Jaroslav Francis Smetanka
Chicago's First Czechoslovak Consul General
Jaroslav Smetanka, from Horni Krupa u Némecký Brod (1), departed Bremen and arrived in New York City, aboard the ship, Kaiser Wilhelm II, on September 23, 1899. It seems that his parents and siblings would remain in Bohemia. The ship registry lists Jaroslav as indicating that he was a student, and had friends at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. (2)
For a time, New York City was his home. Jaroslav attended the Union Theological Seminary and Columbia College, graduating from both. He received his naturalization papers in 1905, also in New York City. (3)
Newspaper articles related to Smetanka first appear in Baltimore. On January 30, 1907, the Baltimore Sun reported that Jaroslav, at age 25, was hired by the Commissioner of Immigration as a Bohemian interpreter, with the ability to also speak German, Polish and Slovak. As a graduate of a seminary, religion would always remain important to him. On February 24,1908, the Sun reported, also in Baltimore, Jaroslav was a guest speaker at the Bohemian Presbyterian Church, celebrating Washington’s birthday. The pastor there was Vaclav Vanek. Vanek had been in Illinois, but resided for a time in Baltimore. On January 2, 1910, the Baltimore Sun contained an article describing the marriage of Jaroslav Smetanka, age 28, and Rose Vanek, age 20, daughter of the Reverend Vaclav Vanek.
"Pastor's Daughter a Bride" - Miss Rose Vanek, daughter of Reverend and Mrs. Vaclav Vanek was married yesterday afternoon to Mr. Jaroslav Smetanka, a Custom House Inspector, at the Bohemian Moravian Presbyterian Church, Ashland avenue and Washiington street. The ceremony was performed by the father of the bride. ............... Mr. Smetanka is one of the most prominent Bohemians in this section of the country. He is a graduate of the Kolin Gymnasium of Kolin, Austria; of the Union Theological Seminary and a post graduate of Cornell University. (4) Passport Photo of Jaroslav and Rose (NARA from Ancestry.com)
In the same year the interest in having Smetanka as a speaker continued. He participated with a large number of Bohemians who traveled to Bohemia Manor, the home of Augustine Herman, usually considered to be the first Bohemian to reach Maryland. He was a speaker at the event. Reverend Vanek would return to the Midwest, as would Jaroslav and his wife Rose.
In Chicago Smetanka became increasingly involved in the Bohemian community and in his desire for an independent European state for the Bohemians. The Foreign Language Press Survey, a website maintained by the Newberry Library of Chicago has several articles on Jaroslav’s early years in Chicago. (5)
Hus Memorial Service Denní Hlasatel, July 9, 1911
Another talk: "The Significance of the Memory of Hus" was delivered by Mr. Jaroslav Smetanka, who several years ago graduated from Columbia University in New York with a degree of Master of Science, and later received from Union Theological Seminary the degree of Bachelor of Theology. Mr. Smetanka is now located in Chicago as a government official, and his talk was received with great applause.
Of Interest to Men and Women Denní Hlasatel, Jan. 18, 1914
Those individuals who want to get their final citizenship papers soon, and all who are interested in our state institutions should attend a course in citizenship held in the Bohemian Settlement House, 1831 South Racine Avenue (Centre) every Tuesday at seven-thirty in the evening. The Bohemian lawyer, Mr. Jaroslav Smetanka, is the teacher. Women are especially invited. Admission is free.
In Chicago, Jaroslav intensified his involvement in, and association with others, seeking an independent Bohemia. War was on the horizon in Europe, and perhaps Jaroslav and others felt that if there was a chance for that to happen, that time could be at hand. He developed a working relationship with T.G. Masaryk, and that relationship grew over the years. Smetanka was a member of the Bohemian National Alliance, founded in Chicago on September 6, 1914. (6)
Books were written by the Alliance supporting the Czech desire for a homeland of their own. One “The voice of an oppressed people”, was co-authored by T.G. Masaryk and Jaroslav Smetanka in 1917. (The Library of Congress, has online, this book. It can be viewed, read and downloaded - https://www.loc.gov/item/17023771/) Smetanka would be the Alliance secretary. The Alliance would also create and publish the “Bohemian Review”. Smetanka would become the editor.
Smetanka was a strong supporter for Czech independence. He wrote of that often in the “Bohemian Review”. Jaroslav’s WWI draft registration card listed him, with wife Rose, living in Washington, D.C. He listed that he was the director of the Washington office of the Czecho-Slovak National Council. In 1917, it was Smetanka who received a cable from Paris, announcing revolts against Austrian rule spreading throughout Bohemia. The article was carried by many USA newspapers
One of the largest newspaper articles by Smetanka appeared in the September 15, 1918 Sunday Edition of the Tampa Tribune. “The amazing march of the Czecho-Slovak army”, told the story of the Czech soldiers on the Eastern Front and the beginnings of their march through Russia. (7)
From 1920 until his death in 1937, Smetanka remained Consul General. Local and national newspapers filled with short stories of his visits to towns, his appearance for a speech, and the social events he attended.
From the number of articles describing Jaroslav and Rose on vacation in the west, the mountain areas, Glacier National Park, and the surrounding area, seemed to be one of their favorite places to visit and vacation.
Jaroslav died in 1937. His longtime friend and associate, T.G. Masaryk died, the same year, just months earlier. At the church Jaroslav had an honor guard of veterans of the Czech Legion. Jaroslav was buried with military honors, in Chicago, in the Bohemian National Cemetery.
Jaroslav at Find A Grave - https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/113583099/jaroslav-francis-smetanka
Rose would die in 1971.
Rose at Fiind A Grave - https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/113585420/rose-smetanka
Tomas Masaryk at Find A Grave -
1. "Dr. Jaroslav Smetanka", Amerikan Kalendar, August Geringer Publisher, Chicago, Illinois, 1939, Page 214.
2. NARA records from Ancestry.com
3. New York, U.S., Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-89 - from Ancestry.com
4. The Baltimore Sun, Newspaper, published in Baltimore, Maryland. Articles 1907 - page 7, 1908, page 9, 1910 Page 12.
5. Foreign Language Press Survey at the Newberry Library - https://flps.newberry.org/#/
7. The Tampa Tribune, Newspaper, Tampa, Florida from Newspapers.com