Knowing U.S.

In addition to word of mouth and unsanctioned emigration agents, Slovaks learned about immigrant life in America from their magazines. Daniel Šustek (changed to Schustek in the U.S.), an early migrant from Slovenská Ľupča to Chicago, began to write features about his experiences, published by two Slovak journals starting in 1875 through 1887. Some included detailed comparisons of his wages and living costs, usefully converted to the Habsburg monetary units for his readers.


The Kingdom expected the emigrants to obtain a passport, which served as a permit to emigrate. That meant facing unpleasant bureaucracy, waiting, paying a fee, and the possibility of being rejected.

The latter was of particular concern to a significant group among those planning to leave. Young males who had not completed the obligatory 3-year military service would not be issued a passport, and older, still draftable, men could not be certain of getting one, especially if the Habsburg Empire (the Kingdom of Hungary was its province) expected a military conflict.

But once they were outside of the Kingdom of Hungary, although still in the Habsburg Empire, the authorities in Vienna, Silesia, Galicia (now southern Poland) did not care. And the subjects of the Kingdom were free to cross the border with no exit permit for other reasons, e.g., seasonal work. So without a passport, the trick was not to look like a permanent emigrant, to have someone else's passport (no portraits in passports then), or simple chance – there were occasional police spot checks at major train stations near the border but no systematic checks of each passenger on every train.

Emigration routes

Q: How did Slovaks travel to the emigration ports?

Bremen and Hamburg (red) remained the main ports of departure for the Slovaks throughout their massive wave of emigration to the U.S. in 1880-1913, stopped by World War I. Rotterdam, Antwerp (yellow), and Le Havre (blue) plus some other ports in France, Italy, and Britain joined them later (e.g., a Slovak with two sons sailed on the Titanic from Southampton). The Slovak emigrants largely ignored the Kingdom of Hungary's, their home then, 1903 law that maintained (but did not mandate) that its citizens emigrate via the kingdom's Mediterranean port of Rijeka (green).

Most Slovak towns were on railroad lines, and most villages were within 5-10 miles of the nearest train station, none farther than 30-35 miles.


The main Slovak emigration train routes (red) carried them north and west to Silesia and from there through what was then Germany to Berlin, where they caught trains to their ports of embarkment. Additional options brought some people from parts of East Slovakia to Berlin via Cracow (thin red), or via Budapest and Vienna.

Especially those who later sailed from France would take the "red" routes to Bratislava, optionally setting off south to Budapest and then to Bratislava (blue), from there to Vienna and then on, often via Basel in Switzerland (blue). Those few who boarded their ships in Rijeka or Trieste followed the same routes and transferred either in Budapest to trains heading to the Mediterranean via Zagreb or in Vienna to trains heading there via Maribor (both green).