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You Had Me At Ahoj

March 27, 2011

Pauline with her parents and brother Andy, early 1930's in their backyard behind the bakery.

Pauline remembered the exact moment she first laid eyes on Jaro.  She was smitten with the handsome young man who strode confidently into her father’s bakery one spring day, greeted her with a friendly “Ahoj”, and proceeded to order a kifle. Pauline knew immediately that she would marry him.  She could tell he was well educated by the way he looked and carried himself; Jaro was tall and thin, and impeccably dressed in a fine suit, unlike other Slovak men in the village.  He smiled self assuredly across the counter at her as she admired his stylish haircut: short on the sides and long bangs that swept back and over to the right with a cowlick in front that could  not hide ears that stuck out on each side. She thought they were endearing.

Jaro in High School, early 1930's. Jaro is standing at the very back, on the far left.

Pauline had arrived in the village with her family from Soljany, Croatia, about the same time Jaro had gone off to high school in Bačsky Petrovec.  Pauline, on the other hand, had finished elementary school in Croatia, and when they moved to Pivnica she had stayed home to look after her young brothers while her father ran the bakery and her mother cooked and cleaned for their five employees.

Pauline with her brothers Andy and Peter, and the family's animals. No wonder I love fresh goat cheese.

Jaro made the half hour commute on dirt roads from Pivnica to Bačsky Petrovec and back daily with other Slovak friends on the Suster family truck.  The school was the only secondary school in Vojvodina that was taught in Slovak.  It had been built after WWI when it became legal for the first time in hundreds of years to speak, write and teach in the Slovak language.  Jaro and his brother Igor were lucky to have the school nearby; when their father Michal wanted to attend high school two decades earlier, he had to move away for four years to Dolny Kubin, several hours away in Slovakia.

Jaro's high school in Bačsky Petrovec, Vojvodina

Jaro's class around 1933. Jaro is lying down in the front , second from the right.

For the most part, life was good in the early 1930’s for Pauline and Jaro and their families.  After the destruction and hardship brought on by two Balkan Wars and WWI, the citizens of the young country of Yugoslavia enjoyed peace and prosperity for nearly two decades.  They had more freedom living under the rule of the King of Serbia than they had under the previous Hapsburg Empire which had attempted to suppress and eradicate Slovaks and Protestants.

aro Suster, high school graduation picture, mid 1930's

Judging from the clothes Pauline, Jaro and their friends wore and the activities they engaged in, their families were relatively well off.  Both families belonged to the Evangelical Lutheran Church where a strong emphasis had been placed on the value of education.  In the 1930’s, Pauline’s family ran the popular bakery and Jaro’s family had a large farm out of town; a home in town with a lumberyard that Jaro would soon take over; and his father had been a successful banker (interestingly, only 15% of bankers in Yugoslavia were non-Jewish at the time).  For the next few years during their courtship and early marriage, this blissful lifestyle would continue, although a dark shadow was slowly falling.

Pauline and Jerry with a friend in her parent's backyard (same spot as in the first picture, above), around 1936. Pauline has a beautiful dress on with buttoned leg of mutton sleeves, and a lacy collar. She's holding a hat, and Jaro's kindly holding her purse; each of them has a flower pinned to their lapel. Underneath Jaro's chair is his cherished camera box. Notice the lime washed tree, a practice still done today in Vojvodina each April, right around Easter, to protect the trees from pests.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Aunt Kay permalink
    March 27, 2011 10:51 pm


    • March 27, 2011 10:59 pm

      Hi there. Yes, all the kids were good looking, weren’t they? I’ve been researching your side of the family – finding lots of interesting stuff, and have been in contact with some distant relatives I found on the Internet. Also watched Tim McGraw, the country singer, on the TV show Who Do You Think You Are? – his 8th great grandfather was a Palatine immigrant with the Plato family, along with Elvis Presley’s family!

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