Miroslav Chybik was born in Jalubí, Moravia, in 1935. His mother Josefa and father Miroslav met in Chicago, Illinois, in the 1920s, but had returned to Europe to care for their ailing parents in 1930. Miroslav’s father retained his American citizenship and attempted, unsuccessfully, to bring the whole family back to the United States in 1937. Instead, the Chybíks spent WWII at their farm in Jalubí, parts of which were commandeered by Nazi troops who set up a vehicle maintenance shop in one of their barns, says Miroslav.
In 1948, Miroslav’s older sister Ester gained U.S. citizenship, on grounds that her father had been considered an American at the time of her birth. She came to America in December 1949 and encouraged her brother to do likewise. Miroslav heeded her advice, applied for U.S. citizenship, and left Czechoslovakia on May 25, 1950. He arrived in New York two weeks later, aged 15, and traveled straight to Chicago, where he was met by his sister who had already found a job for him in a sheet metal factory. When work dried up towards the winter of that year, Miroslav took a job with the Czech newspaper Svornost. He worked there for one year and a half until he decided to become a carpenter. Miroslav’s family friend, whom his father had worked with in Chicago, helped him enroll in an apprenticeship program and join the carpenters’ union. Two nights a week, Miroslav attended Morton High School East to learn English and complete his education.
In 1957, Miroslav decided to move to California to gain more professional experience. He stayed there until he was drafted into the US Army in 1958. After completing basic training at Fort Ord, Miroslav returned to the Chicagoland Area, where he has lived ever since. In 1963, he married his wife, Ingrid Chybik, whom he met at a local Czech folk dance group. Miroslav and Ingrid have three children who all speak ‘some Czech.’ An active member of the United Moravian Societies, Miroslav also mentions his involvement with CSA Fraternal Life and, up until recently, the patriotic Czech athletic association Orel in Exile. Today, Miroslav lives in Burr Ridge, Illinois, with Ingrid.
Sister Knows Best
“Well, in ‘47 or ‘48, my sister was somewhere and someone said, ‘I just heard on the radio that any child born of American citizens can come and reclaim the American citizenship of their parents. Why don’t you look into it?’ So she said to my parents; ‘I’m going to go to Prague, [to find out] the details.’ So, she came back from Prague and she said ‘Yes, I can claim my American citizenship because you were an American citizen when I was born.’
“So she wrote to her cousin, and her cousin brought her here [to America]. And while she was leaving Prague, my father said ‘Since she’s going, you might as well join her.’ So, he applied for my citizenship and that was in October and in April, I get a letter from Prague that it was okayed and that I could come and claim American citizenship after him.”
Settled in U.S.
“When I tried to bring my parents here, and send an affidavit in 1952 or ‘53, I got a letter from my father. ‘Please do not attempt to do anything right now. Because the situation right now, the only place we would wind up or could get to would be Siberia’ because it was at the time when Stalin was insisting on his program. That was when the Cold War actually started. He just followed the Yalta Treaty, which was for 40 years or 50 years. They were in charge of the Eastern Bloc; US, England, and France were in charge of the Western Bloc. You see, Vienna had four different zones; a Russian zone, an American zone, English and French. The same thing was with Berlin. And that treaty was honored until President Reagan said ‘Okay, the time is up. Take the Berlin wall down.'”
“One thing I learned, and this is where the Czech people have a hard time to understand the American people because, over here, Chicago is called a ‘melting pot.’ You had everybody here: Slavs, Poles, Italians, Frenchmen, Germans, Russians, Spaniards, Norwegians, Swedes, everything. So especially me, in construction, you never knew from week to week who you were going to run into. You might be working one day with a Swede, the next day, you are working with an Italian, and then, you’re working with a German. But one language is the key, the one language. You could be in the army, or come from New York, and you wind up in Chicago, or you wind up in California, it’s still one language.”
“After 60 years of living in America… A lot of times I say, I’m like the kid who has two mothers; one that gives you birth, and one that gives you a home. I’m grateful to Moravia and Czechoslovakia for being born there, as a birthplace. And I’m grateful to America for having the home here.”