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Out & About in Cleveland

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Monthly Meeting of the Cleveland-Bratislava Sister Cities, Inc.

On Monday night, April 13th, we went to the monthly meeting of the Cleveland-Bratislava Sister Cities, Inc. at the Garfield Heights Library. On that evening Mr. Joe Klucho gave a presentation regarding his experiences on his 11 trips to Slovakia. Mr. Klucho is a retired postmaster who first visited Slovakia in 1989 to connect with his family. In 1997 he spent a year in there teaching English at the Akademia Vzdelavania in Puchov. We liked hearing his stories about his relationships with the other teachers (mostly British) and the students who were at first turned off to him because he refused to teach them American profanities but loved it when he taught them baseball.

He became a dual citizen in 1997 when the United States allowed it but he was the first to admit that he just happened to be in the right place at the right time and knew the right people who helped him meet Slovakia's extensive requirements. Mr. Klucho told us that shortly after obtained his dual citizenship Slovakia terminated the program because many Hungarians were becoming dual citizens just so that they could participate in and influence the Slovakian elections.

Among the other things that he told us were that in his parents' native village of Rajecka Lesna when you get your retirement payment each month, the postmaster just gives you the money, no check is issued; people eat carp on Christmas Eve and often bring the fish home alive a few days ahead of time and put it in the bathtub so the kids can play with it; plum brandy is very popular, in fact a person can take his/her plums and bottles to a distillery and tell them how strong they want their wine and it will be made accordingly; and, contrary to what we learned last week at the Cleveland celebration, Dyngus Day in Slovakia has definitely gotten out of hand with young men dumping buckets of water on young women and sometimes brutally swatting their legs with sticks.

We learned that Mr. Klucho's parents both came from the village of Rajecka Lesna (formerly Frivald until the Russians changed it) but his father first immigrated to the United States in 1911 and was drafted in 1917 and assigned to work in a military hospital. For his service, he was granted citizenship in 1919. He and his friends wanted to marry women from Slovakia so they returned to Rajecka Lesna in 1921 where he met and married his wife. Due to the fact that she became pregnant after six months of marriage, they travelled to the United States so their first child would be born here. When asked about this years later, Mrs. Klucho was very adamant that she did not have to go through the Ellis Island procedure because, "I was married to an American!" and already regarded herself as a citizen

Mr. and Mrs. Klucho settled in Cleveland where they opened "Klucho's Meat Market" at 9803 Sophia Avenue (now a vacant lot) that became a hub for immigrant Slovakian activity in Cleveland. They raised a family and Mr. Joe Klucho was the youngest of seven children and the only male; he has six sisters and 13 first cousins (one from his father's side of the family and 12 from his mother's). We found his adventures and his history fascinating.

Prior to his presentation, Mr. Bill Northrup told us about two very promising events coming up later this year. First of all, this September there will be a reception at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History for Mr. Philip Kulisev, a Slovakian photographer whose nature photography will be on exhibition. The Slovakian foreign minister is also expected to attend. Then, in October, Czech and Slovak organizations will join forces to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Cleveland Agreement. There will be a dinner at Bohemian National Hall (where the Cleveland Agreement came to be) and the Women's Orchestra will perform.

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