Thursday, June 28, 2007

The First Visit

George, Ann, & I first came in April 1990. We still needed visas, so we were going to Vienna. We stayed at the Schwarzenburg Palace Hotel, having made arrangements through Schwarzenburg's secretary to speak with him, as he has property here & actually was helping Havel. [Now he is the Czech Foreign Affairs Minister.] We got our visas in the morning & met him in the late afternoon. He suggested 3 things which were exactly right - talk with the local people, see the local farm collective - the JZD, and talk to the local Obcansky Forum people, Havel's party. Nothing about trying to see a Prague lawyer, which was what we'd planned. We rented a car and drove to Brezina. Within the first few minutes a man gathering manure for his fruit trees talked with us. "I remember you. You were in fourth grade, I was in second. Everyone here says 'George will come back'." !!! We poked around & then went to Horepnik & talked with two women with a baby. [The younger is our doctor, the older a nurse who helped out with Rina when she was ill.] The next day we returned from our hotel in Tabor to go to church, which was closed with a sign on the door. A woman told us that the priest had gone to Prague to see the Pope. The first visit ever of a Pope to the Czech lands.

So then we went to Pacov to find the Obcansky Forum office. The two women there were just closing up & took us home to one apartment. Over beer & coffee she told us the story of November 18th, and then started to cook lunch. Her husband came home; she met him at the door: "We have three Americans in the living room!!" After lunch the other woman returned. We watched some of the Prague coverage of the Pope, and talked all afternoon. "All of the history books were withdrawn from the schools." [Tigre whom George's family knew in refugee camp wrote new ones.] They were appalled to hear where we were staying - George remembered it from his childhood, but now it was mainly hourly stays by military personnel! We tried a new hotel, but they had no room until the next day. So we went back to our hotel for supper - about 8 pm. Bozenka came flying into the dining room! After we ate she sat & talked with us. George's parents had encouraged friendship with her, because she was the fastest & best reader, by testing. "When it rained I could go in the coach with you to school." [WWII severe gas rationing.] One of the OF women lives next door to Hana, her daughter, & told her. Hana went to Bozenka's apt. "Take out your curlers. My husband will take you to Tabor to see George. You've always said you want to see him again before you die." Bozenka invited us to her apartment for dinner the next day.

In the morning George visited the JZD. They had been expecting him, and were cordial. Later we went to Bozenka's for dinner. She had family there. Her daughter & son-in-law along with one of the OF ladies helped us clean trash from the Zamek when we moved in in August 1991. After another night in Tabor we drove to Prague for a couple nights and then on to Litomirice in Northern Bohemia to see Uncle John [George's father's cousin, whom we had seen in Kent, England when they were visiting a daughters there. Also, Uncle John was one of the very few people who ever wrote to us, he sent presents, too. In the spring of '89 he sent a political joke - you could see things were loosening up here. When we knocked on the door he said "Of course, I know you are George Homolka. But which one??" ..He knew George's father had died, but we threw him for a loop. Aunt Irene came home, and went out again to get us ham & rolls. Uncle John showed George the surrender papers which the German commander had signed at the end of the war. I snapped some photos. As things crumpled for the Germans they'd run around town trying to surrender ahead of the Russians. Uncle John was the leader of the resistance there & they gave the papers to him. Uncle John had kept those papers hidden for 40 years because the Communists wanted to claim the surrender for themselves. I felt he should have some honors & he did the following May.

In another couple days we returned to Vienna for a short time. We had not yet visited any of the Prague or Pilsen relatives.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Summer 2007

Life is different in the summer. I might lie in the hammock for awhile, gazing up at the trees. More visitors come, including family. There's unexpected happenings, adding interest, or a smile and a chuckle. You do things you'd not do in cold weather, such as planning outdoors parties,
and filling the wading pool. [Although, I have known children who swung in the middle of winter.]

One summer we had a lamb on a bottle, who came running when he saw people. It was a major children's attraction at a Fourth of July party. We tried to limit bottles, but still the lamb had many. The next Monday one of the children's mothers remarked, "I bet that lamb didn't eat yesterday"!

Ben, not yet three, firmly believed that when he finally possessed the correct key, he would be able to open big glass doors leading to Platz and farmyard, where he mustn't be alone. He tried many batches of keys; the reason he couldn't open the doors was that he was too short!

He also believed that with the right key he could get into the bedroom where his cousins slept... That door knob is too difficult for small children to turn.

One summer no one here had time to do a party, so I booked one at a nearby sheep farm, where they'd previously done lamb roasts for us. I couldn't believe the consternation amongst those invited. "There? You want us to go there?" "Tell me again how to get there." "No, no, we won't come. If it were at your place, of course we would." In the end we had a great time with the people who decided it was fine to go to OUR party at another farm!

Visiting college-aged cousins made salads. After lettuce and tomatoes were in the bowl, they reconnoiter my herb bed outside the kitchen tower, snipping chives, parsley, oregano, thyme, a different combination each evening. They'd add many more herbs than I would have, but results were always tasty.

A cousin shared a bedroom with her grandmother. The grandmother loved "The Nature", flinging wide window and shutters. Closing the shutters, the younger woman said,"I love nature, too, but I can't sleep with light coming in so early." Grandmother would open them again. They didn't do this all night, but I don't know who won.

I've even played tricks, telling a cousin who asked about a ditch draining from the tomb, that we were building a moat, because "a castle must have a moat". She briefly believed me!

One summer day I looked out the window to see a couple with their son, sitting on a bench, talking with a family member. They were searching for family and ancestors. The next day I telephoned people with the same last name. One older women growled, "We have no foreign relatives", and slammed down the phone! I was a bit scared to try again, but I did; the man who
answered was eagerly welcoming, telling me how to get to his nearly hidden village. At his place I was pleased to view fence slats from our workshop, which he said he'd come to the Zamek to pick up. The man had lived in Munich with brothers; my visitor had spent a year in Germany, so they communicated in German.

The young teen-aged son was amazed that the man and his brothers had had to escape - so I explained about the last regime!

I wonder what interesting things will happen this summer, and who willvisit...