The American Dream of a Slovak man - the story of Jozef Bil.
America is the land of promise and opportunity. Although this saying faces many criticisms, and not many people believe in it anymore, success stories still exist. One of them is the life of Jozef Bil.
The United States of America still means a safe haven for many people who flee the oppressive regimes of their home countries or look for a better quality of life. America offers a free and thriving life in a melting pot that makes everyone a bit uniform. Of course, the American Dream has attracted people from the Eastern Bloc, too, especially those times when the political regime and poverty have destroyed the lives of many. The story of Jozef Bil is an inspirational textbook example of the American Dream. Bil arrived in the New World from Czechoslovakia a few decades ago in Slovak folk costume with minimal English knowledge. But now he can say that he worked for one of the wealthiest people in the world, although he cannot name who for legal reasons.
The Slovak Spectator covered Jozef Bill’s story. Bill’s life would fit into a clichéd movie, and he already knows his story's climax. He is in his early sixties, and he has reached everything he wanted to: he is a co-owner of a corporate giant in Manhattan, New York, and he works with the properties of the highest elite. But, of course, the businessman’s story began much earlier. When he was still a child in Czechoslovakia, his grandfather put a flea in his ear regarding America. The grandfather had lived in the United States; he had worked as a coal miner in Pennsylvania in the 1920s but decided to move back to Central Europe later. After he returned, he bought land and a farm, but the communists confiscated his properties. A similar story is part of many families’ history in Central and Eastern Europe. The disgruntled grandparent gave advice and warnings to his grandson and encouraged Jozef to move to America when he grew up. He added that cars and buildings are much larger in the US than in Czechoslovakia.
Jozef Bil believes his grandfather was broken by the communist regime, but he still followed his advice and moved to America in 1990. He arrived in New York with a screwdriver and a hammer, wearing Šariš kroj (traditional Slovak costume). He hoped that in these traditional clothes, a member of the American Slovak community would recognize and potentially help him to start the new chapter of his life. His first night in the US was rather a nightmare than a dream: he and his friend slept on a bench near New York’s JFK airport. The next day the young men headed to Pennsylvania, a state with a strong Slovak community. They soon got their first jobs with the help of the Slovak Honorary Consul for Pennsylvania, Joe Senko, who, similarly to Bil, has roots in eastern Slovakia.
Jozef Bil first worked on construction sites as a worker and later in other positions in the construction industry. In 2001, roughly a decade after his arrival, he established his own company, XL Renovation & Painting Corp., which specialized in renovating apartments and townhouses. The company was shut down in 2017 when growth in the construction sector started to decelerate, but the end of the company, fortunately, did not mean the end of Jozef Bil’s ambitious career. He was soon approached by SilverLining Inc., a company that renovates upscale real estate in New York City. The firm’s projects’ value ranges from $1 million to $50 million. So, Bil has worked for many influential, wealthy people, and he claims that one of their clients was the world’s richest man. But for legal reasons, Bil cannot tell his name.
Having worked with many people in America, Bil has gained some insight into the work ethic of different nations. He believes Europeans and Caribbeans are more determined to climb up the ladder for success than Americans. Several studies can confirm his experience as they concluded that Central and Eastern European immigrants are typically more motivated to work than their British or American counterparts. On average, they are willing to sacrifice more for a secure, good position or steady income than the local workers. Of course, it is hard to tell whether this difference stems from cultural distinctiveness or the immigrants’ more active attitude toward trying their luck. Undoubtedly, those who see their current position as a privilege compared to their past are more enthusiastic about doing their tasks.
Jozef Bil is absolutely sure that he does not want to return to Slovakia. He is a successful businessman, and he considers America his home. He admires Slovakia, especially its natural beauty, but he feels that he does not belong to the country anymore. Bil is relaxed as there is nothing else that he wants to achieve in his life. He came to the Big Apple with $300 in his pocket, without speaking proper English, but now he works in the Central Park Tower, the world’s tallest residential tower. In his case, the American Dream definitely came true.
Graphics: Réka Pisla