On October 15, 2000, Professor Edward Gobetz spoke at Euclid Slovenian Day at the Euclid Historical Museum. The following are excerpts from his address.
Euclid, an American Microcosm
… Our Slovenian Day of Euclid represents a double celebration: we wish to pay tribute to the rich heritage of Euclid and, at the same time, share with our fellow Americans and with each other a little bit of our own beautiful Slovenian heritage.
For, as the notable Slovenian American writer Louis Adamic put it in the very title of one of his most influential books, America is A Nation of Nations and we Slovenians, too, are proud to be a part of this great nation.
The Slovenian American bishop James Rausch elevated this ideal even higher when he selected the following title for his inspiring book, A Nation of Nations in the Family of Nations.
Like the Olympic Games, Euclid reaches back to Ancient Greece. When, in 1796, Gen. Moses Cleveland from Connecticut struggled to establish in what is now northeast Ohio the New Connecticut, also called the Western Reserve, and a tiny settlement was named the township of Cleveland in his honor, his 66 surveyors and helpers were very dissatisfied with the harsh conditions of the new virgin territory.
To appease them, Gen. Cleveland decided to sell 16,000 acres of land just east of Cleveland township to 41 of his surveyors at a price of one dollar per acre. (Don't we all wish more acres were available for sale at that price?!)
The lucky surveyors named their new possessions Euclid, after the great Greek mathematician and author of the Elements of Geometry who lived three centuries before Christ and whom Dr. Leonard Voorhees, the first president and curator of the Euclid Historical Society, named the patron saint of all surveyors.
In 1797 the township of Euclid was officially settled by eleven families and for the next 100 years kept growing at a very slow rate, reaching 3573 persons by 1900.
In the 20th century, however, its population has grown at a much faster rate, because of highly increased industrialization of the area, its settlement by new immigrants, and also because thanks to improved transportation Euclid has increasingly become an attractive residential suburb of the rapidly growing City of Cleveland.
By 1940, Euclid had a population of 17,866, and with some up and down fluctuations, it has reached a population of 54,875 by 1990, the last available Census figure. It has become a highly industrialized, prosperous, and respected multiethnic microcosm of the American mosaic.
Now, let us locate the Slovenian pebble, or should we say jewel, in this microcosm. It was on Palm Sunday, 1901, that a small group of Cleveland area Slovenians decided to make the long trip to Euclid to discuss a possible purchase of land in what was then a predominantly farming and grape growing community.
At long last they crossed the Cut Road (present E. 200 Street) to the farm of John Miller. Having been served good Euclid wine, four of their best singers, James Rotter, Karl Rotter, Frank Birtic, and Mike Luknar, soon improvised a quartet and, after drinking and singing, they purchased a number of lots, each lot with a down payment of $5.
Thus they laid the foundation for the rapidly growing Slovenian community of Euclid which they named "Bela" or White Ljubljana (Lyooblyana) after the cultural and political capital of Slovenia.
By 1909, the first Slovenian fraternal lodges were established in Euclid. Hard-working and frugal, used to 12-hour work days, local residents and their relatives and friends from Cleveland loved to visit on weekends with each other or gather in the shadow of fruit trees for picnics, wine tasting (or should we say drinking?), singing and dancing polka and waltzes to the happy tunes of Slovenian button boxes or accordions.
Euclid also had many churches and was nicknamed the Church Town. So a small Slovenian church was improvised on the site of present Recher Hall, yet having been served only from time to time by a visiting priest, it was abandoned after the tragic train accident death, in 1917, of young Fr. Paul Hribar (not to be confused with his uncle Msgr. Vitus Hribar).
Practicing Slovenian Catholics attended other churches, including especially St. Paul's where many Slovenian old timers, among them the first local settler Joseph Turk, are buried. There is also the grave of Fr. Paul Hribar.
Some Euclid Slovenians have always loved to go to St. Mary's Slovenian Church in Collinwood, or to St. Vitus in St. Clair neighborhood and, of course, to St. Christine's Church, long served by Slovenian pastors Bombach, Celesnik, Paik and Sterk.
The single most important unifying center of Euclid Slovenians, however, has been the Slovenian Society Home, also known as the American Jugoslav Center or simply as Recher Hall, located at the crossroads of Slovenian named Ljubljana and Recher streets.
Established in 1919, expanded in 1938, and built to its present size in 1950, it has for over 70 years served as home to numerous singing and dramatic societies, orchestras, fraternal lodges and cultural and social groups, such as Club Ljubljana (established in 1929), athletic groups, ladies auxiliaries and pensioners clubs, "balinca" enthusiasts, weddings and all kinds of other gatherings.
This is also the home base of two outstanding groups that have performed today, Zarj a, at 84 the oldest Slovenian secular singing society, under the baton of Dr. Richard Tomsic, and the SNPJ Circle No. 2, directed by Cecilia Dolgan.
It would take several hours … to list all Slovenian organizations and individuals who have contributed to social, cultural, economic, and political life and growth of Euclid. Some of them have streets in Euclid and adjacent areas named in their honor, for instance, Recher, Trebec, Mozina, Mavec, Kapel, Drenik, Grdina and others. There have been many leading businessmen, such as Josip Plevnik and the Gorniks whose permanent display is located in this museum.
Numerous Slovenians were elected city councilmen, as Madeline Debevec once reported, no fewer than three of them named Sustarsic, including Tony Sustarsic who, like Frank Chukayne, became city administrator and was, in 1975, elected Mayor of Euclid, while Robert Drobnic was building commissioner; Frank Cesen, city engineer; and Robert Debevec, law director.
The energetic Shirley Valencic currently serves on City Council. Ron Suster became state representative and judge; Edward Jerse councilman and state representative, and Dennis Eckart, the son of councilman Edward Eckart, was elected to the United States Congress.
And we are immensely proud of four star admiral Ronald Zlatoper, who was responsible for naval surveillance of 52 percent of the globe. We congratulate and salute his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Zlatoper, who have joined us in this celebration of the Slovenian Day, for having brought up such a distinguished son.
In 1941, there was a magnificent Euclid Slovenian Day in honor of poet, composer and musical director Ivan Zorman, a close friend of another Slovenian, Anton Schubel of Carnegie Hall fame, who directed many a concert also at Recher Hall.
In our Slovenian Heritage book we featured, among others, Louise Recher, a fantastic Slovenian athlete who reigned as Miss Euclid in 1948 and whose grandparents and parents were crucial in the establishment and fruitful continuation of Recher Hall, while she and John Habat (both of them present today) received American front page publicity in the 1950s as "chief apostles of water skiing on Lake Erie."
And who wouldn't be proud of the year 1948 when Euclid veterans hosted President Truman and Frank J. Lausche, at that time the governor of Ohio. Lausche, too, attended many a Slovenian concert at Recher Hall and, as some of you know, we later honored him with our book, Ohio's Lincoln Frank J. Lausche.
More recently, a young Slovenian American John Urbancich has become a trustee of Frances and Jane Lausche Foundation, where Jim and Madeline Debevec serve as president and secretary treasurer respectively, and has risen through the ranks to his present position of executive editor of all Sun Newspapers. And this success story of Euclid and of Slovenians continues, as evidenced also by this Euclid Slovenian Day, its program and exhibits.
Realizing that we would be pressed for time and I could not speak also about Slovenia… I have no doubt that every patriotic Slovenian will find something new and impressive and become even prouder of the amazing Slovenian accomplishments throughout the world.
In conclusion, let me say only this: Never confuse Slovenia with Slovakia - these are two respectable, yet different countries! Never think of Slovenia as a Balkan country since she is geographically and culturally a part of Central Europe, being located on the sunny side of the Alps and much closer to Vienna than to Belgrade or Kosovo.
Do not think of Slovenia as a troubled area of perpetual wars, since she is one of the most peaceful lands and her streets have been named in honor of poets and writers, not soldiers and generals.
Do not think of her as a Godforsaken place, since she is one of the most beautiful lands that has been often compared with Switzerland, but has also been blessed with access to the Adriatic Sea.
Think of her as a land of rich culture and relative prosperity which, in spite of her smallness (about the size of Massachusetts and a population of two million), has brought rich gifts to nearly every country of the world, as you will be able to read in our free literature and see in various exhibits.
And think of her as the home of Slovenians, an honest, hardworking, music and sports-loving, friendly and hospitable people!
The English scholar DeBray who had learned Slovenian and became an authority on Slovenian literature put it this way: Slovenians are "a people though small in numbers yet great in spirit."
And what do we say? We say only:
"2ivio Slovenci!" God bless Euclid, God bless America, and God bless Slovenia!
Top of Page
Back to Cleveland Slovenians