Do you or your Great Aunt know where she was living when she entered the convent, or the
Order she committed to? The Order or the Catholic Church may be able to provide a date of
death. Just another avenue. Happy Neew Year to you!
----- Original Message -----
From: Willow and Damien Aliento-Prokop<mailto:email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, December 31, 2004 10:07 PM
Subject: [GERMAN-BOHEMIAN] Sister Aurelia's story -- a Bohemian childhood
and happy new years!
Following is the text of one of the two primary documents I have about
my Franz/Drescher family. It is the memoir written by the second
youngest daughter, Aurelia, who became a Catholic nun by the name of
As well as being a very lovely piece of history, I thought it might be
of interest to anyone with family links to that place and time, as a
picture of what life (and emigration to the USA) was like for some
folks. It offers me as many questions as insights though, and if
anyone can see anything in it that might point me in new directions
with my research, I'll be very grateful.
I have typed it up verbatim from my original from Aunt Tess. Any
political satements are Aurelia's own, and I have left them as she
said them, like everything else.
Sister Aurelia's Story (Aurelia Franz b 1898, Oberaltstadt, Bohemia,
Died unknown USA). From a copy sent to me in 1982 by her niece
Theresa, my great-Aunt.
MY earliest recollection is that of a white, low, rambling house with
a spacious verandah situated on a grassy knoll and set off by a grove
of trees. There seemed to be much ado and a great deal of bustling
about. The festivity and commotion were greatly heightened by the
vigorous strains of a brass band. Many years later when I told my
mother of this most vivid impression, she told me, that when I was a
little past two years old, the family went to my maternal
grandmother's home, in a town not far distant, to attend my Aunt
Anna's wedding. As was common at these wedding celebrations, there
was a band to make the event more festive. Mother said she remembered
well how vigorously I jumped up and down, shaking the go-cart with
rhythmic glee. And even now, the blare of a band thrills me through
How I love to dwell apon the scenes of my early childhood! Although
it may sound most drab and uneventful to others, to me it is living
these happy days all over again.
My early years were passed in a little hamlet in the far away land of
Bohemia, later that short-lived Republic of Czechoslovakia, in a part
of the Sudeten Land so ruthlessly affixed to the Third Reich by the
scheming, self-worshipping demi god Adolf Hitler. This Sudeten Land,
as may be recalled, was territory immediately adjacent to Germany,
occupied mainly by Germans. These Germans were later expelled when
the country was taken over by the Russians.
It was a beautiful land, peaceful as it then was, with its silent,
black forests, dense with magnificent, stately trees; the "Bohmer
Wald" which inspired the muses of such poets and musicians as Goethe
and Mendelssohn. In the distance, towering over the tops of the
trees, were the majestic Alps; the "Schneekoppe" or "Snowcap"
appearing, just as the name implies, as a huge white cap close by.
There were nine of us children, five girls and four boys, and I was
the second youngest. My father would often take my baby sister Irma
and me for a stroll through the black woods. How we enjoyed it, and
how happy we were when, here and there, we found a luscious strawberry
almost hidden away under a few stray leaves! Then we would pause a
moment at a wayside shrine to breathe a little prayer to the Blessed
Virgin Mary. At the end of the woods stood a neat, white stone
farmhouse with its flower covered trellises, making a gorgeous picture
against the clear blue sky. Here the smiling farmer's wife would come
to greet us, and in a few moments we would be comfortably seated in a
verdant, bowered summerhouse, my father with a stein of cold beer
foaming before him, while my sister and I avidly sipped a cup of warm
I was only a little girl when we lived in this particular locality. I
remember how father would go hunting with a group of men and remain
away for days, staying at a lodge in the woods, but I cannot remember
distinctly any game he brought home. Several antlers and entire
deers' heads, as well as hunting horns and other evidence of wild game
were proof, however, that some of these expeditions must have been
successful. How well I recall our two hunting dogs, one a sad-eyed
dachs-hund whose name I do not remember; the other, an alert looking
German Pointer with orange dots called Marko who followed my father
We lived in a large stone house with tile floors in rooms adjoining
our dry-goods store. This same house, looking very much like our
modern apartment houses, domiciled the post-office and the post-
master's family, a millinery shop, and the town's burgomaster with his
family. We played in the courtyard in back of the house with the
other tenant's children. We often wandered into the huge green area
in back of the house where some English people who lived in a nearby
villa were wont to indulge in a game of cricket, and they were always
very much pleased when we would be there to retrieve the balls which
went out of bounds.
The sturdy, spacious school-house was within a few hundred feet from
our home, and the church with its surrounding cemetary was right
across from the school-house. Not far away from home was a beautiful
wooded path leading to the banks of the Elbe River, and there,
standing on some flat rocks, were some of the village housewives
washing and rinsing the family clothes. Right next to our house to
the left was an inn, a most inviting place with a "beer garden"
adjoining, a name not at all suited for a beautiful, sylvan garden
with its many inviting shady paths leading to rustic tables and
benches. Our parents would take us there of a Sunday, where we would
find many of our neighbors, all bent upon enjoying the balmy air in
Nature's beauteous setting. Food would be served, and of course, a
stein of two of beer would be "sipped" by most of the adults. Some-
times there would be an orchestra or a band playing the beautiful
melodies of the old Masters; at other times it would be a "Song Fest"
where everyone would join in to sing some of the national or folk
My older brothers and sisters would troop off to school every day and
I did not envy them one bit. The only time I really envied them was
when they had their physical culture classes which were held twice a
week, for these would be held out in the open or out in the woods, and
consisted of gymnastic excercises, games and hikes. The older pupils
occaisionally went mountain-climbing, and their excursions would last
several days. Thus, the great outdoors and joyous song, two things
which I dearly enjoy, made an impression upon my childish mind.
When I was about six and a half years old, the family fortunes were
dwindling and business was very poor. Creditors were taking advantage
of us, and father was much too lenient to press them, although those
from whom we purchased our wares, were sorely pressing us. It was
finally decided that we would move to a more favourable locality -- to
another small town quite a distance away, and there father ventured
into the grocery business.
How well I remember the house; a sturdy spacious, two-story green
stone house, with the store taking up the front part of the first
floor, the rear and the upper floor serving as our living quarters.
How many times since, have I had an image of this picturesque village
with its neat stone houses, contiguous, each with its high gate and
enclosed courtyard in back! If I may digress a bit, I would like to
mention that I was very much disappointed when I first saw the frame
houses in this country, for they looked so tawdry and flimsy in
comparison to the well-built houses I had been accustomed to seeing in
The village proper was somewhat in the form of a rectangle, the
adjoining houses forming the rectangle. The high-spired Church, large
for such a small town, was in the centre of the village, surrounded by
a well-laid out park, with its verdant shrubbery, shady trees, gravel
walks and inviting benches. The school building, looking very much
like some of our best schools here, was at one end of the rectangle.
At each end of the village, within the rectangle, was a huge pond
enlivened by myriads of ducks and geese. These were not for scenic or
pleasurable purposes, but as a means of livelihood for many a
villager, whose business it was to raise and fatten these birds for
market. As one of the ponds was within a stone's throw of our house,
we spent many an hour watching the antics of these water fowl. In the
evening they were driven out of the pond by means of a cable held by
two men, one on either side of the pond. How the fowls would scurry
out of the water, flapping their wings and gabbling in duck and geese
language, running helter-skelter, each one heading unerringly for its
own courtyard gate which had been thrown open to receive its noisy
The time came for me to start school. What I liked best were the
gymnasium classes held in the great outdoor playground furnished with
trapezes, horses and all sorts of gymanstic apparatus. I could
scramble up the highest pole like a monkey, much better than most of
the boys. In school we were taught to love the ruler of the country,
Kaiser Franz Josef. We studied the German poets, Goethe and Schiller
even in the lowest grades.
My parents, like most German people are, were lovers of good music.
Many times of an evening, while the dishes were being washed, or some
other work was being done, the family would sing in several parts many
of the old old songs, one of my older brothers accompanying on the
violin. A younger brother was also taking violin lessons, and it was
decided that I would also try my hand at it. A very small violin was
procured for me and I would accompany my brother down to the end of
the village to learn from the 'Kappell Meister" the mysteries of the
violin. Sometimes a resounding tap on my head with the Meister's bow
would bring me to proper attention. Twice I outgrew the violin but
the discrepancy was soon remedied by a longer instrument.
What wonderful times we had in the winter with our toboggans flying so
swiftly down the hills! It was not a children's sport, but a family
sport; a village sport. A visit to grandmother's was another
pleasureable and exciting event, for it meant the piling in of all of
us into a large sleigh; then off we would go, the horses trotting, the
sleigh bells jingling, as warm as toast wrapped in our heavy furs.
And then again, business was not going well. My father had heard
glowing accounts of the great country called America. So one fine day
he started off for this wonderful land with my two oldest brothers,
then fiteen and seventeen years of age. He was going to see what the
country was like, and if he found conditions favourable, he would
return for us. It was not many months later that he returned, alone,
with the news for us to get ready for our voyage to America.
On our way to the port of Bremen, I have a vivid recollection of
sitting on a bench in the all-glass railroad station in Dresden --
Dresden the home of the famous Art gallery and exquistite ?Dresden?
(? -- word overtyped/blurred here) China. And there my father
purchased for my little sister and me beautiful green woolen coats
with jockey caps to match which looked quite jaunty perched upon our
flaxen heads. These very same caps were the cause of much grief for
they were held in derision by some of our new classmates later on.
Arrived at Bremen, we boarded the great liner "Kronprinz Wilhelm".
Not one of us was seasick for father had conditioned us with a small
daily potion of cognac. When we were out at sea a few days the
weather became extremely rough, in fact one night during a terrible
storm as the waves were furiously lashing over the deck the captain
doubted if we would ever make port. There was much praying and
weeping on board ship. But, God be praised, on the eighth day, the
great Statue of Liberty was sighted, and we beheld the sky-line of New
York. But first another ordeal had to be gone through -- Ellis island.
All emigrants must have a physical examination before they are
permitted to enter the United States. The vaccination over, the
doctor turned to examine my eyes, still holding in his hand the
scalpel which he had used for the vaccination. Heavens, what was he
going to do to my eyes with that knife? I screamed and I struggled; I
ran about like a wild person, and no amount of cajoling or reassuring
could calm me, nor would I let the doctor get anywhere near me. I
could see my parents and the doctor whispering among themselves and I
overheard them say there was a possibility that mother and I would
have to return where we came from because of me. I still continued my
screaming. Finally another man, possibly a doctor, was called in and
he led me to a bench. Sitting beside me, he felt my pulse, at the
same time asking me several questions, one of them being, how much two
and two were. Then, seemingly convinced of my sanity because of my
answers, we were finally permitted to go through the gate.
We were now in the United States of America -- in a strange land. For
us children who knew nothing of trials and worries, it meant but a
glorious adventure. For our parents it meant a heart-breaking wrench
from all that was dear to them; their native land, their relatives and
friends, and the prospect of very great hardship, for they were
entering a new country, with nine children, practically penniless, for
they had sold all their possessions to pay their debts. Now let me
see -- that was sixty-three years ago.
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