Category Archives: Czech heritage

Day 35: COVID-19 Waste, wait & help

CZECH STAROPRAMEN WASTED

Lowell, MI – This morning I found out from the Expatriots.cz newsletter, that Prague’s Staropramen Brewery will dump hundreds of thousands of liters of beer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coming from this country, that holds monopoly on both beer production and consumption, I find this sad and excessive. Staropramen, a subsidiary of Molson Coors, could export the beer.

For more info go to:
news.expats.cz/czech-food-drink/pragues-staropramen-brewery-will-ecologically-dispose-of-hundreds-of-thousands-of-liters-of-beer/

The media reported earlier in the pandemic, that the US farmers will be dumping milk because the schools and the restaurants didn’t need it due to the shutdown. However, the cows still had to be milked.

Helping out Lowell, Canfield’s matching program until May 1

You can still buy a gift certificate to the local hair/nail salons or restaurants and Canfield Plumbing & Heating will match it up to $50 per household. We went for Sneaker’s.

THE FESTIVAL WAITING GAME 2020

Festival news from the Lakeshore Art Festival in Muskegon

We have heard from a number of exhibitors and guests and are so thankful for the outpouring of support for the Lakeshore Art Festival and would like to provide an update for this year’s event. We are closely following the status of COVID-19 within our state and throughout the country. Our number one priority is the health and wellbeing of our community, artists and guests. We also understand the extreme financial burden that is being placed on artists, businesses and employees. Taking all of that into consideration and the fact that our event is in July, we have decided to wait until mid-May before we determine how to proceed with the festival. By the end of May we will provide another communication with details on the status of Lakeshore Art Festival 2020. Please note: Status may change based on new directives put forth by the Governor of Michigan.

Thank you all health care and essential workers for keeping us alive and fed.

Stay tuned for day by day quarantine coverage from Michigan.

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

Day 21: Easter Monday in the COVID-19 quarantine

Czech and Slovak Easter Monday traditions

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – Celebrate Easter responsibly with a six foot long whip.

Those were the guidelines for Easter Monday from the Czech officials. Social distancing restrictions have also impacted some beloved Easter customs in Czech Republic known as the whipping of the women called “schmigrust” on Easter Monday.”

“How?” you asked.

“The whips just got longer to satisfy the six-foot social distancing requirement.“

On the night before Easter Monday, the men braided the whips from willow branches. The whip consists of eight, twelve or even 24 withies (willow rods.) They headed out early on Monday morning either individually or as a team. Even before social distancing, the leader of the team carried the biggest whip with the most ribbons. The team members had their personal whips and rattles. The noisy procession went from house to house seeking out the loveliest females, who had the prettiest ribbons. This custom is known as “pomlazka.”

Easter Monday whipping before the COVID-19 quarantine.

According to some accounts, (including my own) the purpose of whipping is for males to exhibit their attraction to females; unvisited females can even feel offended. I wrote about this Easter Monday whipping tradition in my upcoming book the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir.” Watch for excerpts coming up during the COVID-19 quarantine.

The lashing would take place at the doorstep to the famous Easter rhyme:

“Hody, hody, doprovody, give me a colored egg, if you don’t have a colored egg, give me at least a white one, the hen will lay another one.”

Depending on the household, the lady of the house, tied a ribbon to the whip, handed out eggs and poured shots of the famous plum brandy known as sliwowitz.

Festive Easter deviled eggs-casino style

The whipping custom dates back to the pagan times. It was meant to chase away bad spirits, sickness and bring health and youth to everyone for the rest of the year. In our Moravian region, we were told that it symbolized the whipping of Christ.

If the women of the household were popular and the Easter team arrived late, there would be no ribbons or shots left for them.

On the other hand, you could see drunken teams in the afternoon out on the streets.

We have always adhered to this “schmigrust” custom wherever we lived in the world, except for this year due to the Coronavirus quarantine. We still have the personal braided whips from Czech and the giant rattle.

As a renaissance tradition, I made deviled eggs or eggs casino style from the dyed Easter eggs.

You just scoop out the yolks into a bowl, mix it with butter and mustard, you can add chopped up ham.

Below is a video of the Czech prime minister Andrej Babis lashing his wife.

Thank you health care workers.

Stay tuned for day by day coverag of the COVID-19 quarantine.

Tomorrow: Hastings woman infected with Coronavirus struggles to get better.

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

Day 20: Easter SUNDAY in the COVID-19 quarantine

Happy Easter

“Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, it casts the shadow of our burdens behind us.” – Samuel Smiles

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI- Every Sunday is a little Easter and this Easter Sunday wishes kept pouring in from far and near.

We spent Easter alone with Ludek, but not completely. For the fourth Sunday in a row, we watched the televised mass from the empty Saint Andrew’s Cathedral in Grand Rapids. The beautiful mass celebrating the risen Christ lost none of its pomp. The altar was decorated with bold white Easter lilies, mums and orchids. And Alleluia echoed through the empty cathedral.

Easter Sunday rosary walk at the Franciscans

While the sun was still out, I went for my second walk of the season to the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist around noon. During the entire 1.8 mile walk on gravel Downes Road, I saw one Amazon Prime van only, but no human beings. However, the birds could not be discouraged or fined for chirping their Easter Sunday songs.

At the St. Mary’s Plaza, I sat on the concrete bench to make note of my observations in my blue walking diary with this title, “Write your Story.”

Then, the phone got the best of me as the Easter wishes kept coming in. Walking by the center, I still noticed the yellow forsythias .

“Happy Easter,” our son Jake wished me. “I made the whips for the Easter Monday whipping. We couldn’t find any willows.”

“Did you color eggs for Easter?” I asked.

Oh, yes, the coloring of Easter eggs is just as big of a deal as braiding of the whips from the willow branches.

“What are you cooking?” I asked.

On a normal Easter Sunday, we would have a leg of lamb, red sauerkraut and dumplings and mom’s famous cake roll. We would fill the dining room by the sunroom with laughter and Easter joy.

“I am grilling ribs tonight,” Jake said.

And yes, mom announced their Easter meal on FaceTime in Big Rapids. My brother Vas was present.

“We had schnitzel from chicken tenderloin,” she said. “I grabbed that at Aldi’s.”

Vas suggested that Ludek should be working in our gardens during the quarantine.

Somewhere in between the above mentioned calls, daughter Doc Em called from Morzine in France.

“Mom, I am in the mountains, but the kids couldn’t come with me because of the lockdown,” she said. “I am fine because I am a doctor, we can go anywhere.”

Doc Em said she’s getting tired of the uncertainty.

“France could be on a lockdown until the end of May and the European Union could seal off the borders until September,” she said.

Speaking about having a different Easter, friend Sheryl from Iowa asked me about our Governor.

“What is going on with your governor? Can’t buy seeds or flags and can’t go to neighbor’s house?” Sheryl asked.

“We can do takeouts, auto service, buy food and medication, but that’s about it,” I responded.

Thank you medical workers, truckers and grocery workers for all your hard work.

Stay tuned for day by day coverage of the Coronavirus shutdown in Michigan including a special report about Easter Monday traditions in Czech & Slovak republics with excerpts.

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

Day 19: Easter Vigil in the COVID-19 quarantine

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Easter alone, Whites Bridge rediscovered

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI -Due to the Coronavirus quarantine, we will not have our Easter family gathering with my parents Ella & Vaclav, and our son Jake. I spent the sunny day in my well-lit kitchen working on Easter preparations, even though it will be just Ludek and I.

Whites Bridge replica

I colored eggs in five different dyes with an attempt to draw a bunny on a few of them. The bunny showed up only on the green egg. I marinated lamb chops in herbes de Provence, garlic and red Cabernet from a box. And finally I made my famous red beet elixir to strengthen our immunity and to boost the spirit.

Ludek had no bread, so we drove to the Otisco Bakery to get a loaf of sourdough. In Slavic countries, there is a blessing of the traditional Easter foods , prepared in baskets onEaster Vigil held on Saturday night.

Fresh baked sourdough from the Otisco Bakery

Since we were in Otisco Township, home to the famous Whites Bridge, we took the gravel road to check it out. It was well worth the bumpy drive. There it was standing in its new beauty – the perfect replica of the 1869 Whites Bridge across the Flat River.

An arsonist, who has never been caught, burnt it down on July 7, 2013.

Late in the afternoon, I watched fishermen fishing from kayaks on Murray Lake. I feel blessed living in the country and having somewhere to go without traveling.

I pray for reprieve for people living in big cities during the COVID-19 shutdown. May there be relief for all of us soon.

Stay tuned for day by day coverage of the shutdown.

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

Day 14: COVID-19 quarantine brings us back to home farming

Uncertain food supply raises need for self-sustainability

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI- Since farmer’s markets and greenhouses may not open until the COVID-19 quarantine is lifted, many are turning back to home farming and small garden plots are popping up around the neighborhood.

Altough farmers like Visser Farms are getting creative selling online and packaged fruits and vegetables for a standard price of $5 a bag to prevent direct contact.

We’re lucky enough that we each own at least three acres in Vergennes Township. Coming from Europe, we’ve always had our own veggie gardens due to the constant shortage of fresh produce on the markets. See excerpt below from the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir.”

We’ve staked our small garden approximately 15 years ago. It started out first as as an herb garden, inspired by my friend herbalist Betty Dickinson of Ionia. Whenever I walk into the garden, especially after rain, the herbs smell of a thousand fragrances. Later, we added cherry tomatoes, peppers, squash and melons.

Last year, we planted cucumbers to can our own sweet and sour pickles aka “Znojemske okurky.” We take pride in this product that reminds us of our Czech homeland. I also love my ever bearing strawberries and currant bushes. I use the red and black currant to make pies.

But it is getting late to start growing plants from seeds. My favorite Snow Avenue Greenhouse usually opens around April 20 and sells decent size plants that can go directly into the garden.

COVID-19 quarantine brings us back to home farming.

Tips

If you live in an apartment, you can still do container gardening. Many seeds on the market are specifically good for containers.

Excerpt from Greenwich Meridian Memoir

Self-sustainability in Czech villages

Other homemade products included 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. Socialism with its chronic lack of basic goods, drove the need for self-sufficiency specifically in the villages and craftsmanship as well. People were forced to be more creative in many different ways. They grew their own produce; everything from onions, carrots to cabbage and cucumbers. Then they made saurkraut from the cabbage, that went well with the pork and the sausages. Cucumbers were used to make the famous “Znojemsky pickles” aka “Znojemske okurky.”

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.

Stay tuned for day by day coverage of the coronavirus crisis and quarantine in the U.S.

Today the death toll reached a grim 10,000 milestone.

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

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.