Celebration of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Michel Sokol unit

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The last hurrah (poslední hurá)

The region that witnessed the establishment of the first Sokol unit (and probably of any Czech or Slovak organization in Canada) is a region of magic names:  Rocky Mountains, Crow’s Nest Pass, Turtle Mountain, Elk river, Porcupine Hills, Deception Mountain, Coal Creek… A region where in the autumn dark green spruces and birches (at least I think it’s birches) dressed in gold march up the mountains’ hillsides, where at night a fairy tale  moon shines through the veils of vapor, drawing close to the mountain peaks and when – at daytime – the sun is hidden behind the clouds, the mountains which charmed at night, look down at you threateningly and with utter contempt. Continue reading

63. Czechoslovak (Czech and Slovak) day at Masaryktown

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Author: Josef Čermák (CzechFolks.com PLUS)

Weather and the opening ceremonies
The Czechoslovak (and later Czech and Slovak) Days used to be held on Sunday and the weather (if my recollection is correct) behaved as it should. Switching the date of our important day to Saturday apparently displeased the gods of weather and they started to spray us. This year wasn’t an exception, even though – although the sky over Masaryktown was full of playful clouds – it didn’t rain there. It rained though all around and that certainly affected the afternoon crowd. Continue reading

The saga of the “Prague” deli on the Toronto’s “Queen Street” (Sága “Pražského” uzenářství na “Královnině ulici” v Torontu

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Author: Josef Čermák (CzechFolks.com PLUS)

It all started long time ago. Next year, it will be 60 years. In 1952 Jaroslav Roušal opened in a building municipally known as 638 Queen Street West in Toronto “J. Rousal Prague Ham Shop”. It was the first establishment in Toronto making Prague ham and sausages. The Roušal family continued in this business until 1968 (I stopped there occasionally for sausages or other goodies, but because it happened long time ago and my memory isn’t all that good anymore, I don’t remember too much about the Rousal years, and will move directly to the Pichlik family dynasty). That year (1968, when in Prague and actually all across the land, Prague Spring filled the streets with a new hope – and then came the tanks from the east), in the fall, the Prague Ham Shop was bought by the Pichlik family.  Continue reading

From Generation to Generation – Agnes Tomašovová

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Author: Josef Čermák

Towards the end of last October, I attended in the North York Centre for the Arts – at the invitation of my friend, Ladislav P. Kozak, the pastor of the Slovak Lutheran Evangelical Church in Toronto, who seems to have friends everywhere – a festive occasion: the inauguration of this year’s “Holocaust Education Week”. There must have been at least one thousand of us, the majority, of course, Jewish. We listened to an outstanding musical program and good speeches, but the evening belonged to seven remarkable people, who witnessed the horrors of the Nazi regime and bore witness of it. The evening was organized by the Azrieli Foundation established in 2005 to collect, preserve and share the memoirs and diaries written by those who survived Nazism and found a new home in Canada, and share their testimony with the largest possible number of people (the books written by the survivors are distributed free of charge to libraries, educational institutions and Holocaust-education programs across Canada and given to everyone who participates in the Foundation’s activities. Continue reading

Alice Herz Sommer: Thanks to music I am still alive today…

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Author: Martina Roe

A few days ago I set off with my son to visit Alice Herz Sommer in her very cosy and modest flat in Belsize Park in North London and made an exclusive interview with her for readers of CzechFolks.com Plus. It was a few days before her 107th birthday.

Alice is currently the oldest Holocaust survivor and the second oldest Czech woman. Despite her age she welcomes several visitors each day into her flat who come to share her memories and life experiences. During my 40-minute stay she welcomed three more visitors from a young writer, visitor from Prague and another local lady who also survived her stay in a concentration camp. Till present day, Alice plays the piano for three hours a day and her flatmates say that living in the same block of flats as Alice means that they can listen to lovely piano recitals each day for free. Even passersby stop by Alice’s window and listen to her playing beautiful music. Alice loves to play Smetana and Dvořák, but her favourite is Beethoven. Alice assigns her longevity to optimism. Continue reading

A Story About the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square (Příběh Pražského orloje)

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If you would like to see a real historical object in Prague, surrounded by mysterious stories and a long history, you would find such a structure on the side wall of the Old Town Hall. Can you guess which one? If you guessed the Prague Astronomical Clock, you were absolutely right. This clock was built in 1410, by Mikulas of Kadan, and recently celebrated its 600th anniversary.

Mikulas of Kadan was not the only person behind this historical clock tower. He collaborated with Jan Ondrejuv, who was a mathematician and astrologist. The clock was then rebuilt by the master Hanus, who was permanently blinded so he could not recreate such a masterpiece anywhere else in the world. Master Hanus, however, damaged the clock and cursed it against those, who would try to repair it again. The clock became silent for more than fifty years. Continue reading

The Painted Churches of Texas: Echoes of the Homeland (Malované kostely v Texasu: Ozvěny vlasti)

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Praha church

Praha church

Watch this interesting video by KLRU television, a public TV station in Texas that did a story of churches built by 19th century Czech immigrants to this rough but promising territory. These churches transport the visitor back to a different era, a different way of life. The story of these buildings is the story of a people striving to succeed in a new country and still preserve the values and culture of their homelands.
The video, by Tom Spencer, also describes how today’s Czech generations preserve their culture and are proud of their ancestors, heritage and faith. It is almost one hour long but it is worth of watching.

More information about the video can be found HERE.


Sledujte toto zajímavé video připravené stanicí KLRU, veřejnou televizní stanicí v Texasu, o kostelech postavených v 19. století českýmí přistěhovalci v tomto drsném, ale slibném území. Tyto kostely povedou diváky zpět do jiné éry, jiného způsobu života. Příběhy těchto budov jsou příběh lidí snažích se uspět v nové zemi a přesto si zachovat hodnoty a kulturu jejich domoviny.
Video, od Toma Spencera, také popisuje, jak si dnešní české generace zachovávají jejich kulturu a jsou hrdí na své předky, kulturní dědictví a víru. Video je téměř jednu hodinu dlouhá, ale stojí za sledování.




Email interview: Jan Kavalír interviews Josef Čermák (E-mailový rozhovor: Jan Kavalír zpovídá Josefa Čermáka)

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Author: Josef Cermak (CzechFolks.com PLUS)


Q.: When did you emigrate to Canada and why? Was it entirely for political reasons? And why Canada?

A. I left Czechoslovakia (on my knees, secretly, “over the hillocks”) with my blacksmith friend Lada Dufek on October 28, 1949 (we were selfishly counting on the police raging in Prague). ‘Our’ ship, ‘U.S.A.T. Le Roy Eltinge’ arrived in Canada (in Halifax) on April 23, 1949. That ship wasn’t completely ‘ours’ but we Czechoslovaks formed a formidable group: 113 people. Continue reading

Mladen Vranic, a Canadian scientist of Croatian background with Czechoslovak connections (Mladen Vranic, chorvatský vědec v československém kontextu)

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Mladen VranicAuthor: Josef Cermak (CzechFolks.com PLUS)

This remarkable story really began in 1921, when guided by J. J. R. MacLeod, Frederick G. Banting and Charles H. Best isolated from the pancreas the hormone later called insulin and discovered its use in treatment of diabetes. Collip, a visiting Canadian professor, purified insulin so that it could be given to diabetic patients. For this discovery Banting shared with MacLeod the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. Banting died in 1941 in a plane crash while on route to England on a medical war mission. That year Best, who at that time served as associate director of the Connaught Laboratories (where a few years later – and this constitutes the first, very indirect connection suggested in the title of this article – Mikuska Perinova worked as a technician on the development of the Salk polio vaccine) was appointed director of the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research at the University of Toronto. There was depression in various members of the family and his omission in awarding the Nobel Prize may have later contributed to his severe depressions. Continue reading

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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Czechoslovakia: The State that Failed (Československo, stát, který zklamal)

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Czechoslovakia: The State That FailedAuthor: Josef Cermak (CzechFolks.com PLUS)

The author of the book “Czechoslovakia: The State That Failed”, Mary Heinmann, is an American historian teaching at the Strathclyde University in Scotland. Her book was published by the Yale University Press.

According to the review (an example of how reviews should be written) in the Economist (Nov.21, 2009), Ms Heinmann sees the former Czechoslovakia as a political entity which was born out of trickery and died in failure; as an artificial creature, essentially a fraud, and the wily duo responsible for the fraud, Tomas Masaryk and Edward Benes, who duped the victorious Western allies into creation of a new country, which ignored the interests of all ethnic groups (particularly the Germans) except Czechs and Slovaks; its treatment of the Sudeten Germans in the first republic as the ultimate cause of the first Czechoslovak republic’s downfall and (together with reparations imposed on Germany) in large part responsible for the Second World War; following the Munich agreement, it engaged in anti-Semitism, which – in her view – was simply continuation of existing tendencies; and the work of Edward Benes and Jan Masaryk during the Second World War she sees as a story of Czech guile and Western gullibility, while describing the three postwar years before the communist seizure of power as a horrible period of racial revenge, rape, robbery and deportation inflicted on guilty and blameless Germans alike. And the Prague Spring was simply a by-product of a factional fight in the Communist Party. Continue reading