“Hope…is the companion of power and the mother of success, for who so hopes, has within him the gift of miracles.”
– Samuel Smiles
Greenwich Meridian Memoir project update
By Emma Palova
Lowell, MI -Following the quote above, I am hoping to launch my new book the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” at the Lakeshore Art Festival in Muskegon on July 3 &4. At this point in time, there are no further details available about reopening the economy in waves in Michigan beyond May 1.
I am moving ahead with the formatting of the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” on the Kindle Create platform by Amazon. I finished the front and the back matters for the book: these include the acknowledgment, dedication and intro to the book and the biography on the back.
I am including the full introduction to the book here:
Introduction to the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir”
I wrote this introduction to the Greenwich Meridian Memoir during the unprecedented time of the coronavirus pandemic, as we celebrated the Easter Triduum in front of televised services in empty churches across the nation without audiences.
More than half a billion people around the globe are under a stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus. This includes my homeland, the Czech Republic. The coronavirus did not discriminate or recognized borders between the states, the countries or the continents. Time will show if this was a modern apocalypse.
Our immigration story from former socialist Czechoslovakia to the U.S. has come full circle; from one history milestone to another one.
The milestone that offset our journey across three continents–Europe, Africa, USA– was the reformist movement known as the Prague Spring 1968 under the leadership of Alexander Dubcek.
The epic story of love and desire for freedom spans 52 years at the date of publishing of this memoir. The major characters, Ella and Vaclav Konecny, are my parents, to whom I have dedicated this memoir. Mom Ella was a happy pharmacist in former Czechoslovakia, while Dad Vaclav was an unhappy mathematician in the old country.
Dad’s quest for his career fulfillment has been a constant source of inspiration for me in good and in bad times. Recently, I found out that dad was afraid in the old country of persecution by the communists due to our religious beliefs. He thought that he wouldn’t be able to fully realize his teaching ambitions.
From the humble hometowns of Vizovice and Stipa in the hilly Moravia, we traveled to exotic places such as Khartoum in Africa, to the ancient Byblos known for its papyrus and the “City of Jasmine” Damascus in Syria with the Roman Temple of Jupiter.
We were no strangers to dangers connected to travel in the Third World Countries. My parents had a few close calls: the tourist boat on the Nile capsized with all the people on board either drowning or the crocodiles ate them in the murky waters, a week after we were aboard the cruise.
Then a cable car to the second highest peak in the Alps, Matterhorn, crashed also a few days after my parents were on it.
An interview with my parents in Venice, Florida in March of 2013 revealed that the hardest trial of all was the separation from the family back in Czechoslovakia. Nothing can bring back the lost time or not being able to say the last good-byes to the loved ones, as we have recently found out during the COVID-19 quarantine.
My parents both surprised me with an answer to my question about immigration.
“Would you do it again?” I asked seated in their pretty white dining room with mirrors in Venice.
The unison answer from both was a definite no. They both added their own written accounts of the immigration experience to the memoir, which I am grateful for.
I structured the memoir in a way that all three of us tell our stories. I lead off each chapter with the storyteller part, as I remember it. Then follows either my mom’s account titled “In her own words” or dad’s experiences.
I put emphasis on the phrase, “As we remember it.”
The accounts may wary in details, but together they bring forth a cohesive picture of immigration through the eyes of both adults and a growing up kid. The immigration experience has left its scars on all four of us, but it has also transformed us.
We lived through the hardline communism and the rolling capitalism. In addition to that, we are Catholics, so we have had the religious experience that is often tied to different regimes. Religion gave another dimension to our story, since it stood at the roots of our immigration together with the Prague Spring movement.
The immigration experience touched each one of us in a different way. Here is quote from my mom Ella:
During my lifetime, I have met a lot of good people that I wouldn’t have met in Czech Republic, because of limited travel. USA has its pluses and minuses–the society is too materialistic. In Czech Republic, we didn’t make a lot of money, but we were all equal. We had basic rights: right to work, right to education and healthcare. USA does not have that. People are afraid of socialism, but they basically don’t know what it is. I lived in socialism and I will continue to live in capitalism; one must try both regimes to know what’s better.
On the other hand, we most likely wouldn’t have houses, if we had stayed in Czech Republic. The majority of the population lives in apartments, that is if they are lucky waiting it out on long lists. I wouldn’t have realized my author’s dream in the old country.
The Greenwich Meridian Memoir is by no means a treatise on either of the above- mentioned regimes, then or now.
We each were free to return back to our homeland at any point in time during the 52 years. And we have. That is our story. Come along on a journey of a lifetime.
Thank you health care heroes and essential workers for keeping us alive and fed.
Stay tuned for day by day coverage of the COVID-19 quarantine in Michigan.
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