Anton and Euphemie

One of Alexander Svoboda’s postcards, titled Vue de Baghdad et du pont.

Anton Svoboda and Euphemie Muradjian were the parents of Joseph Svoboda. His father, Anton, was a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian empire, who journeyed to Baghdad by way of Istanbul where he obtained a warrant from the Ottoman Sultan allowing him to establish a business in Iraq importing crystal from Bohemia and Turkey.1 Joseph’s mother, Euphemie, was the daughter of a prominent Chaldean Catholic Armenian merchant family.2 Anton was born in Osijek (in modern day Croatia) in 1796 and emigrated from Vienna to Istanbul, and ultimately to Baghdad.3 Less is known of Euphemie’s family background, though it is speculated, without convincing evidence, that she was related to the Mouradgea d’Ohssons of Istanbul, the family of Turkish-Armenian diplomats and historians.4

Anton and Euphemie married in Baghdad on February 12, 1825.5 They lived in the Christian quarter of the city and formed part of a small but closely bound community of Ottoman and European Christians.6

Another postcard, titled Panorama et le pont.

In addition to serving as representative of Austro-Hungarian political interests in Baghdad, Anton Svoboda maintained a large house in Baghdad that served as a frequent stopping point for Europeans passing through.7 Before Joseph’s birth, Anton evidently protected his family from the outbreak of plague in 1830-31 by cloistering them away inside the home with provisions to last for months while the disease ravaged the rest of the province. Anton was quite proud of this feat, and related his story to a number of travelers he encountered.8

  1. Anton’s official nationality and ethnic background seem to have been difficult to classify. At various times, he is described by others as German, Hungarian, or Austrian. See Robert Cotton Money, Journal of a Tour in Persia, During the Years 1824 & 1825 (London: Teape and Son, 1828), 234; Anthony Norris Groves, Journal of a Residence at Bagdad: During the Years 1830 and 1831 (London: J. Nisbet, 1832), 176; Ida Pfeiffer, A Woman’s Journey Round the World, from Vienna to Brazil, Chili, Tahiti, China, Hindostan, Persia, and Asia Minor. An Unabridged Translation from the German of Ida Pfeiffer, 4th ed. (London: Nathaniel Cooke, 1854), 250; W. H. Colvill, “Sanitary Report on Turkish Arabia,” Transactions of the Medical and Physical Society of Bombay, no. 11, 2nd Series (1871): 49.
  2. Money, Journal of a Tour in Persia, 234–6.
  3. Makiya, “The Svoboda Diaries,” 38.
  4. A brief obituary for Anton Svoboda mentions that he was an avid excavator and numismatist, who “married the daughter of Baron Mouradgea d’Ohsson, niece of Baron d’Ohsson, the great writer on Turkish institutions,” presumably referring to Ignatius Mouradgea d’Ohsson and his Tableau Général de l’Empire othoman. “Literary Gossip,” The Athenaeum, May 10, 1879, 604. There is no corroborating evidence of this genealogy for Euphemie Muradjian. It appears to be entirely spurious.
  5. Makiya, “The Svoboda Diaries,” 38.
  6. Various travelogues make consistent reference to the small size of the community of European expatriates in Baghdad. See for example Frederick Charles Webb, Up the Tigris to Bagdad (London: E & F. N. Spon, 1870), 34.
  7. Groves, Journal of a Residence at Bagdad, 176; Money, Journal of a Tour in Persia, 234–6; Pfeiffer, A Woman’s Journey Round the World, 250–9.
  8. Pfeiffer, A Woman’s Journey Round the World, 250; Colvill, “Sanitary Report on Turkish Arabia,” 49.