LIVING SLOVAK
THE CHURCHES, CENTRES OF ACTIVITY
THE ORGANIZATIONS
WILL YOU SPEAK SLOVAK?
THE UNKNOWN ARTS
SOCIAL NEEDS
COMMUNICATIONS
IS IT TIME TO GO BACK?
IT'S ONLY POLITICS
YOU'VE GOT TO BE THERE
WHO WILL SPEAK FOR US?
REMEMBERING THE PAST
THE WIRED COMMUNITY
PROJECTS TO CONSIDER
SPORTS TIMES
A PLACE TO SHOW OUR STUFF
THE STRUGGLING ARTS
COME TOGETHER
WHAT YOU MUST DO
SLOVAK SOM, AJ SLOVAK BUDEM!

Slovaks in Canada
in the Year 2000

by John V. Stephens, Q.C.,
Honorary Consul, Slovak Republic


THE ORGANIZATIONS

Fraternal organizations such as the Kanadska Slovenska Liga, Jednota, and Podporny Spolok were started in the early days of immigration, when people came here with the idea of making money and sending some back home to support the family left behind in Slovakia.

But often those immigrants died in the mines leaving a family without enough money even to pay for the funeral. The fraternals arose from this social need in the 30s by providing affordable insurance which provided often only $1,000. But what need will they serve in the year 2000 when those insurance proceeds will not be sufficient?

Insurance premiums also provided these fraternals with money to fund Slovak cultural programs, so that the Liga, for example, got heavily involved in sponsoring folk dance groups and Slovak Day celebrations while Jednota chose to fund North American-type activities such as bowling and golf. These were intended to attract members to the fraternals to make sure they survived even as other activity in the Slovak community seemed to decrease.

Women formed groups such as the Rosary Circle at church; they had their own Zenska Jednota, and as dedicated as they were to their religion they knew the value of encouraging young members to join them to keep the community and the fraternal organization alive.

Today we have a credit union to which a good part of the 120,000 Slovaks in Canada should belong as members because for some it may be their only visible sign of support for the community.

Times have changed; the need for minimal insurance has passed. If one needs insurance one goes to a commercial company for larger amounts from $100,000 to $500,000 on one's life. But Liga, Jednota, Sokol, Zenska Jednota, Podporny Spolok still need your support and they each have interesting programs and deserve support even if it means taking out a small insurance policy to join. One doesn't join these organizations just for the insurance; one joins to show support for the Slovak community in Canada.

Because there are so many other activities and because Slovaks live so far apart, it is getting harder to get Slovaks to attend meetings or functions. As a result some of the organizations go a long time without holding either meetings or functions. Yet we have halls such as the one in Toronto which lies idle, rarely used by the community. The ones in Welland, St. Catharines and Windsor are used as profit-making activities for local branches.

But the membership is growing older, and the people who dedicated themselves to the upkeep of these properties can't afford the time they once did. Who will be the ones to take over these fraternals and properties? What will become of them in 2000?

Unless our youth is convinced of the need for these organizations and properties as symbols of the Slovak community in Canada, they will be sold. It is vital that the youth be encouraged to take part in the executive of local branches, to take part in the administration of things around branches, even the hall. Someone has to take over once the older generation goes.

It is essential that every Slovak chooses an organization to support.

It doesn't matter whether it's the insurance, the picnics, sponsoring folk dance groups or the dances, to have a vibrant community a community needs having organizations such as these to serve as the community's backbone.

Copyright of "Slovaks in Canada in the Year 2000" 1996 - John V. Stephens, Q.C.
All other contents & photographs 1997, Ondro Mihal.
All comments should be forwarded to
Ondro Mihal at omihal@slovak.com.
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Last update on
May 29, 1997.