Support independent journalism in Central & Eastern Europe.
Donate to TOL!
One of the last bastions of the Moravian community in Texas may be nearing its end.11 May 2018
“I don’t want to think of it even,” said Joe Vrabel, the proprietor of Nasinec, when asked if Nasinec can stay in business.
Vrabel, 82, runs Nasinec (Fellow Countryman), the last Czech-language newspaper in Texas, where Czechs constitute a large and historic minority. Vrabel produces the biweekly paper himself in a converted storage room at the nursing home in the town of Granger where he and his wife Dorothy live, writes Ken Herman of the Austin American-Statesman.
Nasinec has been in business for 104 years, serving the large Czech community in central Texas, whose distinctive language, cuisine, and customs have made them something of a curiosity.
The 2010 census found 136,447 Texans who declared Czech descent. The true number could be 150,000 to 225,000, says Lida Cope, director of the Texas Czech Legacy Project at the University of Texas.
But hardly any Texas Czechs speak the old language these days. Back in 2012, 66-year-old Joe Rychlik described himself as the youngest Czech speaker in the town of Caldwell, the Texas Observer wrote. Caldwell prides itself on its Czech roots: it hosts the Burleson County Czech Heritage Museum and the annual festival honoring the round Czech pastry called here the kolache.
Today, the unique Texas Czech dialect is on the verge of extinction, Cope wrote in a 2016 scholarly article.
The Czechs who started coming to Texas in the mid-19th century “were unlike other Czech colonies in the United States,” the Observer notes. “They were from the opposite side of the Czech lands – Moravians instead of Bohemians. Elsewhere Czech immigrants were mostly ‘freethinkers,’ shunning the authority of a church; in Texas they stayed religious. … In towns from Caldwell to West to Shiner, they built Czech-speaking schools and churches and breweries. Often they settled near Germans and Poles, with whom they shared tastes in food, music, and politics.”
Vrabel said he would keep Nasinec running for a few months while he tries to find someone to take it over. He realizes that his audience is dwindling. The younger generation is curious about their family background but have no interest in the Czech language.
“Why is it?” he asked. “Nobody can tell me the answer on that. What’s going on that it’s dwindling down?”
Transitions magazine = Your one-stop source for news, research and analysis on the post-communist region.
Sign up for the free TOL newsletter!
The Moldovan Diaries is a multimedia, interactive examination of the country's ethnic, religious, social and political identities by Paolo Paterlini and Cesare De Giglio.
This innovative approach to story telling gives voice to ordinary people and takes the reader on the virtual trip across Moldovan rural and urban landscapes.
It is a unique and intimate map of the nation.