Facts About Serbs in America

Exerpts from the 1995 speech by William Dorich before the World Affairs Council of Orange County, California.

American Serbs have proven time and again their dedication and commitment to the United States of America. Serbs proudly served in the American Civil War, the Spanish-American Wars, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.

• The Dokman family of Kansas City and the Grbich family of Reno had as many as seven sons in the military service at the same time during WWII. A building at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs is named for Lance Sijan, a Serb, for his bravery in Vietnam. He was in the same prison camp as Senator John McCain.

• Serbs are one of the smallest ethnic groups in the United States with approximately 1.2 million.

• Serbians were even on the scene in the early Wild West, providing dried fruit to the ranchers and cowboys developing Western territories.

• Basil Rosevic, a pioneer Serb from Crna Gora, Serbia founded Trans-Oceanic Ship Lines in New Orleans 200 years ago.

• Serbs celebrated the 115th anniversary of the first Serbian Orthodox church built on American soil in the gold country of Jackson, California, a church used to this very day. In 2010, St. Sava Church in San Gabriel, California celebrated its 100th anniversary and was the first Orthodox Christian church built in the city of Los Angeles.

• In 1905, a young Serbian-American from the south side of Chicago, Rade Grba, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in the Navy. There are 12 Serbian Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, the highest number per capita of any ethnic group in America. Lou Cukelja was the first to receive 2 Congressional Medals and the highest decoration given by France, Belgium and Serbia. There are hundreds of Serbian Purple Heart recipients.

• Serbian-Americans were proud of the youngest Two-Star general in the American army, Rudy Ostovich III and Two-Star General Mel Vojvodich. Ed Radkovich headed Air Force Intelligence in Europe and Brigadier General George Karamarkovic the US Marine Corps. The American military was well served by Admiral Stevan Mandarich and Col. Mitchell Page.

• The NASA space program was replete with Serbian engineers and scientists. Thirteen top executives in the Apollo space program were Serbians. After the Apollo disaster, the new escape hatch was redesigned by Danilo Bojic. Mike Vucelic received the Freedom Award from President Johnson for his work in the Apollo program.

• Velko Gasich was one of those responsible for the B-2 Bomber as an executive vice president of Northrop, Corp.

• Two Serbian Americans received a Pulitzer prize. Walter Bogdanich, born and raised in Gary, Indiana, won his Pulitzer prize in journalism at the Wall Street Journal in 1988 for his series of articles on medical fraud in laboratory practices. Charles Simic, Belgrade born professor of English at the University of New Hampshire, won his Pulitzer for poetry in 1990.

• Mladen Sekulovic, known to the world as Karl Malden, was the recipient of the Academy Award for his performance in A Street Car Named Desire, and an Emmy for his role in Fatal Vision. He was the president of the Motion Picture Academy. Lolita Davidovich, Peter Bogdanovich, Steve Tesich, and Rick Rossovich add their talents to the American cinema. Descended from Catherine the Great of Russia, Princess Elizabeth Karadjordjevic heads the Princess Elizabeth Foundation in New York. Her daughter, Catherine Oxenberg, has made a name in American television. Natalie Nogulich won our hearts on Broadway with Jason Robards in The Iceman Cometh, Ms. Nogulich is also known for her appearances in numerous television plays and films.

• In the field of medicine, Dr. Ninoslav Radovanovic is recognized as the world's leading cardiovascular surgeon. The late Rose Ann Vuich was the first female ever elected to the State Senate in California. Helen Delich Bentley served 10 years in the U.S. Congress, representing the state of Maryland. In the U.S. Federal District Court in Chicago was Judge George Marovich. In the 2nd Judicial District Court in Nevada was Steven Kosach.

• William Jovanovich became president and CEO of Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, one of America's most prominent publishing firms. William Salatich became the president of Gillette Corporation. Michael Bozich was the former head of the merchandising group at Sears. Milan Puskar president of Milan Labs, one of America's leading pharmaceutical firms. Milan Panic, former president and CEO of ICN Pharmaceuticals, was the highest paid corporate executives in Orange County, California. Panic became the prime minister of former Yugoslavia and heads a multi-million dollar pharmaceutical company with divisions in 5 countries.

• Milena Kitic-Panic was a star of the Yugoslav Opera where she performed at the National Theatre in Belgrade for 8 years in a wide range of roles. She earned the German Music Critic's Award as "Performer of the Season" for 1998 and has performed on some of the most prestigious stages in the world including: Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, The Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall. She now teaches in Southern California and continues to perform.

• Dr. Alex N. Dragnich was the recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award for distinguished service to Vanderbilt University, and was the author of a dozen books on Yugoslav history. Other Serbs who achieved prominence in academia include Milorad Drachkovitch, Bogdan Maglich, Vasa Mihailovich, Anrei Simic, George Vid Tomashevich, Stella Yaksich, Michael Petrovich and Milos Velimirovic.

• In sports, Bora Milutinovich was the coach of the U.S. Soccer Team in the 1994 World Cup playoff. George Glamack was a pioneer in professional basketball. He was recognized as the first all-time, all-American to play the sport. He was also the first three time all-American. Vlade Divac was the star center of the Los Angeles Lakers—following in the footsteps of "Pistol Pete" Maravich, a legend. In retirement Valde and his wife Ana have formed a private program, Humanitarian Organization Divac, to help build homes, start businesses and resettle the thousands of refugees displaced in various Serbian communities as a result of the recent Civil Wars in former Yugoslavia.

• In football, Serbs play a major roll with such great athletes as Jim Nadich, Norm Bulaich, Pete Stojanovich, Ed Obradovich, Jim Obradovich and Pete Lasetich. Sam Jankovich, the former general manager of the New England Patriots was the athletic director at the University of Miami during the Hurricane's national championship.

• In baseball there are such Serbian greats as Pete Vuckovich, the 1982 Cy Young award winner. Eli Grba, Nick Strincevich, Walt Dropo, John Vukovich, and Paul Popovich were outstanding in this field. Even in car racing we remember Bill Vukovich, two time winner of the Indianapolis 500 who was fondly known as the "Mad Russian," even though he was a Serb.

• Nikola Tesla, a polymath, the father of the radio was a genius scientist with over 1,000 patents who excelled in numerous areas. A major contributor to the development of electricity, he was the son of a Serbian Orthodox priest. His invention of alternating current lit up the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and was the precursor to the harnessing of electrical power at Niagara Falls that led the industrial development of this nation and the world. The United States government recently issued a postage stamp in his honor.

• Michael Pupin was an author, physicist and inventor. He too, was a Pulitzer winner. A building at Columbia University is named in his honor.

• Dr. Henry Suzzalo was born in Herzegovina and was the president of the Carnegie Foundation on the Advancement of Teaching.

• Ivo Andric was the Nobel Prize winner in Literature for his 1945 book, The Bridge on the Drina.

• Serbian Orthodox Christians represent the largest religious group in former Yugoslavia and in Serbia today. Serbians maintained their loyalty to their faith for over a thousand years including 400 years of Turkish Muslim occupation when the Serbs were denied basic human rights such as an education, to learn to read and write, the right to own property, even the right to playing musical instruments. In the 15th century the Serbs created a "Kolo" without music, relying on the syncopation of the stamping feet, like drum beats to accompany the dance.