Less than a dozen miles to the south of Lake Wilson lies a community that is proud of its Czechoslovakian heritage, not to mention its kolaches.


Less than a dozen miles to the south of Lake Wilson lies a community that is proud of its Czechoslovakian heritage, not to mention its kolaches.

One Wilson resident, Albina Mattas, has been baking in the traditional Czechoslovakian style for over 86 years.

“When I was about 12, my mother said, ‘You and I are going to make rohliky today,’” she said. Rohliky is a traditional Czechoslovakian bread.

The sixteenth child of nine boys and eight girls, two of whom died as young children, Albina had ample opportunity to bake and make homemade noodles for her family.

“My mother made kolaches every Saturday afternoon,” Albina said of her early years growing up on the farm near Bison, Kansas. “”We could have all the kolaches we wanted.”

The kolache, popular in Czechoslovakia and other central and eastern European countries, is a round, slightly sweetened and spiced bread product traditionally filled with prune, poppy seed, apricot, cherry, cottage cheese, and blueberry. According to one account, the kolache originated as a semisweet wedding dessert from Central Europe.

Albina Oborny became Albina Mattas when she moved to Wilson, the Czech capital of Kansas, in 1934, after marrying her husband, Ernest.

Wilson was a good fit for her, having grown up in a home with parents who immigrated to the United States from Czechoslovakia in the early 1880s.

“My mother never spoke English,” she said. “We had to go and translate for her when she had business dealings with people in the community.”

For uncounted years, Albina has been a major force behind kolache-making in preparation for the annual Czech Fest, which began in 1961.

In 2001, she served as Grand Marshall of the festival parade.

At 98 ½ years old, Albina no longer joins with other women in the community to prepare batches and batches of kolaches in the days and weeks leading up to the festival. This year, she made all of the poppy seed filling for the kolaches that were sold at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church.

“I ground and cooked four pounds of poppy seeds this year to make the filling,” she said.

Pratt resident Brandon Case met Albina two years ago when the Wilson Chamber of Commerce referred him to her for assistance in translating family history documents from Czechoslovakian into English.

“As we visited and she translated some papers for me, she discovered that I loved kolaches, having grown up eating them as a young boy. She invited me to come back and learn how to make them, which I did at a later date. My wife and I have had two lessons thus far,” said Case.

For Albina, making kolaches is about striving for perfection.

“I work toward perfection,” she said.

One important step in achieving kolache-perfection is to form a round ball, one of many steps that must be followed to produce the final product.

“It has to be perfectly round,” she said, smiling and adding, “Perfection.”

Clear skies and warm temperatures also produce a better product.

“Kolaches like warmth,” she said.

Kolache-making hearkens back to a time before box mixes and frozen dinners. It takes about four to five hours to make a batch of five dozen, and that doesn’t include the time spent preparing the homemade fillings, which is also labor intensive.

“There’s an old Czech saying,” said Albina, “’There are no kolaches without work.’”

For those who want to enjoy the fruits of others’ labor, visit Wilson sometime and ask where you can buy a good kolache.

It’s a stop sure to put a smile on your face en route to the lake.