Josef Čermák: Four Encounters with H. Gordon Skilling

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(This article was sent to the organizer of the conference, Professor Vilem Prečan. This is his response: „Many thanks for your excellent contribution. It will be posted on the conference website and distributed in written form to all conference participants.”)

I don’t recall when I met Gordon for the first time. Actually, I feel that I sort of knew him always.

68Publishers

It must have been around the time Zdena and Josef Škvorecky arrived in Canada, because I remember how deeply Gordon was involved in the establishment of 68Publishers (Sixty-Eight Publishers), the institution which started with nothing and was to play such an immense role in the survival of the Czech literature during the 40 years of the Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. My main involvement was as a lawyer doing the legal work in connection with the incorporation of the charitable corporation which received its charter in 1972 and during its existence published more than 220 titles, after the manuscripts of many of them were smuggled from Czechoslovakia. Continue reading

A Handful of Words for Josef Škvorecký (Hrst slov na rozloučenou s Josefem Škvoreckým)

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The house Zdena and Josef Škvorecký for quite a number of years called their home (and Zdena still does), is located in one of the nicest Toronto residential areas: an area of well-preserved middle-age residences with well-tended gardens and here and there a magnificent old oak (or maple) tree. Škvorecky’s is a truly historical house. Not only because it was a pilgrimage stop for journalists and prominent visitors from the Czech Republic (in February, 1990 – when their native land was still called Czechoslovakia – it witnessed a reception following president Havel’s appearance at the Convocation Hall of the University of Toronto, where he delivered an important speech to several thousands of his countrymen and received an honorary doctorate from the York University); but mainly because it was the editorial and publishing centre of 68 publishers, the most important exile publishing house. It is the house, where the last several years of his life he was cared for by Zdena, and from which he was taken to the hospital, where he died, after just a few days, in the morning hours of January 2, 2012.

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Alena Martinu Enters English Literature (Literární úspěch Aleny Martinů v angličtině)

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Montreal’s Alena and Ludvik Martinu are not just any married couple. Some time ago, we published a piece about Ludvik, a brilliant academician with practical bearings, who is – among other things – presently involved in developing an international research centre at the Mc Gill University. Now Alena, the editor-in-chief of Montreal’s publication Vestnik has decided to show that she, too, received talents from the Fates uncommon. Why did she decide to do so at this particular time?  One of the reasons is quite prosaic: the drawers in her study were overflowing with her manuscripts which she had started to produce many years ago and something had to be done. Why not simply publish some of the manuscripts? And once she decided to publish, Alena, who was born in Czechoslovakia and speaks several languages, chose English as the language of her first published work.

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The Unforgettable Vecernicek Is Not Going Away Anytime Soon (Nezapomenutelný Večerníček ještě nepůjde pryč)

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If you understood the title above, you know we are talking about the short evening children’s series on Czech TV. Vecernicek is the name of a boy (translated: Little Eveninger) that brings short fairytales to  little Czech or Slovak children every evening (“vecer”). During communism, this was a special time for kids, since at that time, the TV program selection was very poor.

Today, Czech and Slovak TV has many shows for children of all ages. Vecernicek is not as popular as it used to be. That is why Czech TV, Ceska Televize, has decided to move this show to their second channel. Continue reading

Bozena Samanek (Božena Šamánková)

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Author: Martina Roe (CzechFolks.com PLUS)

presented herself to Czech readers in Sydney in 1991, where she published her first novel “Útek z domova”, (describing the family’s escape from Czechoslovakia). In her second book “Andělské schody”, published in 1994 she is returning to her childhood and her life of a young woman responsible for a family in the war years. “Perpentuum mobile” is the closing part of a trilogy, and describes the difficult beginnings after arrival in Australia, and the developments in the lives of her family. It was published in 1995 and in the same year she also published her second book of poetry “Jak život šel.” Two years later she published her last book “Opál na dlani” (Opal on the palm), stories of very unusual experiences which happened during her lifetime.

In Prague, in the thirties, she published a small collection of poems. In Australia she wrote a number of short stories in the English language, which were published in the magazine “Fellowship of Australian Writers”. (They were: “Day of Execution”, “London Calling”, “A Thought”.) Continue reading

Marketa Slepčíková: 8 years and 400 programs on Czech Television in Toronto

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Author: Josef Čermák (CzechFolks.com PLUS)

Czech (or Czechoslovak) television in Canada is nothing new: Vladimír Bubak and David Ševčík started broadcasting their programs in Kitchener-Waterloo in 1978, in Ottawa the first broadcast (Arnošt Wagner) took place even earlier (1973), in London the creators of a television program were a husband and wife team, Josef and Ružena Mára. Perhaps the most significant was the TV program in Toronto, a child of Milo Kubik (I was his happy assistant). But of course none of those programs could match in scope the Nová vize of Marketa Slepčíková-Rešovská.

Whenever I talk to Marketa, it hits me how much the world has changed during the 87 years of my earthly visit. Imagine (for example) a business street in a city of almost any size 87 years ago, a street where women used to come to shop. Prams everywhere. Continue reading

He belongs to people who know what they want

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Author: Martina Roe - Václav Židek (CzechFolks.com PLUS)

“Let live our Czech Republic!”       
We all call from our lungs.  
We respect and love Masaryk
But we do not do anything ourselves!

(Karel Hasler 1919) 

Thomas Hasler was born in Prague in 1941, a month before his father was murdered at the Mauthausen concentration camp by the Nazis. He left Czechoslovakia with his mother in 1949, a year after the Communists came to power, and grew up in Australia. He spent his childhood until the age of 16 years in Australia.  He moved with his mother to the U.S. in 1958.  He now lives in Baltimore. He  earned a B.A. from Hobart College and an M.A. from the University of MichiganContinue reading

First San Diego Czech-Moravian-Slovak Festival Tomorrow (První česko-moravsko-slovenský festival již zítra)

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Czech and Slovak women from San DiegoTomorrow is a special day for San Diego Czechs and Slovaks. It will be the first time for all of them to learn and share their heritage at the San Diego Czech-Moravian-Slovak festival. The festival will feature traditional music, art and crafts, but visitors will also be able to come to the Czech and Slovak Mass and taste the food, which is much different from the food available in the local restaurants or grocery stores. 

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A Christmas tree of memories of Vlasta Brankovská (Vánoční stromeček vzpomínek Vlasty Brankovské)

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Author: Josef Čermák (CzechFolks.com PLUS)

I occasionally see her at concerts and community celebrations. A vigorous (she’ll be ninety in July, but no one could guess that), apparently utterly self-confident, self-sufficient, practically invulnerable, woman. The only thing I knew about her was that she taught children (and adults) to play tennis, and that she had a son, who worked in real estate and also played tennis. On the first day of the year 2011, I was watching on the Toronto Czech television program, Nová vize (New vision) a re-run of a film. The beautifully tanned producer, Marketa Slepčiková-Rešovská (Marketa has to her credit some 350 television programs, many of which, especially those created in the last two years with cameraman Igor Rešovský, are of outstanding quality), introduced Vlasta Brankovká (that self-confident, self-sufficient woman I occasionally see at concerts), standing beside a Christmas tree.

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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.

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Czech and Slovak Textile Folk Art (Textil v lidové tvorbě)

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Zástěra Milotice u Kyjova, 1880 (Apron from Milotice, near Kyjov, 1880)Author: Antonin Vaclavik (CzechFolks.com PLUS)

(Translated by Helena Kaczérová)

 

There are not many countries and nations in the world today which can still boast, of such rich folk art as that peculiar to Czechoslovakia and its peoples. Its immense wealth, endless variety of form, colors – sometimes bright, sometimes soft – its remarkablemony and fineness of work, have won for the art of the Czech and Slovak people the admiration of all who have met with it.

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