THE DONATION CEREMONY
AT THE MILLER HOUSE AND MUSEUM
Keokuk, March 22 2004
Keokuk Daily Gate City - 7KHQA Keokuk
(article by Cindy Iutzi)
Hannibal Quincy TV News
WGEM Channel 10 TV Quincy, Illinois
Con successiva traduzione in italiano:
WHO WAS RODOLFO (RUDY) DECLEVA
Rudy was born in the year 1885 January 1st in Fiume (60,000 inhabitants) belonging to Austria-Hungary but he was of Italian language and culture, likewise the majority of Fiume population.
Austria-Hungary Empire was at that time enjoying 40 years of peace and was formed by peoples of many different nationalities.
His Father Biagio was a severe parent for his 5 sons and daughters: Albert, Rudy, Raffaella, Fanny and Amelia, and they lived in the centre of the town of Fiume in a two floor house of his own property.
Fiume was a portal town with several industries such as the Torpedo Factory, owned by an englishman Eng. John Whitehead, oil refinery plant, shipbuilding dockyard, mechanical workshops, etc. so that work was not missing in that town.
Nevertheless Albert and Rudy both preferred to embark themselves as seamen in the passenger ships that connected Fiume with other countries and Albert – when touching the port of New York – was attracted by the way of life of the new Continent and took the opportunity to disembark.
His first contact with the American people was not so difficult as for other immigrants because he was coming from a place industrially advanced and he himself was well inclined to understand English because Fiume was a place where three different human races (latins, central europeans and slaves) were cohabitating so that he was able to speak - beyond his italian motherland language - also croatish, german and hungarian.
Albert initiated his American new life and asserted himself as a mechanic and fixed his activity in Kansas City, Missouri where he married Calina and from that union Nadine, Helen, Mary and Albert were born and the dynasty continues with the families Albert and Dorothy DeCleva, Eddie and Elaine DeCleva, Mary DeCleva Manzo, Joe and Nadine La Bella, John and Helen Azzaro, Mark and Jeanne Misenhelter, and their daughters Michelle and Jodi Misenhelter.
In the year 1906 Albert called to come to him his brother Rudy, who was embarked as seaman in the S.S. “Slavonia”, a British passenger ship connecting Liverpool to New York, and so Rudy reached the brother in Kansas City.
Rudy was enthusiastic of the new reality found in America, but some time after -having in his blood the vocation of the seaman - he felt very much the missing of
the sea and therefore he reverted to navigate.
Yet Rudy returns again to America, where he resides for some time, and in the year 1909 we find him in New York embarked on the same British liner S.S. “Slavonia” with destination to Fiume.
The Captain of the ship certificates on June 12th 1909 Rudy's characters as follows: Character for Conduct: GOOD; Character for Ability: GOOD.
Two years later Rudy is again in USA residing in the State of Illinois where in the County of Will he subscribes and sworns before the Deputy Clerk a Declaration of Intention to become a citizen of the United States of America.
He declares that “he emigrated in 1906 to the United States of America from Fiume, Austria, on the vessel “Slavonia” and that was his bona fide intention to renounce forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentiate, state or sovereignty, and particularly to Francis Joseph, Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary”.
In the year 1910 works of the largest hydro-electricity plant in the world begin and Rudy comes from Jolliet, Illinois to Keokuk, Iowa to be a protagonist of that splendid adventure: the building of the “U.S. Lock and Dam 19” concerning a 200,000 Horse Power Hydro Electric Plant!
My Father told me that the life of the workers was very discomfortable and full of sacrifices.
For example, the cohabitation among peoples of different nationality and culture is not easy, lodgings are precarious, and in winter they have to wash themselves by frozen water or snow.
Nevertheless all people work in harmony and friendship to reach the Keokuk common goal that will remain "in aeternum" as part of the human progress.
The songs that workers sing more frequently are: "By the light of the silvery moon", "You have no bananas, no more”, “Glory, Alleluja".
The construction ends in 1913 and Rudy is given the personal Silver Medal “present for his meritorious work by Hugh L. Cooper , Chief Engineer of the Mississippi River Power Co”.
Rudy has won a new challenge; he forgets his demand to get the American citizenship, that has a validity of seven years, and now he has a sole wish: to go back to Fiume with the aim to demonstrate to his Mother Helen and his Father Biagio his value and the American award.
Unfortunately and suddenly – few months after - in the year 1914 the first World War breaks out and Rudy is unpossibilitated to go back to the States: he now is obliged to serve the Austrian army and we see him photographed with the Austrian uniform in Trieste.
In 1918 the first World War ends and consequently the belonging of Fiume is disputed between Italy and Yugoslavia, the new State formed after the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
It is important to remember that Fiume was not belonging administratively from Austria but from Hungary as "Corpus Separatum Adnessum to the Holy Crown of Hungary" enjoying of a special authonom Constitution created by an Edict of Maria Theresiae in the year 1779.
This is the reason why Fiume was declared in 1920 Independent State by the League of Nations under the Presidence of Riccardo Zanella, but it was not possible to carry out the Constitution of the new State owing to the difficulties created both from Italian or Jugoslave part.
Finally in 1924 Italy and Jugoslavia agreed that Fiume be annexed to Italy - abolishing the Independent State - and so Rudy became Italian citizen.
In 1928 Rudy married Maria Slosar and three sons were born from that union: Rudi Jr., Alberto, and Mario.
Rudy blessed always his American experience and teached his family to love America and Americans and always he was very proud to remember his American working period in the States and to show everyone his Silver Medal.
The Italian sovereinty over Fiume lasted only 20 years, when Germany in 1943 annexed Fiume in the “Adriatisches Kuestenland” (German sovereinty) and the terrible destiny of the Independent State of Fiume - created in 1920 by the League of Nations – arrived to the end when the town was occupied in 1945 by the Yugoslavian communist troops of Marshal Tito.
The name of the town was changed in Rijeka and the terror - jointed to the ethnical cleansing - oriented to chase away the Italian population from those disputed lands, forced Rudy to abandon Fiume with his whole family and repair to Italy as a refugee, likewise other 350,000 people of Italian nationality.
Rudy was very proud to have got from the Lord three sons but today the DeCleva dynasty is looking to go to the end because no male descendants are foreseen from his grandsons and nieces.
Therefore Rudi Jr., Albert and Mario – Rudy’s sons – have decided to donate the Silver Medal to the Municipality of Keokuk, Iowa, to be conserved to eternity in its City Museum, jointed to the other meritorious Workers’ Memories who realized that memorable opera.
After 90 years the Medal reverts to the place where it was born.
When Rudy senior died in Genoa, Italy in 1978 at the age of 93, a Genoese poetress Annalia De Marini wrote for him the attached poetry to underline the strong character of the Personage, realized also thanks to his Keokuk splendid experience.
GOD BLESS AMERICA AND ITALY.
Written in Genoa, Italy on February 04th 2004
and presented in person by Rudi Decleva Jr.on March 22, 2004
to the Samuel F. Miller House and Museum in Keokuk, Iowa
[I versi della poetessa De Marini sono pubblicati nella directory POESIA. N.d.R.].