Ludvik Burian

The following is a transcription of a biography by Cindy French, granddaughter of Mr. Burian.

He was born in Marinice, Moravia in 1886. Died in 1951. He was a Moravian Evangelical. He began his apprenticeship when he was 14. What little money he could save went to his trip to America. When he reached the military conscription age of 21 he fled his home country because he refused to serve with the Austrian army. He went to Bremmen, Germany and sailed in 1907 to Baltimore, MD, arriving on Thanksgiving Day. He was taken in by the Czech community in Baltimore and worked a variety of immigrant type laborer jobs day and night and learned to read, write and speak the English language.


He brought his sister from Moravia and they were mentored by a Dr. Benyak. When Dr. Benyak saw the abilities of Ludvik he advised him to continue his education. In 1909 he enrolled in Maryville College in Maryville, TN. He did his college prep and earned his Bachelor’s degree by 1914. In the summer months he worked in Baltimore, Chicago, Milwaukee and New York to earn money for his education. He was very active and was the art editor of the year book at Maryville College. (Ed. note: Cindy French donated more than 100 glass negatives to the Blount County Historical Museum in Maryville, TN)

He attended Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University in New York from November 1914 to June 1917. He worked summers in munition factories. In 1908 he was unable to become Naturalized because he lacked the necessary funds to pay the fees. On June 3, 1915 he received his citizenship through a special session of the United States Supreme Court.

He had his passport and was ready to sail to Serbia as a member of the Columbia University Relief Expedition in 1915 but he decided he could do more good as a missionary to the 60,000 Bohemian and Slavic prisoners of the Germans in Serbia. He applied for this position through the YMCA. It took him two years of diligent effort before he received his clearance to go to Europe. That was due to his misfortune of his birthplace, his ancestry and his relationship to Count Burian, an Austrian officer of high rank.

He received his Bachelor of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in 1917, and a Master of Arts from Columbia University in 1917. He studied for both of these at the same time. He was ordained by the New York Presbytery and spent a year as assistant pastor to Dr. Vincent Pisek at the John Hus Bohemian Presbyterian church in New York City. 

Ludvik left for Europe for service as the Czech - Slovak army. In the summer of 1918 he was allowed to work as a YMCA secretary with war prisoners in France and Italy. While he was stationed in Italy, the Czech-Slovak Legion was formed. He went to Slovakia when it suffered attacks by the Hungarian Communists. While ministering to war prisoners he met several Moravian school mates who were incarcerated. In Bratislava, he opened the first Czech military men’s YMCA. This position was the forerunner to today’s military Chaplain. Annual salary was $800 which had to cover his living expenses. While stationed in Bratislava he witnessed the tragic death of General Milan Stefanik in a plane crash (May 4, 1919).

He was able to visit his mother using a military pass, the las time he was able to see her. His father had been the largest bee keeper in Moravia which became Ludvik’s hobby for the rest of his life. After his return to the United States he traveled to Czech churches to lecture and show slide pictures of Czechoslovakia, native peoples and the ravages of war. In May of 1920 he lectured in the John Hus Presbyterian church in Hopkins, MN. He made a good impression with the congregation. Because their pastor was leaving he was asked to fill the position. His next 18 years was spent as pastor to the Hopkins, MN congregation. After conducting a funeral service for Joes Jemin in Laconia, MN he made the acquaintance of the deceased’s granddaughter, Emily Kuchara a romantic friendship developed between the pastor and farm girl and they were married. They had five daughters.

In the 1930s he was offered the senior pastorate of the John Hus New York City church but his wife did not want to leave her elderly parents or raise her daughters in New York City. In May, 1938 he accepted  the call to the first Bohemian and Moravian Brethren church near Ely, IA. Here he gradually established services in the English language to a Czech speaking congregation. He knew that in order to keep the young people of the church families involved he would have to preach in English. The church grew and prospered as it does at present.

He had a passion for gardening, landscaping. He worked with more than 60 varieties of Gladiolas and he raised bees. All of their daughters went to college except for his eldest who died from diabetes. He developed hypertension and diabetes in the mid-1940s. In 1951 a few weeks before his 65th birthday he suffered several strokes and died.