When I look at the photographs of Peter Cvjetanovic, I must frightfully admit that I almost see a resemblance to myself. Thankfully, there is no semblances of political thought between us, only those physical attributes shared the descendants of white, European immigrants.
One would think that all people descended from European, Caucasian immigrants would be too ashamed to appear in a rally like the one in Charlottesville, Virginia. “Unite the Right” rallies are nothing more than the descendants of immigrants espousing bigoted, anti-immigrant viewpoints.
The story of my own ancestor, relayed to me by my paternal grandfather, is the that of an Eastern European immigrant who faced discrimination. My first ancestor came to this country from what was once known as Czechoslovakia. He arrived during one of the numerous immigration booms that began around the start of the twentieth century.
His name was Paul Czajcowski. A beautiful surname indeed, one I often think would be neat to have, but my ancestor Paul had found that in America, it wasn’t so easy to have such a name.
I do not know if it was only societal pressure that forced Paul to take his wife’s name: Larson, nevertheless, it can’t be said that “immigrant name change” was a myth, as has been claimed. Either way, the bigotry against such immigrants did indeed force him to become known as Paul Larson, if for no other reason than to find steady enough employment to realize the “American Dream.”
I’m telling this story now because I feel I owe it to both my ancestor and my descendants. I shudder to think what Paul Czajcowski would think of Peter Cvjetanovic and his ilk, as they tried their best to awaken the same spirit of xenophobia that forced my ancestor to appear not quite so foreign.
I also feel a responsibility to my descendants to share my thoughts, so that people know that men like Mr. Cvjetanovic do not have the liberty to speak for me or any of those with our common ethnicity.
Peter Cvjetanovic and those men who marched in Charlottesville, in their insolence, think that keeping a statue erected in honor of the Confederacy might present the best method for preserving “white, European history” (as if mainstream history were anything but that.)
I would invite them to know my grandfather’s middle name, and my father’s, and my own: Paul. There are better ways to honor the past than marching in a crowd elevated by hatred and racism. It is my sincerest hope that no one ever again gives any credence to organizations such as “Unite the Right,” for they appear to have no other motive than to divide an already divided nation.