The “Big Plains” and the Conference About the Czechs
As I have already mentioned in the last double issue of the Czech Dialogue, the BIG PLAINS include the area from the Canadian border with the province Alberta southward through the American Midwest and further all the way to southern Texas. And you find Czechs and their descendants everywhere in this region. As I wrote in my book “Howdy from Texas/Jak se mas”, Czechs are known to form many organizations, publish newspapers, bulletins, produce C.D.’s with Czech songs and organize a lot of meetings and conferences.
I just took part in one such conference organized in Lincoln, Nebraska. About 100 people attended and almost 40 of them presented interesting papers. Professor Mila Saskova- Pierce of the University of Nebraska talked about the present activities of the local club “Komensky” (founded about 100 years ago) which she helped to revive several years ago. Bruce Garver talked about the international context and historical importance of Czech heritage in the local university archives, as well as about Czech and Slovak immigrants and their lives, about WWI , and about political and economic developments in the Czech Republic. ( His extensive excellent article about American Czechs and Slovaks, which recently appeared in the journal “Prairie Fire”, will appear- at least in a shortened form- in the next issue of the Czech Dialogue.)
Professor Layne Pierce acquainted us with the Foundation “Ceska Rec”( Czech Language). Katarina Cermakova talked about her experiences with her students learning Czech. I talked about my experiences with Texas Czechs.
In the Music section we heard from the well-known American bagpipe player Michael Cwach ( who of course talked about bagpipes). Papers were also presented by Joel Blahnik and Anita Smisek( concerning their Alliance Publications , that can be viewed as a musical bridge between the Midwest and the Czech and Slovak lands.) Other papers were presented by Victor Verney(“ From Moravia to Iowa”), and Emil Viklicky( American Jazz in the Czech Republic)
There were two papers about the Taborites and Hussites presented by Victor Verney and Stephen Lahey., who also constructed a visual representation of a Hussite battle.
Michal Klimes, a representative of Czechs from Spilville raised an interesting question, namely: “Why were the 19th century immigrants to Nebraska usually satisfied with a relatively smaller parcel of land as opposed to the requirements of immigrants to other states of the Union? ( If any of our readers would have any idea about the above mystery- for example judging from letters of relatives- please let us know by writing to our editorial office.)
Marketa Rulikova spoke about the most recent immigrants coming from Eastern Europe . We who live in the Czech Republic are very familiar with how the Ukrainian immigrants are being exploited both by the Czechs and by their own countrymen. Ukrainian physicians work in construction, Ukrainian women engineers work as cleaning ladies. The experiences of Czechs, Poles and others coming from post communist countries to the promised land hoping for good incomes appear to be similar.
John Fiala and Eric Newgard talked about the rather large and active Czech community of Wilber. Here it is necessary to protect their traditional brewery business. Milada Polisenska of Prague told us about her experiences with doing research about Czech history in American archives. Daniel E. Miller of Florida gave a report about Antonin Palecek’s book “Intellectual Development of Historians” (Intelektualni vyvoj historiku), and Toni Brendel of Wisconsin talked about Czech and Slovak heritage.
Several guests also contributed their thoughts. They were Frantisek Gal from the Czech Consulate General in Chicago, and Ms Sharon Valasek, the Honorary Consul of Nebraska. We are planning an interview with Ms Valasek.
We cannot name here all the interesting guests and their contributions. We shall, however, come back to their remarks in the future issues of the Czech Dialogue. In closing we would like to report more in detail about the remarks of one guest who arrived from Prague – a former senator and one of the leaders of the Velvet Revolution of 20 years ago- namely Mr. Martin Mejstrik
He talked about the spontaneous revolutionary uprising of students during those exciting days after November 17, 1989 and their subsequent disappointment after turning over their acquired power to the new government which did not at all fulfill their expectations. Therefore another opposing movement took place and the book “The Stolen Revolution” ( Ukradena revoluce) was written. Ten years later another protest came to life, called : “Thank you – But Just Leave” (Dekujeme, odejdete). The goal of this action was to force two politicians – Vaclav Klaus and Milos Zeman- to leave their positions because their activities caused more harm than good. However, by that time those two people plus many other “big shots” were already so well established in their political-economic power that not even a petition with 25 thousand signatures helped to get them out. And how does it look now after 20 years? The politicians are so well interconnected with economic power that they are able to buy anything they want: the police, state representatives, judges, even the so-called watch dogs of democracythe newspapermen.
On a more positive note Mr. Mejstrik reminded us about a new initiative that had already been presented twice in the Senate, and that is also being publicized in the European Union by Ms Jana Hybaskova. It concerns an anticommunist conference on an international level. (We wrote about this in the last issue of our journal.)
And finally my few words about the conference: It took place at the University of Nebraska, in the beautiful city of Lincoln, where you can WALK in the center of town among nice modern houses, along streets lined with trees- an activity which is not possible in most American cities. In the university buildings that are surrounded by a beautiful park you could find everything: refreshments, computers with internet, a bank a post office, library, a store, and people who were willing to advise and help. All of this was organized by Ms Mila Saskova- Pierce and her helpers who even had to take care of a guest who became ill and had to be taken to the hospital.Eva Strizovska
Translated by Marie Dolanska
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