Category Archives: non-fiction

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.

Excerpt from greenwich meridian memoir- Shortage of toilet paper

After having a second show- the West Michigan Women’s Expo – canceled due to the coronavirus threat and reading the posts about the shortage of toilet paper, this excerpt seems like a great fit.

The Haves and the Have Nots

The useless feeling never went away; it intensified with time until it became a monster. I watched this happen between my mom, Ella, and her younger sister, Anna, over the years before 1968 and after my parents’ immigration to the U.S.A. 

In 2018, Time published a special edition:1968 The Year That Shaped a Generation with introduction: “Like a knife blade, the year severed past from future.” 

Before 1968, the two sisters were like regular siblings with occasional hard and soft feelings for each other. They even went together on vacations with their spouses to the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. Aunt Anna is also my godmother as was the custom in the old country for the closest relatives to be the Godparents. 

Their parents treated them equally as any parent would. They had similar hopes and dreams. Neither one of them made a lot of money. 

Life before the 1968 “Socialism with a human face” movement started by Alexander Dubcek and the Velvet Revolution in 1989 was simple.

People enjoyed both the advantages and the disadvantages of socialism; everyone had the right to work. There was no such thing as unemployment. If you were unemployed for more than six weeks, you went to jail. Since the economy was regulated and planned, there was always work, whatever work and any work at any given time. If you wanted a good job, you needed connections or my mom’s long arm.

That was balanced out by having to stand in long lines for basic items such as toilet paper. However, college education was free, along with healthcare for all and free daycare. 

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

E-newsletter

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West
New autobiographical novel on its way to pre-order on Amazon. .

Emma Palova’s author news 
 
With Christmas just around the corner and the shopping frenzy on, I am pleased to announce that I have completed the new autobiographical novel “Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West during the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.) I have, however, decided to add two more chapters based on a recent conversation at one of my book signing events.  
Vendor Mary Lacy asked me, if I was ever afraid living in a socialist country. I had to really think hard about the answer to the surprise question. So, it occurred to me that many of my fans will be interested in the same topic. 
“What was it like living in socialism?” 
I was born in socialist Czechoslovakia and lived there during the hardline years of communism in the 1970s and 1980s. Living in socialism meant being careful on a daily basis about what you said and to whom. However, only political activists like late president Vaclav Havel faced repercussions and ended up in jail. The system had its way of getting at you by creating “profiles.” 
If you went to church, your profile would state that, and it went against you when you applied for jobs or to universities. 
Please email me with your questions about socialism at emmapalova@yahoo.com
 
Reviews and a book tour 

Why write a review? 
 
All authors need reviews, and basically not just authors. But Amazon requests at least 25 reviews for authors to get any ranking, so then Amazon algorithms can start working in the author’s favor. 
 
I haven’t been able to reach that magic number, even though it doesn’t seem high. Prior to publication, I sent out pdfs to reviewers. 
 
And I will do that again with the new book. Just email me for pdfs.

Below is a link to my books from the Shifting Sands Short Stories collections: book 1 and book 2 Secrets. Books make a great Christmas gift.

You can also post a review there.
 
http://www.amazon.com/author/emmapalova 
 

New book tour 2020
 
I am in the process of planning a new book tour for 2020, which I am very excited about. 
 
Why come to a Michigan author event?  
“Michigan Authors are sweeping the shores of the Great Lakes from Lake Michigan to Lake Superior and Lake Huron in a new wave of renaissance in literature.” 
                                                                                       - Emma Palova 
 
You’re supporting local authors who write from Michigan with Michigan settings. 
You will get an autographed book by a live author. 
You will get insider tips from the publishing industry. 
You will learn about the writing process; from an idea to a book. 
You will leave inspired. 
 
Happy holidays to all.

Emma Palova
Dec. 9, 2019

Email Emma to subscribe to the E-Newsletter at emmapalova@yahoo.com

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

30TH ANNIVERSARY OF vELVET REVOLUTION IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA

By Emma Palova

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

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

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

Excerpt from Greenwich Meridian memoir

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NANOWRIMO DAY 25

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir with excerpt

Black Friday Countdown

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

Amazon Review of Secrets

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

Translation

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

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

From her lines, I could feel all the emotions:

Excerpt: Bittersweet memories

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

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

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

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

NANOWRIMO DAY 24

Greenwich Meridian memoir continues with excerpt

By Emma Palova

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

Excerpt: Presidential amnesty, fatal return to Czechoslovakia in 1973

In her own words

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…..

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

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

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

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

NANOWRIMO WINNER 2019

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – By logging in 3,751 words in the NaNoWriMo 2019, I am officially a winner of the 50K -word challenge with my memor about the family immigration saga. Yay! I never thought I would get it done. I have yet to complete a translation of three pages of mom Ella’s memories from Texas and review the entire memoir.

NaNoWriMo memoir insights

I entered the challenge this year to complete the memoir that I divided into two halves after hitting a dead end at chapter 11. I did extensive prep work in October including translations of mom’s memories from her immigration ordeal since 1968 and the translation of the “Chronicle of Velvet Revolution.”

Dad Vaclav and mom Ella

The memoir anchors in two major historical events in Czechoslovakia: Prague Spring, 1968 and Velvet Revolution, 1989. It’s an epic saga of love and passion for math, between the main characters, mom Ella and dad Vaclav. These major driving forces took our family across three continents. My own second-generation experience is intertwined in the memoir, as I am the storyteller.

I had to break down different chapters and create a timeline in order to navigate the events of more than 50 years. Once I had the timeline, I filled in the missing years with my parents’ own accounts of their immigration experiences.

What propelled the memoir ahead was the change from a travel account to the experience of immigration in all its dimensions. That was the pain of being separated both from homeland and from each other, offset by dad’s passion for math.

I arrived at an interesting conclusion while writing the memoir: for mom, imigration was a sacrifice to dad and to us, so we could live in a free country. For dad, immigration was a way to teach math without the fear of being persecuted in a socialist country. For me, immigration set me free to create and for Ludek it was a dream come true to build our own house and live the American dream.

Stay tuned for excerpts.

Ask questions right here:

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

NaNoWriMo 2019 Day 20

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West with excerpt

By Emma Palova

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

But, for our partners, it was a sacrifice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NANOWRIMO DAY 19

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – I continued to work on the Greenwich Meridian memoir this morning for the NaNoWriMo 50K word challenge. I logged in 2,948 words for a grand total of 43,485 words.

Mom Ella left for the U.S. for the second time on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 1980 after a long battle for emigration visa from Czechoslovakia.

It was a sad farewell at the Ruzyne Airport in Prague on a rainy day.

Excerpts from chapter “Without mom”

I actually honed my writing skills on letters to the USA long before the Internet, mobile devices, keywords and hashtags.

Magistra Ella Konecny at the main pharmacy in Zlin in late 1970s.

Calling from Europe was expensive, so mom and I wrote to each other letters mailed in thin transluscent Air Mail envelopes with red and blue border. It was a celebration when I received a letter in the mail. It was mostly good news coming from the west side of the Atlantic; mom getting a job or new furniture for the house.

I can’t say the other way around. Eastern Europe was still under the grip of hardldine socialism in 1980, and it would stay that way for another long nine years. Letters were censored and the phones were bugged. Lines for food grew longer.

Living under the oppressive regime meant constant search for life’s necessities. 

Once mom left for America so were gone her connections from the pharmacy on Main Square in Zlin. Mom had a long arm and she used it to get what we needed from meat to toilet paper. 

I had to start living like millions of other people. That meant standing in lines on Tuesdays for bananas and on Thursdays for beef. On weekends at 2 pm a truck came with Prerov beer. Grandpa Joseph wouldn’t drink any other beer.

On the other hand, life was more social in every aspect, because we had to use public transportation. There weren’t enough cars made, and there was a waiting list for them. The only brands available were a standard Skoda, and the lesser Trabant dubbed as Hitler’s vendetta because it was made in East Germany. That was before the wall went down. 

However, most people didn’t have money to buy either the Skoda or the Trabant. We used public transportation choosing between buses, trains and trams. They were all equally uncomfortable and dirty. 

Everyone carried a bag full of groceries every day, because the refrigerators were not big enough for longer storage. And then of course there was the issue of different days of deliveries of different groceries, not to speak of fresh produce and meat. 

In the heat of the summer, people smelled of cheap fragrances. The better perfumes were imported from the West, and available only at Tuzex stores with fake money called bons. 

Submit your questions about what was it like living in socialist Czechoslovakia.

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

NANOWRIMO DAY 18

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West

By Emma Palova

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt: Differences between the two cultures

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

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

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

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