Czechast: My Ántonia and Czechs in Nebraska

Evelyn Funda

Willa Cather's novel My Ántonia is an American classic. Even though it is about Czech immigrants to Nebraska, it is virtually unknown in Czechia. It is a pity.

In this episode of Czechast, we delve into a unique intersection of Czech heritage and American literature, exploring the bonds formed by migration, identity, and the pioneering spirit. I'm thrilled to have with us a very special guest, Dr. Evelyn Funda, Emeritus Professor at Utah State University. Evelyn brings a rich Czecho-Moravian background and a deep understanding of the cultural tapestry that connects the Czech lands to the American plains.

"I come from people, who came in the early part of the 20th century on my father's side. My grandfather came in 1907 and my grandmother a few years later. They moved to Minnesota a little later and ultimately to a tiny Czech community in southern Idaho."

Our main subject today revolves around the iconic American author Willa Cather and her novel "My Ántonia." This seminal work illuminates the lives of Bohemian immigrants in Nebraska in the late 19th century, painting a vivid picture of their struggles, resilience, and the indelible mark they left on the American landscape.

"She believed that immigrants like the Bohemians were actually contributing to America. It wasn't just about them coming to America and getting something out of America, land or becoming prosperous. It was also about contributing to America."

Photo: Archiv of Evelyn Funda

"My Ántonia" is more than just a novel; I believe it is, in a sense, a historical document that reflects the hopes, dreams, and challenges of those who left their homeland behind. Although it is unfortunately virtually unknown in Czechia today, the first Czechoslovak president, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, thought it was very significant, and he corresponded with Willa Cather about it.

"He wrote to her first and then there are a number of letters between the two of them. I think they started corresponding in 1922 and kept writing to each other until about a year before his passing in 1937."

So, adjust your volume and listen to the whole episode of Czechast with Dr. Evelyn Funda!

Author: Vít Pohanka
run audio


  • Czechast

    Czechast is a regular RPI podcast about Czech and Moravian culture, history, and economy.