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.
A plaque was unveiled at Liben railway station in Prague on Saturday in
memory of the East German exodus via the Czech capital in the early autumn
Around 13,000 East Germans who camped out on West German embassy grounds for days, boarded special trains from Liben railway station to West Germany after being granted free passage by the authorities.
The plaque’s unveiling, by the former federal minister for special affairs Rudolf Seiters, who helped negotiate their free passage, was one of a series of events in Prague marking the anniversary of the exodus.
The German Embassy in Prague organized a festival titled The Way to Freedom on the embassy grounds that included panel debates and meetings with former politicians and witnesses of the events.
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.
According to the Czech Foreign Ministry there are now more than two million Czechs living abroad. The people making up the country’s expat communities in different parts of the world include those who fled the communist regime in several waves during the 20th century or those who escaped the Nazi threat. Some married abroad or used the opportunity to live and work abroad with the return of democracy close to 30 years ago. I spoke to the government’s special commissioner for expats Jiří Krátký about the process of renewing broken ties after 1989,
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
The Senate has passed a draft law that would make it easier for the children and grandchildren of exiles from Communist Czechoslovakia to obtain Czech citizenship. The bill, which is expected to be signed into law by the president, pertains to descendants of those stripped of their own citizenship prior to 1989. ‘Krajané’ – Czech compatriots and their descendants – have long lobbied for the move, and hundreds are expected to apply.
Journalist Julie Urbišová has just published a book entitled Doma v NOLA, or At Home in NOLA, with NOLA meaning New Orleans, Louisiana. Having first visited the city on a student stay in 2007, Urbišová has now been living for several years in New Orleans, from where she reports for Czech Radio, Czech Television and other outlets. Our conversation took in NOLA’s Czech connections, its crime rate and Hurricane Katrina. But it began with the organisation of its famous Mardi Gras parades.