Bay AreaSan Francisco's history of immigration continues today, as Czechs and Slovaks are drawn to the engineering and technology opportunities of Silicon Valley
As with other nationalities, the San Francisco Bay Area has been a settling point for generations of Czechs and Slovaks. While early immigrants found places to live in the city, the technology hub of Silicon Valley has been attracting post-communism emigres. Although more spread out today, the Bay Area Czech and Slovak community continues to thrive.
Below are some of the stories of the Czechs and Slovaks who settled in the San Francisco Bay Area:
July 17, 2012
Jerry Barta was born in Prague in 1950. He studied typography and worked as a graphic designer and teaching assistant. Jerry left Czechoslovakia in 1974 after he forged a letter which helped him to obtain a visa. After several months in a refugee camp in Germany, Jerry and his wife moved to California and settled in the San Francisco Bay area. Today he owns the graphic design company Pacific Digital Image.
June 26, 2012
George Malek was born in Tábor in southern Bohemia. The middle of three boys, George enjoyed woodworking and math when he was younger. After two years in the Czech military, he attended ČVUT and studied computer engineering. Shortly after the Warsaw Pact invasion in August 1968, George crossed the border and emigrated to Canada. Today, he lives in Los Gatos, California and spends several months a year in Prague.
June 26, 2012
Peter Palecek was born in Prague in 1940. His father was a member of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile in Britain during WWII. Following the Communist coup, Peter's father was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Peter studied at Prague's Nerudovo gymnázium and then ČVUT in Prague. He came to the United States to attend Stanford University in 1969. After the Velvet Revolution, Peter returned to Prague to re-establish the shoe firm Bat'a as a private company in Czechoslovakia.
August 22, 2012
Jana Pochop grew up the small village of Bukovina u Pecky in northeastern Bohemia. Her family's farm was collectivized in the early 1950s. Jana married Vladimir Pochop in 1970 and moved to Prague. She completed her degree in psychology from Charles University in 1979 and shortly after left Czechoslovakia. The couple lived in Munich for over a year before moving to the United States. The Pochops settled in California where Jana worked as a physical therapist.
August 22, 2012
Vladimir Pochop was born in Lázně Bělohrad in northeastern Bohemia and grew up in Nová Paka. He studied computer science at ČVUT. In 1980, Vladimir left the country with his wife, Jana. The couple lived in Munich before immigrating to the United States. Vladimir and Jana settled in California where Vladimir has worked for several software and tech companies.
May 22, 2013
Dagmar Russ was born in Prague in 1929. Her then-husband, an ex-RAF pilot, helped plan a triple hijacking of ČSA airplanes to escape the country. Dagmar was a passenger on one of the planes, all of which landed at the American air base in Erding, Germany. Dagmar lived in Toronto for eight years and then moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where she owned a sewing shop. Today Dagmar lives in San Mateo, California.
May 02, 2013
George Skoda was born in Prague in 1927. In the waning months of WWII, he was recruited to dig ditches near Olomouc for the German war effort. After a short time, with the end of the War imminent, George escaped from his work detail and returned to Prague. After the communist coup in February 1948, George decided that he didn’t want to ‘live under another occupation’ and left the country.
October 03, 2013
Stan Skokan was born in Prague in 1942. His grandfather owned an HVAC company and, in 1949, his father was sent to a labor camp for 18 months. Stan worked as a technician at JAWA and later as an engineer at the computer research institute in Prague. He left the country in September 1968 and eventually settled in California where he worked for HP for many years. Today Stan lives in Redwood City, CA.
April 04, 2012
Georgina Teyrovsky was born in Prague in 1924. During WWII she was sent to work as a draftswoman and experienced the bombing of Prague in February 1945. Georgina and her husband left Czechoslovakia shortly after the Communist coup in 1948 and immigrated to Australia. In 1955, they moved to the United States and settled in Oakland, California where they raised two daughters and owned a dye house.
June 12, 2013
Mark Zejdl was born in Petrovice, a village outside of Prague, in 1943. He moved to northern Bohemia with his family when his father was sent to work in the coal mines. Mark trained as a cook and left Czechoslovakia in 1970. He settled in San Francisco where he worked in hotels and restaurants, and opened his own establishments in the city. Mark returned to Prague after he retired where he lives with his wife Brenda.
April 03, 2014
Milos Zivny was born in Kroměříž in 1935. He studied engineering in Prague and married his wife, Zelmira, shortly before graduating. In 1984, Milos and his family left Czechoslovakia by crossing the Yugoslav-Austria border. They eventually settled in Oakland, California, where Milos owned a cabinet-making business.
April 03, 2014
Zelmira Zivny was born in the village of Blšany in 1937. As this was part of the Sudetenland, her family was forced to leave the following year, when Hitler annexed the area as part of the Munich Agreement. Zelmira studied journalism at Charles University and worked for Czech radio and several publications prior to leaving the country in 1984. Zelmira and her family settled in Oakland, California.