Category Archives: Czech heritage

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.

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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.

Czech Harvest Festival

Summer  brings  heritage festivals and fairs

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI  -I am really looking forward to this weekend. First of all, it’s going to be hot again, and I love that.

Contrary to what the promoters of “Back to School” pump out, summer is not over. For me summer is over when I have to swap my flip-flops for closed-toed shoes, usually with the first snow.

Summer always stays in my heart year-long.

Other than my author event at the LowellArts gallery tomorrow from 1 to 3 p.m. during the Captured photo exhibit, I can’t wait to go to the Czech Harvest Festival “Dozinky” in Bannister this Sunday.

This is our annual treat and a tribute to our Czech heritage. Every year, I get my hopes high that I will run into a Czech-speaking person at the festival in the middle of nowhere.

Over the years of going to Bannister, I’ve met probably a total of eight people who knew some Czech. The fun part about this event is that I get to sing three anthems that I know: American, Czech & Slovak.

The third-generation organizers Tom & Diane Bradley of Czech origin have done a fantastic job of preserving the “Dozinky” event as it truly happens in the Moravian and Slovakian villages in the old country. The dancers wear original costumes, the band of accordions plays Czech polka and the singers sing Czech songs.

I marvel at this effort, because the festival passes the Czech heritage onto the younger generation. The dance troupe involves kids ages three to unlimited. The festivities open with the shortest parade in the world; it’s even shorter than the parade in Hubbardston on St. Pat’s Day.

The parade route is past the ZCBJ Lodge to the small field with a concrete platform for the dancers. The dancers and singers march in the parade with rakes and scythes, symbolizing the original harvest of wheat.

Usually, a polka band plays inside the hall after the dance troupe is done outside. I’ve never been to that part, because it runs later in the afternoon when we have to head back home for a long drive through the fields.

The best part of the event is the original Czech food. For ten bucks, you get to eat like in a fancy Czech restaurant without leaving USA. The buffet features, ham, chicken, dumplings, sauerkraut, cucumber salad, mashed potatoes, biscuits and a dessert.

Czech “kolache”

However, one thing you will not get here, is the traditional Czech “kolache” pastry. One of the editors of the Fraternity Herald asked me to share the origins of this festive pastry.

So, I asked my mother Ella, while she was still in Venice. Growing up in Moravian small town of Vizovice, she could trace the humble origins to the villagers.

“They used all the ingredients available to them in their households,” she said. “This included the cottage cheese they made themselves, butter or lard and eggs. The only thing they bought was sugar and flour. They had everything else including the plum butter.”

The popularity of “kolache” as a signature pastry at all events and festivities, skyrocketed over the years, as the city folks discovered them while touring villages.

“Kolaches” are to Czechs what pizza is to the Italians,” mom said. “They too use the ingredients available to them; olives, pasta sauce and such.”

There are hundreds of recipes for traditional “kolache” varying according to the region.

However, they all have in common the following: golden crust topped with plum butter with sugary crumbling and filled with cottage cheese mixed with raisins.

For one of the many kolache recipes visit the

Mazac Family Genealogy blog:

https://mazacgenalogy.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/czech-moravian-kolache-recipe/

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

Born on May 9th with excerpts

Birthday and freeing of Prague

Excerpts from  memoir Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West

The Tide of immigration from former Czechoslovakia started in 1968 with the Soviet army occupation.  A massive exodus followed in protest of the action by the Soviet Union government. My father  professor Vaclav Konecny was part of the movement.

As I continue to write the memoir in May, I will start with its festivities .The month of May was very poetic and romantic. With the entire country in blossom, the major holidays included Mayday and Freedom Day on May 9th when the Russians freed Prague from the Nazi occupation. in 1945. The new regime moved the national holiday to May 8th, when the American army reached the famous beer town of Pilsner in Western Bohemia.

May also serves as athe stage for the biggest music event of the year, the Prague Spring International Music Festival, started by president Edward Benes in 1946.  The festival is a tribute to the famouse Czech composer Bedrich Smetana. He is best known for his symphony Vltava inspired by the major Czech river that runs through Prague.

To my biggest regret, I’ve never been to Prague Spring. The 1968 political movement was also called Prague Spring.

The month of May is dedicated to Saint Mary in the catholic church. We used to sing Marianne hymns by the little chapels and in churches decorated with white hydrangeas and dahlias every evening at 6 p.m. It was a month for first communions, pretty white lace dresses and ribbons.

But, May had its dark side according to the lore; it wasn’t a good time to get married. Legend has it if a couple gets married in May, one of the partners will die early.

Were there weddings in May? Probably.

However, a big part of the population was superstitious partly due to Czech literature and its great authors. Some of the biggest ones who wrote about May were Karel Hynek Macha and Jaromir Erben.

May is known for opening of the beer gardens under the beautiful lilac blossoms.

I remember our neighbor Mr. J had a big old lilac tree that had both purple and white blossoms. I was always puzzled by that, since you really only saw one color or the other. Many years later someone told me that Mr. J had it  grafted.

To be continued

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

May Day

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 hymns were blasting from the loudspeakers.

We all had to Partake in the May Day parade.  Those who didn’t 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 the 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) 2017-2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Czech Easter traditions in 2018

Happy Easter

Czech Easter lasts four days from Good Friday to Easter Monday

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

The major difference between Czech and American Easter, is that Czech Republic has an Easter Monday celebration.

On Easter Monday, the custom in the villages calls for “whipping” of the girls and women to commemorate Christ’s whipping before he was crucified. Boys and men braid the whips from willow branches.

The teams head out early in the morning on Easter Monday. The ladies of the house always have ready ribbons to tie to the whips, shots of plum brandy and colored eggs. The leader of the team carries the longest whip with the most ribbons.

Some carry wooden “rattles” that make deafening noises ushering in the jolly “whipping team.” The rattles were used instead of church bells. Legend has it that the church bells left for Rome.

Slovak variation on Monday Easter features pouring water or cologne on girls and women.

Women color the eggs quite often in onion skins for natural brown look. Depending on the region, the Easter feast features “kolache,” a festive traditional pastry of modest origins. Kolache are common also in Czech communities across the USA; Cedar Rapids, Bannister, West Texas and countless others.

 

The Easter meal, again depending on the region, will be most likely “rizek” which is a breaded pork, veal or rabbit fried steak with mashed potatoes accompanied by home-made preserved fruits.

Roasted goose or duck can be an alternative.

In Moravia, the host will offer a shot of plum brandy to greet you at the doorstep. The plum brandies are a pride of each household, and as such they differ based on the plums. Plum brandies are made in local distilleries with equal pride in their craft.

Families get together from far and near to duscuss the latest news; who died, who got married or divorced and to gossip about neighbors and friends.

When we transferred Czech customs to North America in the 1990s, we kept the Easter “whipping”, the plum shots, while adding the American egg hunt and having a leg of lamb with herbs for Easter dinner.

We do miss the “kolache” pastry, since I do not know how to make kolache, and my mom Ella is still in Venice, Florida.

I cannot make the lamb-shaped pound cake, because I don’t have the form for it. The pound cake is easy to make, once you have the form, but the “kolache” remain a skillfull art.

My brother Vas colored the eggs this year using wax.

Stay tuned for posts about Czech traditions in America including the elusive “kolache.”

 

Pictured above: Easter lamb pound cake, colored eggs called “kraslice”, braided whips and a wooden rattle.

The feature photo: Gentle whipping on Easter at the Pala household somewhere in Midwest America. Pictured are: Ludek Pala, Jakub Pala & Maranda Palova.

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

Lorenz, Czech restaurant with Austrian flavors

Restaurant Lorenz, a dream come true for Czech & Slovak couple

After working as a chef at a Viennese restaurant for 30 years, Jan Laurencik opened a restaurant in beautiful Kromeriz with wife Eva on this wintry day at the end of January.

Having a restaurant in Kromeriz has been a lifelong dream for this enterprising couple, Jan & Eva. Jan is from Slovakia, Eva is a lifelong resident of Kromeriz in Czech Republic.

The fusion of the Austrian dishes with Czech is apparent in the entrees such as the featured Old Viennese pork knee on a skewer with red cabbage sauerkraut, hot pepper and bread, served on a plank and accompanied by Bernard beer.

“It is delicious with a well-balanced tangy taste of the sauerkraut,” said Emma Palova. Palova visited Kromeriz and the local restaurants many times. “I love this Moravian specialty. The beer washes down the grease from the knee. It’s finger-licking good.”

The weekly menu features daily specials with soup included and a choice of four  entrees ranging in price from 85 kc to 135 kc. KC stands for Czech currency, Czech crowns.

The restaurant/cafe menu is complete with a piece of Vienna; that is the Sachr Torte. The Sachr chocolate cake has been the most famous cake in the world since 1832, and the original recipe remains a well-kept secret.

The featured coffee is the Vienna melange with Mozart’s kugel confection. The large selection of desserts also features traditional Czech “pohar” cup with fruits, whipped cream and ice cream.

And of course the dessert menu would not be complete without the famous apple strudel, home to both Austria and Czech Republic.

Congratulations to my friends Eva Larencikova and her husband Jan to the opening of the Lorenz Restaurant & Kavarna in beautiful Kromeriz, Czech Republic.

Note: Eva and I met on a “Hops” train to Zatec in 1982. We spent three weeks in the Bohemian hops fields picking hops in order to obtain a university credit from the Technical University of Brno. The hops brigade was mandatory under the socialist educational system. Hops in all forms including liquid as in beer, have cemented our lifetime long distance friendship. The pork knee on a plank with beer was our favorite dish during our student years in Brno, because it was good and cheap. The distance across the Atlantic Ocean has changed nothing in our relationship.

You don’t need a Reservation to  this Czech Viennese cafe. 

http://www.ulorenze.cz/

Featured photo: Courtesy of Lorenz Restaurant & Kavarna

Smoked pork knee on a skewer with red sauerkraut and bread served on a plank.

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

Plotting new year’s courses

I have just glanced at my Jan. 19 Taurus Horoscope to see if I am on track. Without the Blink of an eye this is what I found out.

I have enrolled in Spanish classes together with Ludek. I will be teaching ESL English as a Second Language and writing classes in the Grand Rapids area. My new column about Czech heritage is coming up in the Western Fraternal Life Herald, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

My next book signing of Shifting Sands Short Stories will take place at the LowellArts downtown gallery on Main Street on Feb. 3 from 1 to 4 pm. I will be offering tips on how to start and finish your book in 2018. Sign up on Facebook @emmapalova to win a free book.

For more info on the Western Fraternal Life Association and the Fraternal Herald monthly magazine go to:

http://www.flains.org

This is my horoscope for today.

You may be intrigued by the prospects of enrolling in a course of study today, but you’re determined to specifically learn something that can contribute to your material success. Although your practical …

Source: Taurus Horoscope for January 19, 2018

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

May Day

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 hymns were blasting from the loudspeakers.

We all had to Partake in the May Day parade.  Those who didn’t 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 the 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) 2017-2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.