A native of Czechoslovakia, Joseph Martinek was a prominent resident of Cleveland, Ohio during the early twentieth century.
Martinek was born on March 23, 1889, near Prague, Czechoslovakia. He received an education and, eventually, became a metalworker in Germany. In 1909, Martinek immigrated to the United States of America, hoping to improve his financial circumstances. That same year, he settled in Cleveland, where some of his relatives had earlier settled.
In Cleveland, Martinek found employment as a lathe operator. He also attended Western Reserve University. In 1912, Martinek became editor of one of Cleveland's Czech-language newspapers, Americke Delnicke Listy. Americke Delnicke Listy was published weekly. Martinek and future editors usually supported socialist causes, hoping to improve life for American workers. Americke Delnicke Listy was the only Czech-language socialist newspaper ever published in the United States. Martinek continued to edit this and other Czech-American publications until 1934.
Martinek also became actively involved in Cleveland's social and political spheres. He became a leader of the Workers Gymnastic Union, a Czech-American social and political organization. Martinek also ran for political office, including for Cuyahoga County Commissioner in 1926, for the Ohio General Assembly in 1928, and the Cleveland City Council in 1929 and 1933. Campaigning on a socialist platform, Martinek lost all of these elections.
While Martinek came to the United States to improve his life, he remained committed to Czechoslovakia. Illustrating Martinek's love of Czechoslovakia, during World War I, he enlisted in the Czechoslovakian Foreign Legion. Following the was, he briefly resided in Japan before returning to the United States. In 1934, he also returned to Czechoslovakia to publish another daily paper, Pravo Lidu. Martinek fled from Czechoslovakia, following the German takeover of the Sudetenland, a portion of Czechoslovakia, in 1938. Martinek quickly called for the creation of an independent Czechoslovakian nation following Germany's invasion and takeover of the entire country in 1939. Upon returning to the United States in 1938, Martinek remained active in Czech-American organizations. From 1939 to 1945, he served as executive secretary of the Czechoslovak National Council in Chicago, Illinois. In 1947, he moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he published several books of poetry and also wrote scripts for Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America, two radio programs broadcast in Europe. These programs tried to provide Eastern Europeans, who were, for the most part, under communist control, with hope.
Martinek died on March 21, 1980. Like many other foreigners during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Martinek viewed the United States and Ohio as a land of opportunity but still had a deep love for his native country.
- Van Tassel, David D., and John J. Grabowski, eds. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.