OUR COUNTRYMEN IN BENATPROVINCE OF ROMANIA
Generations ago, Czechoslovaks relocated to Banat, which is a province of Romania in the western part of the Transylvanian Alps. This area is located between the Danube and Muresul rivers and is situated more than 1000 km from Prague. The vitality, zest for living and individuality attract our attention, admiration and esteem. In truth, they are living in this forsaken part of Romania as in on a deserted island.
Although the number is rather small, they have been keeping up their Czech language, culture and customs. They have also been maintaining their contacts with their native country. Unfortunetly, these isolated Czech villages in Romania are lie outside popular tourist routes. To bring these remote Czech villages to the attention oftourists, detailed maps of the area are now available. The Czech Tourist Club has seth forth detailed travel instructions for that tract of country. This region is located between the Danube River and Nera Creek.
Upon arriving in the area, one notices the mountanous region. Herds of sheep along with grazing horses roam freely in the fields. The scene was reminescent of the paintings of the famous artist, Joseph Lada. In this area, thee are water=powered mills still used for cereal milling as were used by the villagers ancestors. The Czech community is comprised of six villages approxiameltly 2000 inhabitants, according to the most recent census.
From an historical point of view, these Czech settlements were established during the first half of the 19th century. At that time, this piece of land belonged to the Austro- Hungarian Empire, as did the Czech lands. Our countrymen left their home country to settle in such inhospitable parts of Romania. Their reasons for doing so had basically been of economical character. They were looking for some livelihood for their families. As one can imagine, the migration to this area was in an effort to survive. These Czechs were also by the desire to keep up their Czech language and pertaininng culture. Naturally, all this was de-finitely not an easy matter. Actually, we can scarcely ever conceive to what kind of a hard life they were truly exposed in those days. Undoubtedly it required a personal and extreme assiduousness and dedicated mutual solidarity to hold one´s ground against such disfavors of fate. Whoever wants to visit this region any time now will surely admire their ability to keep up their clear Czech language, their frankness and hospitality.
Considering that they maintain their traditions with such a tenacity, they are in reality living a different type of life than those in the surrounding Romanian environment. Gernik, Saint Helen[Svata Helena], and Bigr are bigger villages than the other ones. It would certainly be an error to overlook another village, called Rovensko. The smallest of all these Czech villages is Sumica, situated in the easternmost part of the Romanian province, Banat.
The domintating feature of that part of the Romanian mountainous countryside, in which all these Czech picturesque well-groomed villages are situated, is, in the majority of cases, a simple but beautiful small church. These scenes are similar to that one which was so truthfully rendered by the well-known painter Joseph Lada in his picture relating to the village Hrusice in the Czech Republic.
Of course, whenever Christmas or Easter time takes place, the beauty of all the Czech villages is the more so enhanced. That is to say, a new more vivid life is always launched into being there. As a result, many folk customs are revived, such as the old-fashioned carols. Moreover, their houses are particularly decorated for that occasion. Actually, our countrymen comprehend the meaning of these holidays in quite a different manner. Especially their Christmas time is understood to be a period of human humility, sincerity and love.
Material possessions or good fortune are features which are not known to these people. Though, their lives are nowadays somehow improved as compared to those of their ancestors. Nevertheless, they still have to fight hard to get their daily livelihood. Being only peasants or owners of some tiny trades, they have to manage their activities with an utmost prudence and circumspection.
As regards children of our countrymen, they have a chance to attend Czech schools where the language of instruction is the Czech language. It is really excellent that the respective authorities of the Czech Republic have been helping these countrymen to enable them to carry out their special projects. Materialization of a school construction in Saint Helen [Svata Helena] or installation of the watermains in Rovensko are both outstanding examples of their very important support. It would be most welcomed, if the Czech Republic could find a way in which the spirit of enterprise of some of the Czech entrepreneurs would be instigated to create for these counrynmen new working opportunities in those locations. Naturally, this would at the same time contribute to their better living standards. Indeed, by endeavoring to help them in their fight for maintaining of the Czech identity we would certainly fulfill our civil and national duty.
Doubtless, our countrymen in Banat province which is located so far away from the Czech Republic definitely deserve that kind of attention and support from us.Author: Přemysl Otava
(Translated by Charles Opatrny)
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