Turning back time to ranch in Vizovice
By Emma Palova
Lowell, MI – The January Daily Post writing prompt “If I could turn back time” hits close to home as I am writing the second half of the family immigration memoir “Greenwich Meridian.”
Whenever I sit behind the computer and think about the past, it evokes an entire spectrum of memories ranging from excellent to poor.
If there was a time machine, I would return to two big eras in my life. Chronologically speaking, first I would go back into the late 70s and mid-80s.
It was a tumultuous time in my life. In not even a decade, I managed to get married, have a first-born daughter Emma, finish prep school Gymnasium Zlin, work at a veterinarian institute and finally complete bachelor’s degree at the Technical University in Brno. I got my first car as a present from parents for graduating. It was a black Skoda Rapid LS, the sports version. What I didn’t manage to do was to get a driver’s license because of all the other studying. I regretted that later in my life when I came to the USA in the nineties.
So, why would I want to return to something as intense as the marriage while studying bundle?
There is one great reason that threaded through all that time. And those were my grandparents Anna & Joseph Drabek. They lived in Vizovice, Moravia, that is the central part of Czech Republic.
My grandpa bought a house in 1979 on the outskirts of Vizovice because he was sick of living in a tiny apartment overlooking the château park. He called the dilapidated dwelling “ranch.” It had the lucky street number 111.
That completely struck harmony with my husband Ludek and I, since we were sick of living in the massive apartment complex “Southern Slopes” that housed more than 30,000 people. These massive apartment complexes that sprang all over the Czech Republic were known as “Building successes of communism.”
People desperately tried to escape those modern concrete successes. Most often they escaped into the local pubs and breweries. The luckier ones had cottages and dwellings in the country. Thanks to my grandparents we were among the lucky ones.
And the beautiful years on the ranch ensued. It was an epic time.
Every weekend, we packed up Emma in a portable baby carry on, boarded the morning bus to Vizovice and for a while we forgot all about living in a concrete box at the concrete fort in Zlin, then Gottwaldov.
To this day, I hold Vizovice close to my heart. I went to kindergarten and first grade there and I made many friends on the street. I call them my “street friends.” We still meet when I go back on rare occasions usually for funerals.
Later with my husband, we made friends together in this plum brandy capital of the world surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains. Yes, this city in the Walachian region rich in folklore, boasts the headquarters of the liquor giant “R. Jelinek” established in 1894. The plant spurts out 100 proof plum brandy into the whole world. The liquor is known for being able to “knock out everything that’s bad in you.” That covers bacteria, bad thoughts, habits, flu and earaches.
One moment at the ranch really stands out in my memory. As we were cleaning the house, we found 20-year old canned pork steaks that the owners Bohacovi left. The pork had beautiful pink color. I remember my mouth watering.
On Sunday, I opened the jars, sniffed and tasted the meat. Perfect. I made the best breaded steaks in my life. We all ate them and waited into the night for a sickness that never came.
There were countless episodes of searching for grandpa who loved to wander off into the local watering holes. His best excuse was that he was going to get some beverages and groceries so we can make lunch and dinner.
That Saturday in the heat of the summer, there was not a drop of water to drink on the dried out premises.
“Where is grandpa,” asked Ludek working on the bathroom. “I don’t have anything to drink.”
I was hand washing the universal cotton cloth diapers and Emma’s baby clothes in a bucket in the front yard, while grandma Anna was resting on a wooden bench. Grandma suffered from Parkinson’s disease. She spent most of the day laying on the bench that grandpa made for her. Baby Emma was sleeping in her carry-on.
“That beastie, I bet he’s at the hotel,” said grandma with a sigh.
She was referring to the local hotel with a restaurant known as the “People’s House” with the following inscription, “Equality, freedom, fraternity.”
I always wondered why the hotel had in its coat of arms the slogan of the French revolution. No one could answer my question.
“Ludek can you please go to the hotel and get grandpa to come home?” grandma requested.
“Okay, I’ll be right back,” Ludek hurried away hiding his ulterior motives.
As my stomach growled, I had a strange feeling that afternoon.
Grandma dozed off and I headed to the kitchen to figure out what we’re going to eat. There was some salami and old “rohliky” or Czech croissants, already chewy like a gum.
“Okay, we’re just going to have to wing it this time,” I thought to myself as I made some chewy sandwiches.
Minutes changed into hours and the sun started its path down the horizon.
“Emma, you’re going to have to go and get them,” grandma said struggling with the sandwich. “I’ll watch Emma.”
It wasn’t the first time or the last time that I had to drag out of the hotel the twosome.
I found both of them in great joy downing their 10th beer “kriegel” along with shots of brandy.
“Grandma says you gotta come home,” I begged. “We’re hungry and thirsty.”
“Come and have one with us and then we’ll go home,” grandpa laughed.
“You promise?” I downed the “kriegel” filled with Brod beer from nearby Uhersky Brod.
That was the best case scenario when they would finally agree to go back to the ranch as the dusk set in.
And I write about all this and much more in the memoir. I want to finish the memoir this year.
Part II If I could turn back time……Living in Canada coming next week.
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