My maternal grandfather Peter (Petar) Babarovich was born April 12, 1861 in the village of Splitska on the island of Brac in the Adriatic Sea. He died in Anacortes, Washington March 5, 1935. Peter was the second child Ernest Babarovich and his wife Louise Setelich. The family exported wine and olive oil which they grew in their vineyards and olive orchards. He married Marija Mattia Vulic) in 1888, who was also born in Splitska. Peter's wife, my grandmother, was born September 21, 1863 and died August 8, 1953 in Anacortes, Washington. The picture below is of my maternal grandparents.
They had seven children all of whom, except my mother Mary, were born in on a small island Brac off the coast near Split, Croatia. Their children were: Mary Thelma, Anna Louise, Clara Jacqueline, Thelma Mary, Ernest Dominic, Nick and Catherine. Mother was born in Anacortes September 21, 1905 and died there December 7, 2000. I've written about their journey from the old country to America before as a result of locating a brother who had previously left for America and then lost contact with the family back home. (https://paulluverajournalonline.com/weblog/2008/07/mary-thelma-babarovich-my-mother.html)
The family got to American through my grandfather’s brother John, the eldest son. He immigrated to the United States in 1879, financed by his father. He was only twenty two years old when he left. The family had lost contact with him after he left for ten years until a customer at their vineyards in Splitska gave the family the address where John was living in America. The family wrote him and in 1901 John sent for my grandfather Peter, his younger brother and Ernest, the son of another brother, Spiro, to come to America. So,they all left for America, paid for by John.
In 1902 they sent for my grandmother Marija, who, along with her five children, traveled with Peter's brother, Spiro, in May of 1902 to America. John paid the cost of transportation for all of them. Their route was from Brac to France where they got on a ship. They landed in New York. At New York, they entered Canada and boarded a train across Canada to the West coast,making their way to Burlington, Washington. John picked them up at the Burlington station with a wagon. He took them to Anacortes and then by boat to Sinclair Island where the brothers had a homestead.
I was born on February 21, 1935 and he died on March 5th of that year. I had no opportunity to know this unique man. However, my sister Phyllis has written about her recollections plus collected stories about him from a family relative, George E. Prelenda, who had spent a summer with my grandparents and spoke the language fluently. As a result, I do have information about him. George was an interesting man too. He was born in 1919 in South Dakota to my Aunt Anna Babarovich and her husband Nick Prelenda. George had graduated in Far Eastern Studies at the University of Washington and worked for the CIA where he specialized in Bulgarian translations.
Peter and Marija’s seventh child, John, was born on Sinclair Island. After tiring of farming my grandfather took the entire family on a scow rigged with a homemade sail to Anacortes. They settled at 1108 6thStreet in Anacortes where Marija ran a boarding house for Slavonian fisherman and Peter was a commercial fisherman. Their youngest child Mary, my mother, was born in Anacortes in 1905
Peter and Marija considered themselves Austrians. Peter had served ten years in the Austro-Hungarian navy before he married. He kept a framed portrait of Francis Joseph I and his queen in the parlor of the Babarovich home. He was proud of his service in the navy. The kitchen in the old house on 6th street was huge. The house was rectangular in shape and two stories high. The front of the house was kept very clean and neat where you entertained visitors, but everything else happened down the long narrow hall in the huge kitchen. I have clear memories of that house, the large vegetable garden next to the house and the back area. This was a wonderful and inviting kitchen where there were always unusual smells and food cooking.
Peter supported the family from the garden and ocean. He caught crab which were sold and fished for both income as well as food for the family. They had chickens and a garden to feed the family. He rowed a boat to place his crab pots and to get around. Peter rowed standing up with a forward roll of his wrists. He had powerful arms and shoulders. They hunted duck and lived off the land in many respects. The photograph shows my grandfather rowing his skiff in the waters around Anacortes. This is how he rowed. Standing up and facing the stern of the boat.
I'm sorry I didn't know this man of great character whose word was his bond. I'm sorry I never learned to speak the language so I could have talked to my grandmother directly instead of through translations from my mother. My father, an immigrant from Italy, believed, "this is America and everyone should speak English. We are Americans" so I never learned more then a few conversational words to my regret. This is my salute to my grandfather Peter Babarovich. May he rest in peace.