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  • Jan Hoc

  • Wasyl Pelak

  • My grandfather's name was Jan Hoc (later changed to John Peter Hotz). He was born 3 July 1887 in Folusz, Debowiec, Galicia, Austria Hungary. He was christened in Wola Cieplinska, Jaslo, Galicia, Austria Hungary.

    John Peter Hotz's father was Piotr Hoc who was born about 1827 in Russia and died about 1890. His mother was Anna Kielarska who was born about 1863. Piotr Hoc and Anna Kielarska were married 1 May 1882 in Cieklin, Debowiec, Galicia, Austria Hungary.

    John Peter Hotz left Europe when he was 16 years old on a ship from Hamburg, Germany and arrived in Ellis Island in New York in 1903. He changed his name to John Peter Hotz after he arrived in America.

    John Peter Hotz married Anna Litwin on 30 July 1911 in Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts. Anna Litwin was born 2 July 1893 in Wylewa, Sienawa, Galicia, Austria Hungary. She died 5 October 1964 and was buried 8 October 1964 in Lexington, Middlesex, Massachusetts.

    John Peter Hotz died 10 August 1977 in Lowell, Middlesex, Massachusetts and was buried 12 August 1977 in Lexington, Middlesex, Massachusetts.

    My sister interviewed my grandfather and wrote the following paper to complete an assignment for a college course in 1973. I made one change to the paper. My grandfather stated that he was born 4 July 1887 but when I sent for his birth record, it stated he was born 3 July 1887. I mentioned this descrepency to one of his daughters and her reply was that she knew he was really born on the 3rd but that he loved this country so much that he claimed his birthday as July 4th, the same day as America's birthday.

    "My grandfather is a tall, white-haired man with an expression of determination and strength in his face. His philosophy of honest living results from the events of importance in his life - of the hardships endured and of the happiness and rewards of family life.

    He agreed to tell me what he remembered about his boyhood in Europe. He was born on July 3, 1887 in Austria-Hungary in eastern Glacia near the Carpathian mountains. He and his family lived in the village of Folusz.

    His father, Peter Hotz, was a Captain in the Army before he became a farmer. His mother was Anna Hotz and he had two older sisters, Stella and Blanche, and a half brother named John. Their home was a type of log cabin. There was no electricity or running water. Candles and kerosine were used to light their home and the two brooks on their land served as a source of water for home use. In the winter, a hole had to be cut through the ice to obtain water for daily supply. The country was mountainous and beautiful with the natural resources of land that could produce good harvest and of forests for timber.

    Papa (another name for my grandfather) described the country in which he lived and worked as farming country. Most of the people of the village of Folusz were farmers. They had to be as self-sufficient as possible because they had little money to spend and had to produce enough to provide for their families. Papa states, “the people used to work all day for forty cents a day.” During the harvest time, the neighbors would come together to help each other with the harvesting. There was no farm machinery and all of the work had to be done by hand. Both men and women worked in the fields harvesting wheat, rye, barley, potatoes, cabbages, carrots, and beets. Each shared equally in the labor. “Women go outside and work and dig just the same as the men do”, said my grandfather. Cabbages and potatoes were the main sources of sustenance during the winter months. Papa’s family dug a large hole in the ground for storage of their harvest for the winter. What farmers produced in the summer had to supply their families for the entire winter. As a young man, my grandfather remembers the cabbage being ground up and placed into a large barrel. It was similar to sauerkraut and there was enough to last for the winter. Meat, rice, and sugar were purchased on occasion. Coffee was a rare commodity for farmers because of its cost. Times were difficult and my grandfather emphasized the many terrible hardships that people had to endure - many times having to go without or not having enough to eat.

    The clothing that Papa’s family wore was made by hand. The flax was spun into thread and then rolled into balls at home to take to town to be woven into cloth on the large looms of the weavers. Clothes were rarely purchased because of a farmer’s small income.

    On his family’s farm, Papa had more responsibilities to fulfill other than working in the fields. He would go up into the forests to cut down trees and cut them into logs. He brought the logs to the city for the bakers. They would use the logs as fuel for a fire to bake bread. There was a certain section of woodland designated for the people of the village. The only industry in the village of Folusz was a saw mill. The people would cut the trees and bring them to the saw mill. “You were very lucky if you could make a few cents a day.” Papa told me of a particular day when he cut down a pine tree by himself and received one dollar and fifty cents for the tree. Money was important to the people of the village who had to work hard for a small wage. My grandfather said that “everything was work outside on the farm. The beginning of everything was work. When you are young you can stand a whole lot.”

    Another one of my grandfather’s responsibilities was to graze the animals on the farm. In the morning, he would wake early and hike into the hills with the herds to let them graze and then he would herd them home at noon. Papa’s meal at noon was his first meal of the day. Then, all night long, he would graze the horses out on the pasture so that they could be ready for work the next day. He described nights of thunder and lightening and remaining in the rain to stay with the horses. He has a deep respect for animals and related an instance of a goat that had been caught between two rocks high in the hills - several miles from my grandfather’s home. The goat had broken both hind legs. When he found her, he freed her from the rocks and carried her for miles back to the farm.

    Education was minimal for my grandfather. “My mother was my teacher,” he said. He went to a “house school” for a period of time. The “house school” was similar to home teaching. His family could not afford to give a formal education to him.

    Medical facilities in the village of Folusz were non-existent. “There were no doctors”, he said. When he was twelve, my grandfather was splitting wood. He was young and inexperienced with an ax and when he attempted to split the log, he missed and the ax cut through his foot. Using a rag, he carefully wrapped his foot. The only remedy that was used for the wound was kerosine.

    There were times of happiness, too. The young people of Folusz did have gatherings occasionally on Sunday afternoons. There was dancing to the music of the bass fiddle and the violin. They were a happy people even though their work was hard.

    Wedding celebrations lasted for three days. The most common age for marriage was twenty-one years old and most of the families had from one to four children.

    Holidays are times when the people of Folusz did not work. The people visit each other and share the holiday together in small gatherings. Special cooking is a part of the season and at Christmas time, candles decorate the Christmas tree.

    Religion was a part of my grandfather’s life. He attended Church services every Sunday and he was a member of the Catholic faith. There were several churches in the village. The majority of the people were Catholic, but the Jewish religion also was a part of Folusz.

    In the interview, Papa spoke with emphasis concerning the arduous work of the people and the endurance of hardships. “I always wanted to go to America,” he said.

    He pleaded with his mother to borrow the money needed for his passage. During this time, Austria-Hungary was under the rule of Franz Josef. Young men were not allowed to leave the country until the age of twenty-one because the were forced to serve in the army.

    Papa escaped from Glacia with nine other young men and a hired guide who was to take them across the border and into Germany. They traveled by train to the station just before the main station to avoid being caught by authorities. A wagon and horses were waiting for them and they traveled all night to the city of Krakow. They stayed at a store in Krakow during the daylight hours. At night they again drove by horses and wagon to the border of Germany. The road had been blocked off, so the young men crawled under the gate and crossed the bridge over the border and into Germany.

    Papa stayed at a farmhouse in Germany and waited there until he received the money from home that he needed for travel. When he received the money, he took a a train to Hamburg, Germany and waited for five days for the ship to come into port. The trip to New York took nineteen days and he came to stay in Watertown, Massachusetts when he arrived in the United States. His immigration was in 1903 and he was sixteen years of age.

    My grandfather’s family were hard-working farming people who were primarily self-sufficient. My grandfather’s independence and wisdom are expressions of his European background."

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