Czech Rep. Brno-where it all started

Dijon, FR- Oct. 5

This is the seventh installment in my travel adventures series from France, Czech Republic, Spain and Switzerland. I started my trip out of Lansing, MI on Sept. 3rd to explore new cultures, and to venture into the past to Czech Republic.

My memoir “Greenwich Meridian” tracks our family immigration saga that now spans three generations.

Czech Republic, Brno, where it all started Sept. 24, 25, 26

On a chilly September night I got off the yellow StudentAgency bus in front of the Grand Hotel in Brno. I had my graduation party here in 1986 after completing my studies at the Technical University.

I realized that this was my first visit in almost three decades to the intellectual capital of Moravia.

Our immigration saga started right here in this University City. My dad professor Vaclav Konecny after graduating from Masaryk University with a degree in physics taught at the university and at the Technical Institute. My parents lived in an old apartment near the children’s hospital. Dad had to haul coal upstairs to heat the apartment.

“Your brother cried and cried, so we got yelled at by the landlord,” said mom.

At the same time, Africa gained independence from the British government, and was ready to start a path of its own.

Masaryk's University in Brno.
Masaryk’s University in Brno.

Dad was recruited by African university officials to teach math at the University of Khartoum, better known as Harvard of Africa in 1964. He spoke fluent English, and had the desire to move ahead with his career, as well as to make decent money for a new apartment.

“I was ready for this,” he said.

Dad most certainly did move ahead when he decided not to return back to Czechoslovakia after the Soviet invasion of tanks known as Prague Spring in 1968.

“We had a consensus with colleagues that we’re not going back,” he said.

This all went through my head, as I stood in front of the Masaryk’s University that regained its name back following the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

I spent stormy four years in Brno as a student mother, a wife and a daughter of expatriated parents.

I met my best lifelong friend Eva from Kromeriz here on a train to the mandatory hops brigade. I made tons of new friends, like the one I was just going to meet after all these years, Jane. At the school, we were a strange mix of slick Brno residents, and us the so-called outsiders. As outsiders, we commuted every week to Brno, and lived at the dorms. We got along well, and complimented each other in many aspects.

Bird's eye view of Brno from Spilberg Castle.
Bird’s eye view of Brno from Spilberg Castle.

Even though the Brno city slicker students knew everything, and knew where everything was, we had our so-called country wisdom. That country wisdom and broader knowledge from the secondary gymnasium guided us through many disasters. We even had a foreign student from Afghanistan, Ismael, who could hardly speak Czech, but made it through the four-year university drill.

The drill consisted of calculus, concrete and steel constructions, architectural drafting. For me, a spirited literary soul, the technical stuff was overwhelming. But, the technical studies were the only way for me to attain a university degree, after our faux pas of returning home for the presidential amnesty in 1973. The communist government punished us by not to letting my dad teach again, and I couldn’t study any humanities. Ironically, the technical studies became my vehicle out.

To be continued……Lost in Brno 

Copyright © 2013 story and photos by Emma Palova


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