “European Americans: From Immigrants to Ethnics,” The Reinterpretation of American History and Culture, eds. William H. Cartwright and Richard L. Watson, Jr. (Washington, D.C., 1973), p. 93.