Freaky Flint History with Joe Schipani: Austria vs Croatia Nationality Debate December 6th, 1923

Flint is well known for its modern violent crimes but Flint's history is filled with little known stories that read stranger than fiction. Gruesome murders, weird accidents, and violent deaths. Join us every Thursday as Joe Schipani details some of the odd but true deaths he found in Flint's archives.

Austria vs Croatia Nationality Debate December 6th, 1923

Ivan Griski left his wife and two small children in Austria while he came to Flint to start a new life for his family.

Shortly after his arrival he opened a pool hall on Leith Street. Business was doing well. Soon Ivan would have had enough money to move out of the boarding house on Everett and St John Streets and buy a family home so his wife and kids could move to Flint from Austria.

Tom Bik moved to Flint from Croatia. He too was planning to send for his family once he made enough money but his wife and children decided that they didn’t want to move to Flint.

At first Tom had a hard time finding work but he finally landed a job at one of the auto factories. But without his family Tom was getting old and bitter.

On the night of December 6th, 1923 Tom was visiting some friends at the boarding house on Everett Street. Tom rented a room at a boarding house on St John Street.

Ivan and Tom met and quickly got into an argument about whose country was better. This was a common occurrence in the neighborhood because there were many boarding houses filled with immigrants.

But this fight quickly escalated into the streets. Ivan was about eighteen years younger than Tom, who was fifty two. 

Ivan hit Tom hard. He really gave him a beating, proving Austria was better. But Tom, determined not to lose, pulled out a hunting knife and stabbed Ivan just below the left shoulder.

One of the residences in a boarding house across the street witnessed the whole thing and called the police. When the police arrived they found Tom standing over Ivan’s dead body. Tom quickly confessed to the murder and told them after a twenty minute debate on nationality, Ivan attacked him and he pulled his knife out of self-defense.

The police brought Tom and several witnesses down to the station. Most of the witnesses agreed with Tom’s statement of self-defense.

The two that claimed that it was not self-defense were not taken seriously because of their Austrian origin.

Tom was set free and not charged with murder.

~ Joe Schipani is the Executive Director of the Flint Public Art Project and the FFAR Project Assistant at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.  Find him on Facebook at 

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