Milly Voris (born Milada Jeníčková), 1924
Milly Voris was born in Bělčice, Bohemia, in 1924. Her father, Václav, was an architect and realtor while her mother, Kamila, stayed at home raising Milly and her younger brother, also called Václav. Growing up, Milly says her family played an active role in Sokol and that she remembers them being ‘extremely patriotic.’ Milly attended school first in Bělčice and then in Prague, where she stayed with her aunt (in the city’s Kobylisy district) and studied at the Akademie obchodní Dr. Edvarda Beneše [Benes Business School]. When Milly graduated from high school in 1943, she says that she and her classmates were ‘given as a gift to the Third Reich’ and that she received papers to work in Germany. She managed to remain in Bohemia, however, by marrying her husband, Ladislav. Instead of being sent to Germany, she started work at the Letov airplane factory in Prague. Shortly before the end of the War, Milly moved back to Bělčice and began work at Česká zbrojovka in the nearby town of Strakonice. She says that not a great deal was accomplished as air raids often meant employees had to evacuate the factory.
Following the War, Milly moved to her husband’s family home in Stará Role (in western Bohemia) and commuted to Karlovy Vary, where she was employed in a bank. She returned to Bělčice again in 1947 to give birth to her daughter, Hana Voris. Throughout this period, Milly’s husband was attending university in Prague. He left Czechoslovakia immediately following the Communist coup in February 1948 and settled in Paris, where he had traveled once before as a student and had made contacts. He procured an exit visa for Milly and Hana, who joined him in France in June 1948. The Voris family came to the United States in 1952, but Milly says that after several months in New York City her husband decided to return to France. She traveled with Hana and Ladislav back to Europe. They stayed in France for another couple of months before deciding finally to settle in America in the autumn of 1953. The Voris family spent just over four years in Jackson Heights, New York, before moving to Cleveland in 1958.
Milly found work in a bank with a large Czech clientele in Cleveland and remained an employee of the organization (which became First Federal Savings & Loan following a merger) for more than 30 years. She and her husband both became active in Sokol in Cleveland, and in the Czech American Committee of Greater Cleveland [Krajanský výbor]. They taught their daughter Hana to speak fluent Czech. Milly says she is happy to have settled in Cleveland, which she calls both a ‘huge village’ and an ‘amazing city.’ Now widowed, Milly lives with her daughter in South Euclid, Ohio.
Milly says she was supposed to be sent to work in Germany during WWII
“1924, the year, the people who were born in 1924 were given as a gift to the Third Reich. And everybody had to be shipped to work for whatever they needed. And I had the papers already to Kassel or Essen, and that was bombarded by Americans, so I already had my friend, and he said ‘How about we get married? And that way you don’t have to go to Germany. You can stay in Czechoslovakia (or the Protectorate at that time).’ And so we got married in 1943, the last… no, December 30. And at New Year right away I went to Prague, they shipped me to Letov, and I was working making airplanes for the German Army.”
Milly lived with her aunt in Kobylisy for parts of WWII
“When I was in Prague, there were those parachutists, they killed Heydrich, and it happened in Kobylisy. So actually, I was living through it, and we got German soldiers coming in the apartment at any time, during the night, during the day, with bayonets looking for something, [or whether we had] somebody here hiding. You know, it was kind of hard.”
Work at Česká zbrojovka was constantly being interrupted by air raids, remembers Milly
“I don’t even remember what I did there, they were always giving me something to do, I don’t remember exactly what, and we were mostly talking because we were waiting for those airplanes to come and then we had to run out. So that’s about it and, as I said, about two months… the War ended on May 5, or something like May 4-5, 1945, so about two months before the end, I stopped going there to Strakonice, because they were shooting into trains and they were killing people in trains, those airplanes. You know, they dived and…”
Milly spent over 30 years working in banks in Cleveland
“I worked in the neighborhood where we lived, so I could walk there, and it was a nice job, you know like from 9 to 3, so I was home in the afternoon when Hana came home from school already, so it was okay. Then we merged with First Federal Savings, which was, I don’t know, 1965 I guess. And they, I was still there for a while. I had five hold-ups in that neighborhood. Well, I survived, as you can see. And then they closed that bank, they closed that little branch and they shipped me [between] two other branches where they needed [me] and then I was working downtown in 1970, we moved downtown from Broadway, in 1973 I think, and I stayed there until I retired.”
Category: Cleveland, New York City, Oral History