Category Archives: excerpts

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.

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

NANOWRIMO DAY 25

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir with excerpt

Black Friday Countdown

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

Amazon Review of Secrets

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

Translation

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

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

From her lines, I could feel all the emotions:

Excerpt: Bittersweet memories

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

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

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

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

NANOWRIMO DAY 24

Greenwich Meridian memoir continues with excerpt

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – I continued this morning with the translation of mom’s memories of our fatal return to Czechoslovakia in 1973 following the presidential amnesty to political prisoners such as us. We fell into this category for illegally leaving the country in 1970.

Excerpt: Presidential amnesty, fatal return to Czechoslovakia in 1973

In her own words

The kids went back to the school in the fall for their third year in Hawkins, Texas. Vaclav liked his job at the college, so everything continued in the same rhythm including my light work as a housewife in our household. I was homesick, I missed my country, my friends and my job at the pharmacy. I didn’t expect any changes and I didn’t try anything new either, I fell into despair firmly convinced that nothing would ever change. 

Home in Vizovice, Czech Republic
Vizovice, our hometown in Czech Republic.

However, a change came; one that I would never expect. As the new year 1973 arrived, Czechoslovakia was celebrating the 25th anniversary of communism known as the “Victorious February” or the 1948 Czechoslovak coup d’etat. In that year, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia with Soviet backing assumed the undisputed control over the government of Czechoslovakia, marking the onset of four decades of communist rule in the country.

The Czech coup of 1948 had extensive consequences in the Western world.

President Gustav Husak issued an amnesty to political prisoners who illegally left the country and were tried for it. That meant that we could return back home to Czechoslovakia without the risk of going to prison. I could not believe that God heard my prayers and that I could return back to the homeland. 

Within two weeks, I received approximately 10 letters from Czechoslovakia with newspaper clips about the presidential amnesty. I was determined to return to Czechoslovakia with the kids with or without my husband Vaclav; this wasn’t the life for me in Texas. I was extremely happy and immediately responded to all the letters stating that I was going back home. 

To be continued…..

Note: Watch for Black Friday countdown deal on Amazon for Shifting Sands Short Stories book 1 and book 2. Books make a great gift and a great souvenir from Michigan.

Stay tuned for pre-order information on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/author/emmapalova

Black Friday countdown deal on Amazon for Shifting Sands Short Stories.

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

NaNoWriMo Day 21 & 22

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir with Havel quote

By Emma Palova

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

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

Czech kolache

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

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

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

I agree with all the great writing gurus:

“Protect your writing time, no matter what.”

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

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

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

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

Vaclav Havel quote

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

“You must not like this newspaper?”

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

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

NaNoWriMo 2019 Day 20

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West with excerpt

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI- As I continued to delve into the memoir this morning, I realized that the immigration experience from former Czechoslovakia to the U.S. wasn’t just an escape from the communism trap, but also a quest for self-realization on both my dad’s part and my own.

But, for our partners, it was a sacrifice.

My dad professor Vaclav Konecny, who feared the religious prohibition set by the Marxist Leninist ideology, wanted to freely practice math in the U.S. without being afraid to go to church on Sundays.

“You can achieve any goal you set your mind to,” he said.

Dad has proven that dreams come true if you work on them, much like late president Vaclav Havel never gave up on freeing Czechoslovakia from the communist grip.

I followed my dream to publish a book after many detours en route to publishing; I have a pile of rejection letters from agents and a lot of pay stubs from jobs, I did not want to do. To this day, my dad is my constant inspiration, since he has never given up on anything. He is forever patient, kind and forgiving.

My other role model is Havel, who spent years in prison for fighting for democracy in Czechoslovakia.

Here is an excerpt from the chapter “Velvet Revolution.”

On Wednesday, Nov. 29, 1989 the Czech Parliament finally dissolved the article about the leading role of the Communist Party and the Marxism-Leninism monopoly on education. 

It was a major victory since this article firmly anchored the dictatorship of the Communist Party and its ideology in the society.  According to the Marxist ideology, the official religion was atheism.

Under the old socialist regime, I had to take final exams from Marxism-Leninism in order to graduate from the Technical University in Brno in 1986. We had mandatory classes in Marxism-Leninism all four years of our engineering studies.  

I remember those wicked Monday classes after getting off of a bus from a two-hour ride Zlin to Brno. One early morning, the professor came in with a black eye. He looked at us and explained pointing to his shiner: 

“I was at Stork’s last night, we had a few beers and I talked about Lenin,” he said. “A guy at the next table got up and hit me.” 

Stork’s is a historic pub located at the Grain Market near the Birthing Center. It was a great pub to study and do our homework, but not to talk about Lenin or Marx. Dads came there to give a toast to their newborn babies.

To be continued…Havel’s interview with the “Red Truth.”

Copyright (c0 2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

NANOWRIMO DAY 18

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – I worked on a draft chapter “Consolidation” about life in Czechoslovakia before mom’s second departure for the U.S. earlier this morning up to 1980. I logged in a grand total of 40, 537 words in the NaNoWriMo 50k word challenge.

I described Czech Christmas traditions and the major differences between Czech and American cultures. My author’s gig at the Lowell Area Historical Museum helped me add another dimension to our immigration saga from socialist Czechoslovakia.

Mary Lacy of M&M Prescious Gems at the Lowell Area Historical Museum

I talked about the memoir with fellow vendors Mike and Mary Lacy of M&M Prescious Gems from Grand Rapids during Christmas through Lowell. We shared a 28-hour workload over three days under the watchful eyes of the Lowell Board of Trade 1908 and the portrait of one of Mr. Graham’s wives. Mr. Graham built the Italianate structure of the museum in 1873.

“Were you scared in Czechoslovakia?” Mary asked me on Sunday.

I had to think really hard if I was ever scared living in a socialist country under the Soviet rule in the hardline 1970s and 1980s.

“I was careful, but not scared,” I said. “Unless you were a political activist like late Vaclav Havel, you were just an ordinary person, and they didn’t care about you.”

By that, I meant the communist party and the whole political system didn’t really care about a regular citizen. However, we were under surveillance after our return to Czechoslovakia in 1973, since we were tried for illegally leaving the country.

True, you had to be careful about what you said in public, because there were spies. Plus, there was a religious prohibition. We were afraid to go to church, especially my dad and aunt, who were teachers.

Excerpt: Differences between the two cultures

People often ask me what are some of the differences between the two cultures: Czech and American. Many differences have disappeared after the communist regime fell with the Velvet Revolution in 1989.  However, judging from visits and people’s posts on social media, phone calls with friends and family, the attitude toward life in general hasn’t changed. It is a mix of pessimism with a twist of evil in the response to a typical Czech greeting “How are you?” 

“It’s worth shit.,” anyone will say at any given time. 

The honest answer holds an entire spectrum of emotions including the disappointment from the aftermath of the Velvet Revolution as capitalism stuck out one of its ugly heads like Medusa. The gap between the rich and the poor in Czech Republic is getting wider and wider, as there are few rich people, while the majority struggles. Traditionally, the Czechs envied each other’s possessions, but with capitalism the envy maxed out into hatred usually directed toward politicians and the past that cannot be changed. Whenever anything bad happened, it was usually the other person’s fault. There is a general lack of responsibility among the population for anything whether bad or good. That is the legacy of communism; no one was responsible for anything because the almighty Communist Party took care of everything for you. There was very little left for you to do; go to work, get some groceries and watch TV. 

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

NANOWRIMO 2019 dAY 14

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West with excerpt

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI- Big day today. I unlocked the NaNoWriMo 14- day writing badge logging in 2,992 words with a re-worked chapter from the “Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir.”

https://www.nanowrimo.org

The memoir about our family immigration saga took us back from the U.S. to hardline communist Czechoslovakia torn by the disappointment from Prague Spring and mom’s separation from dad.

Excerpt: “Our commerce with Tuzex bons”

Mom could exchange dollars for the fake Czech currency called Tuzex “bons.” The Tuzex bons were just papers issued by the International Bank of Commerce in Prague, not backed by any federal reserve or treasury unlike the real currency- Czech crown. Bons were only valid at the state -run Tuzex stores, which did not accept crowns.

The magical “bons” went far. They were used in luxury Tuzex stores sprinkled sporadically around the country like sprinkles on Christmas cookies. 

 Both mom and I sold bons to our friends for Czech crowns. A Tuzex bon sold for 5 crowns. It wasn’t exactly legal, but it wasn’t illegal either. 

I loved going to the Tuzex store located on the sixth floor of the Zlin department store Prior near the Moscow Hotel and the Cinema. 

For nostalgia purposes, I even kept some of the clothes bought in Tuzex and later took them with me to USA. I still have the silver-colored sweater with a huge leaf applique and a jean jacket by the United Colors of Beneton bought in Prague.

Some people like my friend Hannah were friends with me only because I had the bons. Anyone who worked outside the Eastern communist block and got paid in foreign currency could only exchange it for these colorful papers, sort of like vouchers. 

Just like money, bons carried power with them. 

“You got some bons to sell today?” asked Hannah. 

Off course, I always had some bons to sell. I am a dealer by nature. I inherited that from my entrepreneurial grandpa Joseph. So, I traded and sold bons in school and outside of the Zlin Gymnasium.

To be continued….

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