MARIJIN SPOLEK (the Marian Society), 1890-93, was Cleveland's first Slovenian organization, from which evolved several pioneering groups. Cleveland's fledgling Slovenian community was shocked in 1884 by the accidental death of one of its members, Peter Podrzaj. Slovenian men did not expect to stay in America, were supporting their families back home, and few had emergency funds. Joseph Turk, Cleveland's first Slovenian settler (1881), who ran a boarding house, tavern, and grocery and helped new arrivals find jobs, paid for Podrzaj's burial. He proposed organization of an insurance group for SLOVENES to provide sickness, death, and burial benefits. By 1890 Turk got 7 men to form Marijin Spolek, open to men ages 17-45. In 1892 Rev. STEPHAN FURDEK encouraged Turk to contact the bishop about creating a Slovenian parish. Spolek members raised funds and ST. VITUS CHURCH was established. Marijin Spolek was renamed Drustvo sv. Vid, the St. Vitus Society. Internal difficulties prompted several members to secede and form Slovensko Podporno Drustvo Slovenija (Slovenian Benefit Society Slovenija). To protect itself, the original society affiliated with the national Kranjsko Slovenska Katoliska Jednota (Grand Carniolian Slovenian Catholic Union).

Slovenija sponsored the first Slovenian men's chorus, Zora, which soon expanded into gymnastics and became the Slovenian Sokol. The St. Vitus Society supported the struggling parish. KSKJ granted the society full membership in 1899, causing yet another group to leave and form the Independent St. Vitus Society. By 1907 Slovenija had 529 members, and the KSKJ lodge had 375. Slovenija and the Sokol continued into the Depression, and KSKJ Lodge No. 25, St. Vitus, was still active in 1995.

Turk, Frank J. Slovenski Pionir (1955).

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