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  • Writer's pictureSabrina Johnson

Remembering Your Roots

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

When you are a child having a last name with eight letters is a burden. The repetition of repeating it, spelling it, and correcting people got old quickly. It was not until I changed my last name that I started to learn more about the meaning and history behind that 8-letter burden of the last name. I did, however, always love knowing I was Croatian. There was something about knowing it was not a common heritage; it was not something that had a huge day where people dressed up and pretended to become; it felt like it was mine.

A church on Chicago's south side, St. Jerome's, would have a fest on August 15th that we would attend every once in a while. Growing up, I always thought it was strange that there would be a fest in the middle of the week, never realizing that there was a reason behind the actual date itself. Little did I know that this fest, this church, would be just the beginning of understanding the love behind a long, complicated last name.

St. Jerome's is where I found out more about my family history. My family history gave me a feeling of discovering more about myself, my inner heart, and a crazy connection to generations I never thought much about. Chicago was once known as the "Second Croatian Capital." The Southside of Chicago is where Croatians would come for a second chance at life, a place to start over for the 'American Dream.'

Before I can continue to grow my tree of understanding myself, what helps me grow as a person, I need to know and understand my roots. The roots of a tree serve as an anchor, keep the truck upright and help the rest thrive. If I want to continue to grow and thrive, I needed to understand more about my background, my family story, and the reason behind that complicated last name. So, I set out on a mission to find out about August 15th and why that is so important, but first, I had to find out why my family even carried out about that date, that church, or how we even arrived in America.

Our family comes from a town called Livno which, as of the end of 1995, after a 3 1/2 year-long Bosnian War, is now a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Those from Livno were known for this stubbornness and resilience, which, if you have ever met me, is something that leaks out of my pores.

I chuckled a bit while finding that out in my research because my whole mission around ALS Advocacy is to turn my stubbornness of needing the last word in an argument into an argument with ALS. If you have ever met a Pripusich, no matter the spelling, I am sure you would agree that they are the toughest and most stubborn people you will ever meet. We love hard and fight harder; family means everything to us, and it truly is in our blood.

The family surname Pripuzic had a chance in spelling due to error before coming to the United States in 1913, where they arrived as Pripusic. Matyo came over with her two sons, Jakob, 20 of his arrival, and Jozo, 23. Jake and Joseph Americanised their names not long after their boat arrived and, throughout time, would be the ones that would end up transforming the last one once again to Pripusich.

The Pripuzic/Pripusic/Pripusich, whichever way you know them, started in the Village of Lusnic, where you can still find people with the last name to this day and where generations are buried together in the hills of a small chapel.

Joseph's mom, Matyo, was born in the Village of Potravlje on the other side of the mountain in Dalmatia. Joseph's parents had him in a small house in Livno, in the Dalmatia province.

Livno was a part of Croatia until 1995, after the Bosnian War. Since the war's end, our family's area is now considered the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The area around Dalmatia is "where aquamarine meets gold in the rays of sunshine ." Such a beautiful phrase for a family who has always found joy and meaning in the song, "You Are My Sunshine."

Joseph arrived in the United States in 1913 with $10 in his possession. Somehow finding his way to Chicago, he met Catherine Pernicky, and they married on April 14th, 1918. Below is a picture that starts the connection with St. Jerome's parish. I knew my great-grandfather was a part of the parish, and my grandfather was as well, but being a part of something and a PART of something are two different things.

(Below is the marriage index from 1914-1942 with Joseph and Catherine and yet another unique spelling of the last name.)