Category Archives: Czech heritage

Excerpt from greenwich meridian memoir- Shortage of toilet paper

After having a second show- the West Michigan Women’s Expo – canceled due to the coronavirus threat and reading the posts about the shortage of toilet paper, this excerpt seems like a great fit.

The Haves and the Have Nots

The useless feeling never went away; it intensified with time until it became a monster. I watched this happen between my mom, Ella, and her younger sister, Anna, over the years before 1968 and after my parents’ immigration to the U.S.A. 

In 2018, Time published a special edition:1968 The Year That Shaped a Generation with introduction: “Like a knife blade, the year severed past from future.” 

Before 1968, the two sisters were like regular siblings with occasional hard and soft feelings for each other. They even went together on vacations with their spouses to the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. Aunt Anna is also my godmother as was the custom in the old country for the closest relatives to be the Godparents. 

Their parents treated them equally as any parent would. They had similar hopes and dreams. Neither one of them made a lot of money. 

Life before the 1968 “Socialism with a human face” movement started by Alexander Dubcek and the Velvet Revolution in 1989 was simple.

People enjoyed both the advantages and the disadvantages of socialism; everyone had the right to work. There was no such thing as unemployment. If you were unemployed for more than six weeks, you went to jail. Since the economy was regulated and planned, there was always work, whatever work and any work at any given time. If you wanted a good job, you needed connections or my mom’s long arm.

That was balanced out by having to stand in long lines for basic items such as toilet paper. However, college education was free, along with healthcare for all and free daycare. 

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Final revisions of Greenwich Meridian memoir

I finally crossed the 51-k word line with the revisions of the Greenwich Meridian Memoir. I have two more chapters to go.

Excerpt

The Haves and the Have Nots

The useless feeling never went away; it intensified with time until it became a monster. I watched this happen between my mom Ella and her younger sister Anna over the years before 1968 and after my parents’ immigration to the USA.  

In 2018, Time published a special edition:1968 The Year That Shaped a Generation with introduction: “Like a knife blade, the year severed past from future.”  

Before 1968, the two sisters were like regular siblings with occasional hard and soft feelings for each other. They even went together on vacations with their spouses to the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. Aunt Anna is also my godmother as was the custom in the old country for the closest relatives to be the Godparents.  

Their parents treated them equally as any parent would. They had similar hopes and dreams. Neither one of them made a lot of money.  

Life before the 1968 “Socialism with a human face” movement started by Alexander Dubcek and the Velvet Revolution in 1989 was simple. 

People enjoyed both the advantages and the disadvantages of socialism; everyone had the right to work. There was no such thing as unemployment. If you were unemployed for more than six weeks, you went to jail. Since the economy was regulated and planned, there was always work, whatever work and any work at any given time. If you wanted a good job, you needed connections or my mom’s long arm. 

That was balanced out by having to stand in long lines for basic items such as toilet paper. However, college education was free, along with healthcare for all and free daycare.  

Travel was more problematic and based on your “profile.” We each had a profile ever since we were old enough to join the Socialist Youth Union at approximately the age of 14. The profile also contained information about your parents. Then volunteer hours on socialist projects were added to the profile. At 18, you were expected to become a member in the Czechoslovak Communist Party and get your red membership card. Soon profile info started to add up in your favor or against you.  

Certain things were unacceptable like if your family was a member of the bourgeoisie, royalty or owned land, you would definitely go nowhere. Based on the bizarre profile criteria, if they were good, you could go to Yugoslavia or maybe somewhere west if you got the exit visa.  

If your profile was bad like mine, because we left the country illegally for the USA, you sat at home. The profile thing continues to puzzle me to this day.  

Like in Hitler’s Germany nothing was ever forgotten or forgiven. That was in an era before computers. The whole socialist machinery was like a self-fulfilling prophecy. You always got what you didn’t wish for, but somebody else wanted it for you. Sometimes you never found out who wanted all that hogwash for you.  

“Oh, we just wanted the best for you,” a voice would say.  

“How do you know what’s best for me?” I asked.  

“Socialism never sleeps,” the voice would persist. “We know what’s best for the country. Look at all the improvements in the last 40 years.”  

Banners hung on buildings proclaiming the “Successes of Socialism” and the bright future for the socialist youth like me.  

We were constantly brainwashed with the socialist youth philosophy, even though they did not want me in the Socialist Youth Union, which was too bad for them.  

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Greenwich meridian Memoir cover

Cover Design by Jeanne S. Boss

Collage: the story behind the cover

It is said that a long journey starts with the first step.

During the entire process of putting together the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir,” that spans more than 50 years of our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia to the U.S., I was using a globe as a visual tool.

I got the globe probably at the old Flat River Antique Mall in Lowell when we moved out into the country in 1995. I kept it downstairs in my writing studio, but dragged it upstairs to look at it while on the treadmill.

Putting one foot in front of the other, word after word, page after page, year after year, that’s how the memoir went, often interrupted by life’s events.

After all, travel around the world made an imprint on our lives forever. However, later into the writing process, I realized the story wasn’t just about our nomadic lifestyle prompted by the political events in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

When I first asked mom for info about our immigration, she handed me two small stapled pages from a Best Western notepad with nine bullet points summarizing our life.

As I got deeper into the story and mom cooperated more, it became obvious that looking back at your past can be a painful experience.

Unlike writing fiction, writing the memoir was very emotional, at times depressing. It meant uncovering layers and layers of events, preceeded by decisions; your own decisions and other people’s decisions that impacted your own life and other people’s lives.

Decisions were lurking at every crossroad or a fork on the path to freedom. Mistakes and resentments alternated with victories and elation.

The main characters, mom Ella and dad Vaclav, were the driving forces of the immigration; I picked up two decades later when the Velvet Revolution rolled in 1989.

I found out that the main motivation for dad’s decision to emigrate was his career as a mathematician, while mom clung onto her past pharmacist job and relatives in Czech. And that’s where the characters clashed.

The Prague Spring 1968 movement was the catalyst.

I wanted to express all this on the cover of the memoir using a collage of photos, postcards, mom’s African driver’s license, the Czech coat-of-arms and the globe. There is a postcard with a Vaclav Havel stamp from Czechoslovakia.

Graphic designer Jeanne S. Boss of Rockford captured all of the above on the artistic cover. Boss is the former editor of the Lowell Ledger and the Buyer’s Guide, and a long time friend.

I would like to thank Boss for all the creative work.

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Czech festivities with excerpt

Holiday traditions bring food to the festive table

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – Since we are in the holiday spirit, I wrote about the holidays and festivities in my Greenwich Meridian memoir today back in the socialist era of former Czechoslovakia.

Many households were self-sufficient with most everything home raised and home made. A staple of the holiday season was the butchering of the family pig, so there was plenty of meat on the festive table.

Below is an illustration by Czech national artist Joseph Lada of a holiday tradition.

20191213_130329-36598716800705068157.jpg

Here is an excerpt:

However, a big tradition centered around the parishes stayed intact- that is the feast of the saints, to which the churches were dedicated to. In our case, it was the Feast of Saint Mary in Stipa on September 8th. These feasts or pilgrimages were much like homecomings or festivals in the U.S. The entire families gathered for the feasts for an opulent celebration of the saints. In many cases, animals were butchered and ladies baked the famous pastry-kolache or strudels. A dance took place at the local hall on the night before the feast. This often turned into a brawl, as people got drunk on plum brandy. Carnival rides always came into town with booths and paper roses. I loved these paper colorful crepe roses on wires; I wish I had kept at least one. Other booths sold gingerbread hearts of all sizes for all hearts.

In traditional pilgrimage places like Hostyn, the booths were set up all the time and opened for the season with hundreds of religious and non-religious items.

That brings me to celebrations of holidays in general. In villages like Stipa, many people raised animals for meat: rabbits, pigs, geese, turkeys, chickens and ducks. That was the primary source of meat for the holidays. Most meat was roasted, served with sauces or sauerkraut and dumplings. Pork and chicken were often fried into wiener schnitzel. Salads or vegetables were not as common as in the U.S. due to their year-round shortage. Soups were always a part of a holiday meal, mostly beef or chicken. In some households, people made their own noodles.

As a rule, women baked for the weekends all sorts of pastries, some for breakfast. But there was also an abundance of pastries on the market; at the bakeries, coffee shops, patisseries and in grocery stores. Among the most famous were “rohliky” or bread rolls in the shape of a crescent, some even came with poppy seeds. And bread was always good, whether baked round with hard crust or in loaves.

Other products made also at home were sausages and smoked meat. The butchering of the family pig usually took place in winter and before the holidays, so there was plenty of meat on the table.

The shortages in socialism drove the need for self-sufficiency specifically in the villages and craftsmanship as well.

Many households in villages and towns were self-sufficient with everything homemade or home grown. National artist Joseph Lada illustrated the traditional festivities: The Feast of St. Nicholas on Dec. 6, the butchering of the family pig in the yard with onlookers, Christmas by the tall tiled stoves, autumn campfires with fire-roasted potatoes and summer fun by the ponds with the willows.

The Czech Republic enjoys distinct seasons: mild winters, early springs, hot summers and moderate autumns.

To be continued….

Copyright (c) 2019 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

NANOWRIMO DAY 25

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir with excerpt

Black Friday Countdown

Shop for book 1 and book 2 from the Shifting Sands Short Stories collections this Friday through Dec. 4. Save up to 60 percent. Click this link: https://www.amazon.com/author/emmapalova

Amazon Review of Secrets

In her own unique style, Palova transports us in “Secrets” Part II of Shifting Sands. She exposes a local scandal in “Chief”. “Faustina” details a relationship lost…or is it? Palova shows us the hard line between fact and rumor in “Secrets in Ink.” My favorite, “Silk Nora”, takes us to small town Belding, Michigan at the height of WWI. A lost love is found again. I could go on with my little snippets from the dozen plus short stories in this book, but I think you’ll want to curl up and read for yourselves.

Translation

I finished translating mom’s memories from her first stay in the U.S. until 1973 this morning. Mom Ella captured three years of her life on 12 pages written in a pretty cursive.

When I compare my account of those years spent in Hawkins, TX as a kid to hers as a disappointed housewife, I begin to understand the mechanism of immigration.

From her lines, I could feel all the emotions:

Excerpt: Bittersweet memories

I planned the return home at the end of the school year in June. In April, Vaclav received a letter from his friend in Toronto, who was also in Sudan, with a newspaper clip from a Czech newspaper published in Toronto. There was a note for me in the letter, advising me not to return back to Czechoslovakia, that the amnesty wasn’t working the way it was supposed to. The newspaper article was about a person who had returned back to Czechoslovakia; at the airport he was taken into an establishment unofficially called “Introduction into citizens’ life.” I read the article at least 10 times and I determined that it was propaganda against Czechoslovakia, and that the press exaggerated everything. Deep inside, I doubted, that it could be true. 

At the beginning of May, I asked Vaclav if he could buy us tickets to Czech. He was very unhappy, but he knew that he couldn’t keep me any longer in Texas. Although Vaclav refused to return with us, he bought the tickets – with a heavy heart. My desire to return back home was stronger than my love for him. I also firmly believed that he wouldn’t stay by himself in the U.S.A. and that he would return to us. 

The scene from the Prague Airport repeated itself at the airport in Dallas; tears, wailing, remorse; I questioned why I had to go through all this again, why couldn’t we return from Sudan home to Czech. This tearful farewell spoiled the joy of my homecoming, and had yet to find out what was in store for me. Finally, after three years, I was leaving Texas, that I never liked. 

Copyright (c) 2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

NaNoWriMo Day 21 & 22

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir with Havel quote

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – Between the two dreary November days, I logged in 4,000 words into the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo 2019) dashboard. The Greenwich Meridian memoir about our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia is my writing project. The 50K word writing challenge has entered its final week, as we also approach Thanksgiving and I have to do some grocery shopping.

The turkey is already in the freezer and the tasks have been assigned among the family members; mom Ella is making the stuffing and a vegetable casserole, if she feels good she will make the traditional Czech pastry “kolache.” Yay! We’re doing the turkey, cranberry relish and baked beans, daughter-in-law Maranda is making the twice baked potatoes. Yay again!

Czech kolache

For many participants, NaNoWriMo is a great motivator and if you get your winner certificate and finish writing your content, it’s also a great marketing tool for your new book. I penned the core of my second book Shifting Sands: Secrets during last year’s NaNoWriMo.

I would not have been able to do it, without the daily accountability of the word count. Plus, by participating in the month-long NaNoWriMo, you form a daily writing habit, if you don’t have it already. That’s how you unlock your daily writing badges.

I have been writing for the last 22 days in a row after I exercise and do my meditations in the morning. If I have to do something else before I reach the daily writing quota, I continue to write in the afternoon. Overall, my less productive time is in the afternoon, so I leave it for marketing and communications.

I agree with all the great writing gurus:

“Protect your writing time, no matter what.”

If that means writing early in the morning or late at night, so be it. There is no time for goofing around on social media instead of writing. As I have learned at the 2018 Calvin College writing conference, some authors don’t even watch TV after they finish writing in the evening or in the morning.

This week I have been working on chapters “Velvet Revolution” and “Back in the U.S.” Looking back at the historical events like Prague Spring in 1968 and Velvet Revolution in 1989, has been an eye-opening experience. My love for history, politics and arts has only grown stronger while doing research for the memoir.

The Greenwich Meridian memoir will be available for pre-order in January of 2020. Follow me on Amazon on:

https://www.amazon.com/author/emmapalova

Vaclav Havel quote

The Red Truth newspaper, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, interviewed Vaclav Havel on Dec. 2, 1989. This was his first opportunity to introduce himself as a playwright and writer, rather than a dissident and a political prisoner. Previously, the newspaper only published bad news about Havel’s actions against the regime.

“You must not like this newspaper?”

“Now is not the time for recriminalization of the past,” he said. “We have to think about the future. The party will enter the democratic system just like any other political party.”

Copyright (c) 2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

May Day 2019

This is one of my most popular posts; back by demand

Happy May Day

May 1st traditions in Czech Republic & around the world

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI – Every year, I observe May 1st as May Day in the renaissance Czech tradition with warm memories of the socialist past. If I close my eyes, I can still see the parades, the tribunes and the socialist propaganda with the slogans and the banners on the backdrop of the blossoming lilacs. The socialist patriotic anthems were blasting from the loudspeakers including the Soviet anthem “Coyuz Nerusimij.”

We all had to Partake in the May Day parade.  Those who didn’t participate got later into trouble at work or in school.

Today, Czech Republic still celebrates May 1, as an official holiday with a day off to commemorate the union manifestations in Chicago in 1884. Only this time around, without the parades or the slogans.

But most of all, May Day, was a great day off known for its official opening of the beer gardens, and the infamous “march of the thieves.”

The organized labor from the factories marched in the parades, while some individuals used the opportunity to steal from the gated factories because of less supervision. Therein the name “march of the thieves.”

First and foremost, May is the month of love, not just labor.

And I write about all this in the memoir “Greenwich Meridian” with a light heart and a smile on my face with a touch of nostalgia.

I admire the old Czech country for being able to keep both the old socialist holidays, take on new ones, and tamper with the most important holiday of all that is the liberation of the country from the Nazi occupation in 1945.

New politicians with new agendas changed the date of the liberation of former Czechoslovakia from May 9th to May 8th based on the controversy who really liberated the country, whether it was the Soviets or the Americans. The question at hand; who was the first and where?

Having lived in many countries around the world, our family always honored the holidays of that particular country, otherwise we would have time off all the time.

Looking at my calendar last week for a summary, I found amusing that Canada also has Easter Monday off as an official holiday, just like Czech Republic.

However, any holiday can take root in any country as I have witnessed in my hometown of Vizovice.

I remember our neighbor bus driver Mr. Hlavenka in Vizovice, used to celebrate Fourth of July by taking the day off in the old socialist era.

I’ve always wondered, how did he know about Independence Day with all the propaganda against American capitalism.

But, May 1st has deep agricultural connotations as well. People gather wildflowers and crown a May king and queen, weave floral garlands, and set up a maypole.

Majove slavnosti

They also have bonfires to encourage the fertility of the land and animals in the coming year.

It is fascinating how different traditions and believes take roots in different countries, and how they continue to evolve.

Watch for more upcoming May posts.

Copyright (c) 2013-2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Moments in time 2018

Looking back at 2018

Lowell, MI- Year 2018 was definitely one to be remembered in the mosaic of my life.

Two major events immediately stand out in my mind; and coincidentally they both happened in October.

Ludek and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary on Oct. 7th by going to my beloved Mackinac Island in the Straits of Mackinac.

On Oct. 18th, Ludek became an American citizen in a naturalization ceremony at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids. See post: https://emmapalova.com/2018/10/18/magistrate-judge-you-are-america/

In January, Ludek and I started our Spanish classes under the tutelage of Jim Alberts. I’ve never enjoyed learning more; and we’re doing it again in 2019 if Mr. Alberts offers them again.

On Jan. 29, my lifelong friend Eva and her husband Honza made their dream come true, as they opened restaurant Lorenz in Kromeriz, Czech Republic. https://emmapalova.com/2018/01/29/lorenz-czech-restaurant-with-austrian-flair/

Since the big pond separates us, we missed the grand opening. We hope to visit Lorenz one day.

In January and February, I continued my book signings of Shifting Sands Short Stories at LowellArts during their arts exhibit in the new gallery on Main Street.

February marked my annual writer’s retreat in Florida. It was in Ft. Lauderdale. See post https://emmapalova.com/2018/02/16/notes-from-ocean-2018/

As winter changed into spring, we celebrated St. Pat’s in historic Hubbardston tavern with the oldest liquor license in Michigan. It used to be a speakeasy during the prohibition. I have yet to write about this.

April marked the three-day biannual Conference on Writing at Calvin College. See post https://emmapalova.com/2018/04/16/ffw-2018/

In April, we also enjoyed Neil Simon’s “Rumors” by the LowellArts players.

The first weekend in May is always dedicated to my love for history. The theme of Spring into the Past tour was “Fashions through the Ages.” https://emmapalova.com/2018/05/04/fashions-through-the-ages/

In June, it was the “Guardians of History” script and video for the Fallaburg Historical Society, that made this month stand out. https://emmapalova.com/2018/06/17/guardians-of-history/

I was also featured in the 2018-2019 Grand Rapids City Guide in the life&style section “The long road to resilience.”

I love summer and surprises. They truly all came in one day: Interview with WGVU host Shelly Irwin, a new author event and the Epilogue Bookstore. While looking for a hotel in Ludington, where we celelebrated my dad’s birthday on July 23rd, I came across a true gem. I found out about the annual Ludington Writers’ Rendezvous organized by author Joan H. Young. Thank you Joan for so much inspiration and for new author friends. You rock. https://emmapalova.com/2018/07/16/writers-surprises-all-in-one-day/

On the first Sunday in August, we always attend the annual Czech Harvest Festival in Bannister, MI. Aug. 20th marked the 50th anniversary of Soviet occupation of former Czechoslovakia in 1968. See post: https://emmapalova.com/2018/08/20/50th-anniversary-of-soviet-occupation-of-czechoslovakia-1968/

I wrapped up the summer by saying goodbye to our French granddaughter Ella; together we completed a big goal. Passing on the family tradition, I taught Ella how to swim.

In September, we were in the Belding Labor Day Parade for the first time with my book float entry decorated with huge lollipops and an ice cream cone. We loved the parade with the Willy Wonka theme.

Who doesn’t love a parade passing by?

October: like I’ve mentioned in the highlights we celebrated our anniversary https://emmapalova.com/2018/10/17/discoveries-at-mackinac-island-straits/ My husband Ludek was naturalized.

November delivered a huge surprise for me: the NaNoWriMo 50K word novel writing marathon and with it comes a new book for 2019. That is Shifting Sands: Secrets. I completed the 50,000 word challenge on Nov. 27 with 56,432 words. https://emmapalova.com/2018/11/27/national-novel-writing-month-winner-2018/

December brought record attendance to the https://emmapalova.com/2018/12/06/christmas-in-fallasburg-2/Christmas in Fallasburg party thanks to the concerted effort of all the volunteers.

Our first ever team trip Up North brought new discoveries of the “Chain of Lakes,” a 75-mile waterway from Elk Rapids to Ellsworth.

I would like to wish all my followers a Happy New Year 2019.

Thank you for following me.

Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

40th Wedding Anniversary

As Ludek and I celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary on Oct. 7th, I  think about all those years spent with one man. We were both born in former Czechoslovakia.

us

In 1978,  that seemed unimaginable to an 18-year-old girl still in the Zlin Gymnasium Prep School with university years of studying ahead of me.

“You’re going to spend  the rest of your life with one man?” classmate Zdenek asked me. “I can’t even fathom that.”

Yes, indeed. I spent all those years with one man.

“Boring,” said an acquaintance jokingly some time ago. She herself had been married to one man for a long time.

Just like in everything, there were some great times and some rough times over the four decades. Some of them, I consider historical moments.

Following are some highlights that really stand out:

The birth of our daughter Emma in April of 1979, my graduation from the University of Brno in 1986, the birth of our son Jake in 1987 and  the move to the United States of America in 1989. My book Shifting Sands Short Stories came out in 2017. I became an American citizen in 1999. Ludek will have his naturalization ceremony this year.

In between were big, medium and little things; all those elements that make up marriage.

“For better or for worse,” as we said our wows.

Among the big things were:  Weddings of our kids. Emma got married in Montrachet, Burgundy, France and Jake in Parnell, MI.

Another big shebang , I consider our celebration of the millennium at Stafford’s Perry Hotel, where Hemingway  once stayed. Since, I love history, I love to stay on historical properties.

To celebrate our 40th anniversary, we will be staying in the historical Murray Hotel on Mackinac Island.  I find inspiration in history, because it has  a tendency to repeat itself. You can predict things based on the past.

We were surfing rough waters when the  recession hit in 2007 through 2009, and Ludek lost his job. Ludek had to leave the state of Michigan to work in Prarie-du-Chien, Wisconsin. I stayed in Lowell because we didn’t want to lose the house. Our friends have lost theirs.

He commuted 500 miles to work and  he came home for the weekends. When I wrote about it back at the peak of  the depression in 2008, I got a response from a publication:

“That’s normal, that’s not a story.”

Yes, maybe for them it wasn’t. But for us it was a big story, as well as for millions of other Americans. I compensated the horror of separation and living by myself with a dog in the country by writing a screenplay. I bought Final Draft software and wrote about the assassination on liberal candidates.

We got through it with scars and hurts. Sometimes, it still hurts.

We still adhere to Czech traditions and customs, but we also have taken on new American traditions. It makes life interesting sharing two different cultures.

People ask me what do I miss the most about the old country?

“Definitely friends, since most of the family members have passed,” I answer.

But, always having a positive outlook, writing and  innovation helped us through the  good and the bad. Of course there was more good than the bad. It depends on the perspective and interpretation.

The good prevailed in love, passion and belief in each other.

And like  talk show host Ripa said on TV, “It  always boils down to respect of each other.”

The values we have established have carried us through; first comes  our family, then passion for our work and innovation. This philosophy has always worked well throughout the years.

With well wishes for many more years.

Love always, Emma.

Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

50th anniversary of Soviet Occupation of Czechoslovakia, 1968

It is with certain trepidation that I approach the 50th anniversary of Soviet occupation of former Czechoslovakia on the night of Aug. 20 to Aug. 21, 1968.

The milestone seems unbelievable to me. It was such a pivotal moment that influenced the rest of my life. What followed the occupation changed two generations; a massive exodus fleeing from the occupied country to its Western neighbors.

Soviet occupation of Prague in 1968
Soviet occupation of Prague in 1968

There is an old cliché saying that time heals everything. Decades of other events in history may have put layers of dust over this one. But those whose lives have been touched by the invasion, will never forget.

I’ve only heard other people’s accounts of the invasion; recently a video posted on Facebook stirred my memory.

People reacted to the event in two basic ways: either they stayed in the country or they emigrated to the West. The majority stayed in the country.

My father professor Vaclav Konecny decided for the latter of the two. That is to leave the country rather than endure the regime. Fifty years later, both of my parents have certain regrets. My mother Ella more so than my father.

“I left behind my sick parents against my beliefs,” she said. “That haunted me until the day they died. All those years, I felt guilty.”

The invasion suppressed the Prague Spring liberalization movement led by Alexander Dubcek, and substituted it with hardline communism or dark era of totality.

Those who stayed paid the price. No one could leave the country without exit visa.

Those who left illegally could not return without persecution.

Freedom truly isn’t free. It never has been.

“I think our modern history shows us that freedom isn’t a gift, which the powerful fight for to giveaway; it can be obtained and defended only by those who work to obtain or defend it.” late president Vaclav Havel in his speech on Victory Day May 8, 1994.

 A half-a-century of Czech expatriates living outside the old country well beyond the Velvet Revolution in 1989, has shown their adaptability and assimilation into other cultures.

Our own immigration story has been molded by the 1968 Soviet invasion. At the time, my parents left from Sudan, Africa for Canada, and eventually to Hawkins, Texas where dad taught math at Jarvis Christian College.

The story got more complex, when mom Ella decided to return to Czechoslovakia in 1973 followed by dad. The return was both a nightmare and a mistake, as my dad later recollected it many years later. He left Czechoslovakia again in 1976, and after a battle for emigration visa mom joined him in 1980.

It wasn’t until December of 1989 that I was able to leave the country for the USA for good. I became an American citizen in August of 1999 at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids.

Looking back at this chronology of now historical events, I have to ask myself if I would do it again, much like I have asked my parents.

“Yes. I would do it again. I have no regrets; my entire family is here and I consider this country to be my home.”

The other question that people either ask me or I ask myself, “What is it that I miss about the old country?”

I do miss my friends from school and the university. Whenever, I miss the food, I just cook it myself. My son Jake was naturalized earlier this year, and my husband Ludek will become an American citizen on Aug. 22, 2018 in Detroit.

However, life is not just a chronological sequence of events or it shouldn’t be.

“How would our lives be different if we stayed in the old country?”

Those questions remain hanging in the air unanswered. I don’t expect any answers to them anytime soon or ever.

When I published my book “Shifting Sands Short Stories” last summer, I realized I would not have been able to do that in Czech Republic. If for nothing else, I wouldn’t have been able to do it because of language barriers. There are no English language publishers. Either way, it would have to be translated.

We adhere to Czech traditions and customs, mainly during Christmas and Easter. Our adult children Emma & Jake are fully bilingual. Jake is teaching his kids Czech.

I laugh when I say, “I am 99 percent American and one percent Czech.”

That one percent means; Vaclav Havel remains my hero and we speak Czech at home.

Copyright © 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.