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John Sabol’s publisher suggested he try to capture Cleveland’s Czech and Slovak communities in a single book, but the Seven Hills historian knew better.

The two peoples came in separate waves and didn’t do much mixing once they got here. Czechs and Slovaks built their own churches, ethnic halls and traditions, despite the unity portrayed by the former Czechoslovakia.

“They did not give up on that identity,” said Sabol, a former reporter and editor for the Cleveland Press. “Cleveland was not so much a melting pot but an area of interesting enclaves.”

Arcadia Publishing conceded and Sabol worked with Ithaca, N.Y. writer Lisa Alzo to complete two books, “Cleveland Czechs” and “Cleveland Slovaks,” for its Image of America series.

The slim volumes of black and white photographs recount a time when “there was no lack of places providing good accordion lessons” along Broadway Avenue. But the books also point out a lasting legacy.

From the Czech community came Mayor Ralph Perk, Our Lady of Lourdes Church and the landmark Bohemian National Hall. From the Slovak community emerged Paul Newman, Benedictine High School and St. Andrew Abbey.

“The people are still strong,” said Sabol. “If you go to a Slovak event, they have good turnouts. I went to the Czech Christmas fair at the Bohemian National Hall. It was jammed.”

Both books are available at local booksellers or through http://www.arcadiapublishing.com.

Article courtesy of: Cleveland.com