Lowell, Michigan

25 Years in the USA III


25 Years in the USA III

Editor’s note: This is the third and last part of the 25th anniversary mini-series “25 Years in the USA.” I published the first part  on Dec. 22 on the exact date of the anniversary of our arrival to the country. I published the third part on Jan. 9th.

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI- While working the second shift at Meijer, I wrote the most short stories in the morning. People working at the store inspired me.

My husband Ludek and I started looking for land to build a house in 1994. We found Lowell, a small town in West Michigan. And as we drove past the old Parnell store in the middle of nowhere, I knew I was going to like it here.

USA moments
25th anniversary of arrival to the USA

“This is it,” Ludek said as he showed me the land. He built the house himself with a few contractors.

Lowell, Michigan
Hometown Lowell before the annual Riverwalk Festival.

Once we had the house, I started feeling more at home. I got us two dogs. On top of the job at the store, I started selling real estate for Westdale. That was a unique experience where I met my business guru late Larry Combs.

“How many sales phone calls did you make today?” he asked.

I lied when I said 50. I actually made more like seven or 10.

“Call whenever you can even if you’re waiting for food in a restaurant,” he advised. “I want to write a book “My friend Emma.”

American Lists
I wrote for American Lists, a Czech newspaper based in NYC.

Larry never wrote the book. He got Parkinson’s disease and shot himself.

I was  homesick and every Christmas drove to the Gerald Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids to watch the planes take off.

I was still writing for American Lists, former Czechoslovak Newsweek based in New York City out of nostalgia. I was writing in Czech. The paper does not exist anymore.

The first time I went back to Czech Republic was in 2000, and that was a mistake. It brought back memories and old friends even though it was a different country than the one I had left.

I vowed never to go back again.

“Never say never,” told me the store manager.

During my five-year long stint with the Ionia Sentinel-Standard, I finished my first book “Fire on Water” about the communist experience in 2001. Because as they say, “There are three big experiences in this world: communist, capitalist and catholic. I lived them all.

I dropped the store and real estate and commuted daily 80 miles one way to Plainwell to first paid journalism job for Kaechele Publications. It was a one man office with zero training. But, the editor was an avid photographer and taught me how to shoot.

“Don’t go into a shoot with a mindset,” he said. “Keep your options open.”

Since, 2000 I went back home three times.

“Why do you still call it home?” asked my daughter Emma. “You have lived longer in the USA than in Czech.”

Yes, I will always call it home. That’s where I was born, got married, graduated from Technical University of Brno and had our two children.

And that’s just the tip of an iceberg. I am now penning our family immigration story in “Greenwich Meridian where East meets west.”

It’s like reliving all those years since 1968 when the former Soviet Army occupied Czechoslovakia.  Sometimes I struggle with it, sometimes I cry, and sometimes I laugh. Just like in life.

About the featured photo: Ice sculptures in hometown Lowell, Michigan 2014

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