Category Archives: socialism

Greenwich meridian Memoir cover

Cover Design by Jeanne S. Boss

Collage: the story behind the cover

It is said that a long journey starts with the first step.

During the entire process of putting together the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir,” that spans more than 50 years of our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia to the U.S., I was using a globe as a visual tool.

I got the globe probably at the old Flat River Antique Mall in Lowell when we moved out into the country in 1995. I kept it downstairs in my writing studio, but dragged it upstairs to look at it while on the treadmill.

Putting one foot in front of the other, word after word, page after page, year after year, that’s how the memoir went, often interrupted by life’s events.

After all, travel around the world made an imprint on our lives forever. However, later into the writing process, I realized the story wasn’t just about our nomadic lifestyle prompted by the political events in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

When I first asked mom for info about our immigration, she handed me two small stapled pages from a Best Western notepad with nine bullet points summarizing our life.

As I got deeper into the story and mom cooperated more, it became obvious that looking back at your past can be a painful experience.

Unlike writing fiction, writing the memoir was very emotional, at times depressing. It meant uncovering layers and layers of events, preceeded by decisions; your own decisions and other people’s decisions that impacted your own life and other people’s lives.

Decisions were lurking at every crossroad or a fork on the path to freedom. Mistakes and resentments alternated with victories and elation.

The main characters, mom Ella and dad Vaclav, were the driving forces of the immigration; I picked up two decades later when the Velvet Revolution rolled in 1989.

I found out that the main motivation for dad’s decision to emigrate was his career as a mathematician, while mom clung onto her past pharmacist job and relatives in Czech. And that’s where the characters clashed.

The Prague Spring 1968 movement was the catalyst.

I wanted to express all this on the cover of the memoir using a collage of photos, postcards, mom’s African driver’s license, the Czech coat-of-arms and the globe. There is a postcard with a Vaclav Havel stamp from Czechoslovakia.

Graphic designer Jeanne S. Boss of Rockford captured all of the above on the artistic cover. Boss is the former editor of the Lowell Ledger and the Buyer’s Guide, and a long time friend.

I would like to thank Boss for all the creative work.

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

Happy holidays with excerpt

Wishing you a peaceful holiday season, as I continue to work on the Greenwich Meridian memoir about our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia to the U.S.

Based on a request from Mary Lacy, a vendor of M&M Prescious Gems at the Lowell Area Historical Museum, I decided to add two more chapters about living in socialism.

Below is an excerpt from the Greenwich Meridian memoir:

The Good and the Bad

The socialist system had its own way of getting at you by creating mysterious “profiles.” It was a compilation of background checks that ranged from, whether you were a member of the Communist Party or not, to how many volunteer hours have you worked on a community project like building a nursery.
If you went to church, your profile would state that, and it went against you when you applied for jobs or to universities.

My profile was “speckled” because we had returned from the U.S. for Czech President Gustav Husak’s amnesty in 1973. Even though, it was an official amnesty for political victims of the 1968 Prague Spring, like us, it served more as a punishment and a showcase of what can happen if you screwed over the regime.

The profiles also took into account your mandatory volunteering at different community projects and brigades. The communists must have used some sort of a scoring point system; the worst part was that they took into account your entire family. For example, if you came from an agricultural family that used to own large parcels of land, that went against you, even though the communists took all the land in two major nationalizations in 1945 and in 1948. If you were a former business owner, that wasn’t good either.

Among interesting events at workplaces were birthday celebrations. My husband Ludek described a typical birthday when the celebrant brought in a bottle of plum brandy and poured everyone from each department a shot. After work, the celebration continued at the local pubs. There was a lot of birthday celebrations throughout the years. For the 50th birthday, you always got a fancy watch.

During national holidays, the factory workers would steal anything and take it through the gates without being checked because there were so many of them leaving at once for the parades. So, the parades were known as the “March of Thieves.” The parades actually started inside the factory.

On the matter of overtime, one individual was selected to punch for all, who waited somewhere behind the gates. The huge factory complex known as Svit and ZPS spanned several blocks in Zlin, and it was built during the Thomas Bata era in the 1940s. It employed 10,000 workers per factory. Svit was the shoe factory started by Bata, while ZPS was the mechanical engineering factory. The shoe factory mainly employed women, while ZPS employed mostly men.

Both were the major employers in Zlin, and people worked there for generations. In socialism, everything was planned accordingly into one- year plans, five -year plans and 10- year plans. All the companies had to strive to fulfill the plans to the highest percentage for bonuses at the end of the year, called the 13th salary.

To be continued…Socialism perks through ROH

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