Our Slavic Fellow Citizens - 1910

Slovak Emigration
Chapter VI

Favorable Selective Influences

One of the most important questions to us, as regards any stream of emigrants, is what selective forces are. Are we getting the failures who cannot succeed at home as people say, "the dregs," "the scum"? Or are we getting the best? Among the Slovaks, the main selecting traits would seem to be energy, strength and trustworthiness. The ones who are the most apt to emigrate are those who are ambitious and those whose credit is good, for they commonly go on borrowed money. They are therefore those who are physically strong and who expect (and are expected) to be able to make "big money" in America by undertaking work and emigration what is known to be the very hard work here.

I was told at the Tatra Bank in Saint Martin that in all the years during which the bank had been loaning money to emigrants, they had never had a case where the money loaned (generally about 400 crowns, or $80), was not repaid in four months. To my inquiry as to what happened if a man was absolutely unable to pay, in case of sickness or accident, for example, "Then his brother pays," I was told. A peasant is seldom refused a loan on account of lack of character, though he may be because of absolute poverty. Peasants are "good pay," I was told, gentlemen uncertain, and stories were related to illustrate the peasants' fidelity in discharging a debt, even a questionable one. Of course, there are cases of those who emigrate because they have ruined themselves at home by intemperance, by bad management or through ill-luck, but my conclusion is that, on the whole, we get the pick of the population from which emigration mainly draws, but it does not draw from all strata as we have seen.

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