Concert in Memory of Patriška ze Slaného

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Author: Josef Čermák

The concert on Sunday, November 28, 2010, one in the series of Dr. Miloš Krajný’s Nocturnes, was sponsored by the estate and family of Patriška ze Slaného, Vlasty Scheybalová, born Provazníková. Both CzechFolks and the Toronto Satellite published articles about Vlasta a few months ago.

Today, just a few dates: Vlasta was born in 1928 in Slaný and she died there in 2009. For a number of years, she lived with her husband Frantisek and son of the same name in Toronto. Today, all of them sleep in their family grave in a charming little cemetery in Bolton, Ontario. A fate – at least seemingly – not dissimilar to the fate of many Czech and Slovak families. Except that the fate of the Scheybal family was written more tragically. And also, because Vlasta left behind an unusually deep footprint.

She wrote a lovely book (she confined to her friend, Milena Zofka, that the book was the best thing she ever did) of childhood memories, Patriška from Slaný or Even the Evil Sometimes Takes a Nap (the book was published by Atelier IM Publishing House in Luhačovice, which also recently published Jan Waldauf’s monumental Sokol chronicle under the unjustifiably modest title, (Sokol, a small history of a great idea). During her stay in Toronto, Vlasta established at the Robarts Library, University of Toronto, a library in the name of her son, Frank Joseph Sheybal, collecting books about Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, published anywhere, which already has over 20,000 volumes. (Several librarians from the Robarts Library, including the Chief Librarian, Carole Moore, attended the concert).

In her Last Will (amended by a number of testamentary documents), as interpreted in the Minutes of Settlement, prepared by a law firm specializing in this field of law, Vlasta Scheybalová left, in addition to a number of smaller legacies (including the Masaryk Memorial Institute and the St. Wenceslaus Church), significant amounts of money to the following institutions and organizations: Appleby College Foundation; St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church; the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario; the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario; Covenant House; the Canadian National Institute for the Blind; Southlake Regional Health Centre Newmarket; Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation; the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation; Holy Family Roman Catholic Church, Bolton, Ontario; Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bolton, Ontario; Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre, Niagara Falls, Ontario; Ontario Nature; Plan Canada; Missionaires of Charity; World Wildlife Fund Canada; Robarts Library (the legacy to be used for the” Frank J. Scheybal Czech Collection”). The Minutes of Settlement must be approved not only by the beneficiaries, but by the Court as well.
A visible footprint indeed! The woman leaving all this that almost died in her childhood. We already published her description of that incident. But it is such a charming episode that it deserves repeating: ‘I didn’t give up’, I whisper to myself. Neither than, nor now. A good godmother always said it right: ‘you were born a very happy girl’… Soon, I will be back with all the people I love. I will again pet the little animals, smell the flowers, run in the woods and breathe the resin. I will go again to exercise at Sokol, study at school and skate better and better. I can look forward to much beauty, studying and joy… but first, I need a good sleep.”

The concert didn’t start well. And it was my fault. On November 28, I was supposed to be standing before the church door, starting at 4:39 PM (I was responsible for more than 30 tickets) and I didn’t manage to get there until a few minutes to five. My reasons: An old man’s dilatoriness and the disconsolate condition of the Toronto transit system. The masses before the church waiting for the tickets were ready to lynch me. Fortunately, they abandoned their noble intention. My apologies to all. The concert, featuring the distinguished Czech pianist, Boris Krajny, and organist Dagmar Kopecky, who years ago harvested applause at the Prague Spring, was introduced by Dr. Milos Krajny and reading – by Josífka Ticha – of a biographical sketch of Vlasta Scheybal. Boris Krajny, perhaps best known for his interpretation of works by Mozart and Chopin, then played Johann Sebastian Bach’s Lieber Jesu, wir sind hier. Dagmar Kopecka, who was limited in the choice of compositions by the organ’s capacity (which did not stop her from rendering a superlative performance of the works she selected), chose Gabriel Pierne’s Cantilene and Prelude. Boris Krajny concluded the first part of the program by playing a selection of Vlasta’s favourite classical tunes, which – judging by the applause of the audience – were also favorite tunes of the majority of them. As for me, it was (as almost always is) the playfully sad Humoresque, that captured my heart. In the second half, Boris Krajny played six compositions by four composers: Beethoven’s Sonata in c minor, op.13, Patetique (I don’t think I ever heard it played better); Chopin’s Balade in A flat major, op. 47, and Polonaise in A major, op.53; Smetana’s Polka in A minor, and Polka in F major; and Slavicky’s Toccata. Krajny, obviously, mastered them all. This concert was to me – similarly as last year’s Krajny’s concerti with trumpetist Slovacek – interesting for another reason: unusual pairing of instruments: this year, piano and organ. It was a concert – and the response of the audience confirmed it, – which most of us will long remember. And we may also remember it because an echo of the tragic – but also victorious – life of the Scheybal family seemed to have lingered in the atmosphere…

The proceedings of the evening were filmed by the Toronto television group of Marketa Slepcikova (with the cameraman Igor Resovsky), which the following day also filmed – at the Robarts Library – an interview with the Chief Librarian, books in the Frank J, Scheybal Library, and some fascinating pictures in the Frank J. Scheybal Seminar room, including Frank’s and a picture of Vlasta Scheybal with president Vaclav Klaus and president of the University of Toronto, Rob Pritchard.

Patriska from Slany travelled far from her home. And she have not get lost.


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One thought on “Concert in Memory of Patriška ze Slaného

  1. She is my grand-uncle’s wife that I have heard of over the decades as I lived through the 70’s and 80’s back in the Czechoslovakia. Her sister-in-law and that is my grandmother still lives in Plzen at the honorable age of 91. I’ve met Vlasta once, and I even have two photos where I’m somewhat unwillingly posing with Vlasta’s son Frank Joseph and the rest of the gang. They were then visiting my grand-grandmother Marie. It is a strange feeling to read after all these years how great impact and fortune they’ve made over in Toronto.

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