Margret Vesely, born 1988
Margret Vesely was born in 1988 in Aurora, Illinois. Her mother, Anna Vesela, had moved to the Chicago area from a small Slovak village the year before and married Margret’s father, a Czech-American. Her sisters, Brona and Zuzana, had stayed behind in Slovakia when their mother left for the United States and joined the family several months after Margret’s birth. While growing up Margret frequently traveled to Liptovské Sliače to visit her grandparents and other family members. She even attended school in the village for a short time.
Margret is fluent in Slovak and regularly speaks the language with her family. She says that she enjoys celebrating traditions during the holidays, especially at Christmas. For many years Margret participated in a Moravian dance group, and she enjoys listening to Slovak radio. Although born in the United States. Margret says that her connection to her heritage leads her to consider herself more Slovak than American.
Since graduating from high school, Margret has attended the College of DuPage and the University of Illinois at Chicago with the intent of studying law. She continues to visit Slovakia, and Europe, where she has made lifelong friends. Today Margret lives in Willowbrook, Illinois.
Although Margret is fluent in Slovak, she says she was reluctant to learn the language
“When I was younger I didn’t want to speak Slovakian. I thought it was a dumb language and I didn’t need and why would I use it. There’s not a lot of Slovakians… There’s no real use for the Slovak language in America, but there are communities that you can get along with. But now I am so thankful that I know Slovak, I know a different language. A lot of people say that it makes you smarter but I just feel that I am blessed in a way, that I can travel to somewhere and see and be able to communicate with these people and be able to understand each other. So it’s very neat to me.”
Margret has spent a lot of time in Slovakia and even attended school there for a short time
“I went to school there for a month and I cried every day. I hated it. But that’s because my mom sent me there by myself and my aunt was still a teacher, so she got me into school so I could learn how to read and write, obviously. I was there for a month and I made some friends but I just didn’t like that you were in the classroom, and it was very different because the teacher would walk in and you had to stand up, and if you didn’t then that was disrespectful and you could get in trouble. They way that they taught was very different. I felt like I was in jail almost. It was very strict there. Here, kids are very spoiled, bratty kids, so that’s the way that I was brought up so I was used to doing whatever I wanted to do, and it wasn’t allowed there so I didn’t like it.”
Did everybody obey the rules?
“Yeah. If one of my friends didn’t listen then they would get a smack on the head or you’d have to clean or something.”
Margret’s heritage leads her to identify more as Slovak than American
“I’d probably say that I’m more Slovak. America is like the melting pot, they say. Everyone came from different countries and we’re just all becoming one thing, but I wouldn’t want to put myself in that category. I want to be different, so I like to express that I’m very Slovakian – Czechoslovakian, but I’m more Slovak.”
Margret describes her favorite Slovak holiday and traditions
“When I was younger, you’d say Christmas because you get the presents, but I actually really like Christmas because of the whole getting together. It’s not even the date of Christmas; we get together like two or three weeks ahead of time to make the cookies. All the females get together to make the cookies and prep everything and you tell stories and sing songs and drink while you’re doing it. So it’s really fun to do that. You invite the neighbors over, people you haven’t seen in a long time just to prep all this food, if they want to, just to have that feeling that the holidays are coming up; that it’s going to be the end of the year too.
“The way my mom does the whole Christmas day, like you can’t eat all day and then everybody helps out. The day before you have to clean – you can’t clean on Christmas day. The day after you can’t put anything together because if you put it together on the 25th it’ll break… There are so many superstitions that my mom puts on to us. Even though I don’t believe them I still deal with them and put up with them. Like, if you leave the house and forget something you have to come back and sit down, because then something bad will happen to you if you leave again. So I still do that.”
Category: Chicago, Oral History