1. Another victim of the ‘War on Terror’ — I waited 60 hours in Prague for my bicycle to arrive. While waiting, I toured the city mostly by foot. Just as I have heard, the city is beautiful, well-preserved, clean, and with well-educated civil people. Czech airlines had previously told me that they thought my bike ‘might be stolen’. So I had to resort to ‘plan B’, travel by train.
And just as I was checking out of the hostel, by bike arrives. I can see from the luggage that it is damaged. As I examine it, I see that the bike containers have been opened, taken apart, and dumped back in. In repacking them, they exposed the internal rear hub of the bike, and it was broken in transit. Also, a small bottle of bicycle lubricant is missing. That may have triggered the TSA alarm.
I have 8 working gears on my bike. Not enough, but enough hopefully to get me to Krakow, Poland, where I will try to buy replacement parts. I have already bought a train ticket to eastern Czech Republic. So I assemble and load up my bike and ride to the station.
2. How did I get the last name ‘Worker’? — On the train ride, I pass thru the town of Pardubice, Czech Republic. This is near where my great grandfather, Jon Vuytchek, was born around 1830. He emigrated to southern Illinois (Bingham) around 1842. There he married Anya Woyelma (sp? another Bohemian) around 1860. They then proceeded to have 12 children, all born on even years, 2 years apart from each other from 1862 thru 1884. All lived! Including Anya. Wow.
Jon Vuytchek worked 7 days a week, in the coal mines and on the farm, 365 days a year, every year. Nothing but work. But then you father 12 children and perhaps that is a reasonable response. Jon also did not go to church. From family legend, he had very strong opinions that it was a waste of time. And this trait continues up to today with many of us ‘Workers’.
Well, the local people began calling Jon ‘the worker’. All of his children began talking of changing their last names from the unpronouncible ‘Vuytchek’ to ‘Worker’. But Jon absolutely forbade it. So much so that he carved his own tombstone with his birth name on it. I have visited it in Bingham Illinois, and will visit it again. But within 2 years of his death, all 12 of his children had Americanized their name to “Worker’. And that is how I came to have my unique last name. Or as family lore has it. There are many Workmans, but all the ‘Workers’ in the US that I have found have traced back to Jon and Anya’s 12 children.
So here I am where Jon is alleged to have come from. The land near Pardubice is rolling and fertile, and there are coal mines nearby. Jon would have felt like he was on familiar territory when he arrived in Bingham and Sorento Illinois.
3. Poland — This is where my mother’s people came from. I am now riding my bike thru southern Poland. Making good time, clipping along at a steady 12 mph. I camped out last night in a birch and pine forest near a lake. I set my tent up 15 minutes before nightfall, and pull it up at sunrise. This reduces the chance that anyone will find me. Well, I am at the end of a very small rough road next to a lake thinking ‘great site’. Just as a get my tent set up, I hear a car coming. What? Way out here, at night? And sure enough, a young couple pulls up. When they see me, they are more startled than I am. They quickly turn the car around a split. Ohhhh. I look around on the ground. Then I see the dead white balloons of love laying ashore. I move my tent.
I saw and heard strange animals last night. Sounds in the night that I am not used to in the US. This morning at sunrise, (5 am), I set off on bike to Auschwitz. I have spent all day walking the Auschwitz/Birkenau ruins. One needs at least a day to cover it all. I may write about it next time. Tomorrow I will ride on to Krakow Poland, for a few days. It is my plan to ride from Krakow across Slovakia to Budpest Hungary. It will take a while.
Life is good