Georgina Teyrovsky (born Jiřina Šicová), 1924
Georgina Teyrovsky was born in Prague in 1924. Her father, Otakar, was a member of the Czechoslovak Legions in Russia during WWI and met Georgina’s mother, Katerina, at her home there while awaiting evacuation. They married quickly and both departed from Vladivostok. In Prague, the couple lived with Otakar’s mother in Žižkov. Georgina’s father found work as an accountant in a bank while her mother became a seamstress. When Georgina was eight, the family moved away to the outskirts of Prague. Georgina attended a gymnázium which she says was focused on classical education and required classes in Greek and Latin. In March 1939, her schooling was interrupted by the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia and she was sent to work as a draftswoman. Georgina says that she was caught in the bombing of Prague towards the end of the War and was hit by shrapnel while biking home. Days before the end of the War, Georgina traveled to Vysoké Mýto in the hopes of securing food for her family and, as a result, was not in Prague when the city was liberated. She hitched a ride home with Russian soldiers heading towards the capital.
Following the War, Georgina finished high school and enrolled at Charles University. She first studied medicine, but soon switched her course of studies to languages and philosophy. While on a trip to the Beskydy mountain range in Moravia, Georgina met her future husband, Edmund Tevrovsky. The couple married in June 1947. Shortly after the Communist coup in February 1948, Edmund’s textile business was nationalized and the Teyrovskys decided to leave the country. After two unsuccessful attempts, they crossed the border into Germany in March 1948. Although the Teyrovskys hoped to immigrate to the United States, they learned that it would be years before visas would be available to them. Instead, they decided to immigrate to Australia where they were obligated to work certain jobs for two years. They arrived in Melbourne in August 1948, and initially took jobs which required them to live apart – Georgina worked for a family doctor and Edmund in a brick factory. They later both managed to find jobs at Kew Mental Hospital; however, they were still not able to live together and were instead housed in hospital dormitories. In 1950, Georgina and Edmund were released from their contractual obligations and found an apartment to rent. Georgina learned to sew and found work as a dressmaker. The couple eventually moved to Sydney where they owned a succession of grocery stores and shops. Their daughter Vera was born in 1954.
In 1955, the Teyrovskys received visas to the United States and sailed to San Francisco. After a number of moves, they settled in Oakland, where their younger daughter, Helenka, was born. While Georgina worked as a seamstress and in a deli, Edmund finished his university degree and started working in the dyeing business. They opened a dye house in Union City, California, which they owned for over twenty years. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Georgina and Edmund often traveled back to their homeland. Georgina has been active in the Bay Area Czech community and is the vice-president of the local Sokol chapter – a position she has held for many years. Now widowed, Georgina lives in Castro Valley, California.
Georgina recalls life in the First Republic under its leader, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk
“In the First Republic we were very, very patriotic. We loved Masaryk and because I was born in 1924, right after the Republic was created, we called ourselves ‘Masaryk’s children.’ He was something like Gandhi in India. He was our idol. He was very well-educated. He spoke seven languages; he spoke with each politician in his language, whether it was French or English or Russian or German. He was, at the same time, very humble and very democratic. I saw him in person myself when I was five. He was about 85 years old and he was riding on a horse through Prague. I was standing opposite the National Theatre in Prague, near the Vltava, and my father put me up to the trimming of the house, so I was standing about where people’s heads were. But I saw him very well. And he was handsome. For 85 years old, he was very, very handsome.”
Following WWII, Georgina met her husband Edmund during a trip to the Beskydy mountain range
“I met him on the highest mountain and he was the first man who had a sense of humor and at the same time was very serious and a good businessman, while mostly either they [other men] were serious and then they were boring, or they had fun and they were not serious enough and, I would say, stupid a little bit. So when I met my husband I said ‘That’s him.’ I couldn’t be a housewife. I just didn’t want to be a housewife, so I decided rather than be a housewife I would stay single or marry somebody who would let me be a partner. I always asked the young men when I met them, ‘How about Küche, Kinder, Kirche?’ That’s church, children, and kitchen in German. And if they said ‘Oh yeah, I think that’s good for a woman,’ they never saw me ever again. But my husband was from a family of business and he said ‘What a waste of energy and talents. My mother helps father in business; they earn thousands of crowns’ – they had a big business – ‘And she has three maids and each is paid 500 crowns monthly. So if you force your wife to be a housewife, you are really paralyzing her.’ So I said ‘That’s my man.’”
When Georgina and Edmund arrived in San Francisco in 1955, they joined Sokol
“When we came and didn’t know anybody, didn’t have friends, Sokol was something like a family. Every Friday we went – if we could – and at that time Sokol owned a whole building on Page Street in San Francisco. Fridays, children had exercises in one room, women in another room, men in another room, and teenagers in another room, and at the end we all marched and sang. You met all these people and made friends, so it was a very important integration into the country because, beyond that, we worked and worked and worked.”
Georgina’s hometown of Prague has always held a special place in her heart
“My heart was still there because Prague was my love. As a matter of fact, when we were dating, we loved Prague so much and admired it so much, that we very often said ‘Let’s go to Old Prague.’ Then we went and saw some special building which looked like nothing else – unique, you know. So we’d ring the bell and say ‘Does Mr. Novák’ – that’s the most common name – ‘Live here?’ And if they said yes, we say ‘Does he have children?’ ‘No, he doesn’t have children.’ ‘Ok, we’re looking for one who has children. By the way,’ we’d say, ‘That’s a beautiful home. That must be 16th-century or 15th-century. Right away the people said ‘Yes, and it is very important. Do you want to see it? We’ll show it to you.’ And we spent beautiful afternoons seeing all the older buildings because we knew that people admired them. We had a wonderful time doing that.”
Georgina reflects on her journey from Czechoslovakia to the United States
“I must say, if it wouldn’t be for communism, we would never leave Czechoslovakia, never leave Prague, because we were very much in love with that city and very much grounded there. But under the circumstances, we had to leave, and it’s a mixed blessing to leave our beloved country. Even so, the United States gave us great opportunity to earn money, to make something of ourselves, to give opportunity to our daughters and grandsons. Yet, I would say, by heart, we stayed Czechs.”
Category: Bay Area, Oral History