SVU Conference in Texas June, 2009, Part 1
Texas communities are very abandoned in the June heat, they look like something out of a sci-fi movie where civilization has disappeared. People are either at home, or at work, in stores or in their cars- i.e. in air conditioned places. It was the same in a pretty University town called College Station where the SVU Conference took placea community of college buildings and lovely parks. The theme was: Contributions of Czechs and Slovaks to the American Southwest. A big group of people both from the USA (where SVU is based) as well as from the Czech Republic gathered in a nice and modern university building where they could admire beautiful paintings and pretty modern furniture. It was a little strange at first to see so many empty rooms without any signs directing us to the various lectures. Thick carpets muted any sounds of voices and thus it took a while for us to find the participants on the second floor. But then all went smoothly.
The meeting opened by greetings from President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Klaus, Karel Raska, President of SVU, Vladimir Eisenbruk, a representative of the Department of Foreign Affaires, Jaroslav Pank, Vice-President of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Raymond Snokhouse, Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic for Texas and Ben M. Crouch, Dean of A.& M University. All of them spoke briefly and well.
The next speaker did not do so well. It was Ian Hancock of the Texas University in Austin. It seemed that he was included in this program by mistake. His address was not a greeting, but a lecture about the Romany nation. His paper was interesting, even humorous at times, but too long. He tried to explain who these people were and admitted that nobody really knew enough about their origin. He repeated himself several times. After about 30 minutes I found it too uninteresting and I left the room even though I love gypsy music.
The organizers of the Conference failed this time to give the speakers definite time limits and thus some papers may have seemed too long to some of the participants.
However I do not want to judge. The lectures that I heard were mostly very interesting. The former President of SVU Mila Rechcigl called his paper:’The Lonely Star of the “Moravian” State. He mentioned the first Czech immigrants Karel Postl (1789- 1864), Antonin Dignovity
(1810-1875) and many others. He also discussed their lives in a strange environment and their influence on the history of Texas. His lecture in English translation can be found on page...
The next speaker Marek Vlha of Brno continued in his lecture to relate that A. Dignovity was the only one who was active in Texas politics during those times.
Retta Slavik Chandler, Director of the Center of Czech Cultural Heritage talked about this Center and its history- we shall also report about her paper later. Richard Pavlasek of Austin discussed the achievements of MUDr Jan Jansky, and Karel Raska, Jr. talked about our preparedness for bioterrorism.
There were many interesting lectures in the Historical section. They discussed the lives of the many Czech (mostly Moravians) who settled in Texas. In addition to hard work, the immigrants also concerned themselves with Czech culture, with proper education of their children, grandchildren and their ancestors, and they did not forget about their faith in God. The many painted Czech churches (admired by tourists) will be discussed at another time…
There were also many good papers about music. In a little town called Moravia there is an association of young people who play not only the usual famous polkas and waltzes, but who also compose and play their own works. We saw an interesting film about this activity.
John K. Novak (Northern Illinois University) gave an interesting lecture about his namesake Vitezslav Novak. In the evening after dinner he presented a very professional piano concert.
It is difficult to name all lectures that kept the participants in their seats for many hours. However I must mention a young lady Jana Vaculik who volunteers to bring Czech culture to the younger people with Czech roots. She prepared for them a quite interesting and attractive program and she travels with it and visits many schools. I think that the Czech Dept of Foreign Affaires should give her some financial support- at least for travel expenses - before she looses her enthusiasm.>From Texas Eva Strizovska
Translated by Marie Dolanska
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