Last week, I undertook a journey which consisted of presentations, readings, and signings of my memoir, Prague: My Long Journey Home, in various cities and towns in Texas. Arranged by my friend and Oklahoma State University classmate, Dr. Bart Childs (Professor Emeritus at Texas A&M), the tour took us to:
(1)Dallas — where I spoke to a large group of Czech-Americans at the Sokol Hall. Sokol (Czech for falcon) is an athletic organization with a long history in the Czech Republic. Both my parents were leaders of Sokol in our town of Kojetice, and I began learning gymnastics in Sokol at a very young age. The tradition lives on in Dallas.
(2)West — the town of West, with 70% of its population of Czech descent, was devastated by an explosion of a fertilizer plant a couple of weeks ago. I was shocked by the damage — homes, school, nursing home destroyed, with people’s only remaining belongings piled on front lawns. The lower photo shows one of the damaged houses, with a Czech flag on the left and “thank you” in Czech to the volunteer firefighters who perished in the explosion.
(3)Temple — we visited the Czech Heritage Museum and Geneology Center in this major “Czech town.” The museum featured many exhibits pertaining to Texas Czechs in the military, from the Civil War through Afghanistan. I spoke to a large crowd in the evening, with a book-signing at the conclusion of my talk.
(4)College Station — the home of Texas A&M University is also the site of the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library. It was my honor and privilege to discuss my book in the Library’s auditorium (see top photo) and to sign books in its lobby.
(5)La Grange — in addition to an infamous ranch/brothel, La Grange is the home of the Czech Heritage and Cultural Center. After touring the Center and its gift shop, I discussed my book with attendees and signed for them.
(6)Houston — More than ten years ago, Effie and Bill Rosene raised money to build a Baroque-style palace building, one typical of historic structures in Prague. The result is the beautiful Czech Center Museum Houston, a three-story jewel filled with paintings, sculptures, glass, books, furniture, and other items celebrating Czech heritage. Visitors gathered around a group of tables, and I discussed my book with them. I signed many books for the visitors as well as for the Center’s bookstore.
There are thousands of Texans of Czech origin, the great majority of them descendants of Moravian farmers who emigrated through Galveston in the late 1800s. I was most impressed by a culture which has maintained and protected its heritage and how Czech traditions and pride have been passed from generation to generation. The Texas book tour was truly memorable.