Book Review 'Motherâ€™s Memoirs - The Life and Stories of Lucy Marincel'
by Emily Marincel Amberg
By Katarina Tepesh
Among the best way to remember and honor your parents is to listen to their stories, take details notes and eventually write and publish a book. Emily, one of the ten children from Lucija Majnaric and Franjo Marincel, dedicated the book to her parents with grateful thanks for their having the courage to venture to a new land from Croatia.
George Prpic noted how people from Lika, the territory formerly belonging to the Military Frontier, were tough, courageous, witty, naturally intelligent peasant stock. They emigrated primarily for economic reasons: lack of land, overpopulation, destruction caused by phylloxera, poverty, and heavy taxation. But they came also to escape conscription and for other political reasons: the Hapsburg oppression and Magyarization (1867 to 1914), dictatorship in Yugoslavia (1918 to 1939), and Communist take-over in 1945. More than 70,000 (16 percent of the entire population) left Croatia for the United States and the exodus continues.
The main character in the book, Lucija Agnes Majnaric was born on December 13, 1884 in Kosinj, Lika, Croatia.
Much of the book is dedicated to the survival on homestead. The role of religion and church; how young men had to register to serve three years in the â€˜foreignâ€™ army where German was spoken under Austro-Hungarian rule. Descriptions of farming and gardening, what food they managed to produce and various cooking recipes for potica, sarma, sauerkraut, stews and soups; joyful Christmas celebrations and traditions; how they produced their own clothing and managed the laundry, a need for constant repairs of the old house and meaning of home; Their undying love for Croatians songs and tamburitza music. Included are also wedding, marriage and inheritance customs, as well as childhood chores and games.
Lucijaâ€™s parents accompanied her on the first leg of the journey, a two-day walk from the homestead in Rudinka, through Krasna, to the village of Sveti Juraj on the coast. They spent the night sleeping on the ground along the road. From Sveti Juraj, Lucija and her parents took a small boat to Fiume or Rijeka. The gut wrenching goodbye with her loving parents knowing they will never see each other again.
One way trip to America for Lucija cost about $80.00. During the long voyage of 21 days to the United States, the passengers helped with the work on the ship as part of the price of their passage. Lucija set tables, served food, and washed the dishes.
She arrived in 1911 and married her childhood sweetheart, handsome Franjo Stjepan Marincel, a gentleman and honorable men. In the wedding photo, both look serious, kind of touching hands in the form of shaking hands, as in â€˜our hearts are full of hope and now we have a partnership.â€™ Pretty Lucija wore a veil, gloves and beautiful wedding dress made of soft peach satin. The family has kept the dress for ninety years, but now it is in very poor condition, the material in shreds.
Following church ceremony and the wedding party, Lucija and Franjo went directly to their new home, a shack in one of the mining camps near Virginia. But the time they arrived, it was dawn, time to be up, start cooking, and get to work.
They settled in Mountain Iron, Minnesota, where Lucija gave birth to ten children. Two died in infancy, seven surviving and pregnant with her eighth child when her husband Franjo died in 1931, at age of 47, from pneumonia.
While alive, Franjo worked 10 hours in the iron mines for $2.00 per day. His grueling labor there preceded and followed by hours of additional work at home. Lucija worked the gardens, cooked, cleaned, washed the laundry, took care of the animals (milking, feeding, gathering eggs), and cared for the children. They had boarders in the house as a source of additional income. Lucija cooked and washed for them.
As in most mining towns, life was â€˜rough and toughâ€™ on the Iron Range. For the rest of her life, Lucija was often busy making yards of rugs on her homemade loom or braiding round and oblong rugs by hand. Over the years she won many awards. Or else she was knitting mittens or making â€˜coklje,â€™ homemade shoes. She could not write, but dictated letters to her family in Croatia, sending cash and packages of food and clothes.
Keeping in close touch with her numerous brothers and sisters from Croatia, helped Lucija understand the killings taking place during the WWII. There is nothing more powerful than ordinary people telling the truth about the conflict between Croats and Serbs. By reading the book you will find out which soldiers came to the village to steal their last piece of bread, forced the shoes off their feet and shot them in the back when they raised their hands in the gesture of surrender trying to peacefully move towards safety and freedom.
In America, Lucijaâ€™s children served in the military and graduated from Colleges. One daughter become active in politics and became the first woman elected to the Hopkins City Council. Though fighting cancer, she helped bring into existence a shelter for battered women and served citizens in many other areas.
After an absence of 60 years, Lucija returned to Croatia for a visit in 1972.
Lucija lived in Minnesota until she celebrated 102. At her funeral in 1987, her grandson said, 'We remember the abiding religious faith that helped her endure a succession of trials â€“ early widowhood, cancer, a broken hip, the deaths of several of her children, and finally old age itself. I remember her always in the middle of family gatherings; seated like a queen on her throneâ€¦.She represented a living connection with Croatia, with rural life.'
'Motherâ€™s Memoirs' book was privately published in 2004. Copies may be purchased for $15.00 from the author Emily Marincel Amberg, 16510 Tranquility Ct., SE, #203, Prior Lake, MN 55372.