Category Archives: immigration

Happy Birthday mom

Mom Ella turns 83 today

By Emma Palova

Big Rapids, MI – My mother, Ella Konecny, turns 83 on this beautiful summer day. We celebrated her birthday yesterday in Big Rapids with a cookout on the deck. Mom always puts on a feast: juicy ribs, coleslaw, mashed potatoes and her famous nutty cake roll, all preceded by a traditional Czech platter of cheese, salami and home-made pickles Znojmo style.

Dad Vaclav Konecny grills ribs on the deck overlooking my parents’ pretty garden. They grow and can their own delicious pickles.

Together with my father Vaclav, they’ve been living in this small university town, home to Ferris State University, for more than four decades.

Mom was born Drabkova in former communist Czechoslovakia on Aug. 23, 1937 in Zlin to a working class family. My grandparents Anna and Joseph Drabek worked hard to get mom into the university so she could become the future pharmacist.

My mother has inspired the memoir Greenwich Meridian, where East meets west about the family immigration saga. She didn’t want to leave the communist country after the Soviet invasion on the night of August 20-21 in 1968.

The memoir, slated for Oct. 16, 2020 publication is dedicated to both of my parents because they have always inspired me both in hard and good times with their dedication and perseverance. It is available now on preorder on Amazon at:

Greenwich Meridian Memoir is slated for Oct. 16, 2020 publication. It is available for preorder on Amazon. The cover was designed by graphic artist Jeanne Boss of Rockford.

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.

Their true story has also inspired my fiction in my first Shifting Sands Short Stories book. “The Temptation of Martin Duggan” contains 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.

For chapters “Prague Spring, Part I” & “Prague Spring, Part II from the memoir click on the following links:

https://emmapalova.com/2020/08/20/prague-spring-1968/

https://emmapalova.com/2020/08/21/prague-spring-1968-part-ii/

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

Prague Spring, 1968 Part II

Prague Spring, 1968

Note: Aug. 20 & 21 mark 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 saga from former Czechoslovakia to the USA spanning two generations. Following is a chapter- Mom’s Diary from the memoir.

Excerpt from the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir”- Mom’s Diary: in her own words

By Ella Konecny

I’ve never dreamt of travelling for the simple reason. I didn’t have money. My life was tailored around everyday mundane problems, that I will write about later.

I was a pharmacist, and it wasn’t that the profession was narrow and had nothing to offer, but I didn’t want to nurture vain ideas of travelling. So, Sunday afternoon trips to the dam in Luhacovice or Bystricka were the only means of breaking up the gray of ordinary days. The first bigger trip was our honeymoon to the Krkonose mountains with the old Tatra and mother’s comments:

“I hope the poor car will make it.”

The Greenwich Meridian Memoir to publish on Oct. 16, 2020. The cover was designed by graphic artist Jeanne Boss of Rockford.

When we arrived in Harachov, we sent a message to my parents: “We’ve arrived under Mount Blanc.” At that moment, it never occurred to me that one day I would indeed be looking at the majestic highest mountain in the Alps.

I did an inventory of my life. After five years of marriage, we had two children: Emma and Vasek. I was working part-time in a pharmacy in my hometown Vizovice and my husband Vaclav was teaching physics in Brno. He would come for the weekend to Vizovice, because I couldn’t find a job in Brno and we had no place to stay there. We were on the waiting list for an apartment, that we got in 1965. We didn’t have a car or money to furnish the apartment. My husband found out that the president of the university in Khartoum, Sudan was hiring English-speaking professors to teach different subjects. Vaclav’s English was excellent and he got the job. However, I did not know about this.

At the beginning of November, Vaclav announced his decision that he will be leaving for Sudan on Nov. 20, 1964. I gave him my blessings and never thought for a moment that I would go with him. I continued to work in the pharmacy and my boss who loved to travel kept asking me when was I going to fly to Africa.

In the spring of 1965, when I finally applied for a passport and got my vaccinations, Vaclav wrote me a letter that he was coming home, because it was the end of the school year. The university paid once a year for round trip air tickets for the entire family, regardless that he had just started teaching in November. The school year in Sudan ran from the beginning of July to the end of March; it was followed by a summer break lasting three months.

Those three months were also the worse months in Africa weather-wise, filled with sandstorms “Habub,” rain and heat. Khartoum lies on the 15th parallel close to the equator; it is the second warmest place in the world. It’s a dry tropical country with very little rain. One road stretched 50 miles north of Khartoum and 50 miles south and dead ended in the Nubian Desert.

Three rivers ran through the city: Nile, Blue Nile and White Nile. We arrived in this city in July of 1965. When we got out of the plane at the airport in Khartoum, a hot wave like coming from an oven, hit me and I couldn’t catch my breath.

We rented an apartment from the university close to Blue Nile. The apartment was spacious with two built-in balconies that were not screened, so the kids played there together with lizards and salamanders. The apartment had running water, a refrigerator and basic furniture: beds, table, chairs and two armchairs in light green color. There was no TV or air conditioning. The stores were open in the morning and evening and closed in the afternoon due to heat. Khartoum was a dead town in the afternoon.

The main boulevard was lined with stores full of merchandise unlike in Czechoslovakia where we always had to stand in line for meat, vegetables and also for toilet paper. However, compared to the USA 40 years later, it doesn’t seem as much.

The round bread baked by Greek Papa Costa was excellent. In five years, we never went to a restaurant or swimming in a community pool. The Czech community was divided into three parts: the Czech embassy and its employees, professors from the university and the commerce department, whose employees oversaw the set up in factories.

We got together once a month at the embassy, where we watched Czech films, mainly socialist propaganda such as “Anna Proletarian” or “The Red Glow over Kladno” and Janosik. Kladno was home to the iron and smelting works–a major industry in Western Bohemia. Janosik is a folk legend about an outlaw who stole money and goods from the rich to help the poor.

We also celebrated at the embassy events like the International Women’s Day, New Year’s Eve and Saint Nicholas for kids. I think these gatherings were to control the Czech people working in Khartoum. We had our own friends and got together with them at our apartment such as the Fickers from Slovakia, Jarmila & Mirek Hladci and my friend from the university, Marie Hecklova. These were simple gatherings with refreshments such as peanuts, fruits and coca cola. During the afternoon siesta, I read Czech books from the embassy. After the siesta, we went to our neighbors who had a garden. It was 116.6 F in the shade, where we knitted sweaters with Mrs. Ficker.

We had an artificial Christmas tree that caught on fire on the fifth year of our stay in Khartoum. Only the catholic church was decorated for Christmas in this mainly Muslim country, due to a large Italian population.

The kids did not go to school; I homeschooled them Czech subjects, since I never thought about emigration, I thought they would not need to speak English.

My vision was simple; we were going to save enough money in Sudan to furnish the apartment in Brno. Then, to save enough money to buy a car so we could visit my parents in Vizovice to avoid the overcrowded buses. I never got a pharmacist job in Brno, so I don’t know what was I thinking I was going to do or where was I going to work upon arrival.

After Christmas, all the couples started planning their summer vacation because there were only three months left until the end of the school year. We usually flew to Rome, where we rented a car and continued through Europe. But sometimes we flew into Athens, Vienna or Zurich in Switzerland. I have attached an exact timetable of our travels. We visited Western Europe several times; some countries like Italy, Switzerland and Austria three times or more. Austria was the only country where I would have emigrated, but my husband Vaclav didn’t speak German. We travelled for quite some time, and we thought it would last longer than it did.

We lived a carefree life and we didn’t care about the politics in our homeland. When we crossed the border at Rozvadov with an Italian license plate, the custom officials asked us if we spoke Czech. When I answered that we were Czechs they responded happily that it was Prague Spring, 1968, that freed the press and that we won’t have to leave for Sudan anymore, because everything was going to be better. We were yet to find out the real situation in the country.

We saved some money over the three years in Sudan, so we decided to save more to buy a house in Brno. Currently, we were living in the apartment in Brno and in Vizovice with my parents. We explored the beauty of Moravian Walachia: Karolinka, Radhost, Bystricka and Luhacovice. It was the last peaceful summer in my life–the proverbial calm before the storm.

In July, Vaclav left for Sudan and I left for a spa treatment in Carlsbad for three weeks on August 8, 1968 due to my constant digestive health problems as a consequence to my childhood hepatitis A and a duodenum ulcer. I paid for my stay, because I’ve been unemployed since July of 1965 for the first time due to my travels to Sudan. I was staying at a home whose owner’s mother was German. It was a nice apartment with a view on the Main Boulevard. I had a colleague in Carlsbad–Mila Duskova, who was from Slusovice. Together, we went to the fancy bakeries, coffee shops and cinemas in Carlsbad. The daily regimen consisted of drinking water from the thermal springs in the morning, spa procedures and entertainment in the evening. Time flew by and I was looking forward to being back with the kids. I visited my childhood friend Zdena who married and lived in Nejdek.

I was supposed to fly back to Brno on August 21, 1968. I woke up at 6 a.m. and I could hear the landlord’s voice gasping:

“What? The Russians are here? That’s impossible!”

I ran out of the room and met her in the hallway, where she confirmed what I had overheard in my room, that the Russians came in tanks and occupied the western border with Germany and Austria. I remembered that last night as I was standing by the window that the road to Carlsbad above was all lit up and very busy. The city of Carlsbad nestles below the road in the valley of River Tepla. It never occurred to me that the noise came from the tanks. I went to the colonnade to the thermal spring to get my morning water. However, no one was drinking water; people were listening to small radios and everyone was crying. It was a complete chaos, all the public transportation stopped. I was still thinking that I would be able to fly back to Brno. I went to the airline office, where the clerk told me that no airplanes were flying out and she gave me back my money. I went back to the apartment and sat down next to my packed suitcase and started crying, not knowing what to do. I also ran out of money, so I called my friend Zdena, if she could lend me money, since I didn’t expect to stay in Carlsbad for more than three weeks.

In the afternoon I stood by the window watching the sun lit main boulevard. All of a sudden, I saw a huge stream of people yelling. Hundreds of people demonstrated against the Russian invasion. Anger and wrath with all the other emotions overflowed against the hated occupant. As the number of people increased, so did their courage. People started to topple statues that were connected to communism and the Soviet Union. It wasn’t just the communist leaders but also the works and the art of communism that were being toppled. Most often it was the Soviet Union national symbol of the sickle and the hammer. I stood by the window crying, but because I am a chicken by nature, I did not join the demonstrations. Somehow, I knew these were going to negatively influence my life.

My husband Vaclav already had a difficult position at the university because we were Catholics and we went to church on a regular basis. According to the official communist party philosophy of Marxism, going to church was not allowed; let alone if someone was a teacher like Vaclav. It did not matter that he taught math, that had nothing to do with Marxism.

The next morning, I went to the colonnade again, the situation was the same; people were crying while listening to the small radios and there was no public transportation. We felt isolated from the rest of the country, and from the rest of the world. The Soviet tanks were moving across the entire country, the public transportation was either difficult or completely halted. The third day on the colonnade, someone told me the bus transportation may resume on that day. I immediately returned to the apartment to say goodbye to the landlord, I took my suitcase and went back to the colonnade, where the buses arrived. Even though there was no bus line going to Brno, I took one to Ceske Budejovice. From Ceske Budejovice to Moravian Budejovice and to Brno. From the bus, I could see the convoy of tanks and trucks along the road.

I arrived at our apartment in Brno approximately at 2 p.m. I finally felt safe and opened the windows to let the fresh air in. I heard the tolling of the bells from all the churches like at a funeral, that was to symbolize the burying of the little freedom we’ve had since spring, not quite half a year.

The next day, I took a bus to Vizovice to see my parents and the kids in Moravian Wallachia. My mother told me that two Czech women with husbands in Sudan, called me that they were leaving the country to Austria and flying to Khartoum and that I should join them. For the first time in 20 years, the border was open for three brief days. They were afraid if we don’t grab this opportunity, the borders will close soon and we will never get out of the occupied country.

My mother was afraid too and wanted me to call these Czech women. At that moment I felt very patriotic for the first time in my life. I said that if 15 million people can live in Czechoslovakia, so could I, regardless the politics. Our men were afraid that the Soviet Union would annex our country as their 17th republic. Many young people fled the country even from Vizovice, whom I later met in Austria and the U.S.

September 1968 came and there was still no air transportation. I called the Czechoslovak Airlines to let me know when the flights will resume. That happened in three weeks and I flew to Sudan on Sept. 28 to join Vaclav. I was one of the last spouses to leave the country; the last one after me was Mrs. Janousek. We did not want to leave our homeland.

After a happy reunion with my husband and the exhaustion from the trip, the hard reality hit home. Wherever we ran into other Czechs, the same question always arose:

“Where are you going to emigrate?”

“Nowhere,” I answered.

But, discussions at home had already started; my husband did not want to return back to Czechoslovakia and I did not want to go anywhere else, but home. Tears and heated discussions followed about what’s better for the family; no one asked what’s better for me.

In this situation, we planned another trip across Europe. This time we flew into Southern Italy and onto France, Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands. It was a long trip that lasted six weeks. My sister Anna with her husband brought us our car, and they stayed with us for a week in Austria. From there, we continued to French Riviera, Lourdes, Grenoble, Paris and to LaHavre. From LaHavre we crossed the English (LaManche) Channel to England.

We visited London, Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester and crossed the channel from Dover to Zeebrugge in Belgium and continued onto the Netherlands, Germany and Czechoslovakia.

As much as I was looking forward to coming home, it wasn’t an easy homecoming. Even though we haven’t seen any Russian tanks or troops, because they were hiding in the woods and they were closer to big cities, we could feel the tension in the air and among the people. No one knew what was going to happen next. General Ludvik Svoboda replaced Prague Spring reform leader Alexander Dubcek, and it looked like the reform movement never existed with the freedom of press gone too. Our entire family and friends were surprised that we returned from Sudan back to Czechoslovakia under the given the circumstances.

Why not? We had important business to conduct in Brno. The year before we decided we were going to buy a house in Brno. Now, that wasn’t easy business in Czechoslovakia to buy or sell a house; no one was selling because people built their houses in great hardship. Unlike in the U.S., people did not move around the country because they did not need to; everyone had a job with the same salary no matter where you went. However, people exchanged apartments for houses or apartments between different cities for example between Prague and Brno and paid the difference in price. We found a family, originally from Vizovice, who had a house in Cerna Pole in Brno, and they wanted a four-bedroom apartment with a garage. We had a three-bedroom apartment without a garage, so we wanted to pay for the additional bedroom and the garage. The owner of the house, who was a doctor at the regional department of health in Brno, kept looking for the right apartment, but couldn’t find what he wanted.

My husband and I decided that I would not go to Sudan that year, and stay home with the kids to save money for the house. I was still hoping that Vaclav would change his mind about immigration. Vaclav left for Sudan at the beginning of July, and I stayed with the kids at my parents’ house in Vizovice.

The first anniversary of the Soviet invasion in August of 1969 was approaching fast. The people panicked and were scared what was in store for us for the infamous anniversary. The most common fear was that the Russians would annex Czechoslovakia to the Soviet Union as the 17th republic. I lost my patriotism, and I got scared. I caved into the mass psychosis of fear; I packed my suitcases and kids and I left for the Austrian border in Mikulov, two days before the Aug. 21, 1969 invasion anniversary. I cried on the way there, saying goodbye to the country, because I knew I was not coming back. I did not have any problems at the border; I had a valid passport with visa to Sudan and air tickets. I let my husband know from Austria that I was coming to Sudan and that I would stay for one year.

My friends from Vizovice, who had left the country in 1968, were waiting for me at the Austrian border. I spent three days with them, left them the car and took off for Sudan. In Khartoum, I met with all our friends from the previous year; everyone was saving up more money needed for emigration. By that time, everyone knew where they were going to emigrate. It was my turn to say where I wanted to live. I wanted to live in Austria because it is the neighboring country to Czech Republic. However, that was not possible because we didn’t speak German which was necessary for my husband to continue to teach math. And the chances of getting a teaching job at an Austrian university were small, because it’s a small country with population of seven million people, smaller than Czech Republic.

What next? I was afraid that I would be considered an outlander- a foreigner wherever I went. So, the only country under consideration was America, where with the exception of the Indians, everyone is an immigrant. We decided for the USA. To this day, I still don’t know why my husband first applied for a teaching job in Australia. I would have never lived there because it is too far from Czech Republic. He also applied to Zambia in Africa to get out of Khartoum that was becoming increasingly dangerous with coups to gain power.

In the meantime, my husband got a letter from Mr. Rosenberg, who emigrated to Canada in 1968; Vaclav could go to Canada for a post doctorate fellowship in Saskatoon in the province of Saskatchewan, for six months. He immediately accepted. I knew the return to homeland was impossible. We received a letter from the Czech Embassy stating that we have to return to Czechoslovakia by March 31, 1970; the visa was extended to Dec. 31, 1970. Whoever did not return by that date, was considered staying outside the country illegally.

We had arranged for a cruise on the Mediterranean Sea but cancelled it and instead flew for a few days to Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.

I wrote a letter to the homeowner in Brno, that we were no longer interested in the apartment-house exchange transaction. My parents transferred the ownership of the apartment in Brno to them, otherwise the apartment would have been confiscated by the state since we left the country illegally. My sister Anna transferred the ownership of the car Skoda to herself, but she had to pay some fees to the state. Later, we found out from my parents, that we had a trial without our presence in Brno, where we were indicted with illegal stay outside Czechoslovakia. My husband was convicted and sentenced to two years in jail and I was sentenced to 1.5 years. We could not return to Czechoslovakia or we would go to jail.

Vacation in the Middle East was nice–the Muslim world of minarets and mosques. We flew from Khartoum to Cairo in Egypt with our friends. In Cairo, we visited the vast Egyptian Museum with royal mummies and King Tutankhamun artifacts and other pharaohs. After that we continued onto the nearby Giza, the site of the iconic pyramids and Great Sphinx, dating back to the 26th century BC. It was fabulous. From Cairo we flew to Beirut in Lebanon. We saw large camps with Palestinians, who were expulsed from their own country, where a new Israel state was created in 1948.

It was 1970, three years after the Arab-Israel War. We wanted to visit Israel, but it wasn’t possible, because we were crossing Arabic countries and considered as enemies of Israel. We were only 10 kilometers from the Israeli border with the beautiful biblical country laying at our feet. So, we took a taxi and traveled to the mountains with cedars and snow. Beautiful villas built in Arabic style laid at the foothills of the mountains. There was snow in the mountains, while people were swimming in the sea. The next day, we took a taxi to Damascus, the capital of Syria known as the “City of Jasmine.” We visited the famous Umayyad Mosque built in the eight century A.D. with the tomb of John the Baptist; his head is said to be buried in a shrine there. As women, we had to be covered from head to toe in black garb. We also visited the famous bazaar, Al-Hamidiyah Souq, in the old walled city of Damascus next to the Citadel. The souq is 2,000 feet long and 49 feet wide and is covered by a 33 feet tall metal arch. The souq starts at Al-Thawra Street and ends at the Umayyad Mosque plaza, and the ancient Roman Temple of Jupiter stands 40 feet tall in its entrance. The souq offered everything from gold, food, clothing to souvenirs.

Byblos

On our way back we stopped in Byblos, one of the longest inhabited cities in the world since 5000 BC in Lebanon. During an evening walk through Beirut, we met Czechs who told us that there was a revolution in Khartoum with tanks in the streets. Sudan gained independence from Britain in 1956 and ever since there have been coups to overthrow the government; the altercations were led by small groups or sects. In essence it wasn’t a revolution, but a crisis in the government to gain or regain control and power. It had no effect on the university. The Soviet Union provided aid in the form of 200 technical advisors and the Libyan government sent their troops. Colonel Gaafar Muhamed Nimeiry seized power until 1986.

From Beirut we flew to Vienna. My husband was worried that in case of bad weather we would have to land in Bratislava and be back home, which he was avoiding.  We invited both of our parents to Vienna to bid farewell to them. We were waiting for them at the border and I was happy to see them, even though I feared this because I did not know if I would ever see them again. Our farewell looked like a funeral, since we were all crying. The housemaid at the hotel asked us who died in the family. We sent off our parents with our car Skoda that was at our friends’ house in Vienna. Our friends were already in the U.S.A. It was a hard farewell, saying goodbye to Europe and to our families.

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 9: COVID-19 as Catalyst

Coronavirus brings us closer together

“When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, what we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go from darkness into darkness.”

Maya Angelou

Lowell, MI- Together we can accomplish anything. We will get through this together. Each one of us has a part to play.

How many times do we get to chat simultaneously with people from Florida, Oklahoma , Minnesota and Michigan?

I did for the first time earlier in the day via video chat Zoo room app. I connected with familiar faces, and I am so grateful for technology with all its whims.

https://zooroom.chat/

Today marks the beginning of Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s a great platform to start or finish your writing projects.

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

Coronavirus quarantine survival tips

How many times in the past have you complained, that you don’t have time for anything? Now you do.

Ludek Pala works on isolating and putting up drywall in the laundry room.

Find a home improvement project. Finish what you have started years ago.

Learn something new: cooking, baking, writing poetry, painting.

Go outside and take pictures of spring arriving.

Offer to help others with their struggles; it will ease your own.

Keep a journal.

Live, love and laugh.

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

Greenwich Meridian memoir preorder

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – Happy Monday to all. This has been one of my happiest Mondays ever. I have just submitted my third book “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” for preorder on kindle Amazon. I will be offering tips on both my EW Emma’s Writings blog and on Facebook, on how to write a memoir. The cover was designed by graphic artist Jeanne Boss of Rockford. We selected a collage of memorabilia including my mother’s Sudanese driving license, the Czech coat-of-arms and postcards.

Greenwich Meridian Memoir is an epic tale of love and immigration spanning three continents and two generations. The story takes place on the backdrop of two major historical events in former Czechoslovakia: Prague Spring 1968 and Velvet Revolution 1989. The two events have propelled the major characters into unpredictable action as they journeyed into the unknown. Inspite of the trials and tribulations, Ella and Vaclav have never lost their passion for each other. The next generation Emma and Ludek followed in their footsteps.

The manuscript is being edited by Carol Briggs of Lowell. It has been one of the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life and that includes surviving the recession of 2007 and two major historic events in former Czechoslovakia. I would like to thank all my friends, family and #NaNoWriMo for the support and keeping me on track.Check out my Amazon author page at https://www.amazon.com/Emma-Palova/e/B0711XJ6GY

Author’s events

West Michigan Women’s Expo, Devos Place, Grand Rapids

I will be at the West Michigan Women’s Expo on March 13- March 15 at Devos Place with my previous books from the Shifting Sands Short Stories series, and with the preorder for the memoir.

There will be other @Michigan Authors present.

Stop by our authors’ area and meet your next favorite book.

Venice Book Fair, Blalock Park

I will be in Venice, FL on Saturday, March 21 for the 9th annual Venice Book Fair in Blalock Park from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

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

West Michigan Women’s Expo

I am really looking forward to this first event of the book tour season 2020. I still haven’t come up with a name for my book tour.

I am readying the third book “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” for the market. It will be available for pre-order on kindle Amazon. It is going to the editor Carol Briggs this week.Greenwich Meridian Excerpt

The cover was designed by graphic designer Jeanne Boss, editor emeritus of the Lowell Ledger.

Greenwich Meridian Excerpt

Life was a lot like living in a shoebox next to another shoebox, while the shoeboxes were stacked on top of each other with the imminent danger of collapsing in those infamous megacomplexes. 

There was not much one could do because of the constant scrutiny by jealous neighbors, bosses, other employees or the police. The police were called public safety for propaganda purposes to protect us.  

Jealousy was the ruling emotion or feeling. No one was safe from this monster. It also had many different forms and ugly faces. Like a Medusa, they reared their heads at any given time.   

Family members were not immune either from any of this. On the contrary, jealousy was magnified among siblings. Some had more, some had less. It was the communist version of Hemingway’s “The Haves and the Have Nots.”  

Resentment over the 1968 Soviet occupation and massive exodus into the Western world never really went away. It still lingered in households. There was animosity between those who left the country during the Soviet occupation and those who stayed. That is the expatriates were despised, and the freedom fighters who stayed, were jailed but honored.  

It was like being the only child for a long time, and then a younger sibling is born. One can’t help but be resentful over what was before and after everything had changed.  

Greenwich Meridian Memoir cover designed by Jeanne Boss.

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.

writing in Hastings

Hastings, MI – We spent a week in mid January at our son and daughter-in-law’s place south of Hastings, MI. We got in after a snow storm on Sunday with a car and a truck. The roads were bad; no one did the maintenance over the weekend. But, a good neighbor plowed the driveway to the house.

On Monday, backing out of the driveway, I got stuck in an iced-up snow bank. After a while, I rocked the car back and forth out of the snowy ordeal that started right in front of the house.

The city of Hastings wasn’t much better. On our way to the North Eastern Elementary, a van was stuck in a snow bank at a city intersection. The school walking guide Doug told me that he fell on an ice puddle because the sidewalks weren’t cleared. He cleared part of the sidewalk himself.

It wasn’t that the storm was unexpected, after all, we live in deep Midwest in Michigan.

Guys with their snowmobiles have been eagerly waiting for this since December; we had a green Christmas. The same waiting game goes for the ice fishermen back home on Murray Lake.

Finally, the homemade ice skating rink outside froze, but now it’s covered with a foot of snow, but the kids went sledding.

Baby Boom of 2020s

When dropping Dominik off at the daycare at CERC and Hastings High School, we found out that babies born in 2020 were already in the daycare. The kids have been rotating rooms between red and blue to facilitate the influx. Walking to the red room, I saw babies crawling in the baby room.

I noticed a mom this morning still in her pajamas dropping off older kids with the youngest ones waiting in the van. Among seven strollers, there was a stroller for twins parked by the daycare. The car seat carriers were lined up on a shelf by the wall. The red room was already full of kids at play.

Wow, what a crop.

After a short drive on the winding road between Hastings and Kalamazoo, I walked inside the house that reverberated love, peace and warmth with the smell of coffee.

When I glanced outside the window, I saw a big pile of wood covered with snow and the outdoors furnace. An entire crew heads out into the woods to cut tree trunks.

Welcome to Michigan.

I even heard and saw birds chirping in the tree from Josephine’s window. On a day like this, I love being a writer. I get to channel stories that otherwise people would have no access to. No newspaper or TV will ever report on these seemingly ordinary things, except that there is nothing mundane about them. Each moment will never repeat itself.

I worked on the final revisions of the Greenwich Meridian Memoir. I added a chapter about husband Ludek’s escape from former Czechoslovakia via Yugoslavia in 1988. Stay tuned for excerpts.

Earlier in the morning on our way to the high school, we saw an old man bundled up walking in the roadway with a stick in the pinkish morning twilight among the roaring buses.

Why didn’t he wait till daylight? Will he be there tomorrow? Will we see the rising sun or will it be cloudy?

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