Category Archives: immigration

November events inspire memoir

November events fuel Greenwich Meridian © memoir

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI- The months of November and May, with events both in the family and in the history of the Czech Republic, have inspired entire chapters in my Greenwich Meridian © memoir.

November is significant historically and spiritually worldwide. The thread of events that I track in the memoir starts with All Souls Day on Nov. 2, touches on US elections and leads up to the 27th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution on Nov. 17, a state holiday.

“We’re surrounded by death,” said Fr. Mark Peacock pointing to the shrine of the dead at the altar of St. Patrick’s Church in Parnell during mass last Sunday. “Look at the trees and the nature; but we know all will live again in the spring and in heaven.”

On All Souls Day in former Czechoslovakia, we headed out to the decorated cemeteries to remember all the dead in the family. The cemeteries glowed in the night with only the light from thousands of candles.

Spooky, you might say. But entire families gathered at the graves to reminisce and pray. Before the souls remembrance day we cleaned and polished the monuments at the gravesites.

I loved the yellow spiky asters arranged in wreaths, pots and vases.

At that time in 1989, my grandpa Josef Drabek from Vizovice was already very sick. He was transferred from the hospital in Olomouc to the Hospital of the Merciful Brothers in his hometown Vizovice.

I visited him at the hospital on regular basis. Pale, skinny and weak, grandpa could always recognize me. Stepping inside the hospital room, I already feared the next time.

One Sunday afternoon, I took him in the wheelchair to the hospital garden. The leaves on the trees were still orange and red, and there was water in the fountain and the pond. I could hear coughing and I could smell smoke.

More men congregated by the garden shed. My socialite grandpa didn’t want to join the group. As we passed by them, I could not believe my eyes. Standing or sitting in their hospital striped robes, that were hanging down from what used to be their shoulders and chest, the terminally ill men were smoking.

With shaking hands and fingers, they were holding onto what may be their last cigarette.

“Come and join us,” said one of them with a scratchy voice.

Grandpa turned his head the other way.

“You sold the ranch?” he asked me.

“Grandpa, you know I had to, so I could pay for my education before I leave,” I was crying.

Grandpa’s serious illness consumed me, so I hardly noticed that Nov. 7th has rolled around. Back in the totalitarian era from 1949 until 1989, November was the month of Czechoslovak Soviet Friendship.

It was a month of mandatory celebrations of the “Great October Socialist Revolution the military coup of 11.7. 1917 or 10.25. 1917 according to the old Russian calendar in St. Petersburg.

“Hurry up, Emma, you can’t be late for the parade,” I put a coat on my daughter and handed her the Chinese lantern. “You’ll light it when you get to the Revolutionary Boulevard.”

This time father-in-law Joseph took Emma to the parade, and I just stayed home. It was cold and dark. I was shivering from the upcoming events.

I had nothing to lose. I had my exit visa to the USA, and I had sold everything. No one could hurt me anymore by writing some bad cadre profile about me not being at the Russian Revolution celebrations.

The news magazine before movies was all about the Russian Revolution; that is about the Bolshevik movement with Trotsky and V.I. Lenin and the occupation of the Winter Palace.

My Alma Mater, the Gottwaldov Gymnasium pumped all the Russian & Soviet history into us. It was a total brainwash with weird results.

But behind the scenes, a different revolution was brewing preceded by months of unrest.

 

To be continued…..

 

Copyright © 2016 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Summer with Ella in America

Goodbye Ella

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI- As our time together with Ella winds down, I write this with deep sadness in my heart.

Today is Ella’s last day at the Early Fives summer program at St. Patrick’s School in Parnell. I went into my husband Ludek’s experiment with butterflies in my stomach.

“Ella will stay with us this summer and you will fly back with her to France,” Ludek said back in May.

“Wow, slow down I got to work,” I said surprised.

Ella will be going to the first grade in the wine village of Fixin in Burgundy, France after the summer break in the USA. In six years, we’ve seen her six times, when she came for brief visits with her mother Emma.

“That’s the price you pay for immigration,” I said to Ludek and my friends.

And that’s when Ludek came up with the idea of having Ella here to capture the time gone by over the years, as she was growing up.

It wasn’t just the ocean of time that separated us. It was all the little things that we missed. All the firsts that had gone by: the first steps, first words, first hugs, first laughs and first tears.

I’ve never imagined that I could miss someone else’s tears or laughs.

But, the reality is different.

“I will miss your laugh,” said former publisher Val at the Ionia Sentinel-Standard when I left the paper for good in 1993.

“How about her work,” snapped the editor also Val.

Ella has grown from the toddler that we took with us to the beach in South Haven back in 2011 to a smart and sassy girl with an artsy flair.

“Why do you get angry,” I asked her the other day in the car on the way back from school as the Queen rocked & rolled to full blast.

“Because sometimes you annoy me,” Ella said pouting.

“Really, so no more crepes or ice cream for you,” I said.

“No, sorry.”

We missed all the sorries, too.

“Sorry, grandpa,” Ella apologized after refusing to follow another one of Ludek’s orders.

However, time apart brings along appreciation, deeper love and understanding.

“I miss my mommy,” Ella cried one afternoon after school as she hugged Emma’s graduation picture hanging in the living room next to Mona Lisa.

“I am sure she misses you too,” I said.

“I want to be with her,” Ella continued.

“You will eventually,” I said trying to comfort her.

But, Ella was inconsolable. The persistent little girls cried hours into the night.

“Alright, you’re flying back with her to France tomorrow,” I said to Ludek.

 

The next day was a brand new day.

“Will I see my friends today?” Ella asked on our way to school with Queen blasting in the background. “Tell me one of your stories.”

And I started telling her the story of Scheherazade and the mean king, and the story of the guy with the expensive McLaren automobile who ran a red stop sign.

“Tell me the story about the bracelet and Jake’s wedding ring,” Ella demanded more storytelling.

Ella loves the music of Queen after a Picnic Pops concert at Cannonsburg in July.

“I am like Freddie Mercury, I want it all,” she laughs as we go back home.

Throughout these six weeks, I’ve learned several big lessons. I learned that stories are soothing and healing. I learned that food which reminds you of home is comforting. I learned that the jittery music of Queen can bring on the atmosphere of home. And that the school environment is good for kids.

So, whenever Ella got homesick, I made French crepes and opened a jar of “cornichons.” We call them dills, here in America.

And I spent a perfect day with Ella doing the “Back to School Shopping” rut that was so new to me. Finally, Ella got her ears pierced at the Piercing Pagoda at the mall.

And I told her my endless stories on demand.

I will keep telling them, until I can’t speak or write anymore.

Goodbye, my friend. It was brief, but it was. It really did happen that you were here in America.

I need to assure myself.

Note: Most of my relationship stories appear in the “Greenwich Meridian” (c) memoir, as well as ethnic and travel stories. I hope to finish the memoir for publication my Mother’s Day 2017.

 

Copyright © 2016 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Frail times

Small frail things matter

“Do small things with great love.”

Mother Teresa

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI- I have just found out that small things matter, that destiny  exists and that life is frail.

Three times in life I had close calls when death was reaching for me with her long arms.

Once, I almost drowned even though I am an apt swimmer, not like Michael Phelps but close. Just joking. I feel lucky when I can swim  a 50-meter pool once and not the butterfly style.

The second time I almost got killed in a car driving on a rural route from one small town to another small town in northern Michigan.

Ella by her computer station in her girl's room.
Ella’s time in America.

The third time I fell down straight on my face due to low blood pressure, heat and dizziness from medication at the height of summer on July 14th.

A one-night stay at the Metro Hospital on M-6 cost us $10,000. My husband Ludek also spent one night at what we call “Hotel 6” with heart problems. That also cost us $10,000.

We came out of there alive unlike our neighbor Ted aka “Teddy Bear” who never made it out of “Hotel 6” after a 2-year struggle with leukemia.

“At least he lived it up,” said my daughter-in-law Maranda Palova.

No matter what you call it whether living it up, bucket list or living your way because you think you’re going to die soon, you can’t escape destiny.

Ella Chavent with one of the teachers at St. Pat's.
Ella Chavent with one of the volunteers at St. Pat’s.

And yes life is frail at all its stages.

I am breathing again freely with new wisdom. I found out why I didn’t die in any of those close calls.

It’s my French granddaughter Ella Chavent, 5. She will turn six in September. Ella is staying with us for the summer. At first I had butterflies in my stomach. I worried about this international experiment not knowing where it will take us. We didn’t know Ella that well because we’ve seen her in six years only six times.

Ella’s parents left for France last Friday taking along her two-year old brother Sam.

“Did Sam leave?” she asked me.

“No, he’s living under the roof in the attic,” I said seriously but laughing out loud afterwards.

And we’ve played that joke ever since. Ella keeps telling everyone that her brother lives in the attic. That simple joke broke the ice when Ella started crying for her mami  after coming home from St. Pat’s summer school.

Our international family clan on July 4th under the pergola.
Our international family clan on July 4th under the pergola.

Normally, I hate Mondays but this time I didn’t. I took Ella to school in the morning. She carried her tart cherry pie for her friends. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have made that cherry pie. I would normally not go to St. Pat’s Church.  I would just lounge around all Sunday morning.

But, with Ella going to a catholic school, I felt compelled to go to church. Ella wouldn’t go either, but she wanted to see her friends from school.

After dropping her off this morning, I felt an urge to drive to Smyrna to see if  the work on Whites Bridge replica has started.

Instead, there was a stronger pull to go home. I kept looking around over all my stuff; things that I used to think mattered so much.

At first I wanted to do the laundry, so I went upstairs to pick up Ella’s clothes. Picking up stuff off the floor in what was my daughter’s room in the nineties, I realized there’s a greater cause than just dirty laundry.

Without taking down Emma’s posters from the white walls, I started re-doing the room Ella style. I cleared the shelves for her souvenirs from the Ionia Free Fair and from Picnic Pops fireworks and concert, that she enjoyed so much over the weekend.

In the corner of the room, I created a work station for her. Our neighbor Catherine Haefner gave Ella a “computer” with books and a tape. Ella tested it out at the open house for Katie Haefner.

Then I went to the balcony to water the flower boxes. I looked at Ella’s little garden made inside a cut off milk jar. Her chicks and hens started already growing.

Next to Ella’s miniature garden is a bigger black square pot with mums. I forgot to water them during the June heat. So, the flowers died. I wanted to pull out the plant and throw it out. Something wouldn’t let me.

I looked closer at the plant after watering it thoroughly for the last three weeks. With all the rain we had, I found new buds coming out on the leafy stems.

To me, the new buds symbolize new blood and a fresh new outlook on life.

There was a reason why I didn’t die in one of those close calls.

Thank you universe.

Note: This story ties into the earlier post “Immersion English” or “International Experiment” found at https://emmapalova.com/2016/07/14/international-experiment/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/frail

#dailypost #frail

Copyright (c) 2016 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

International experiment with my Frenchie

International experiment explores English immersion at St. Patrick’s School

Note: I will incorporate some of the current posts into the memoir “Greenwich Meridian.” The memoir is a living document in which I track the events of the past and present. It is the story of the family immigration saga spanning three generations.

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI- Thanks to my French family and a history class, I know that today is a holiday in France celebrating the Fall of Bastille in 1789. The French revolutionaries stormed the Bastille fort followed by a decade of chaos and executions, known as the French Revolution.

So, July 14th is a national holiday in France. The practical implications are that my daughter Emma Palova Chavent who is visiting with us in the USA can’t straighten out “stuff.” That’s what I call glitches in bureaucracy all over the world.

Ella Chavent in front of St. Pat;s School in Parnell, MI.
Ella Chavent in front of St. Pat;s School in Parnell, MI.

And now a few hours later since I’ve written this post, the tragedy in Nice, France  which left so many people dead. This reminds us of the fact that nothing has changed since the French revolution. Dead and more dead. I’ve written about this before that violence breeds more violence.

I consider our family clan to be international. Our daughter Emma, who was born in former Czechoslovakia, married French husband Adrien.

Now, I fear more than ever the international fate as Emma & Adrien Chavent ready to fly out tomorrow to Paris and their daughter Ella is staying here for English immersion.

Our son Jake, also born in former Czechoslovakia, married American Maranda. All of us speak English, most of us speak Czech and some speak French. I think Emma Jr. is the only one who speaks all three languages fluently.

That’s why I put up a sign greeting our international wedding guests in 2014 in three languages: Welcome, bienvenue and vitejte.

The international experiment 2016 involves language immersion for 5-year-old Ella Chavent, our granddaughter for six weeks. In September, when she turns six she will go to first grade in the wine village of Fixin in Burgundy, France.

When Emma mentioned that over the phone, my heart ached. In six years we’ve only seen Ella six times.

“That’s the price you pay for immigration,” I always say when I tell the story.

My husband Ludek came up with the summer vacation/immersion idea.

Ella was born in Dijon, France in 2010. Her first language is French. However, daughter Emma speaks to her only in English.

So, Ella’s English is good. A grammar mistake here and there. The lack of vocabulary at her age is understandable.

When at a loss for an English word, Ella uses French. So, I get to brush up on my French that was fairly good when we lived in Montreal in the 1990s. I took French immersion classes. My son Jake went to a French kindergarten. Montreal is a fully bilingual cosmopolitan city.

We do have a history in language immersion. I teach English as a second language (ESL). There was a time in the 1980s when I knew Russian, although mostly passively.

Ella started her English immersion on Tuesday of this week. We enrolled her in St. Pat’s summer school program in Parnell, MI. If everything goes fine, she will be attending through Aug. 18th. Her parents Emma & Adrien are leaving the country tomorrow July 15th. The plan is that I will fly with Ella back to Paris on Aug. 20th.

As we approach Emma & Adrien’s departure, I have butterflies in my stomach.

“Will she miss them so badly that either I’ll have to fly out with her early or Emma Jr. will have to come and get her?” I ask myself.

So, far she has whined here and there, “Where is my mami?”

Her mami and daddy were gone for four days to Arizona.

However, the whole immersion experiment hinged on St. Pat’s school. “How will Ella take it?”

When I picked her up after the first day, Ella was all excited. She immediately made friends.

“She will do fine,” her teacher assured me. “She’s great.”

That same evening Ella already started packing meticulously her things for the next day.

“We will make a jumbo pie, I want to take it to school to share it with my friends,” she said.

That warmed my heart after her video tirade that I called “Everything is mine.” Ella scripted that all by herself constantly repeating everything is mine: the books, the toys, the food.

Watch for more immersion/immigration posts to get a feel for the “Greenwich Meridian” memoir.

Contact me for your immersion needs in English and Czech. I do have two public facebook groups Immersion Czech and Immersion English.

I have summer immersion online camps available.

emmapalova@yahoo.com

 

Copyright © 2016 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day ties to Greenwich Meridian (c) memoir

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI- Every year on Mother’s Day, I think about my mom Ella Konecny. That is why I dedicated “Greenwich Meridian” memoir to her. I hope to finish the book within the next few months.

Mom Ella Konecny, the pharmacist
Mom Ella Konecny, the pharmacist

Actually people have been already asking me about the memoir that covers our three-generation immigration saga. I had to put it on hold while I was establishing my Internet presence and my business Emma Blogs, LLC.

Now, that I feel well grounded I am picking back up both fiction and memoir writing.

My mother Ella is both funny and sad. She likes being the center of attention at anyone’s birthday party even at my own. I have a birthday tomorrow, one day before the official Mother’s Day. May 9th was also a national holiday in Czech Republic.

Whenever we gather around the dining table, she stands up and starts telling a joke or whatever she can think of. Ella takes that after my grandpa Joseph Drabek. Her maiden name is Drabkova. The -ova ending to Drabek, is the female linguistic twist to the male version of the name.

Mom, a former pharmacist, is witty, progressive and quickly understands new things like working on blogging projects.

“Do you have to work until you finish it?” she asked on Friday when she brought over birthday gifts early.

Happy Mother's Day
Happy Mother’s Day

“Yes, mom. You have to finish a task otherwise you won’t know where you stopped and you might lose it,” I answered.

“Sure. That’s what I thought,” she nodded.

Other than just mentioning info technology, Ella hates it. Both mom and dad are refusing to get a smart phone. That drives my son Jake nuts.

“I want to send them photos of the kids,” he said. “This is crazy, they are fighting it so hard.”

“You can’t force them,” I told him. “They will resist it even more.”

Ella is an awesome cook. Ever since she retired from Ferris State University, biology department, Ella improved her chef skills by 100 percent. Not, that she was a bad cook before, but mom just didn’t have the time.

“What do you want me to make?” she always asks before we come to their home in Big Rapids.

Mom Ella with me on the Venice peer, 2014.
Mom Ella with me on the Venice peer, 2014.

“What do you want me to bring over?” she asks before they come  for a visit to our house in Lowell.

So, I have the privilege of picking from a wide menu of choices; anything from Moroccan beef, Stroganoff beef, Chinese to Czech dill sauce with dumplings.

I like to pick kebabs any style.

Mom Ella is a very sensitive person. She cries over both man-made and natural disasters. Mom cried over the oil spill in the gulf that destroyed a lot of marine life. She cries over the situation in Syria. She cries over our lives.

When I see her cry, I cry too. It’s somewhat of an emotional synergy.

She is generous all around; in church, with the family, close and distant and in the developing countries.

She’s getting fragile. Ella will turn 80 next year.

I can’t believe it. My beautiful and kind mother is aging. Last year, she had skin cancer removed from her face. Before that, she underwent countless surgeries, both successful and unsuccessful.

“Everybody lies to me, because it’s easy, I am old,” she said the other day. “Old people get lied to.”

As years go by, Ella is getting more stubborn. She does not want to reconciliate the discord with her only sister Anna, who lives in Czech Republic.

“Mom you should make up with your sister,” I said.

“She doesn’t want to make up with me,” she snapped at me.

Ella and dad have always strove for perfection and to fit in with the most. That may have been hard on them. Ella has a perfectly clean house where everything has its own spot.

She gets upset with me because not everything in my house has its own spot. I like to move things around. I sometimes leave dishes behind.

Ella is very vocal about my life; that I could have done a lot more with it.

“We were at this concert where Ferris students played,” she said Friday. “Can you imagine how those parents felt when they have such successful and serious kids?”

We each have things that bother us. We cover it up, hold it inside or we talk about it.

At a certain point, we have to come to terms with anything that’s depriving us of living a life to its fullest extent.

Mom has given me life and all the tools to live it.

Thank you, Mom.

Yours forever,

Emma

Cover photo of tulips by Emma White Darling of Parnell, MI.

Copyright (c) 2016. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

Our story 2- If I could turn back time

Turning back time to life in Canada

By Emma Palova

Note: This is the second part of a story series, “If I could turn back time” based on a prompt by the WordPress Daily Post that spurred my imagination.

The first story posted at https://emmapalova.com/2016/01/17/my-story-if-i-could-turn-back-time-2/ delved into an action packed time in my life spent on the ranch in Vizovice, Czech Republic with my grandparents.

As I start my second story, I look back at a transition time in the early 1990s as the family adjusted to life in North America. This time in Canada. It surprises me that I would like to turn back time to a difficult period in a foreign cold country, where initially I didn’t know anyone, I had no relatives there or any other bonds. I didn’t speak the language and I barely knew how to drive.

Life in Quebec, CA
Life in Quebec, CA

A lot of this theme “If I could turn back time” is reflected in my memoir about the three generation family immigration saga, “Greenwich Meridian.” ©

The beginnings

Montreal, CAN After immigrating first to the USA in 1989, our family ended up in Montreal the following year. I wanted to join my husband Ludek who got visa to Canada.

It was a long haul, both physically and mentally. The 10-hour drive on 401 through Toronto gave me a lot of time to think.

I haven’t had time to get used to the rural life in US and I was changing the path that would take me to a fully bilingual cosmopolitan city.

At first we lived in a one-bedroom apartment in LaSalle close to the Saint Lawrence River. My husband Ludek and I slept in the living room which was also the dining room separated by a bar top from the kitchen. We had an old green Chevy that my dad Vaclav gave us.

After living with my parents for six months in Big Rapids, MI I was happy I had my kitchen. I didn’t mind the smells coming from the kitchen. I love to cook. I remember the weekly trips to the grocery store. We examined each item twice before it got thrown into the cart. We retrieved some of them later in the next aisle and put them back on the shelf.

Gaspesie, Canada
Gaspesie, Canada

And it was chicken and chicken again; once roasted, at other times fried, curried or on paprika with sauce and dumplings. Ludek’s friends from Slovakia did the same.

“I’ve had enough of your chicken,” yelled Willi at his brother Joe. “Can’t you cook something else?”

“I could but it’s expensive,” said Joe puffing on his cigarette while he stirred the chicken on paprika.

We made many friends in Montreal. The province of Quebec welcomed immigrants from all over the world.

Days went by fast. I went to COFI, the French Immersion School sponsored by the Quebec government full-time. It was a six month-long intensive course with six hours of French daily. We didn’t have to pay a dime to learn a foreign language. On the other hand, we got paid to go to the French school.

It was a very social and productive time in life. I met Judith from Slovakia and Emil from Rumania, people from Bulgaria, Africa, Japanese and Russians as well as people from all walks of life.

We nurtured our immigrations dreams together side by side sitting in desks with doctors, surgeons, poets, writers, musicians, healers, programmers, factory workers, teachers and stay-at-home moms.

It was at this course that I learnt how to teach languages immersion style.

We were not allowed to speak any other language than French, which was for the better of it, because we wouldn’t be able to understand each other.

We had to act out little scenes from life. I remember I did not want to act in the doctor’s office scene, because I am afraid of doctors and the Rumanian guy Emil liked me way too much.

Ludek worked at a Czech chemical company called Anachemia. Actually, most Czech and Slovak immigrants worked there. I worked in their branch for a while packing medical supplies. This is where I met Liba from the same Walachia region that I came from in Czechoslovakia. We would have probably never met in our homeland and out of all the places in the world, we ran into each other at a factory in Montreal.

We had no mortgage, so we could go skiing in the Laurentian Mountains or drive to Toronto to see a lifelong acquaintance from Technical University of Brno, Dana Pastorcakova who was also from Walachia.

Only, now 20 years later I realize, that it was an advantage not to have a mortgage, because it is what it means.

“Mortgage is a death pledge,” said real estate instructor and broker for Westdale.

Times would prove him right during the mortgage/economic crisis in the mid to late 2000s. My artist friends lost their home on Long Lake.

We moved to a bigger apartment also in LaSalle close to an island in the St. Lawrence River.

“You’re living here like on a vacation,” said Liba during a visit.

“I can’t live and write any other way,” I said.

 

To be continued……

 

Copyright © 2016 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

If I Could Turn Back Time

Turning back time

I am going to work on this daily prompt by Daily Post because it is so close to my heart especially at a time when I am starting the second half of my memoir “Greenwich Meridian” about the family immigration saga.

Stay tuned for the full story as I develop it to fruition.

wp-1450816500465.jpeg
The first years of immigration in North America. Pictured are Ludek, Emma and Jakub P. on the shores of St. Lawrence River in Gaspesie, Canada.

 

If you could return to the past to relive a part of your life, either to experience the wonderful bits again, or to do something over, which part of you life would you return to? Why?

Source: If I Could Turn Back Time