Verona Straka was 23-years-old when she came to America in 1922. Her marriage to Jánoš Figlar was arranged. Jánoš was a friend and co-worker of her brother-in-law, John Kolcun. Jánoš desperately wanted to marry, yet he would not settle for just any woman. His prospective bride had to be Slovak, preferably straight from Europe. Aware that Jánoš was in search of a bride, John believed he knew the perfect woman for him. That woman was Verona. They were married on November 1, 1924,and moved from Ohio to Wilkes-Barre, PA and eventually settled permanently in Duquesne, Pennsylvania. They had seven children together.
Verona’s husband’s easily-provoked temper and his fondness for alcohol often made for a disastrous combination resulting in violent outbursts. For men like Jánoš, a stop at the local bar for a “shot and a beer” after work, was quite common. Once home he began to make demands. If his supper was not on the table—even if it was 2:00 a.m.—he would yell obscenities at his wife in Slovak. Often he hit her. On those occasions when the dish she prepared was not to his liking, he would hurl his plate across the table.
Verona was my grandmother, and to be frank, like many women of her generation, she put up with a lot. I imagine it wasn’t easy to live as she did. If we apply today’s standards, we probably look at her situation and ask why did she stay? Why did she take it? From what I learned, the answer was a simple one: for her children. It couldn’t have been easy so I believe she had many moments where she relied on her inner strength to survive. I wrote about her story in my book, Three Slovak Women.