Kathy Noltze Investigates:   

Good King Wenceslas...

 

    

the Feast of St. Stephen, and the Doubrawas

(variations of name: Doubrava, Dobrawa, and others). The Bohemian princess Dobrawa married the man who united all the Polish states; their son became the first king of Poland. He in turn expanded Poland through Pomerania to the Baltic Sea. Princess Dobrawa brought Christianity to her husband and all of Poland, which is why it's fitting to mention her at Christmas.

     900 years after Princess Dobrawa converted pagans in Poland, descendants of these Bohemians, Pomeranians, and Poles sailed from Bremen to Canada, transited the border at Buffalo, and went straight to Wisconsin.

     How is Good King Wenceslas involved? Princess Dobrawa's father Boleslaus was the younger brother of Wenceslas, Duke of Bohemia. History records Wenceslas as a charitable leader who indeed looked after the poor as the Christmas carol relates. Boleslaus, also known as Boleslaus the Cruel, killed his brother Wenceslas and became leader of Bohemia.

     Referred to in the carol, the Feast of St. Stephen is celebrated in many countries on December 26. It is a day to prepare alms boxes to give to the poor, thus earning the name "Boxing Day" in Canada, Britain, and other countries.

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     A few years back, I accompanied a descendant of Bohemian immigrants to the very village from whence they came: Rathsdorfnow called Skuhrovin the Czech Republic. With rolling wooded hills, cow pastures, and stone barns, I could have mistaken my surroundings for Fillmore, Wisconsin. At a decrepit closed church, we found a monument with the names of several Doubrawas engraved on it, joining the names of other villagers, including children,  who apparently lost their lives around WWI. The small cemetery surrounding the church is the final resting place for numerous Zimprichs.

--Kathy Noltze

December 2009  

 

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