Category Archives: excerpts

Prague Spring, 1968 Part I

Prague Spring, 1968

Note: Today is the 52nd anniversary of the invasion of former Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Army. The historic event prompted entire generations to defect the country in search of freedom. The “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” is our family immigration story from former Czechoslovakia to the USA spanning two generations. Following is a chapter- Prague Spring, 1968 from the memoir.

Excerpt from the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir”

By Emma Palova

The 1968 Prague Spring was looming over Czechoslovakia. On the night of August 20th, the country was invaded by the Soviet tanks and the armies of the Warsaw Pact. Hundreds of tanks roared all over the country in the full-blown invasion that impacted an entire generation of immigrants to the U.S., Germany, Canada and Australia. The country was occupied, and the Russians set up military bases both in Slovakia and in the Czech region. The Russians punished the Czechoslovak liberal government for attempting to create “socialism with human face.” The reformist movement was led by Alexander Dubcek, and late president Vaclav Havel who was part of a signatory group called Charta 1968. The Charta group proposed a series of reforms that meant to ease restrictions on the media, free speech and travel. ​

Book cover for the Greenwich Meridian Memoir to publish on Oct. 16, 2020. Cover design by Jeanne Boss of Rockford.

At the time of the occupation, my mother was on a spa stay in Carlsbad in Western Bohemia, a famous town known for its 12 healing springs.

​“I went to the colonnade in the morning,” mom said. “People were crying, listening to the radio. There were huge demonstrations, as people knocked down statues of the communist leaders.”

​Mom had to stay three more days, because the roads were closed due to tanks. Then she took a detour bus through Sumava to Brno.

​“We had a new apartment in Brno, but I left for Vizovice to be with my parents,” she said. ​

There was no telephone connection, according to mom. But the borders were open for anyone to leave freely.

​“My friends were leaving the country, crossing the border on foot with just a suitcase in their hands,” she said. “I didn’t want to go anywhere.”

​She left by herself on Sept. 28, 1968 for Africa leaving us behind with grandparents Anna and Joseph. ​

I learned this from horror stories, passed down from generation to generation, and from an interview conducted with my parents in Venice, Florida on March 5th 2013.

​My parents came back to Czechoslovakia in 1969 to be reunited with us and the rest of the family for a brief moment in time. Dad left again, because the school year in Khartoum was beginning. ​

“I didn’t want to leave. We just wanted to save some money for a house in Brno,” mom said.

​But, as the one-year anniversary of the occupation approached, mom packed up her belongings along with us. All three of us ended up in Vienna, Austria with the help of a friend from Vizovice, and flew back to Africa. Since the exit visa was extended until the end of 1970, mom was still hoping to return to Czechoslovakia.

​“For two years I lived in a limbo,” she said not knowing what was going to happen.

​But dad was determined not to return to the Soviet-occupied country. ​

“We were discussing it with colleagues,” he said. “We had a consensus that we were not going to return.”

​So, that’s how all four of us finally ended up together as a family in the fall of 1969 in Khartoum, Africa. ​Relatives advised my parents not to return back to the country which was going through “normalization,” a hardline communist approach that purged all of Dubcek’s reforms. My heartbroken mother was crying constantly after dad said he wasn’t going to return home. So was my Grandmother Anna back in the old country. Total chaos prevailed, both inside the country and outside. People were leaving the country massively anyway they could, on foot or hidden in trunks of cars.

​“Do not come back,” warned my paternal Grandfather Anthony in letters describing the grim situation in the homeland. ​

My Uncle John too was ready to leave the country, but Aunt Anna refused to. The border with neighboring West Germany was heavily guarded. Whoever got caught crossing was shot on the spot mercilessly. Everything was censored: letters, newspapers, TV, movies, as the Communist Party tightened its grip. Phones and apartments of suspicious individuals were tapped, that is if the residents were lucky enough and didn’t get locked up in jails. But so many did, like former president Vaclav Havel. The party put a damper on arts and culture allowing only the works of “socialist realism” about the working class called “proletariat.” ​

There was no TV in Khartoum at the time, so dad relied on British radio BBC and endless warning letters. He also listened to friends who had already immigrated to Canada. But mom still wanted to go home in spite of constant bad news. My parents fought often over the prospect of emigration. Unlike dad, mom did not speak English. She didn’t need to, because mom surrounded herself with Czech and Slovak friends. When shopping or in movies, dad translated for her. She argued that if she can’t speak English, she has to go home, and that her aging parents were getting increasingly sick.

“Do not return home,” was the overpowering message in letters coming from homeland.

​Letters became a signature staple in our lives. From the origins of my name that mom saw in a novel with a letter greeting “Dear Emma” to most recent letters from Florida. In between there were hundreds of letters and postcards with stamps from Italy, Greece, Germany, Czech Republic and Czechoslovakia. I have an entire collection stored in boxes in the utility room that I call the Frankenstein Room.

​It was a dark time for mom, as dad was arranging for a post-doctoral fellowship in Saskatoon, Canada with the help of a friend, Mr. Rosenberg. The airport in Khartoum was small, and people often sat or laid on the floor.  We flew with Sudan Airways with a yellow tail and with Arabic letters. Sometimes we just went to the airport to watch a plane take off from the terrace. It just intensified mom’s longing for home, but helped her to reconnect. Many years later I adopted that habit of going to the airport whenever I was homesick in Grand Rapids.

​My parents listened to the Beatles, and mom sported psychedelic colors and headbands typical for the late 60s, yellow and lime green. Ken was a British friend who used to visit with us. One night, he got so drunk on whiskey that he slept in the bathroom. Liquor was cheap in Sudan, who gained its independence from the British in 1956, but Britain maintained its influence and language domination. ​

My parents often talked about the palace revolutions during the Sudanese Civil War. I never quite understood what a palace revolution was as different governments changed hands, but it constantly inspired me. I can trace my inspiration to those days in Africa. During Ramadan, we heard the ghastly drumming coming from the other side of the Nile long into the night as the sounds carried into the river valley.  I can still hear them today if I close my eyes.

​Mom has always been proud of her good looks that she got from Grandfather Joseph. She had dark brown, almost black straight hair that she permed, warm brown eyes, sharp eyebrows, nice complexion and a slim figure.

​“I was the most beautiful one there,” once she said about a ballroom dance. Mom always attributed that sentence to a woman named Miluska, but I think she was actually talking about herself. Until recently, mom dyed her hair dark brown, but finally after so many years, the color would not stick. So, she reluctantly went gray. Mom has a theatrical habit of standing up from a dinner table, as she talks about the same events from her life over and over again, much like my Grandpa Joseph did.

​“She always wanted an intermission during a play,” Grandpa used to laugh. He bought a miniature marionette theatre for mom and her sister Anna. As a true marionettist he pulled the strings and changed voices. ​Grandpa too would stand up from the table and make Caesar-like speeches. Mom and I inherited his theatrical manners. We both love movies, and I have written a screenplay. At some point, mom started wearing her signature coral orange lipstick that goes well with her teal colored outfits. ​

In her early 80s, she lightens up at any mention of her fine looks and personality.

“Really?” she smiles. “I still look good, and I lost some weight.”

​In the African heat, mom started taking naps (siestas) after lunch. The nights cooled down considerably. We all slept in a large airy room adjacent to the living room with light green wooden furniture. The trash was deposited into a vertical shaft in the kitchen. ​

Mom is a good cook, as she picked up various dining customs and dishes in different countries. I should call her a “Cosmo” chef. But we all know her best for her baking. Back home she used to bake for weddings, including her own. She counteracts her baking fame with, “Where did you come up with that?” or “I hate baking.” ​

What she really hated was the prospect of leaving her homeland forever, even though it was inevitable considering the crisis in the country. Dad probably made up his mind to leave the country a long time before 1968. The country has always had a shortage of apartments. He finished his studies to the screaming of my brother and hauling coal to Mrs. Vyhlidal’s deteriorated apartment in Brno, in the region of Moravia.

To be continued by the next chapter: Mom’s Diary: in her own words

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Palova. All rights reserved.

day 31: poetry in the covid- 19 quarantine

Opening Michigan economy in waves

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – April is poetry month. The featured photo is a poem “Love’s Omnipresence” by Joshua Sylvester printed on an Almond Butter chocolate wrapper.

My hopes are high as we await Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s word on Friday about the possible extension of the stay-at-home order and mainly about the reopening of the Michigan economy.

Coronavirus isolation.

To the dismay of the most vulnerable people in the COVID-19 pandemic, protests have been sweeping the country to reopen the economies.

In the meantime, I moved ahead with the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” formatting on Kindle Create. The manuscript is now available for reviews. Please email Emma at emmapalova@yahoo.com for Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs).

Visit the page for reviewers:

https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/emmapalova.com/325962

Overall, it’s been a dark, cold and cloudy April in Michigan. We had an occassional frost in the morning. I managed only three walks to the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, two walks on the trails, and a total of four zoo room meetings. But the main thing that I really feared is done until the next formatting comes up for the paperback.

I also filed for the Library of Congress cataloging number for the upcoming “Greenwich Meridian Memoir.” If you wish to check that out go to:

https://www.loc.gov/

I have just found out that April is poetry month from the Library of Congress website. That’s good to know, since I love poetry, so I used Sylvester’s poem for the featured photo.

Hopefully, the economy will reopen to the satisfaction of everyone; I would be surprised if it did.

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. 

April, 2020 

The latest COVID-19 tally in Michigan on April 22, 2020.

Total cases: 33,966

Total deaths: 2,813

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.

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

DAy 29: Working in the COVID -19 quarantine

“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.

Coronavirus distancing.

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. 

Greenwich Meridian Memoir cover designed by Jeanne Boss.

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. 

April, 2020 

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.

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

DAY 18: Good Friday in the COVID-19 qarantine

Easter Triduum

By Emma Palova

“Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

                                                                                -Vaclav Havel

Lowell, MI – In early March before the official outbreak of the coronavirus in Michigan, we had a discussion with Ludek about the kissing of the cross on Good Friday. We we were wondering how are we going to handle that, since COVID-19 was already in the U.S.

During the catholic liturgies, there is a lot to come into contact whether it’s during a Paschal service or a regular mass. What seems to be like ages ago, we decided we will not go to Good Friday services protect our health .

Well, now we know that we’re not going, because all masses have been cancelled due to the stay-at-home order in Michigan. We will wath the service on WMXI Fox https://www.fox17online.com/ at 3 p.m. today.

From the Easter Triduum, the Good Friday liturgy is my favorite one because of the reading of “The Passion of our Lord, Jesus Christ, according to John.

The passion reading has inspired Mel Gibson’s 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ” and countless other works of art. Rightfully so, following is an excerpt from the Passion:

EXCERPT: The Passion of the Christ

The Passion of our Lord, Jesus Christ, according to John.

Narrator: Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to where there was a garden, into which he and his disciples entered. Judas his betrayer also knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards from the chief priests and the Pharisees and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, went out and said to them,

Christ: “Whom are you looking for?”

Narrator: They answered him,

Crowd: ” Jesus, the Nazorean.”

The above passage is very close to how you write a screenplay.

The reading of the Passion from the empty St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Grand Rapids gave a very powerful message of suffering of the Christ.

Earlier in the day I worked on the intro to my upcoming book “Greenwich Meridian Memoir.”

Introduction to the Greenwich Meridian Memoir

Here is what I have so far:

I am writing this introduction during the unprecedented time of the coronavirus shutdown, as we celebrate the Easter Triduum in front of televised services in empty churches across the nation without audiences.

Greenwich Meridian Memoir cover designed by Jeanne Boss.

 In Michigan, we are on our 18th day of the COVID-19 quarantine that has been extended through April 30, 2020. Coronavirus is now the leading cause of death in the U.S. It has caused 1,970 deaths across the country per day. As of early Friday, the U.S. had more than 465,750 coronavirus cases, according to data from John Hopkins University. More than 1.4 million cases have been reported globally.

More than half a billion people around the globe are under a stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the deadly virus. This includes my homeland, the Czech Republic. The coronavirus does not discriminate or recognize borders between the states, the countries or the continents. Some are calling it an 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 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 on 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.

Stay tuned for day by day coverage of the COVID-19 quarantine in Michigan.

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.

Day 7: COVID-19 quarantine in Michigan

By Emma Palova

Facing the possible extension of social distancing until April 30 per CDC guidelines, I continue to plug along on making the corrections to the Greenwich Meridian Memoir manuscript. I am on page 201.

I have also signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo starting April 1. Try it; it’s a good platform that keeps you on track with your writing and publishing projects.

https://nanowrimo.org/what-is-camp-nanowrimo

While fine tuning the manuscript, I came across some interesting paragraphs about waiting which I consider relevant during this time of Coronavirus shutdown.

But most importantly, I want to offer hope based on what I have learned in this morning’s meditation about “Hope in Uncertain Times” by Oprah & Deepak Chopra.

Hope increases with gratitude. List five things you’re grateful for today. These are my five things that I am grateful for today:

1- time to write 2- chicken burrito from Taco Bell 3- a story about museum intern Darcy Stubbs for Fallasburg Today 4- my parents’ arrival in Elizabethtown, KY from Florida 5- my blood pressure finally came down after three weeks

https://fallasburgtoday.org/

Excerpt from Greenwich Meridian Memoir:

Waiting in socialist Czechoslovakia

You spent a lot of time waiting around for anything and everything, quite often it was in lines for desirable items like bananas or meat.

 The grocery stores were small with only a limited amount of shopping baskets, so you waited for the shopping basket, then you waited inside the store at the dairy counter for cheese, and at the meat counter for meat, you waited in a line for the cash register and you waited for the bus to get home with your groceries. There you waited for the elevator to get to your apartment.

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.

Memoir Revisions

On track with final revisions of the Greenwich Meridian Memoir

Greenwich Meridian Memoir cover designed by Jeanne Boss.

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – As of Saturday, I’ve crossed the 40,000- word mark of the final revisions of the Greenwich Meridian Memoir about our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia. I completed the first draft during the NaNoWriMo 2019 challenge and I signed the pledge to revise and revise again.

The memoir spans more than 50 years of trials and tribulations of two generations alternating with victories. The epic story started with the Prague Spring of 1968; it was exacerbated by the presidential amnesty in 1973 for political refugees and it peaked in the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

These are the historical anchors that pitched the characters into action, sometimes against their own will or the will of others.

At each crossroad, the characters had to make major decisions for themselves and for others. Time hasn’t erased some resentments.

Read in: Excerpt from Greenwich Meridian Memoir written in her own words by mom Ella

“Charles, here’s another one with three passports,” he said. 

Charles came and took me and the kids to a room where we waited the entire afternoon. The officials were waiting for other airplanes that spit out similar victims like me. At this moment, I knew there was something wrong; I remembered Vaclav’s friend from Canada warning me not to return, that the amnesty wasn’t working. All the joy from returning home was gone and I kept thinking what’s going to happen with us. 

Around 6 p.m., a man in a dark suit entered the room and took us through  the many hallways and backdoors back on the tarmac. However, there was no plane; instead there was a minivan with six to eight people seated in it. What ensued was the saddest trip through Prague that I will never forget. We were headed into the unknown- that always in the communist system foreshadowed bad things to come.  

I regretted that I had left the peaceful village of Hawkins. I prayed to God to save us from all evil. I thought they were taking us to jail. Looking through the minivan window, I envied each pedestrian walking on the sidewalk his freedom and liberty. We drove through the entire capital Prague and continued south of the city. We were in Trebotov, according to the signs by the road. After a short ride through the city we made a turn to a four-story building. I don’t know what was exactly on the signs on the building, probably some kind of a hospital facility. Two soldiers with guns were guarding the gates. 

The driver opened the doors of the minivan and told us to get out. I was increasingly scared as my heart skipped a beat. Nobody wanted to get out of the minivan; they had to tell us twice. Later we found out that the facility was a hospital for people with long-term illnesses.   

After the declaration of the amnesty in February, that lasted through the end of 1973 and impacted 40,000 to 50,000 Czechoslovaks who fled abroad, the Interior Ministery rented the austere building for the 1968 refugees, who decided to return to the homeland. The officials used an excuse that we may have contracted different diseases in foreign countries and that we needed to undergo health screening. However, during our stay at the quarantine, we never had any tests done, X-rays or blood tests; it was a camouflage for the public.

The cover was designed by graphic artist Jeanne Boss of Rockford. 

To be continued…..

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

30TH ANNIVERSARY OF vELVET REVOLUTION IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – On this 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in former Czechoslovakia, I am including an excerpt from the Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir about our family immigration saga. The epic tale of passion and love takes place on the backdrop of two major historical events: Prague Spring 1969 and Velvet Revolution 1989.

Thirty years ago, I was standing on Wenceslas Square in Prague along with 500,000 other people, ringing my keys and listening to the future president Vaclav Havel. It was cold and I was shivering; not just from the November chill, but from the events of the last 10 days. These 10 days shook the world.

“Havel to the castle,” was the overwhelming response of the crowds chanting for Havel to become the next president of free Czechoslovakia.

Excerpt from Greenwich Meridian memoir

On the day of the General Strike, Monday, Nov. 27, the wave of citizen activity crested after a week of protests and manifestations. Across the country, people stood at major squares, sporting tricolor ribbons, waving flags and ringing their keys to symbolize the end of the Stalinist model of socialism.

I took the train to Prague to join thousands on Wenceslas Square. I still thought I was dreaming and that I was going to wake up after a long dark night. I had to pinch myself to feel the pain to make sure this was happening. But I could hear it happening around me, in me, everywhere. My heart was beating fast, as I had to fight the crowds and overcome the old claustrophobia. That day I saw Havel in person.

The General Strike from noon until 2 p.m. was a political referendum that did not hurt the economy. Approximately half of the population joined in the manifestations around the country. Only minimum percentage were not allowed to participate in the strike; others made up for the lost time at work. The referendum joined all members of the society representing its demographics: students, factory workers, farmers, artists, athletes and scientists determined to change the course of history for this small country in Central Europe.

The people have spoken and the demands of the Citizens’ Forum were being met. The state department of culture released all films and books from the special “safe” for prohibited material.

The rest of the political prisoners would be released, as one of the major demands of the Citizens’ Forum. The university students were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for their courage and bravery during the 10 days from the onset of the Velvet Revolution on Friday Nov. 17, 1989.

The article about the leadership role of the Communist Party would be dissolved from the constitution. New laws allowing for freedom of speech, gathering, press were in the works.

A new Democratic Forum of the Communists was formed denouncing the 1968 invasion of armies of five states from the Warsaw Treaty. The reporters, who were against the invasion, were reinstated in the Association of Reporters.

In Brno, the Committee of Religious Activists, showed support for the demands of the Citizens’ Forum.

Vaclav Havel received the German Book Prize at the National Theater.

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