My mom Majda, was born in Maribor, Slovenija ( former Yugoslavia) She was born in 1934, and would often speak to my sister Maria and me about her childhood in the midst of the Nazi invasions and the throes of a continent at war. She came to Cleveland for love, meeting my father Joe while he got on the wrong tour bus in the 1960’s traveling to his ancestral homeland (Slovenija) to visit relatives. The two met and life happened and she came to Cleveland. She absolutely loved Cleveland, but she missed her family back home. Going to St. Vitus Church (largest Slovenian Roman Catholic Church in North America) and living in the awesome St. Clair Superior neighborhood (home of the 1st Slovenian community in Cleveland) made her feel more welcome and part of a larger culture.

As an immigrant she was often teased about her thick accent and she took great pains to be an even more fluent speaker, and could recite the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence like a true patriot. She became a US Citizen and never looked back.

She worked as a travel agent, a bank teller, and volunteered at dozens of organizations while raising my sister and me. She taught us to speak Slovenian, and held close the traditions of Slovenian history: the celebration of St. Nicholas Day, the making of beautiful pine roped fruits and ribbons called “butare” the week before Easter, and the many small acts of celebrating a saint’s Feastday or the remembrance of a relative long gone.

Her favorite thing to do in Cleveland was to take the RTA Number 1 bus downtown on St. Clair Avenue and walk Euclid Avenue and spend time on Public Square; she said downtown and its energy was the closest she felt to European Cities.

She often spent time with people who had immigrated to the US from other countries, she loved the stories of people’s journeys and she knew how lonely it could be, she was as American as someone here for ten generations, in fact she never missed an election. Coming from a place where you could disappear for expressing an opinion contrary to a dictatorship, she would vote as if it were a sacred act of loyalty to this great country. She lived to see her homeland Slovenija liberate itself from Communist rule, that moment will forever be in my memory. She took me to this plaque downtown (still on west side of Mall B) and I treasure the ties between Slovenia and the United States of America::