Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The lamb who didn't care to live

We've had problems keeping lambs alive sometimes, but it has usually been one of a pair of twins, which the mother sheep would not acknowledge. Once we gave a good friend two lambs which we had been bottle-feeding. Two sheep who'd had twins each refused one of them, but we finally had managed to force each mother  to nurse her “extra” lamb, briefly. They must have the early milk, the colostrum, which contains antibodies for immunity.

Finally we penned them inside the Zámek where they were given bottles by a young couple visiting here. Eight months after we'd given the friend those lambs I saw them one day. They were alive and well, but strangely grown - much smaller than are normal sheep. This winter two sheep had twins, but this did not bother those experienced mothers. One of each set was smaller than the other at birth, but they did nurse and grow.

The problem baby did not seem to have the slightest idea how to nurse; the mother was a first time mother who also didn't know what to do. However our farm manager knew just what to do and, as is her wont, proceeded to do it. She milked the mother sheep, filled bottles, and took the lamb home with her for the weekend! This astonished us.

 Only today I heard from Lída, the lady who runs the store how she also helped with the milking! This actually went on for more then two weeks. Štepánka, our farm manager, sat the mother sheep on her lap.  The sitting position immobilises the sheep. She held the sheep´s four legs in her hands, while the store keeper milked the sheep into a bottle!

 For about a week she did some of this, gradually transferring the lamb to the mother. We were suitably impressed. The next week she trimmed the sheep's wool around her udder, milked her again, and fed the lamb with the bottle right in the barn next to the mother. Now that lamb is out with the other sheep and lambs. You would never know that there had been any problems with it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Josef Škvorecký books and The Miracle Game

Josef Škvorecký with his wife Zenda Salivarová have a publishing house in Toronto, Sixty-Eight Publishers, which published banned Czech and Slovak books. For this, after the Velvet Revolution Vaclav Havel gave them the Order of the White Lion. Škvorecky, born in northern Bohemia September 24, 1924 died on January 3, 2012 in Toronto, Canada.
I loved his Lieutenant Barovky books. Years ago I read some of them from a library and I know that Czechs love those books too. Today I want to talk about The Miracle Game. This really and truly happened.In a village near us, Číhošt, not in northern Bohemia as is protrayed in the book. There are perhaps two reasons for this. First, Škvorecký was born in Nachod and attended school there. He would have been most familiar with the towns, villages, hills, forests, valleys, much more familiar than with Číhošt. Another very strong reason he might have had would have been to protect the people of this small village from reprisals from the secret police.
The secret police accused Father Josef Toufar of staging a fake miracle in 1949. The miracle was the tipping and swaying of a cross in the church. Today there is still no explanation of why the cross moved. Father Toufar had his back to this cross during Mass. Secret police worked in the church for awhile, hitching up wires under the cross. This did not make the cross move. Then they tortured Fr. Toufer trying to get him to admit he'd faked this. He is buried in the church yard after having been tortured to death in 1950.
Thus began the persecution of the clergy, nuns, and monks. Many were imprisoned; 65 died in prison.or were executed there. The secret police made a movie. First they dressed Toufar and propped him up. He fainted, went into a coma, and died. Then they dressed up a secret police in robes and used wires in the church. This movie was released for all of Czechoslovkia, but it was never shown in towns near Číhošt.
As a side note, Číhošt is at the geographical crossroads of the Czech Republic. Go there and ask someone to show you the exact spot.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

February 2012 - Before we moved here

My husband, George, youngest daughter Ann, and I first came to Czechoslovakia in April 1990. You still had to get visas, so we visited the embassy in Vienna, pointed there by Schwartzenburg's office manager. She also arranged a meeting for us with Schwartzenburg. Over tea and coffee all he told us was pertinent as we explored this country soon afterwards. He suggested we talk with the farm collective, meet people in Obecny Forum, and talk with town and village people. For now, lawyers could not help us much as so many things were still in flux.

The next day we drove to Czechoslovakia. The young border guard greeted us in his best English – “Ciao, Baby” Later, we pulled up at the Zámek and walked through to the farmyard. A man getting manure for his fruit trees said, “I know you. You were in 4th grade when I was in 2nd grade. Everyone here says "Now George will come back.” That is so amazing after more than 40 years.

We spent the night in a Tabor hotel. On Sunday we returned and tried to go to church. The priest had gone to Prague to see the Pope. This was the first ever visit by a pope to this country. Then we went looking for Obecny Forum in another town. Two women there, Lída and Jaruška, were about to close the office. Lída invited us to her apartment, while Jaruška had to go home. Lída talked non-stop when she fixed coffee and started lunch for us. She talked all about the Velvet Revolution. George translated for us. I thought Lída was using the work protože excessively. Why would anyone need to talk about proteges so many times – even though the Velvet Revolution had had so many students in it? Later I found out that protože means because. Then Lída's husband was in the hallway. She went out, calling, “ I have 3 Americans (Amící) in the living room!!” Jaruška came and we talked for the rest of the afternoon.

Back at the Tabor hotel we were in the dining room when someone came flying in, This was Boženka, George's classmate. (1st to 4th grade.). Her daughter Hana got her to take her curlers out after she'd talked with Jaruška who'd told her the news. “And when it rained, George, I could always go to school in the coach with you.” (In WW II fuel was extremely limited.)

The next day George talked with people at the farm collective. That afternoon of course we were invited to Boženka's and her husband Franta's apartment

One of the members of our family had had a dream five years earlier.The view we saw as we drove into the Zámek, had been in the dream – the falling down shack off to the side, the velorex, a cloth-covered three-wheeled vehicle (an auto?), the fallen-down gate. This indicates how importantly Brezina figured in our children's minds long before we could ever come here.

When we visited our brickyard, I picked up two bricks and took them home with Saudi Arabia where we lived then. I had to make a shipment to USA and added these bricks. I wrapped them up for our oldest daughter's birthday. A young friend said “My mother does a lot of crazy things, but she would never have given me bricks for my birthday!" Our daughter said they were very special bricks which she was happy to have. She uses them for doorstops.

Memories of Havel


I would have loved meeting Havel. Many people with connections to us did meet him.
When we visited them, the Baron said to his daughter: "Now, when I introduce you to Havel, you cannot say 'Jak se maš' " !

Several friends, members of women's group, worked in Havel's Hradčany office. They had good things to say about him.

Our daughter Alice worked for the Philadelphia City Council, and in that capacity occasionally volunteered for the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. Havel was coming to the U.S. to receive the Philadelphia Liberty Medal on July 4, 1994. Because of her Czech connection, her great admiration for Havel, and because we already lived here, she was asked to assist in the dinner honoring Havel the evening before. On that evening, she arrived two hours early to make certain that all was in place.

Finally Havel arrived. Alice stepped up to greet him: "Dobre večer. Vitejme vas." But his guards pushed past her, hurrying Havel on into the room. Chamber officials made sure that Alice had an opportunity later in the evening to shake Havel's hand and have a brief word.

The next day, the Fourth of July, we had a party, but I was eagerly anticipating the CNN televising of the ceremony. We told several Czech friends at our party. They were quite skeptical, not believing that Alice had arranged anything or that Havel was getting a medal. It was indeed on television - but very quickly finished. Alice watched the awards ceremony on closed circuit TV with Philadelphia Wilma Theatre owners Jiří & Blanka Žizka, and actor F. Murray Abraham.

In Havel's acceptance speech of the Liberty Medal, he said: "The idea of human rights and freedoms must be an integral part of any meaningful world order. Yet I think it must be anchored in a different place, and in a different way, than has been the case so far. If it is to be more than just a slogan mocked by half the world, it cannot be expressed in the language of departing era, and it must not be mere froth floating on the subsiding waters of faith in a purely scientific relationship to the world."