Time shapes our memories and our perceptions of those memories. With that in mind, today I was pondering the trip that my wife and I took to the Czech Republic exactly one year ago, when our flight left the runway in Wichita. If I had to summarize the experience with two words, they would be […]

Time shapes our memories and our perceptions of those memories. With that in mind, today I was pondering the trip that my wife and I took to the Czech Republic exactly one year ago, when our flight left the runway in Wichita.
If I had to summarize the experience with two words, they would be 'great' and 'family.'
Taking a long-distance flight over a huge body of water definitely put me outside of my comfort zone. Prior to August 26, 2017, I had not been on an airplane in almost 20 years, but I knew that there was the only way to get to central Europe, efficiently that is.
Any anxiety about the trip and landing a foreign country where I was only somewhat fluent in the language was definitely alleviated by the fact that my Skype (and now real) friend Kamil Dobremysl met us at the airport and drove us to his home, where we spent four consecutive nights with him and his family, plus the last night of our stay in this wonderful country. Did I mention that Kamil's wife, Jana, is a great cook and makes excellent svickova?
Why is the Czech Republic so wonderful? There are many reasons. I felt safe there. I didn't know what to expect, really. I only had a vague notion that the country was still wrestling with the impact of over 40 years of Communist-rule and military occupation during many of those years. I had been learning Czech but had a long way to go to reach fluency, and I gleaned as much as I could from listening to Radio Prague online and reading books, as well as learning about the culture via the Internet. My wife and I had very few negative experiences in the country formerly known as Czechoslovakia. The people we met were very friendly and helpful: from the Dobremysl family to the older gentlemen working outside the Catholic convent in Prague who walked us a block away from his work to show us exactly where the Old Jewish Cemetery was. Numerous people we met and encountered along the way were generous with both their time and substance. Like Misa Kolarova. She is a university professor whose mother was the neighbor to my cousins in Netreby, Ceske Hermanice. Not long after our arrival in Netreby, Misa showed up and then remained with us the entire weekend to serve as interpreter, also taking us on a whirlwind tour of Praha (aka Prague) on the morning before our flight departed for Stockholm and then back to America via Chicago. The Castek, Elias, and Vondracek families, all descendants of my great grandfather's brother, welcomed us with open arms. We were amply fed by all three families, driven to various locations in the vicinity by the Casteks, and even loaned bicycles for a day of cycling in the Czech countryside. As my wife said (and which was translated into Czech) during a church service we attended in Hradec Kralove, 'Love knows no language.'
Looking back upon the experience I know that I only had a glimpse of what the people within my ancestral homeland not only endured but also achieved by standing up against tyranny for freedom and democracy. The Czech Republic's democracy has its roots within the First Republic"that period of time between October 28, 1918, when Czechoslovakia became a country, and October 1-10, 1938, when the Nazis marched into the Sudentland and later into the rest of Czech lands, occupying the country and brutalizing its people through the end of World War II.
When I think about the Czech Republic experience, a year later, I feel blessed to live in such a time with few travel restrictions and also to have the resources to make the journey. I also know that there is no better time to travel than when your health is good and when you are also physically able to do so. Subsequently, my wife and I will be returning to Czech soil in the not too distant future. For the next visit, I intend to be more fluent; it is the very least way that I can do to express my gratitude and respect to the people of the Czech Republic for the many kindnesses extended to us during our 2017 visit.
Note: for this article, haceks and carkas, which should have been used with most of the names and a few words in this article, were excluded, due to formatting issues.