ABOUT THE FILM
Czechs in Chicago: A Home in the Heartland will chronicle the rich history of the Czech people in the Windy City. Spanning a century and a half of turbulent times, it will show how the Czechs helped build and shape the city from their immigrant experience settling the Czech neighborhoods, to founding cultural and business institutions, to contributing to political and civic leadership. As the Chicago Tribune wrote in March, 1886, “There is probably no more interesting and progressive section of Chicago’s foreign population than that inhabited by the Bohemians.” The film will tell the story of how these enterprising people made Chicago the heart of Czech America and how Chicago, in turn, empowered them to help establish and aid their homeland, Czechoslovakia, during all of Europe’s major conflicts.
The settling of the Czech neighborhoods in Chicago will be highlighted throughout the piece, beginning in the late 1840’s when they first came as political refugees and squatters in today’s Lincoln Park area, or the Sands, as it was then called. Gradually moving westward, they colonized Praha in the early 1860’s, Pilsen in the 1870’s, Czech California, a.k.a. Lawndale in the early 1900’s, and even further west to Cicero and Berwyn in the early 1920’s. At the same time, we’ll feature the personal stories of recent as well as older immigrants and their families, spanning the generations, giving an intimate look at how individual lives were affected by public events in their Chicago neighborhoods.
From the Czech communities we’ll follow the emergence of American superstars. We’ll feature Antonin Cermak’s political ascendance in the Windy City, with the Czech Lawndale neighborhood as his home
and political power base. We’ll see the boy who narrowly escaped the Eastland Disaster, George Halas, who bought the Decatur Staleys football team in 1922, and renamed them the Chicago Bears. Kim Novak, born into the Chicago Czech community in 1933, soared to fame in Hollywood and starred opposite leading men like Paul Newman. McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, character actor Karl Malden, crime writer Gera-Lind Kolarik, film distributor & commentator Milos Stehlik, and former Illinois state treasurer, the late Judy Baar Topinka are just some of the Chicago Czech Americans who have left an imprint on the community and beyond.
Czechs in Chicago: A Home in the Heartland will be a permanent legacy for the people of Chicago and for future generations of Czechs and Czech-Americans everywhere.