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 me.to 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."