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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Facebook Reunites Czech Mother and Son (Facebook spojil matku a syna)

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There is no denying the influence that Facebook has on the world and how we communicate, but the story that we first came across on Radio Praha really touched our hearts. Ladislava Schroderova didn’t know much about computers just a little over a year ago, but after hearing stories of families being reunited with loved ones on Facebook she set out on a mission to find her long lost son Jiri.

Ladislava was separated from her son in the 1980s when her estranged husband took custody of Jiri and defected to Austria. Continue reading

The End of a Consulate (Konec jednoho konzulátu)

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This year’s month of March did not treat our community overly kindly. The row of friends to whom we said good bye this March is longer than other years. Quite a number of us gathered the last day of the month in Montreal to attend a somewhat different funeral: we lost a consulate. And this was not a run-of-the mill consulate. Which is not to suggest that the Czech Republic (and before that Czechoslovakia) ever had in Canada an unusually high number of consular establishments. But the Montreal consulate had much closer ties ties with the Czech (and even more Czechoslovak) history, than is usually the case.

What goes for the Montreal consulate, goes equally for the City of Montreal: it was in Montreal where in 1924 a group of immigrants from Czechoslovakia – mostly Slovaks – established Československý podpůrný spolek (Czechoslovak Mutual Benefit Society); it was in Montreal where in 1929 two newspapers commenced publication: Slovenské Bratrstvo (Slovak Brotherhood) and Kanadské noviny (Canadian Newspaper) – /the first Slovak newspaper in Canada, Slovenské slovo (Slovak Word), was published in Blairmore, Alberta in 1910/. Continue reading

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

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Author: Josef Cermak ( 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 ( 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

Joseph Ctirad Vrana

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Author: Josef Čermák ( PLUS)

Josef Čermák is one of our frequent contributors. Throughout the last 8 months, he has written many articles about our community in Canada and other stories that many Czech and Slovak expatriates relate to. This time his story has a sad tone to it as he announces the death of his friend, Joseph Ctirad Vrana, and one of the Czech immigrants in Canada. Click on the image if you would like to read his personal message.


Česká verze ZDE

Photo for © Marie Zieglerová

Czech Love Letters from Nigeria (Milostné dopisy z Nigérie)

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Ilustrace pro © Miloslav HeřmánekAuthor: Josef Cermak ( PLUS)

Frank Tesar celebrates his 95th birtday

Just a couple of years after the end of the second world war (in June 1947) the Kapoun couple in Brno (Czech Republic) received a letter that must have seemed a bit upsetting. It came from Aba in Nigeria, a place not many people in the former Czechoslovakia would be corresponding with at that time.

The letter begins politely and innocently: “First, I would like to ask you to forgive me for writing to you although you don’t know me.” That was the first sentence. Then, in the second sentence, a bomb: “But surely you already know from Svatava (their daughter), that we agreed that she would come to Africa to become my wife.” Then comes a deep thought: “Since I cannot ask you for the hand of your Miss Svatava in person, I take the liberty of asking you by using this unusual way, namely by letter.” (Not even Clark Gable in ‘Gone With The Wind’ would need to be ashamed of the next sentence): “It must certainly be very difficult for you to give your daughter to someone you don’t know” (The next few words grounded me) “and whom your daughter doesn’t personally know either.” Continue reading

Pilsen…Ottawa….The story o two monuments to the victims of Communism (Příběh dvou památníků obětem komunismu)

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Obětem zlaAuthor: Josef Cermak ( PLUS)

The garden of his soul

The Pilsen monument is today known as the Meditation Garden of Luboš Hruška (the author of a book on the monument and its creator, Irena Kastnerová, named her book “Luboš Hruška and the garden of his soul”). It is also known as “The Monument to the Victims of Evil.” Originally, it was planned by its creator as a monument to the victims of communism. This is what he wrote about communism in January, 1998: “Even today we still don’t know all the catastrophes caused by communist power in the world. Tens of millions dead and mentally or physically marked, thousands of disrupted families, a ruined environment, crippled economy, but worst of all, sick human souls. Continue reading

Celebrating the anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia in Canada (Oslava výročí vzniku Československa v Kanadě)

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Photo by: Michel Karpoff - Boris Krajný & Felix SlováčekOctober 28th is a memorable day in the history of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. This year, this day marked the 91st anniversary of the establishment of the independent Czechoslovak state. There were many ceremonies happening on this date all over the world, thus the experience below described by Ladislav Krivanek is just one of many that numerous Czech and Slovak compatriots could experience during this celebration. Did you attend one? Just let us know or learn about a unique concert in Canada or the artists below. Continue reading

Reminiscing about August 21,1968 – A tribute to the post-invasion refugees (Připomínka invaze 1968)

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Author: Josef Čermák ( PLUS)

Approximately 110km north of Toronto lies a small town of Edenvale and just a little further, you come to the Edenvale Aerodrome, an airport built by a Czeh refugee, Milan Kroupa. The aerodrome rests in the middle of a fruitful plane, even though possibly not as fruitful as the “fertile Haná”, so worshipfully described by a Czech poet whose name my aged brain refuses to surrender. During the second world war, this place was used by the Canadian air force to train its pilots. After the war, the place kept deteriorating until it was purchased, in 2003, by Milan Kroupa, who hails from a little village not far from a town of Nové Strašecí. Kroupa came to Canada as a political refugee in the middle of the sixties. And because he was an entrepreneurial wizard, he built up in this place (as well as putting together the largest janitorial company in Canada) a modern airport. It is this airport where on August 23rd, 2009 we shall reminiscence about the night of August 21, 1968, when frightened rulers in Moscow tried to stop the march of history and sent their army, with the armies of their vassals, to another brotherly vassal state, Czechoslovakia, to eradicate the potentially infectious decease called “socialisms with a human face”. Continue reading

Will Canada Reintroduce the Visa Requirements for Czechs? (Zavede znovu Kanada vízové povinnosti pro Čechy?)

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According to Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout, the chances that Canada would re-impose visa restrictions on Czechs are getting slimmer. The visa reinstatement came to mind after the massive refugee claims submissions in the past six months. The Czech Republic was the second highest country contributing about 1700 claims submitted between January and June 2009, right after Mexico with about 5500 claims during the same time period. The Roma, also known as Gypsies, complain about living conditions and racism, however, others believe that they only seek asylum in Canada for its generous welfare system and due to the lenient immigration laws. Continue reading

Czech/Slovak Expatriates (2): Jarmila Knopova (Čeští/slovenští expati (2): Jarmila Knopová)

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Author: Josef Čermák ( PLUS)

Jarmila Knop (Puchýrová) was born on April 30, 1947 in Nové Město in Moravia, where her uncle Joza and aunt Věra Svítil still live. Reminiscing, after Jarmila’s death, at the recent ‘Zpěvánky’ (an annual musical session) in Nové Město, her class-mate, Blanka Vystrčilová, spoke so eloquently about Jarmila’s childhood and youth, that I can’t resist quoting generously from her remarks:

“A fair-haired little girl, with a satchel on her shoulder, walked to school, hand in hand with her mother. How could it be otherwise? Jarmila’s mother was a teacher at the elementary school. Time rushed by, the little girl was growing up, devoting practically all her free time to sports. She excelled in athletics – throwing a cricket ball or a grenade further than the best among the boys, was a good jumper (both the wide and high jumps), and a good sprinter. In Czechoslovakia, she ranked close to the top in several disciplines. Continue reading