The Road to Lattimer

Between 1880 and 1940 over 4 million people left their villages in Eastern Europe. Many found jobs in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. They were pushed by poverty, tyranny, and endless wars and were pulled to America with a dream of a better life. "The Road to Lattimer" is a historical fiction novel about 4 families who made the journey.


Hazleton, Pennsylvania, 1939




That is my casket covered with roses and carnations. The bouquet of wildflowers on the ground was placed there by my grandchildren. Last week I stood on that very spot as they buried my husband of fifty-two years.Listen, the priest is about to begin. “Let us commend Anna to the Mercy of God,” he prays. Soon, I will be lowered into the ground and laid to rest next to my Stefan.

     Although it is March, everyone is still wearing their winter coats, and the babies are covered with heavy woolen blankets. The sky is hazy, and it looks like rain. I miss the smell of the rain on an early spring day.

     My family is here among the mourners. Rose, my sweet daughter, is standing there next to her children. Her hair, streaked with gray, once thick and lustrous like mine, trails down her back. She is a grandmother, you know; that makes me a great-grandmother. Imagine that! Mary Magdalena, my son’s widow, is over there with her children. With the mines and steel mills shutting down, I don’t expect they will stay in Hazleton much longer.

     My sons, Robert, Joseph, John, and Rudi are here with their families. They make me proud.

     My friends, Adriana and Katarina and their husbands, are gone now. Emil and his wife, Edita, have moved to California. We came to America together, and we settled in a coal patch town not too far from Hazleton. I am afraid our story will be forgotten. While I was alive, I did not want to talk about the past. We wanted to forget the struggles. Now, I know the story needs to be told. What happened during those years needs to be remembered. It is up to me to tell our story.

     Our story started in a small village in Eastern Europe, where I lived with my family. I can still see the tiny homes, huddled together, surrounded by fields of green and gold that stretched toward the distant Carpathian Mountains. The mountains were mighty and dangerous, a reminder of God’s power and presence in our lives. Many in our village, and other villages like ours, were tempted to cross those mountains, to see the world beyond. My husband’s cousin Adriana, and her husband, Cyril, were among the first of our family to venture across the ocean to America.

The map shows coal patch towns near Hazleton, PA. On September 10, 1897,  400 unarmed coal miners walked the 10 miles from Harwood to Lattimer where they were met by Sheriff Martin and 80 deputies. Ario is a fictitious town. 

The story of Mary Septak


In support of the striking miners a band of fearless women  confronted the National Guard and local police. The newspapers called them the Slavic Amazons.  Adriana, a fictional character, joined Mary as they shut down mines throughout the region.