Tag Archives: Vizovice

27. November 1989

A step back in time to  Monday Nov. 27 in 1989

Lowell, MI- It was Monday under the sign of Sagittarius as George W. Bush took the presidential torch from Ronald Reagan.

It was also the release of “Christmas Vacation” with Chevy Chase and John Grisham topped the bestselling list with his “A Time to Kill.” Two major tragedies set 1989 apart from the rest: the massacre at Tiananmen Square and the Exxon-Valdez oil spill.

Just as the world lost Salvador Dali in 1989, Taylor Swift was born, according to takemebackto.com.

The following are excerpts from my memoir “Greenwich Meridian” (c) copyright 2016 Emma Palova.

“That Monday morning I dressed up warm in my Benetton jacket adorned with an tricolor ribbon, a red, white and blue sweater and jeans. I made a quick snack for the four-hour trip from Zlin to Prague. It was probably an old croissant with salami.

I boarded the 6 a.m. train to Prague called “Citron” packed with young people in the standing room only aisles.

As daylight broke into the dark morning, I felt the crisp air from the outside brush my red cheeks. Exhausted from the events of the past few months, I didn’t sleep much. I was shaking and not just from the November chill.

The last 10 days since the Nov. 17 student demonstrations in Prague were filled with political turmoil and uncertainty. I was either glued to the TV much like the entire nation or demonstrating on the town square in Zlin.

The communist regime has already fallen in the neighboring Poland. We all supported the Polish leader of revolution, Lech Walesa along with our own dissident Vaclav Havel and the Civic Forum (CF) that led the movement for freedom. This movement entered modern history as the Velvet Revolution, lasting from Nov. 17 through Dec. 10, 1989.

The mass media in former Czechoslovakia informed the nation about the General Strike on Nov. 27 in Prague and all the major cities.

“Please participate in the strike,” the media encouraged, “or if you cannot hold solidarity with the people on strike.”

That Monday, a nation that could not agree on anything, walked out of universities, factories and offices to show the power of the people.

Twenty-seven years later sitting behind my desk on a Sunday morning in rural America, while it’s still dark outside, I ask myself:

“What if the manifestation went violent like in Tiananmen Square?”

I left that trail of thought untouched.

As we disembarked from the train at the art nouveau Prague Main Station, like a river, the crowds flowed into the Wenceslas Square. 300,000 people howled in the square from noon to 2 p.m. holding their arms up with hands in the peace sign.

“Havel to the castle,” I chanted along with the crowds.

We wanted the poet, the playwright and the dissident Havel, to become the next president of Czechoslovakia, as we rang our keys and little bells.

That ring magnified by millions across the nation signified that the hour of freedom has arrived after years of darkness and oppression.

For Havel, it was an uneasy progression from a communist jail cell to the Hradcany Castle, over the last two decades since the Prague Spring in 1968.

I’ve always been claustrophobic, and the moving crowd made me nauseous. The defunct communist leadership under President Gustav Husak met most of the demands of the Civic Forum (CF), so the demonstration ended peacefully.

I remember heading into one of the pubs on the Lesser Square aka Mala Strana on the other side of the Vltava River. Havel frequented that area, and in 1994 as the president of Czech Republic, visited one of the pubs with the former USA president Bill Clinton.

Meanwhile, a different story was transpiring on the home front on that gloomy Monday. The late afternoon train took me back to hometown Zlin.

My grandpa Joseph passed from lung cancer at the Vizovice Hospital of Merciful Friars after steadily deteriorating for six months.

In one of the last conversations held at the white hospital room, that smelled of a heavy disinfectant agent, grandpa asked me about his beloved ranch. That is the house at 111 Krnovska Street in Vizovice that I inherited in grandpa’s will. Together, with husband Ludek and daughter Emma, we spent many delightful years at the ranch.

“You know I had to sell it, so I can leave the country,” I explained patiently for the 100th time.

After selling all my worldly possessions as a condition to emigration, I was holding tight onto my exit visa to the USA. Ludek was waiting for his emigration visa in Pabneukirchen, Austria.

“The ranch is in good hands of a person who loves it,” I reassured grandpa.

“Who is it?” grandpa whispered in pain.

“It’s Eugene,” I said in equal emotional pain.

“Mr. Drabek, do you want your yogurt,” asked a nurse traditionally dressed in blue with white apron and a starched white hat.”

“No,” sighed grandpa turning away from us.

…………………………………………………………….I remained in the country until Dec. 22.”

What’s your story?

In the pictures: Top, late Vaclav Havel lays flowers at the Velvet Revolution memorial on Wenceslas Square in Prague.

Bottom: Grandpa Joseph Drabek with wife Anna, daughters left to right: Ella & Anna.

For more stories on Velvet Revolution go to https://wordpress.com/post/emmapalova.com/172636

For more info on certain dates go to takemebackto.com

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

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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.

Following Van Gogh in Saint Remy

In Van Gogh’s footsteps

“What I should like to do, Van Gogh writes to brother Theo in Paris in 1889, is to go there as an inmate patient at the end of the month or early in May…let’s try three months to start with, and we’ll see how it goes..it is very likely that I am yet to suffer much.

The landscape of St.Remy is very attractive and I shall gradually become acquainted with it.”

Vincent Van Gogh

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Saint- Remy de Provence, FR- Leaving our beloved bastide near Cheval-Blanc behind, we headed further south for Saint- Remy, a city that proudly carries Van Gogh’s heritage with its Saint-Paul asylum.

We drove through alleys of stately plane trees lined by olive and almond groves, cypresses and cornfields at the foothills of Alpilles that have all inspired the master of post- impressionism.

Saint Remy de Provence
Saint Remy streets

Saint- Remy, whipped by mistral from the Mediterranean Sea, bustled with tourists.

A large painting of Van Gogh’s self-portrait without the straw hat greets the visitors at the 18th century Hotel Estrine. Van Gogh’s museum is located inside. He created more than 150 paintings during his stay in Saint Remy.

My French granddaughter Ella, 6, immediately recognized the famous painting.

“Our teacher showed us that,” she said all excited.

The French nation has immortalized its artists and scientists with busts, sculptures, in schools, museums and gardens scattered all over the country.

However, the lively town of Saint-Remy did not partake in any of Van Gogh’s pathos, who also painted the gardens of the asylum. Hundreds of boutiques, souvenir shops, bistros and cafes vibrated with l’art de vivre, known as the art of living prevalent in France.

Estrine Museum in Saint-Remy de Provence
Estrine Museum in Saint Remy is dedicated to Van Gogh.

Throughout our stay in Provence, our ladies “international squad” sampled this l’art de vivre on every corner of the tiniest streets, in regional dishes, in gourmet cafes, and in the Provencal architecture of churches, bastides and mairies.

All French city halls carry the motto of the French revolution: liberty, equality, fraternity.

Saint Remy de Provence
Saint Remy in Provence

To this day, it remains a mystery to me, why the People’s House aka Lidovy Dum in downtown Vizovice, Czech Republic, has the French national motto engraved in its coat-of-arms.

After exploring local shops with Provencal herbs, yellow and blue linens, lavender soaps, perfumes and candles along with the l’Occitane line of body products, we found a reasonable restaurant on Boulevard Mirabeau.

Fashionable Bistrot des Alpilles sits on the Mirabeau loop around the medieval city with the massive Roman catholic church Collegiale Saint Martin as its anchor.

“You should try their local soup,” said daughter Emma.

Wherever my writing takes me, I always make it a point to sample the local fare and drinks. In Provence, the regional dishes feature different variations of fish soups depending on where you are. It is the royal bouillabaisse in Marseille and fish pistou in the rest of the region, ratatouille or vegetable stew accompanied by a glass of pink wine from the local caves. Desserts in France always include an assortment of cheeses or you may opt for gourmet café.

Fish soup St. Remy style
Cassoulet de poissons St. Remy style

So, the entree cassoulet de poisson was a natural choice for me with a glass of the house wine, the “Lovely IGP Alpilles”, 2015.

Bistrot Les Alpilles
Bistrot Les Alpilles menu in Saint Remy

Daughter Emma chose the lighter sweet aperitif Kir. The kids of course had the syrup –dissolved- in- water fruit concoction that I despise from my childhood years in Czechoslovakia.

As I write this, I realize that I haven’t tried the “Eau de Vie poire”, the water of life  pear liquor or the pastis.

“It’s nasty,” Emma said about the pastis liquor made from licorice.

At the adjacent newsstand, I bought “Van Gogh in Provence” English Edition booklet with photos of major paintings created during the master’s stay in Arles and Saint-Remy.

As we embarked on the long road up north back to Fixin, we got stuck in the traffic jam, called “bouchon” in France due to the returning vacationers from the Mediterranean resorts.

“They all go for their vacation at the same time to the Med,” Emma said. “They use the only highway that goes from north to south, the A7.”

Saint Paul de Mausole in Saint Remy
Saint Paul de Mausole in Saint Remy

But being stuck in a “bouchon” in France is not necessarily a bad thing, because it’s another opportunity for more sight- seeing and treats for the palate. We stepped out at the Aire- de- Montelimar rest stop and I bought the real French white nougat with hazelnuts, the local specialty from Montelimar. At first Ella refused to taste the nougat.

“I don’t eat that.”

“Ella, you’re like an old person,” I laughed. “Don’t be afraid to try something new.”

“It’s delicious,” she said.

In the Lyon “bouchon” I admired the renaissance buildings on the banks of the river Rhone, reminiscent of the Prague riverside on Vltava. Emma pointed out the Museum of Confluence built on a peninsula in the river, where the Saone meets the Rhone.

“I love being stuck in traffic,” said sarcastically our driver Selene. “Give me some coke, please.”

Hundreds of cars stood still on the major Paris bound thoroughfare going through downtown Lyon, pop. 2.2 million. Only the colorful trams crossing the bridges and the boats navigating the Rhone were moving.

To the right, I noticed a girl waterboarding on the massive turquoise-colored river that originates from the Rhone glacier in the Swiss Alps.

The boat pulling the girl was full of young people having the time of their lives, while the nervous drivers drummed their fingers on the steering wheels. We were melting in the late afternoon heat in front of the tunnel.

Thanks to the obsolete infrastructure in Lyon dating back to the advancement of the automobile, I finished reading the Van Gogh booklet intended for the transatlantic flight home to Chicago. Two hours later, the youngsters were still waterboarding on the Rhone.

“Thank you Lyon, Mr. Van Gogh and Doc Emma for great entertainment, as always.”

Notable mention for Van Gogh lovers:

Van Gogh in Europe

The Estrine Museum in Saint-Remy de Provence is part of Van Gogh Europe, a vast European project associating places and museums concerned with the life and work of the painter.

The objectives of the Partners of Van Gogh Europe are to value the life and works of art by Vincent van Gogh by developing cultural, educational and touristic projects of the highest quality.

Some images are from the Commons at https://www.wikipedia.org

To be continued………..A Bohemian afternoon in Paris

 

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

Anna

Popular name brings back memories

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI- As I was checking Facebook for messages, I came across a greeting card for Anna from the group Czechoslovak Friends on Facebook. The greeting card wished well to all the girls and women who carry this beautiful name.

In the Czech calendar each day is dedicated to a certain name, known as “svatek” or saint’s day. July 26th is Anna’s day. The name Anna has a very special meaning to me. I write about it in the memoir “Greenwich Meridian where East meets west.”©

Anna & Anna Drabkova
Front row from left to right: grandparents Anna & Joseph. Top row: Sisters Eliska and Anna.

Our family celebrated Anna’s day to honor three great women: Grandmother Anna Drabkova of Vizovice, aunt and godmother Anna Chudarkova of Zlin and paternal aunt Anna Tomankova of Otrokovice.

However, not everyone thought they were great.  But, time changes everything.

I spent all the summers with grandma Anna and my grandpa Joseph; first at their old dwelling “chalupa” near the river Lutoninka and later at their ranch no.111 on a hill.

Grandma Anna accompanied me to the first grade at the Vizovice Elementary School in mid 1960s. At the time my parents and brother Vas were in Sudan, Africa. Dad Vaclav Konecny was teaching physics & mathematics at the University of Khartoum.

Wallachian town Vizovice was a paradise during formative years for the future writer. My first memory goes back to Vizovice. I remember chasing after our neighbor farmer Vlada for whatever reason, as I fell on the crushed asphalt path leading to the river Lutoninka and the wheat fields.

I hurt my knee. A little trickle of blood came out of the scratched skin. I couldn’t get up and I desperately reached out to Vlada.

“Wait for me, wait for me,” I screamed.

Farmer Vlada kept on walking. I finally got up, turned around and ran back to the “chalupa.”

“Babiiiii, babii, I am hurt,” I whined.

“That’s nothing,” said grandpa Joseph without looking up from the sewing machine that he was just repairing.

“Look here,” I cried pointing at my first wound.

Anna bent down to me and patted me on the head and then on my hurt knee.

“Come on little one,” she soothed me.

Grandma Anna was the youngest of seven children. Some of them died prematurely. She was taking care of her two single brothers, farmers Frank and Joseph. The brothers owned the family field called “Hrabina” close to the famous plum brandy plant “Jelinek.”

The field was a fraction of what they used to own prior to the 1948 socialization of private businesses and farms.

Both grandparents spent endless hours working in the fields after work and on weekends. They worked at the local shoe factory Svedrup. Grandpa Joseph as the lead machine maintenance man.

Anna was a seamstress, who also worked at Svedrup until she got a heart attack.

That day, the family forgot to pick me up from kindergarten.

 

To be continued….

 

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

My story-If I could turn back time

Turning back time to ranch in Vizovice

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – The January Daily Post writing prompt “If I could turn back time” hits close to home as I am writing the second half of the family immigration memoir “Greenwich Meridian.”

Whenever I sit behind the computer and think about the past, it evokes an entire spectrum of memories ranging from excellent to poor.

If there was a time machine, I would return to two big eras in my life. Chronologically speaking, first I would go back into the late 70s and mid-80s.

Clock work hardware.
Clock work hardware.

It was a tumultuous time in my life. In not even a decade, I managed to get married, have a first-born daughter Emma, finish prep school Gymnasium Zlin, work at a veterinarian institute and finally complete bachelor’s degree at the Technical University in Brno. I got my first car as a present from parents for graduating. It was a black Skoda Rapid LS, the sports version. What I didn’t manage to do was to get a driver’s license because of all the other studying. I regretted that later in my life when I came to the USA in the nineties.

So, why would I want to return to something as intense as the marriage while studying bundle?

There is one great reason that threaded through all that time. And those were my grandparents Anna & Joseph Drabek. They lived in Vizovice, Moravia, that is the central part of Czech Republic.

My grandpa bought a house in 1979 on the outskirts of Vizovice because he was sick of living in a tiny apartment overlooking the château park. He called the dilapidated dwelling “ranch.” It had the lucky street number 111.

Prague astronomical clock
Old Town Square in Prague with horologe.

That completely struck harmony with my husband Ludek and I, since we were sick of living in the massive apartment complex “Southern Slopes” that housed more than 30,000 people. These massive apartment complexes that sprang all over the Czech Republic were known as “Building successes of communism.”

People desperately tried to escape those modern concrete successes. Most often they escaped into the local pubs and breweries. The luckier ones had cottages and dwellings in the country. Thanks to my grandparents we were among the lucky ones.

And the beautiful years on the ranch ensued. It was an epic time.

Every weekend, we packed up Emma in a portable baby carry on, boarded the morning bus to Vizovice and for a while we forgot all about living in a concrete box at the concrete fort in Zlin, then Gottwaldov.

To this day, I hold Vizovice close to my heart. I went to kindergarten and first grade there and I made many friends on the street. I call them my “street friends.” We still meet when I go back on rare occasions usually for funerals.

Classic plum brandy known as slivovice.
Classic plum brandy known as slivovice.

Later with my husband, we made friends together in this plum brandy capital of the world surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains. Yes, this city in the Walachian region rich in folklore, boasts the headquarters of the liquor giant “R. Jelinek” established in 1894. The plant spurts out 100 proof plum brandy into the whole world. The liquor is known for being able to “knock out everything that’s bad in you.” That covers bacteria, bad thoughts, habits, flu and earaches.

One moment at the ranch really stands out in my memory. As we were cleaning the house, we found 20-year old canned pork steaks that the owners Bohacovi left. The pork had beautiful pink color. I remember my mouth watering.

On Sunday, I opened the jars, sniffed and tasted the meat. Perfect. I made the best breaded steaks in my life. We all ate them and waited into the night for a sickness that never came.

A true CzechAmerican treat Budweiser in a kriegel.
A true CzechAmerican treat Budweiser in a kriegel.

There were countless episodes of searching for grandpa who loved to wander off into the local watering holes. His best excuse was that he was going to get some beverages and groceries so we can make lunch and dinner.

That Saturday in the heat of the summer, there was not a drop of water to drink on the dried out premises.

“Where is grandpa,” asked Ludek working on the bathroom. “I don’t have anything to drink.”

I was hand washing the universal cotton cloth diapers and Emma’s baby clothes in a bucket in the front yard, while grandma Anna was resting on a wooden bench. Grandma suffered from Parkinson’s disease. She spent most of the day laying on the bench that grandpa made for her. Baby Emma was sleeping in her carry-on.

“That beastie, I bet he’s at the hotel,” said grandma with a sigh.

blog Brno harvest kolache 025
Socialist successes- apartment mega complexes that surround Brno.

She was referring to the local hotel with a restaurant known as the “People’s House” with the following inscription, “Equality, freedom, fraternity.”

I always wondered why the hotel had in its coat of arms the slogan of the French revolution. No one could answer my question.

“Ludek can you please go to the hotel and get grandpa to come home?” grandma requested.

“Okay, I’ll be right back,” Ludek hurried away hiding his ulterior motives.

As my stomach growled, I had a strange feeling that afternoon.

Grandma dozed off and I headed to the kitchen to figure out what we’re going to eat. There was some salami and old “rohliky” or Czech croissants, already chewy like a gum.

“Okay, we’re just going to have to wing it this time,” I thought to myself as I made some chewy sandwiches.

Minutes changed into hours and the sun started its path down the horizon.

“Emma, you’re going to have to go and get them,” grandma said struggling with the sandwich. “I’ll watch Emma.”

It wasn’t the first time or the last time that I had to drag out of the hotel the twosome.

I found both of them in great joy downing their 10th beer “kriegel” along with shots of brandy.

“Grandma says you gotta come home,” I begged. “We’re hungry and thirsty.”

“Come and have one with us and then we’ll go home,” grandpa laughed.

“You promise?” I downed the “kriegel” filled with Brod beer from nearby Uhersky Brod.

That was the best case scenario when they would finally agree to go back to the ranch as the dusk set in.

And I write about all this and much more in the memoir. I want to finish the memoir this year.

Part II If I could turn back time……Living in Canada coming next week.

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

Entrepreneurial Encounters

Entrepreneurial encounters will take us to the stars

By Emma Palova

I am starting a new screenwriting blog with focus on a screenplay that I have written in  2008-2009 when my husband Ludek was working in Wisconsin.

I was still writing for the Lowell Ledger stories about window donations, charities and non-profits right before Christmas. I purchased Final Draft Scriptwriter’s Suite, and tested the program on a short one-act play “Santa on the Showboat.”

Every day after work, I  sat behind a PC computer, after working on a Mac at the office, and started spitting out words.

“You’re bilingual,” said former Lowell Light & Power manager Tom referring to my two computers at work, side by side. But, I am also fully bilingual in English and Czech.

I wrote a screenplay “Riddleyville Clowns” in three months, and I registered it with Writer’s Guild of America, West WGAW. I have the certificate framed and displayed.

Western Guild of America, West screenplay certificate for Riddleyville Clowns
Western Guild of America, West screenplay certificate for Riddleyville Clowns

“That in itself is a feat,” local businesswoman complimented me.

I consider myself and my friends as keen entrepreneurs. During my recent visit to Europe, I encountered many of them. One entrepreneur Ales Kobylik owns an information firm TechnoDat in Zlin, another one owns York Café in Vizovice.

“That’s named after the owner of the building Eda York,” said Petr Surovec, owner of the York Café.

Some 20 years ago, I gave advise to my cousin cartoonist Olin Pink to start a graphic firm. He learned the design program and established the successful Grafik firm located in Stipa.

Most recently, I told my sister-in-law Jarmila to start a baking business CJ Aunt Jarmilka’s Cukrovi. I designed her blog. She is a successful baker who also lives in Stipa.

When the Parnell store was for sale, I was ready to buy it, but somebody beat me to it. Last year, I started writing my memoir “Greenwich Meridian where East meets West.” I designed the blog EW Emma’s Writings on WordPress to support its publication.

Now, I am caught in a web of words, SEO and SEM, content writing, grouping and regrouping of words. One of the most wanted skills on Elance and Indeed is knowledge of WordPress which took me in turn to programming and coding.

Where will the Internet take us?

Abound in Czech Republic II

Dijon, FR. Oct. 3

 This is the sixth installment in my adventure travel series from France, Czech Republic, Spain and Switzerland. I started my trip on Sept. 3 out of Lansing, Michigan to explore new and old cultures in support of writing and publication of my memoir “Greenwich Meridian.”

I ventured into the past into Czech homeland to recapture the events that have had impact on our family immigration saga now spanning three generations.

Vizovice, Czech Republic, Sept. 22

When I found myself in front of gated entrance no. 111 Krnovska in Vizovice on a chilly Tuesday morning, my heart skipped a beat. I could hardly recognize the white washed elegant country house on top of a hill with beautiful gabled roof, new windows and flower boxes.

The only remnants of the dilapidated summer dwelling that belonged to my grandparents Anna and Joseph Drabek was the rusty well pump at the bottom of the hill. I could still identify where grandpa put the illegal drainage under the plum trees. The plum trees were long gone but I could still hear him swearing at the sewing machines that he couldn’t repair, and in a distance I heard the lonely tunes of a coronet trumpet.

I sold the house to a local resident with a good reputation, which always counted back in the homeland. I had to sell all my belongings so I could leave former Czechoslovakia forever in1989 to join my husband and parents in USA.

I spent a big part of my life in this house that my grandpa nicknamed  as “ranch,” a name that stuck forever. Every weekend, we arrived on a bus with our infant daughter Emma in a carry-on bag to get a reprieve from the captive living in the apartment mega complex Southern Slopes.

Krnovska, Vizovice where the street was the playground.
Krnovska, Vizovice where the street was the playground.

It was a true ranch, where work and pleasure played equal role. I remember washing cloth diapers outside in the courtyard, a fancy name for a concrete slab with a drain, overgrown by grass.

This is also where I had my very first garden tucked in between the neighbor’s crumbling wall, the plum trees and the grassy two-track driveway.

“Emma, our cabbage looks like it’s been through war,” my grandpa yelled as he examined the perforated purple and yellow heads. “We’ll make sauerkraut and chalamada anyways.”

It was here at the ranch, that I learned how to cook thanks to grandma Anna. Ailing grandma was in charge of all the meal preparations as she directed the show from her Lazarus’ bed, which was the wooden bench on the porch.

A trip to town only a few minutes away was part of the daily routine. Actually, it was more like several trips to pick up different things that arrived at different times of the day, or at different days of the week.

When I think about it today, I would have probably designed an application to make this paramount vital task easier. You had to go early in the morning to buy fresh bakery products like “rohliky” or Czech croissants, but not bread. Fresh bread was only ready after 2 p.m. at the local grocery. Meat and produce where only available on Tuesdays and Thursdays after 2 p.m. Lager beer from Prerov came in on Wednesdays.

Main Square Vizovice with Marian Column.
Main Square Vizovice with Marian Column.

In Vizovice, I learned how and when to buy the right meat, which still remains a true art in Czech homeland.  Literally, you never knew what you were going to get. Rule no. one was to come early and stand patiently in the line. That too later paid off in my journalistic career.

“Did you know that Mary has been cheating on him?” whispered one broad to another standing in the line in front of me. Both had standard apron dresses on, that are still sold at the textile shops.

“No,” the other broad, wearing a dark blue apron dress, pretended she knew nothing. That way she could find out more.

If you were up front in the line, you could get a good cut. Once I proudly brought in a big piece of meat.

“That pig gave you some carcass instead of chuck,” grandma turned her head upset at the butcher.

As I stood humbled on the Main Square in Vizovice by the Marian column, I could no longer find the old buffet shop that sold the best desserts in town, the coveted Prerov Lager, sweet and sour herrings and Walachian salad.

Creme breeze roll with cappuccino at Tony's. Some things just stay sweet forever.
Creme breeze roll with cappuccino at Tony’s. Some things just stay sweet forever.

The People’s House pub and lodge has been converted into the Vizovice City Hall. It still bears the inscription “ Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood.” All the little specialty shops including dairy with great ice cream Eskimo, bakery and the dreaded meat market have been integrated into a super grocery. The funeral parlor, where I had to check for grandma on most recent deaths, was gone too.

But several venues from the past did stay intact; some repaired, some left in their desolate state. I walked into the old gift shop, “U Kaluzu” where I used to buy gifts for my mother’s birthday. It still smelled of nostalgia. It now sells stationery, and the gifts it sold, were on display in the window as antiques.

“Prejete si prosim?” the woman behind the counter asked me, “How can I help you?”

But, there were also great new finds for me in town like “Tony’s” or U Tonka patisserie and Inn right on Main Square.

I stopped there to have a cappuccino and a true Czech dessert, a great cake roll, now called “Crème breeze.” It all cost 54 Czech crowns, since the Czechs still have not converted to Euro currency. In the eyes of a resident of the European Union, it would have been a cheap buy.

I paused in front of the old elementary school where I started first grade before leaving with my parents for Africa. It is now  an arts school.

Chateau Vizovice.
Chateau Vizovice.

The town is well known for its Chateau (Zamek) Vizovice that hosts concert series, and serves as a venue for weddings.  The chateau is surrounded by a beautiful park and fables about fraudulent owners like the fake Count Casperi.

I left the town with a warm feeling in my heart that everything continues to flow and change for the better, while the past has been preserved.

 

To be continued……University city Brno,Czech Republic where it all started

Emma Palova © 2013 story and photos by Emma Palova

 

Mom’s birthday

Mom’s birthday marks end of summer

My memoir “Greenwich Meridian” is dedicated to my mother Ella Konecny of Big Rapids, Michigan. Out of the entire immigration saga now spanning three generations, she was the one who suffered the most.

“Immigration is a lot of give and take,” she said in an interview in Venice, Florida in March.

Today as she celebrates her birthday, I recall the summer birthdays of the past in former Czechoslovakia.

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

After returning from Texas on presidential amnesty in 1973, we spent most of our summers at grandparents’ old house in Vizovice, region of Moravia in former Czechoslovakia. The old dwelling was called a “chalupa,” which has nothing to do with the Mexican food.

“I wanted to go home to help my parents,” mom said in a recent interview in Venice, Florida.

Mom was working at the pharmacy in then regional capital Gottwaldov, while we were living the country life on the streets of Vizovice. At first I wasn’t too happy about leaving behind the American lifestyle.

Back in Hawkins, we had a car, dad’s university apartment, and a coke machine at the Junior High School. I was not only on the honor roll, but also on the basketball and softball teams. I played the flute at the time, later the clarinet. I had dreams bigger than this world.

Coming home to Czechoslovakia was a shock. I couldn’t name the months of the year in Czech, I didn’t know Russian or geometry. So, mom entered me in seventh grade instead of eighth at the local 1st through 9th grade school in Stipa.

The school in comparison to USA was very strict and a lot more difficult. I thought the teachers were mean. My aunt and classroom teacher Martha had to tutor me.

But, I loved the summer breaks at the “chalupa” in Vizovice. By the time August rolled around, I was tanned and hardened by the streets. We spent all our time on street Krnovska in Vizovice playing whatever and with who ever was available.

Moravian dwelling called "chalupa."
Moravian dwelling called “chalupa.”

I started a street club with friend Zdena who was the treasurer. I remember exploring along the banks of the river Lutoninka. The river had a weir, and for many years we swam in its cold waters. My grandpa Joseph poached on the river catching fish with his bare hands.

Every year when August 23rd approached, grandma Anna gave me a 20-crown bill, usually late in the afternoon.

“Go and buy a gift for your mother,” she said. “It’s her birthday.”

I grabbed the money and proudly marched into town passed the tobacco/jewelry shop close to the grade school. I’ve always loved window shopping. In awe, I admired the crystal glasses and other famous Czech crystal and garnets.

Sometimes, I would just walk into the shop and buy a newspaper and linger around so I could smell the tobacco. Therein are the origins of my love for newspapers.

When I finally made it across the bridge to the general store called “U Kaluzu” ( “By the puddle,” ) I was fascinated by all the merchandise.

The store pitched atop the river bank had everything.

Many decades later, I was surprised to find a small organizer sewing basket at my parents’ condo in Venice.

“Mom you still have this?” I asked. “I got this for you ages ago in Vizovice.”

“I know,” she said. “And I kept it.”

Happy birthday, mom.

Copyright © 2013 story and photos by Emma Palova

PlumFest in Vizovice aka Trnkobrani

PlumFest in Vizovice, Czech Republic features contest in eating plum dumplings

Every year at the end of August, my mom’s native town of Vizovice in Czech Republic celebrates a big plum extravaganza that lasts three days. The annual PlumFest traditionally attracted thousands of people because of its free-spirited nature.

We stayed at my grandparents’ summer house at Krnovska 111. My grandpa Joseph called the old house a ranch, which was a stretch of imagination but it stuck.

Classic plum brandy known as slivovice.
Classic plum brandy known as slivovice.

I always invited a lot of friends for the festival from the secondary school in Zlin. So, the three days were a big party inside and outside all over the town. We picked up those who didn’t know where ranch was at the local train station.

Grandpa always looked forward to the PlumFest as much as we did, because he liked to party with us. I only remember him once really getting angry at us, and that was when someone on a Saturday night locked us up and threw the key to the ranch inside a rubber shoe. The next morning that person didn’t remember a thing, and just jumped out the window to catch the first bus.

The rest of us didn’t know where the key was, so we couldn’t let grandpa in. Grandpa thought we just didn’t want to let him inside his own home.

“Let me in you hooligans,” he pounded on the door.

Other than that incident, everything always went smooth. The program usually consisted of different bands including at the time famous band Olympic in the evening.

The town is also home to well-known comedian and mime Borek Polivka, and he quite often made a cameo appearance.

But, mainly Vizovice is known for the famous liquor company Jelinek that makes plum brandy. Plum brandy is exported around the world, and can be easily recognized by the plums on the vignette. Plum brandy also called slivovice was presented as a gift at the Heritage Mass at St. Cyril’s last week at the Czech Harvest Festival in Bannister, Michigan.

Contest in eating plum dumplings in Vizovice.
Contest in eating plum dumplings in Vizovice.

The major event on Sundays was the plum dumpling eating contest. Brave men sat at a long table on the stage. Assistants brought out plates with batches of 20 dumplings at a time. The rest of us cheered them and encouraged them to eat more.

One champion ate 60 plum dumplings, and then received a certificate and a paid  hot dog at the local establishment. I never found out if he ate the hot dog. He could hardly stand up from the table.

The tradition of the PlumFest continues to this day. It takes place at the Jelinek liquor company, and it has been shortened to two days. So, if you want to test your eating capabilities, the contest in plum dumpling eating is this year on Saturday, Aug. 24 at 1 p.m. on Starobrno Stage.

For more information on the  PlumFest go to: www.vizovicketrnkobrani.cz

Note: I published a recipe for cream cheese fruit dumplings on my facebook. I will also put it on my author’s page. Even though they’re sweet, they are not considered to be a dessert.

 

Copyright © story and photo by Emma Palova

 

 

Love in May

May immortalized by Czech poet and writers

May in Czech is known as the month of love immortalized by poet Karel Hynek Macha and other writers. In May lovers can be found in parks after the long winter. Also May dances are held in many villages. They’re known as Majales and tall Maypoles are erected and decorated with ribbons. These traditions are now coming back after they were suppressed under communism. Also May prayers called Majove are held outdoors when it is nice by simple chapels.

A castle park in Vizovice where a big part of my book takes place.
A castle park in Vizovice where a big part of my book takes place.

Typical flowers for May are lilacs. Some have grown into trees and have been cross bred into different colors. So you can find a blossoming lilac tree in lavender, burgundy and white. The style of many parks was based on English gardens with strict design and hedges such as the one in the picture Vizovice. A lot of my book takes place in this small town of not even 5,000 people in the Moravian region. I went to first grade there, and spend many years growing up in Vizovice, and then taking care of my grandparents.

There are a lot of legends tied to the park and the castle. In the upper part right by the castle, there are two huge statues of ancient fighters with swords. The legend has it that each year, they grow closer together. Then when they finally meet, that will be the end of the world.

Czechs like tales, legends and stories. I don’t know who came up with the one about the statues.