Dad still contributes to the magazine, either by proposing math & geometry problems or by solving them. He received an honorable mention as one of the six problemists of 1996, who had participated in one-third of the solutions for the year.
My Escape from Czechoslovakia
Another document of great value is his letter: “My Escape from Czechoslovakia” dated Nov. 18, 1976 to the Department of State in Washington D.C.
As a true mathematician, dad, in great detail, describes his journey through various border crossings between four different countries. He even describes his alternative plan. Here is an excerpt:
I made two plans:
To get from Eastern block through some check point
To go to Bulgaria-Micurin- and swim to Turkey. I exercised a lot for this purpose and I was well prepared.
But plan one worked out okay.
Law-abiding citizen Vaclav
What fascinates me the most about his escape story is that he used any means necessary to get to his target; that is a Western country that would give him visa to re-enter USA. My father is a law-abiding citizen who never breaks any rules. And he definitely never breaks his own tough rules, forged by the years spent at the Archbishop Seminary in Kromeriz.
However, in his escape journey, he had to resort to lying and deception. Dad even came very close to breaking traffic rules in Yugoslavia.
“I went as fast as the traffic rules allowed to Belgrade. I was stopped by police there, but they let me go even if it were just in the opposite direction to Sophia. I reported to Mrs. Julia Cardozo-Neitzke, U.S. Consul on July 27, 1976. No embassy wanted to issue me visa, but after enormous effort of the U.S. Embassy I got German visa.”
His Contributor Profile closes with the following statement:
“Vaclav’s sincerest hope is for world peace.”
Thanks dad for so much inspiration.
Note: Dad Vaclav and mom Ella currently winterize in Venice, FL. I will be joining them for my annual writer’s retreat in February.
Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Moving forward with author’s events in West Michigan
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Lowell, MI- It’s unbelievable what all can happen in one day; even if it is a Monday.
WGVU Morning Show with host Shelley Irwin
First, I opened my inbox, and there was the response from host Shelley Irwin of the WGVU Morning Show.
“I get to share stories in a talk show format,” she wrote. “I would like to interview you at a time frame of your convenience.”
So, we are scheduling the time frame for the TV segment about my book “Shifting Sands Short Stories.” I thought it was a radio segment. I freaked out when I found out it was also TV.
As I went into the panic mode, Mr. Self-Doubt introduced himself into my writing studio; what am I going to say and wear?
I jumped on the dreaded treadmill that I have been neglecting because we have a special visitor here. That is our French granddaughter Ella.
I felt like Oprah, who started exercising two days before her birthday. And to make up for the excellent Sunday pork schnitzels, I dined on vanilla SlimFast tonight in front of the computer screen.
“That’s great mom,” said my son Jake about the TV interview. “It’s easy.”
“Yeah, how many times have you been on a live TV show?” I asked Jake, the business man, who made the schnitzels.
“The main thing is you have to know what you’re talking about,” he said. “You know the buzzwords.”
I like to think that after almost 30 years in the writing business, I can offer insights, rather than buzzwords.
And the Monday goodness continued when I discovered the best kept secret on the lakeshore.
3rd Annual Writer’s Rendezvous in Ludington, July 21
I’ve been looking for writers’ and authors’ events in Michigan for years. But, it was only yesterday at the Ionia Free Fair that I found out about the Writer’s Rendezvous in Ludington.
It is my parents’ favorite place on the Michigan lakeshore. They’ve been going to Ludington ever since they moved to Big Rapids in the 1980s. We immigrated to the USA from former Czechoslovakia based on the 1968 Soviet occupation of the country. I am writing a memoir “Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West” about the family immigration saga.
Annually, my dad Vaclav celebrates his birthday on Stearns Park Beach.When we couldn’t find a hotel, I told my mom Eliska:”There must be something going on.”
“There’s always something going on there,” she said on the phone in the heat of the Sunday afternoon.
While searching for a hotel on mom’s smart phone, dad came across “some kind of a writing conference.”
I refined the search this morning and found out that the 3rd Annual Writers’ Rendezvous featuring more than 20 Michigan authors will be this Saturday, July 21.
I was ecstatic, hoping to get in at the last minute. Barry Matthews from the Ludington Arts Center immediately responded that there is some space left for $25 for half a table.
“Yes, I am in and I can’t wait to meet the other authors and visitors.”
The goal is to bring cultural and literary perspective to the lakeshore, according to the Visiting Writers group.
Ludington has always inspired me ever since I visited the town in 1990 around the 4th of July holiday. The visit inspired one of my first articles I have written for a publication in the USA. It was also the only time I wrote in my native Czech language for the Czechoslovak Newsweek. I had a regular column for the biweekly newspaper. In spite of the longevity of the print paper, it never made it to digital format.
I remember this opening line of the lead paragraph.
“Thousands of red, white and blue petunias lined the Ludington Ave on the back drop of the shimmering blue waters of Lake Michigan.”
I went back many times; most recently last year in August for a voyage on the Badger across Lake Michigan.
Now, I am getting ready for it all. I’ve been told a million times; you’re not ready.
Other than the treadmill and Slimfast, I ordered books, brochures and posters for my upcoming author’s events.
And finally from a Facebook friend, I found out about a new local book store in Rockford.
“Shockingly nostalgic entrepreneur opened a book store next to my law office, wow. There is hope,” Genie Eardley, owner of Eardley Law, PC posted.
The name is Epilogue Books.
That’s what life is about: adventures, surprises on Mondays, shocking entrepreneurs, the joys and pains of technology, our lovely French granddaughter Ella and family get togethers on Lake Michigan.
See you at the Writer’s Rendezvous this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
I will be offering writing, marketing, PR and publishing tips, and of course my book “Shifting Sands Short Stories.”
It is also available locally at Schuler Books in Grand Rapids and Lansing. It will be available at the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and hopefully at Epilogue Books in Rockford.
The long road to resilience
You can pick up an issue of the Grand Rapids Magazine City Guide at your local bookstore or newstand to find out more about me.
My book is now available on Amazon Prime special for the next 30-some hours at a discounted rate.
I encourage readers to buy the book, print or Kindle, ahead of time for signing and discussion. I will have print copies available at my station inside the Ludington Area Center for the Arts located at 107 S. Harrison St.
I am supposed to consolidate my position and clarify my goals, according to today’s horoscope for the determined Taurus.
I especially like the quote from Bruce Lee: “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”
That’s a pretty heavy quote that has inspired this entire post. To answer the last part of it; I am refining the content of the Greenwich Meridian memoir about our family immigration saga.
Inspired by Stephen and Owen King’s cooperation on the latest “Sleeping Beauties: A Novel”, I asked my mom Ella to write two chapters for the memoir. I would not be able to write them, because during mom’s second time around in the USA, I wasn’t with her. I was still back in Czechoslovakia.
I wrongfully called Chapter 13, “First years in America.” And surely mom struggled with that, because it was her second time around from 1980 to present. After more than an hour on the phone, we clarified that.
During mom’s writing process, dad discovered a precious document; his bio when he was applying for jobs. It was stored away in old luggage in the basement, where I would have never found it.
This document, probably from the 1970s, and my parents’ involvement will help move the memoir along. For months, I struggled with it. I got stuck halfway through the manuscript.
Excerpts from memoir Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West
The Tide of immigration from former Czechoslovakia started in 1968 with the Soviet army occupation. A massive exodus followed in protest of the action by the Soviet Union government. My father professor Vaclav Konecny was part of the movement.
As I continue to write the memoir in May, I will start with its festivities .The month of May was very poetic and romantic. With the entire country in blossom, the major holidays included Mayday and Freedom Day on May 9th when the Russians freed Prague from the Nazi occupation. in 1945. The new regime moved the national holiday to May 8th, when the American army reached the famous beer town of Pilsner in Western Bohemia.
May also serves as athe stage for the biggest music event of the year, the Prague Spring International Music Festival, started by president Edward Benes in 1946. The festival is a tribute to the famouse Czech composer Bedrich Smetana. He is best known for his symphony Vltava inspired by the major Czech river that runs through Prague.
To my biggest regret, I’ve never been to Prague Spring. The 1968 political movement was also called Prague Spring.
The month of May is dedicated to Saint Mary in the catholic church. We used to sing Marianne hymns by the little chapels and in churches decorated with white hydrangeas and dahlias every evening at 6 p.m. It was a month for first communions, pretty white lace dresses and ribbons.
But, May had its dark side according to the lore; it wasn’t a good time to get married. Legend has it if a couple gets married in May, one of the partners will die early.
Were there weddings in May? Probably.
However, a big part of the population was superstitious partly due to Czech literature and its great authors. Some of the biggest ones who wrote about May were Karel Hynek Macha and Jaromir Erben.
May is known for opening of the beer gardens under the beautiful lilac blossoms.
I remember our neighbor Mr. J had a big old lilac tree that had both purple and white blossoms. I was always puzzled by that, since you really only saw one color or the other. Many years later someone told me that Mr. J had it grafted.
To be continued
Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
This is one of my most popular posts.; back by demand
Happy May Day
May 1st traditions in Czech Republic & around the world
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Lowell, MI – Every year, I observe May 1st as May Day in the renaissance Czech tradition with warm memories of the socialist past. If I close my eyes, I can still see the parades, the tribunes and the socialist propaganda with the slogans and the banners on the backdrop of the blossoming lilacs. The socialist patriotic hymns were blasting from the loudspeakers.
May Day pole tied with ribbons signifies love and spring.
May Day pole with ribbons in Bannister, Michigan
Today, Czech Republic still celebrates May 1, as an official holiday with a day off to commemorate the union manifestations in Chicago in 1884. Only this time around, without the parades or the slogans.
But most of all, May Day, was a great day off known for its official opening of the beer gardens, and the infamous “march of the thieves.”
May Day in Czech Republic.
The photo was taken at Larkin’s Restaurant in Lowell, MI.
The organized labor from the factories marched in the parades, while some individuals used the opportunity to steal from the gated factories because of less supervision. Therein the name “march of the thieves.”
First and foremost, May is the month of love, not just labor.
And I write about all this in the memoir “Greenwich Meridian” with a light heart and a smile on my face with a touch of nostalgia.
I admire the old Czech country for being able to keep both the old socialist holidays, take on new ones, and tamper with the most important holiday of all that is the liberation of the country from the Nazi occupation in 1945.
New politicians with new agendas changed the date of the liberation of former Czechoslovakia from May 9th to May 8th based on the controversy who really liberated the country, whether it was the Soviets or the Americans. The question at hand; who was the first and where?
Having lived in many countries around the world, our family always honored the holidays of that particular country, otherwise we would have time off all the time.
Looking at my calendar last week for a summary, I found amusing that Canada also has Easter Monday off as an official holiday, just like the Czech Republic.
However, any holiday can take root in any country as I have witnessed in my hometown of Vizovice.
I remember our neighbor bus driver Mr. Hlavenka in Vizovice, used to celebrate Fourth of July by taking the day off in the old socialist era.
I’ve always wondered, how did he know about Independence Day with all the propaganda against American capitalism.
But, May 1st has deep agricultural connotations as well. People gather wildflowers and crown a May king and queen, weave floral garlands, and set up a maypole.
They also have bonfires to encourage the fertility of the land and animals in the coming year.
It is fascinating how different traditions and believes take roots in different countries, and how they continue to evolve.
Watch for more upcoming May posts.
Copyright (c) 2017-2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Note: This is the third and final part of the mini-series “Year in Review” that looks back at 2017 with all its joys and tribulations. It was a year of big changes and adjustments both professional and personal. It rolled in like a monster truck and flew away like a balloon.
Lowell, MI – I physically bid farewell to 2017 on New Year’s Eve in Belding, and welcomed the new year looking out at the frozen Candlestone golf course with a pine forest in the background. I was trying to imagine why someone left their underwear in the woods, as the comedian Billy Ray Bauer cracked a joke before we toasted to the new year.
However, it is only today, that I can give a final closure to last year finishing the series, as I start the new year with hope, gratitude and love. I will highlight some of the biggest events in the second part of the year.
The Czech Heritage
On the first Sunday in August, we always attend the Czech Harvest Festival in Bannister with dances, songs and food. It has become a tradition that annually connects us with the old country, now Czech Republic. It is the only place that I know, that plays three anthems before the beginning of the festival: American, Czech and Slovak.
Czech folk dances during the Harvest Festival in Bannister.
Book signing in downtown Lowell.
My mom Ella turned 80 on Aug. 23 and she had a great celebration at Naval’s Mediterranean Eatery in Big Rapids.
Mom Ella turns 80 in Big Rapids, MI.
I had no idea my parents Ella & Vaclav had that many friends that could fill up the entire restaurant. I write often about them, since they are the major characters in the memoir “Greenwich Meridian, where East meets West” about our immigration saga. Owner Naval even made her a big wedding cake that could feed 80. I found out that you don’t lose friends as you get older, you make more.
September, October & November
Emma’s book signings & local scene
I continued my book signings of Shifting Sands Short Stories into the fall tying them to many local events at different venues. This was very efficient. In September, the Fallasburg Historical Society held their third annual Fallasburg Village Bazaar. I had my second book signing at the one-room schoolhouse which was very well attended. I was at the Girls Night Out at the Sweet Seasons Bakery & Cafe, and then at the Lowell Arts Gallery in downtown Lowell. In November, I was at the Red Barn Market during Christmas through Lowell.
Pictured below are people from the local Lowell scene: former mayor Jim Hodges in the story series “Inspiring Communities, Loyal public servant. Fallasburg Historical Society vice-president Tina Siciliano Cadwallader with Tracy Worthington, Patricia and Annelyse Dlouhy from Sweet Seasons Bakery & Cafe and book signing at the one-room schoolhouse.
Former mayor Jim Hodges retires from the Lowell City Council after 23 years.
The disaster months
Unfortunately, this was also the time for most disasters both in nature and in the society.
Over the years, I have been able to track many catastrophes, natural and man-made, to the last months in the year. The end of August started the stretch of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria bringing devastation to millions.
I was impressed how fast the famous on the US entertainment scene came together to raise $44 million in a telethon for the victims of the catastrophes.
Sadly enough proliferating nature’s anger was also men’s anger.
That was the Las Vegas shooting on Oct.1, followed by 8 killed in terror violence by a man in a pickup truck who plowed into people on a bike path in New York City and a man detonating a pipe bomb in the New York City subway.
The famous who left us in 2017
As the year rocked to its final days, we accounted for all who have impacted our lives.
I was deeply touched by the death of teenage idol David Cassidy, rock superstar Tom Petty, Mary Tyler Moore, Jerry Lewis and countless others.
On the Czech scene, it was mainly late actor Jan Triska who emigrated to the US during Czechoslovakia’s communist era. He died after falling from the Charles Bridge in Prague. He was best known for his appearances in The Karate Kid Part III, Quantum Leap and The People vs Larry Flynt directed by fellow countryman Czech American director Milos Forman.
I am pretty sure most of us can Relate to these losses and events.
I would like to thank the many followers, fans, and the hosts of my book signings and wish everyone a great 2018.
The links to the first two parts of the series “Year in Review” are:
Lowell, MI- Local author Emma Palova of Lowell has published the book Shifting Sands Short Stories, formats kindle and paperback, now available on Amazon for $7.99 and $11.99, and locally at Schuler Books in Grand Rapids and Lansing.
She will have a series of book signing events in historic downtown Lowell. Following today’s event during Girls Night Out at Sweet Seasons Bakery & Café, her next book signing will be at Lowell Arts on Oct. 28 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. located at 223 W. Main Street.
“This is an active day for Lowell Arts with Dixie Swim Club dinner theatre and LA house concert,” said Lowell Arts director Lorain Smalligan.
It is also the last day for the current gallery exhibit “Between Turbulence and Tranquility,” before the Holiday Artists Market goes up on Nov. 7.
The book is a collection of 13 short stories that Palova wrote and collected over the span of more than two decades. The fiction’s genre is magic realism, a combination of fantasy with reality.
“In magic realism you combine the fictitious with fantasy and sometimes you use real characters to model the fictitious characters,” Palova said. “It can be a hybrid. I don’t write about Martians. I write about real people.”
Palova started writing for the Czechoslovak Newsweek based in New York City in 1990 upon arrival in the USA. She initially wrote a column, “Place for Commentary” in Czech.
Many of the stories are based on experiences Palova has had during her time living and working in the greater Lowell area in Michigan. The stories are thematically divided into three circles: Immigration, journalism and retail.
Palova has been writing for the area publications since 1997 when she launched her professional journalistic career with Kaechele Publications in Allegan. In 1998, she joined the staff of the Ionia-Sentinel Standard where she received awards for community reporting from the Ionia Chamber of Commerce in 2000 and the Ionia County Community Mental Health, 2003. Palova joined the staff of the Lowell Ledger in 2006. In 2011, she received an award from the American Legion for reporting on veterans’ affairs. Palova also had a community blog in the Ionia Sentinel-Standard.
Palova worked as a correspondent for the Grand Rapids Press, the Advance Newspapers, Gemini Publications and the Lowell Ledger.
Palova is currently working on the second volume of stories, as well as on the memoir “Greenwich Meridian, where East meets West” about the Konecny family immigration saga from Czechoslovakia to the USA.
She is preparing her first novel “Fire on Water” for publication in 2018.
Palova has a lifetime passion for history and politics. She does social media marketing for the Fallasburg Historical Society (FHS).
Palova became an American citizen in 1999.
“I am deeply humbled by the opportunities this country has given me,” Palova said.
Other author’s events will be held during Christmas through Lowell, and on Jan. 6, 2018 at the Lowell Arts.
Big Rapids, MI – Today, my mother Ella Konecny turns 80 in Big Rapids, MI. Together with my father Vaclav, they’ve been living in this small university town, home to Ferris State University, for more than three decades.
Their friends at the Saturday’s birthday party for mom have known both for that long.
“Your parents are great people,” I heard over and over again.
Mom was born Drabkova in former communist Czechoslovakia on Aug. 23, 1937 in Zlin to Anna and Joseph Drabek.
My mother has inspired the memoir Greenwich Meridian, where East meets west about the family immigration saga. She was the one who didn’t want to leave the communist country after the Soviet invasion on the night of August 20-21 in 1968.
Their journey from the Moravian hilly villages of Vizovice and Stipa to Big Rapids in Michigan was tumultuous with many twists and turns.
Some of the milestones included the 1973 return to hardline Czechoslovakia from Texas, and then the escape back into the New World for my dad in 1976. Mom joined him in 1980.
Dad landed the math professor job at the Ferris State University, and that finally anchored them permanently in their new home.
To this day, mom says she loved her bio lab technician job also at the university. The warm friendly welcome atmosphere proved that at the birthday party.
Their true story has also inspired my fiction in the new Shifting Sands Short Stories book. “The Temptation of Martin Duggan” was inspired by some bits and pieces from the early years of immigration.
I wrote that story shortly after my immigration to the USA in 1989. When I compare some of the elements of the short story to the memoir, I consider them Visceral in character, coming from a gut feeling.
The main character in the story is professor Martin Duggan obsessed with his own quest for perfection.
May you both enjoy many more years of love, good health and optimism. Thank you for all your love and support.
Copyright (c) 2017. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Lowell, MI – I was born with history in my blood in the wee hours on Victory Day, May 9th to the cracking of the fireworks and the fragrance of the blossoming lilacs.
Before the semantics & politics of the new regime, May 9th was the national holiday in my homeland of Czech Republic.
Every year, on this day, my mother Ella lovingly says this sentence:
“I thought they were bombing, but the country was celebrating your birthday. The entire earth blossoms for you.”
Now, my mom Ella is not exactly the most humble person. She loves to show off. She takes that after Grandpa Joseph of Vizovice.
Annually, the country celebrates the anniversary of its freedom from the Nazi occupation in 1945. The holiday has been moved to May 8th based on the age-old dispute, “Who was first, the chicken or the egg?” That is the dispute over which army freed former Czechoslovakia first.
Was it the Soviet or the American army?
The Soviets freed the capital Prague on May 9th, while the Americans freed Plzen in West Bohemia on May 8th. Maybe, the switch was due to the fact that Plzen is home to the famous brewery, Pilsner.
The country boasts its love for beer, and often takes first place in consumption between the top beer consuming trio of Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
However, in our immigration hearts, the holiday will always be on May 9th, even though we love Czech Pilsner.
So, by default, the love for history has been circulating in my blood from the first day of birth.
Our immigration Konecny saga started with the infamous occupation of the country by the Soviets in the Prague Spring of 1968. The era of hardline communism ensued after the invasion for decades to come under President Gustav Husak.
I am also the child of the 1989 Velvet Revolution led by my hero, late president Vaclav Havel who was part of the Prague Spring 1968 reformation movement.
I can trace the origins of my writing to that tumultuous time in our lives.
My paternal grandpa Antonin was the keeper of the “Chronicles of the Stipa JZD” which was the Stipa Agricultural Cooperative, while my late Aunt Martha secretly worked on the Konecny family genealogy. My grandma Anezka was a first grade teacher at ZDS Stipa and a poet.
“You can’t deny genes,” said Martha’s colleague Mrs. Fickova at the funeral wake on Jan. 11th held at the Stipa Senk.
After Aunt Martha’s death on January 7th, 2017, I started the Facebook page Ancestry Konecny on:
Every morning before I start writing, I check social media for inspiration and to get a feeling for the day.
I made me a cup of French Roast coffee and smelled the bouquet of lilacs from our gardens on the ranch. It took 20 years for the fragrant shrubs to come to their full beauty. Not quite like the historical ones on my beloved Mackinac Island, but they’re getting there.
Yesterday, my husband Ludek and I feared for the budding wisteria because of the early morning frost. We had to put out the fan to keep the wisteria, sprawling on the octagon pergola, warm.
Then, as always I gather my thoughts based on analyzing the previous day, and what I have learned from it, that is worth bringing into the future. I always remember the socialist propaganda, “Tomorrow is already yesterday.”
I pinned to the top, “Spring into the Past” museum tour 2017 organized by the Tri-River Historical Museum Network on the new museum page.
I also made sure that the 23rd annual Covered Bridge Bike Tour in Fallasburg is correctly dated for Sunday July 9th.
I looked in the mirror, after finishing most of this post, and I realized I am very fortunate, and that any victory comes at a price. I’ve come to that conclusion not from the image that I see, but by the person I reflect in my writings.
I have a head full of graying hair, a happy smile on my face, a caring husband and family, hundreds of fans and well-wishers from all over the world, and the determination of a Taurus.
My short story collection “Shifting Sands” is ready for June 1st publication on kindle and Amazon.
And speaking about karma or karmic energy.
My friends from the Fallasburg Historical Society (FHS) Tina Siciliano Cadwallader and Tracy Worthington are planning a book signing event for the “Shifting Sands” fiction short story collection at the Fallasburg one-room schoolhouse museum on June 25th from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
I’ve just found out that mom Ella is going to bake a cake for the book signing. And I have received tulips and irises from Doc Em, based in Fixin, France, and a video from Josephine & Dominik Pala of Hastings.
Life is good. As Doc Em says:
“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
Everyone is invited to Fallasburg on June 25. Come and enjoy the beautiful Fallasburg Park, the pioneer village, the history and mom’s cake.
With this post, I would like to thank everyone for all the support over the years, especially my neighbor Catherine. Because only Catherine knows who I really am.
“You make me who I am.”
Lowell, May 9th 2017
Copyright (c) 2017 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.