My maternal grandfather Peter (Petar) Babarovich died the year I was born – 1935. He died on March 5th of that year and I was born in February of 1935 so I never knew this unique man. Nonno 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 They had seven children all of whom, except my mother Mary, were born in Splitska. 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. (https://www.paulluverajournalonline.com/weblog/2008/07/mary-thelma-babarovich-my-mother.html)
Because my grandfather Peter died shortly after I was born I don’t have much information about him. However, my sister Phyllis had memories to share and collected stories about him from our relative George E. Prelenda, who had spent a summer with my grandparents and spoke the Slav language fluently. George Peter 2_Page_2was 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. 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. John 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 who had known him in America gave the family the address where John was living. 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.
John is buried at the cemetery in Anacortes and on his tomestone it says "Known Among Men as Honest John." I would hope that I would have that reputation. 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. 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 Slav fisherman and Peter was a commercial fisherman. Their youngest child Mary, my mother, was born in Anacortes in 1905 It’s interesting that both 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. The kitchen in the old house on 6th street was huge. The house was rectangular in shape and two stories high. The pallor was kept for visitors and everything else happened in the kitchen. I have clear memories of that house, the huge garden alongside of it and the kitchen where there were always wonderful smells and food to eat. 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.
They were model immigrants. She was very religious and attended Mass faithfully. He was a simple man whose word was his bond and who asked nothing of anyone except a chance to make an honest living in his new country. Their children, including my mother, were of the same mentality – good, hard working, honest people who made this country so great as the great mixing pot of the world.