Czech-American community in Chicago to commemorate Mayor Anton Cermak
The Czech-American community in Chicago will be marking 150 years since the birth of Anton Cermak, a Czech immigrant who became the mayor of Chicago and was assassinated in 1933, after only two years in office. Two such events are planned for the coming days.
The Czech-Canadian singer Lenka Lichtenberg will travel to Chicago from Toronto this Saturday to perform Bohemian, Moravian and Slovak folk songs on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Anton Cermak, the famous Czech-born mayor of Chicago.
The first event, organised by the T.G. Masaryk Czech School in Chicago, is due to take place this Saturday at the Bohemian National Cemetery and will be attended by members of the Czech community as well as by Cermak’s grandson Anton Kerner. Another, more official, event is scheduled for Tuesday May 9, Cermak’s actual birthday, at the Chicago Cultural Centre.
Lenka Lichtenberg will be performing a number of folk songs that were widely popular during Anton Cermak’s time:
“The songs I chose are from a collection that was done by Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk’s son Jan, who also had a strong connection to America, and he collected a dozen beautiful Czech, Moravian and Slovak folk songs in a publication that I grew up with.
“And then I recorded an album which is called Masaryk to honour both Jan and his father. So from that collection I am very certain that most of those songs Anton Cermak would have known and probably loved.”
Antonín Čermák, or Anton Cermak as he was known in the US, was born in Kladno on May 9, 1873, but his family left for the US when he was just one year old. Despite being an immigrant, Cermak rose to hold important positions in the Democratic Party in Illinois, and in 1931 he was elected the mayor of Chicago.
He died tragically only two years later from an apparent attempt on the life of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Irena Čajková, one of the organizers of the commemorative events, says Cermak’s legacy is still alive among members of the Czech-American community:
“For the Czech community, Cermak is certainly one of the most important personalities. We have a street name after him and unfortunately many people living along that street don’t even know who Cermak was.
“So, as a member of the Czech community and a teacher at the Czech community school, I feel that it is important to commemorate Anton Cermak and pay him respects and also to teach the future generation about him, his sacrifice and also the way he fought for the rights of immigrants and lower social classes.”
Apart from a number of folk songs, including Masaryk’s favourite Ach synku Synku, Lenka Lichtenberg will also perform the Czech and American anthems and a special song related to Cermak:
“Very interestingly it is an election era song from the time when Anton Cermak was campaigning to become a mayor and a political leader for the Democratic Party in America, or in Chicago should I say.
“It was sung as his election theme and wherever he had public appearances, people would sing this song for him. And someone found it, so I will be also singing that, saying that he is simply the best man for the job.”