Lorain’s International Legacy
Many people immigrated to the United States and Lorain from the Austro-Hungarian empire between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Immigrants from this region of Europe were drawn in by manufacturing and steelwork employment in Lorain and the Greater Cleveland metropolitan area, Many settled an entire neighborhoods that surrounded their individual ethnic church. Unfortunately, many immigrants that resettled in the area were not able to identify themselves or their origins; it is unclear, for example, whether someone who claims Hungarian ancestry is referring to the current independent nation of Hungary or to the entire empire of Austria-Hungary; both encompassed sections of Europe that may identify differently today as borders changed based on different ethnic groups.
In U.S. history, the largest influx of Czech immigration occurred between 1870 and World War I. High unemployment, low incomes, burdensome taxes, and a severe depression were the main push factors from Austria-Hungary. Many of the immigrants until 1880 were farmers that left behind plots of land in their homelands that were too small to support a family and settled in farmlands of the U.S. After 1880, manual labor became the large draw for Czech immigrants, specifically in railroad construction, coal mines, iron and steel mills, and glass factories.
Czech immigrants considered themselves to be German once they first immigrated and established their presence in Lorain. Many of these immigrants came as families from Bohemia, a region in the modern day Czech Republic. Most Czech immigrants joined parishes in the area instead of forming their own; however, Czech immigrants participated in and expanded social clubs in Greater Cleveland and created the Lorain branch of the Bohemian Lodge, a Cleveland organization that spoke only Czech, in 1891. A Bohemian Women’s club was established in 1906, and in 1934 the Bohemian Political Club was established.
Czech immigrants assimilated quickly via their occupations chosen when they first arrived. The Czech sections of the Austro-Hungarian empire had one of the best education systems available and was noticeable with the very high literacy rate that many Czech immigrants possessed. Lorain’s Czech laborers of the time were highly skilled professionals and businessmen that were, unlike other ethnic communities, brought into contact with other ethnic groups. The flexibility to cater to a variety of people in addition to social mobility from higher status employment encourage assimilation and eventually migration, as Czech immigrants moved from Lorain to Cleveland and other large cities for more skilled-labor employment opportunities.
The Hungarian immigrants of Lorain established the Hungarian Reformed Church in 1902 by Magyar, or ethnic Hungarian, Protestants. Magyars also established the St. Ladislaus Roman Catholic parish in 1904. Rusyns, or Ruthenians, a group of people from Central-Eastern Europe that speak eastern Slavic languages, came from Galicia, a small kingdom formerly situated between modern day Poland and Ukraine, and established their own Greek Catholic church. Rusyn or Ruthenian immigrants were made to identify their country of origin and typically identified as Hungarian or Austrian prior to the 1920s. Following World War II, the Rusyn or Ruthenian identity evolved to become Ukrainian, particularly those from Galicia.
The majority of Croatian immigrants in Lorain came to Greater Cleveland before and after World War I and following World War II until the 1980s. In 1990, the Greater Cleveland area, with over 15,000 people of primary Croatian ancestry, had the fourth largest concentration of Croatians in the United States.
The first recorded documents of Croatians in Lorain date to the 1890s. After that, there wasa steady influx of Croatian families; in 1908, the number of these Croatian families had risen to about 250. Most Croatian immigrants that came to Lorain settled in South Lorain, near E 32 Street. In 1923, after 14 years of petitioning for a separate Croatian parish, St. Vitus Church was founded and became the “center of Croatian cultural and social activity.” The American Croatian Club was founded in 1923 by twelve men dedicated to, “the Americanization of Croatians.”
Croatian immigrants began immigrating to the United States in the 1880s and were typically searching for manual labor jobs, such as railroads, steel mills, coal mines, harbors, and construction. This group of immigrants typically moved into large industrial cities, such as New York (NY), Chicago (IL), Cleveland (OH), Kansas City (MO), and Gary (IN). It is estimated that roughly 400,000 Croatian immigrants arrived in the U.S. between 1880 and 1914.
Prior to 1914, most Croatian immigrants emigrated from former provinces of Austria-Hungary, including Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Dalmatia, and Istria. Between World War I and World War II, most immigrants Croatia came from western Yugoslavia. Following World War II in 1945, refugees and immigrants fleeing communism in Yugoslavia came to Lorain County, most likely because of the pre-established Croatian community; however, the immigrants and refugees following WWII were different from their predecessors because they were generally well-educated and highly skilled.
Slovakians first came to Lorain in the late 1880s. Many Slovakian immigrants entered Lorain as Hungarian nationals. However in 1903, the Slovak community was so large they formed their own church, the Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, and by 1905, the Slovak Protestants formed the Slovak Lutheran Church. Many Slovakian immigrants settled east of the Black River. They found work in a variety of places including Cleveland, Lorain, and Wheeling (Baltimore and Ohio) railroad, shipyards, ore docks, or at National Tube company. In 1935, the American Slovak Club was founded for the Slovakian community of Lorain.
The Slovenians first came to Lorain in 1894. Slovenian immigration followed the Austro-Hungarian immigration. They left their home countries of repression, and found work at The Johnson Steel Company. Mainly living in South Lorain, many of their homes were located between Vine and Grove Avenue. In 1906, the Slovenian community in Lorain founded their own separate Slovene foreign-language Roman Catholic Parish.
Post World War II
Many Hungarian and Russo-Baltic immigrants came to Lorain following World War II and, in 1956, Hungarians began seeking refuge in Lorain and other parts of Greater Cleveland following the Hungarian Revolution. Most immigrants from Hungary during the Hungarian Revolution came to the area with a college education or higher.