Sitting in a living room during World War II; lying on a bunk in a steam ship on your way to America or standing in Wenceslas Square among the thousands of protesters at the height of the Velvet Revolution. What did it sound like? What did it feel like? The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids tells the story of Czechs and Slovaks in peace-time, under oppression and in the turmoil of war, bringing back memories to those who remember and sharing the story with those for whom it is entirely new.
The Moravian town of Nové Město is renaming a street on its main square in honour of a Jewish family whose tragic fate featured in the international bestseller Hana’s Suitcase. The tribute comes ahead of the anniversary of the death of the only family member to have survived the Holocaust – who was denied a Czech state honour due to an unrelated political spat.
There are many places in US where you will find Bohemian cemeteries, established wherever Czechs settled in the country. The Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago was formed in 1877 and, with its 120 acres it is one of the largest. Chuck Michalek, Bohemian National Cemetery Association board member and delegate, took Radio Prague’s editor-in-chief Klára Stejskalová through the grounds and began by explaining how the cemetery was established.
Czech Immigrants first started settling in Chicago in the 1850s and continued in several waves in the 20th century. Today the city has the biggest number of Czech-Americans living in the US, with localities known as ”Prague” and “Pilsen”. I recently visited Chicago for the 80th Moravian Day celebrations and took the opportunity to stop by the University of Chicago, where the tradition of Slavic studies is almost as old as the university itself.
In a book just out, the renowned Czech author and illustrator Renáta Fučíková tells the story of Czechs in North America. The idea to chronicle stories of Czech immigrants originated in Chicago, which is sometimes referred to as “the most Czech city” in the US. I met up with Renáta Fučíková at her studio in the Old Town district of Prague, where she was putting finishing touches on the final illustrations for her new book.
Celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution are taking place not only in the Czech Republic but also among Czech and Slovak communities abroad. The Czech consulate in Chicago has prepared several events highlighting the 30 years of freedom, including a showcase of photos by the award-winning photographer Karel Cudlín.
Chicago has been a major centre of Czech immigration to the United States since the 1850s. Today, the district of Pilsen which those settlers founded in the 19th century is decidedly Bohemian – in the sense of being offbeat and arty – but predominately Mexican. In celebration of the two cultures, students from the original Plzeň have installed street murals in its namesake sister city, depicting Czech history and culture – with a Latino flair.
Few people in the Czech Republic know that a significant chapter in the history of early Czech sound recordings was written by Czech immigrants in the United States. For several years now, Filip Šír from the National Museum in Prague has been searching for the lost recordings and the stories of the people behind them. Last year, he published his findings in a book called Bohemia on Records, written together with music collector Gabriel Goessel. But he says there is still much more waiting to be discovered.
Despite being in his early 30s, Martin Mucha is already a successful Czech businessman in New York. Many locals may know Igluu, the real estate website he co-founded which claims to be the largest source of verified home listings in the Big Apple. Apart from looking into ways of expanding and innovating the company, Mr. Mucha also plays an active role among America’s Czech community. I recently had the chance to catch up with him and began by asking when he first decided to be an entrepreneur.
Just over 100 years ago, the American steel town of Pittsburgh was host to a memorandum of understanding between the nation’s Czech and Slovak immigrant communities to create an independent republic following the demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today, the city is home to one of America’s largest Slovak communities, a modest Czech one, and a school that unites expatriates of both. Alice Ždrale, head of the Czech and Slovak School of Pittsburgh, on a working trip back to her native Prague, shares the story of the informal school, one of the