Mary Hlinka Seewald

* 1935

  • Scarlet rose of three Scarlet rose of three I had me a man A man I had me I had me a man, a sot He didn’t work aught Just drank the lot He didn’t work aught Just drank the lot He came back home Back home he came He came back home Beat his wife

  • “Our village was in a valley, so there were mountains on both sides. But when the front approached us, bullets starting whizzing quite close by, sometimes even hitting the rooftops or the mountains on the other side. One day – we lived in the middle of the town – we went to hide in its upper section, which was surrounded by two large cliffs, which we reckoned would protect us from the bullets. I remember that I had socks, which I had bought for money earned by picking blueberries. That was a big thing for us, picking blueberries; Mum would take them to town and buy something for them. So I had socks, which were an item of big value to me, and that was the only thing I was worried about – that I wouldn’t forget to take them with me to the shelter. On the way to the hills, we ran to hide in the cellar of one of our neighbours.”

  • “It must have been January. Maybe midway through it, or even at the start of the month. My uncle took us on a cart to Stará Ľubovna, or maybe even to Prešov, someplace where they had a train station. We rode by train through Czechoslovakia, as it was at the time, to Germany. We travelled through devastated areas, we saw ruined houses along the track, even a bridge that the train slowly traversed, and we saw how everything was bombed to bits. It was daunting, and we asked: ‘Will we even get there?’ I can imagine that my mum, who had never travelled before – neither had we, but then we were children – she was more aware of what to worry about. Then we arrived to the place where a ship took us to England. We stayed in a hotel in England for about two days, until the ship we were to board arrived. We travelled on the Queen Elizabeth. Our cabin was all the way down on the lowest deck. We travelled together with one other Slovak family, whom we shared our cabin with; they had two boys and a girl. The ship with its lifts and restaurants was a really exciting place for us small-town children who only ever saw carts and carriages before. We children didn’t behave very well to the lifts, because we kept taking them up and down, we had to explore everything – in some parts of the ship there was dancing, music, the restaurants had food. We’d go to have our meals there, but we didn’t speak English, of course. We could only count to ten. So ‘what’ll we eat?’ We’d look round, see what other people had on their plates, and point at what we recognised. People there were very kind, helpful. It was an experience. A wonderful one. [Q: Did you get seasick?] No. But Mum did. She hardly left her room. I think that when she arrived in the US, she weighed just a bit over 40 kilos.”

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    New York, USA, 11.10.2018

    duration: 01:34:10
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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When you have to make tough decisions, it’s easier to handle life

Mary Seewald - 11/10/2018
Mary Seewald - 11/10/2018
photo: Helena Pěchoučková

Mary Hlinka Seewald was born on 23 April 1935 in Litmanová in East Slovakia, Stará Ľubovňa District. She grew up as the oldest of three daughters in the farming family of Julie and Vasil Hlinka. Her father emigrated to the US in 1937. Delayed by World War II, the family finally joined him there in February 1948. Upon arriving in New York they lived in the immigrant community where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were built twenty years later. Her parents did cleaning jobs around Wall Street. The witness attended primary and secondary school in New York, and although she had excellent results, her parents did not want her to continue her studies. She worked at various firms, including the American stock exchange. She worked as a secretary and assistant to the management at JP Morgan for 23 years. She enrolled at an evening course of higher education, which she abandoned halfway through to look after her ill parents. She married Richard Seewald when she was twenty-one. After ten years of marriage, she gave birth to a son Richard and then Michael three years later. A serious illness, which she recovered from, caused her to go into early retirement. She was widowed ten years ago and has two grandchildren; her sisters live on Long Island. Mary Hlinka Seewald and her family were always active members of the expat community in New York; she still exercises with Sokol and participated in events at Bohemian Hall. She always enjoyed dancing, listening to music, and singing.