Tag Archives: Prague Spring

Born on May 9th with excerpts

Birthday and freeing of Prague

Excerpts from  memoir Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West

The Tide of immigration from former Czechoslovakia started in 1968 with the Soviet army occupation.  A massive exodus followed in protest of the action by the Soviet Union government. My father  professor Vaclav Konecny was part of the movement.

As I continue to write the memoir in May, I will start with its festivities .The month of May was very poetic and romantic. With the entire country in blossom, the major holidays included Mayday and Freedom Day on May 9th when the Russians freed Prague from the Nazi occupation. in 1945. The new regime moved the national holiday to May 8th, when the American army reached the famous beer town of Pilsner in Western Bohemia.

May also serves as athe stage for the biggest music event of the year, the Prague Spring International Music Festival, started by president Edward Benes in 1946.  The festival is a tribute to the famouse Czech composer Bedrich Smetana. He is best known for his symphony Vltava inspired by the major Czech river that runs through Prague.

To my biggest regret, I’ve never been to Prague Spring. The 1968 political movement was also called Prague Spring.

The month of May is dedicated to Saint Mary in the catholic church. We used to sing Marianne hymns by the little chapels and in churches decorated with white hydrangeas and dahlias every evening at 6 p.m. It was a month for first communions, pretty white lace dresses and ribbons.

But, May had its dark side according to the lore; it wasn’t a good time to get married. Legend has it if a couple gets married in May, one of the partners will die early.

Were there weddings in May? Probably.

However, a big part of the population was superstitious partly due to Czech literature and its great authors. Some of the biggest ones who wrote about May were Karel Hynek Macha and Jaromir Erben.

May is known for opening of the beer gardens under the beautiful lilac blossoms.

I remember our neighbor Mr. J had a big old lilac tree that had both purple and white blossoms. I was always puzzled by that, since you really only saw one color or the other. Many years later someone told me that Mr. J had it  grafted.

To be continued

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Prague Spring ’68 spurred immigration

Thousands left former Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of Soviet invasion

As Czech and Slovak republics approach the 45th anniversary of the Prague Spring invasion of Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops on Aug. 21, I continue to work on my memoir “Greenwich Meridian.”

The memoir tracks the history and present of our family immigration saga which now spans three generations. It was directly spurred by the Soviet invasion in 1968 also known as Prague Spring.

Like many other Czech expatriates living around the world, our family left the country as a result of the Soviet occupation of former Czechoslovakia.

Soviet tanks invaded the streets of major cities in former Czechoslovakia.
Soviet tanks invaded the streets of major cities in former Czechoslovakia.

Here is an excerpt from the second chapter of the memoir titled:

On the run

The 1968 Prague Spring was looming over Czechoslovakia. On August 21st, the country was invaded by Soviet tanks from the East and the armies of the Warsaw Pact. Hundreds of tanks roared all over the country in the full- blown invasion that impacted an entire generation of immigrants to the US, Germany, Canada and Australia. The country was occupied, and the Russians set up bases both in Slovakia and in the Czech part. The Russians were out to punish the Czechoslovak liberal government for creating “socialism with human face.” The movement was led by Alexander Dubcek, and late president Vaclav Havel was part of a signatory group called Charta 1968. A series of reforms were meant to ease restrictions on media, free speech and travel.

          At the time of the occupation, my mother was on a spa stay in Carlsbad in Western Bohemia, a famed town known for its 12 healing springs.

          “I went to the colonnade in the morning,” mom said. “People were crying, listening to the radio. There were huge demonstrations, as people knocked down statues of the communist leaders.”

          Mom had to stay three more days, because the roads were closed due to tanks. Then she took a detour bus through Sumava to Brno.

          “We had a new apartment in Brno, but I left for Vizovice to be with my parents,” she said.

          There was no telephone connection, according to mom. But, the borders were open for anyone to leave freely.

          “ My friends were leaving the country, crossing the border on foot with just a suitcase in their hands,” she said. “I didn’t want to go anywhere.”

 

Copyright © 2013 story by Emma Palova