Filed Under Biography

Balancing Slovak Identity and Patriotism

Monsignor Dubosh During World War II

Monsignor Francis J. Dubosh did not suffer a fool gladly. When he wasn't satisfied with the speed exhibited by the editor of one national Slovak newspaper in publishing articles about Slovak American patriotism during World War II, he didn't mince his words. "Please don't muff this," he wrote the editor, "as you did with the naming of the three Liberty Ships."

World War II was a challenging time for many of America's Eastern European ethnic communities whose homelands were allied during the war with Hitler's Nazi Germany. Because of the close ties which many in these ethnic communities maintained with family and friends in the old homelands, their civic organizations often engaged in concerted action to demonstrate to the United States government that, despite overseas ties, their members were still loyal and patriotic Americans. One of America's foremost leaders during World War II who led such a concerted organizational effort for the national Slovak-American community was Monsignor Francis J. Dubosh, long-time pastor of Saints Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church in Lakewood, Ohio and the son of Slovak immigrants.

Francis J. Dubosh was born in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland on September 27, 1890. He was a graduate of St. Ignatius high school, Loyola College (now John Carroll University), and St. Mary's Seminary. In 1916, he was ordained as a Cleveland diocesan priest, and two decades later, in 1935, he was appointed a domestic prelate with the title of Monsignor. During the years leading up to World War II, Monsignor Dubosh was engaged in an active and fruitful career as pastor at Saints Cyril and Methodius. In addition to his cleric duties there, however, Dubosh, became an activist in a number of Slovak civic and religious organizations, and in the years leading up to World War II he attained leadership positions in several of these organizations, including the First Catholic Slovak Union, which had been founded in Cleveland in 1890, and the Slovak Catholic Federation, founded in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1911.

In 1943, as America entered into its second year of World War II, Monsignor Dubosh was elected President of the Slovak League of America, one of the most important Slovak national civic organizations. The Slovak League-- founded in Cleveland in 1907, had been instrumental in forging the Cleveland Agreement of 1915 and the Pittsburgh Agreement of 1918, which led to the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918. As the new president of the Slovak League, Monsignor Dubosh traveled around the country during World War II promoting Slovak patriotism in America, but at the same time lobbying for an independent democratic Slovak state in post-war Europe.

Through Monsignor Dubosh's organizational efforts as President of the Slovak League, tens of millions of dollars were raised in war bonds purchases by Slovak-Americans. The "Slovak Record," a national newspaper published by the League, was strategically circulated to targeted government officials, creating a compelling record of the many acts of sacrifice and patriotism both at home and in the military overseas that Slovak-Americans performed during the war. And, although Slovakia did not emerge from World War II as an independent democratic state as he had worked and prayed for, his speeches, trips, and correspondence as president of the Slovak League of America during the war kept the vision alive.

After World War II ended and his tenure as President of the Slovak League came to an end, Monsignor Dubosh continued to give public speeches--some of them controversial, all of them passionate, and campaign for an independent democratic Slovak state in Europe. His vision finally materialized on January 1, 1993 when the Slovak Republic was created--an event that took place two and one-half decades after Monsignor Dubosh's death in Cleveland on Christmas day 1967.

Images

Overseeing Birdtown Monsignor Francis Dubosh reads a letter at his desk in his office at the rectory at Saints Cyril and Methodius Church in Lakewood. His office overlooked Madison Avenue and Quail Street, one of the colorfully-named streets in Lakewood's Birdtown. Birdtown was home to one of the Cleveland area's largest Slovak communities for much of the twentieth century. Msgr. Dubosh served Birdtown's Catholic Slovaks as pastor at Saints Cyril and Methodius from 1927-1967. Source: Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. Date: 1960
Slovakia This map shows the Slovak Republic, a small country with a population of approximately 5 million people. It is located in central Europe and surrounded by the Czech Republic, Poland, the Ukraine, Hungary, and Austria. In the period 1880-1920, hundreds of thousand of Slovaks, their lives disrupted by changing economic and political conditions in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, immigrated to the United States. Many of them came to Cleveland, which became home to one of the the largest, if not the largest, Slovak populations outside of Slovakia during this era.
Growing up on the West Side This home at 2173 West 32nd Street in Ohio City was purchased by Slovak immigrants Charles Dubosh and Mary Hanizsko in 1908. They immigrated from the Spisska Nova Ves region of Slovakia and arrived in Cleveland in 1887-1888. In 1889, they married here and their only child, Francis, was born the following year. Francis Dubosh grew up the west side of Cleveland--living first in what is today known as the Tremont neighborhood, and then later moving to what today is known as Ohio City. The Dubosh family lived in the house shown above while Francis attended Loyola College (now John Carroll University) and St. Mary's Seminary. Image courtesy of Jim Dubelko
A new Catholic church for Birdtown Slovaks. Monsignor Francis Dubosh's professional life as a Roman Catholic priest reflected a passion for building--both physical facilities and communities. In his first ten years as a priest, Father Dubosh took on two tough assignments under difficult circumstances, building solid foundations for two new Slovak parishes--Holy Name of Jesus in Youngstown and Our Lady of Mercy in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood. In 1927, Father Dubosh was assigned to Saints Cyril and Methodius parish in Lakewood, Ohio. In the fourth year of his 40-year long pastorship, he built the beautiful church seen in the photo above, which is now the home of Transfiguration parish, a merger of the former Saint Rose of Lima and Saints Cyril and Methodius Roman Catholic parishes.. Image courtesy of Jim Dubelko
A new home for Jednota The First Catholic Slovak Union, a Slovak fraternal organization sometimes simply referred to as "Jednota"-- the Slovak word for "Union," is one of the oldest ethnic fraternal organizations in America. It was founded in Cleveland in 1890 to serve the needs of Slovak workers and their families. In 1934, Jednota built its first headquarters office building at 3289 East 55th Street in Cleveland. Father Dubosh, the Supreme Chaplain for Jednota, is seen in this photo standing in front of the new headquarters building with other Jednota officers. Image courtesy of the Slovak Institute
Monsignor Dubosh On November 12, 1934, Father Dubosh was elevated to the office of Domestic Prelate and the title of Monsignor. Among the duties he performed as domestic prelate was participating in the selection of Edward Hoban to become the new bishop of Cleveland following the death of Bishop Joseph Schrembs in 1945. At the time of his elevation to this religious office, Monsignor Dubosh was the only Slovak domestic prelate in the United States. The above photo was taken in 1936 at the Conference of Slovak Priests of Cleveland. Image courtesy of the Slovak Institute.
A parish priest In this 1937 photo, Msgr. Dubosh is shown with the eighth grade graduating class from Sts. Cyril and Methodius grade school in Lakewood. John R. Dubelko, the father of the author of this story, is the boy circled in the photo. Source: Jim Dubelko
Spirit of the Slovak League of America On May 29, 1943, a ceremony was held at Cleveland Airport (now known as Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport) in which three trainer airplanes, each inscribed with the name "Spirit of the Slovak League of America," were turned over to the War Department for pilot training during World War II. The planes were purchased from the voluntary contributions of thousands of Slovaks in 37 states across the United States. In the above photo, Monsignor Dubosh, standing next to Cleveland mayor Frank Lausche, is seen delivering his dedicatory address. Image courtesy of the Slovak Institute
Patriotism and Calls for Slovak Independence In the three years during World War II that Monsignor Dubosh served as President of the Slovak League of America, the organization published the "Slovak Record," an ethnic newspaper containing articles in both the English and Slovak languages. Many of the articles detailed acts of patriotism and sacrifice that American-Slovaks were making to promote a successful conclusion to the war effort. Other articles recounted the history of the Slovak people and called upon the United States government to support an independent democratic state in Slovakia. The above photo is from the newspaper's May 1945 edition. Image courtesy of the Slovak Institute
World War II memorial World War II produced a complicated legacy in Slovakia. The above mural--part of a 1949 interior decoration of Saints Cyril and Methodius church in Lakewood, depicts the story of the Slav nations and their conversion to Christianity. In the lower right hand corner of the mural with a rope around his neck is Monsignor Jozef Tiso, who served as Prime Minister and then President of independent Slovakia from 1939-1945. After World War II ended, Tiso was convicted of war crimes by a communist-dominated Czechoslovak court and was hanged on April 18, 1947, an action very unpopular at the time in Slovakia and among Slovak-Americans. The mural contains Latin words which translate: "Saints Cyril and Methodius, pray for us." Image courtesy of Jim Dubelko
A Final Parish Tribute This statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary stands in a garden area on the east side of Saints Cyril and Methodius Church in Lakewood. At the base of the statue is a plaque upon which the parishioners expressed their gratitude for the forty years of service Monsignor Dubosh gave as pastor to this historic Cleveland Slovak parish. Msgr. Dubosh served as pastor from 1927 until his death on Christmas Day 1967. Image courtesy of Jim Dubelko

Location

Metadata

Jim Dubelko, “Balancing Slovak Identity and Patriotism,” Cleveland Historical, accessed January 21, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/583.