The Sokol Slet - how will it turn out this time?
150 YEARS “ON THE MOVE”.
The Czech Sokol Organization is celebrating this year the 150-th anniversary of its existence. The most important event will be its 15-th All-Sokol Slet (rally) in Prague. It will be the fourth Slet since the Sokol revival in 1990. This development proves the correct direction of present day Sokol ideas that emphasize sports for everyone and that promote a healthy life style for all ages.
The Sokol activities will take place from June 30- July 6, 2012
The Sokol Slet - how will it turn out this time?
I have heard about the dramatic Slets of 1938 and 1949 from those who were present or from written reports. After that there was nothing for a long time…
Until 1994. And that one was beautiful. It was the fourth year of my publishing the Czech Dialogue. The paper cost 4 crowns. The title page displayed a beautiful photograph of Mr. Lucas taken at the 1948 Slet. I brought several bundles of my magazine to the entrance of Melantrich on St. Wenceslas Square and my ten-year old grandson Janek helped me to sell it to the crowds of people. And there were so many people everywhere- in the parade and on the sidewalks…
Janek hollered: ”Buy Czech Dialogue, only four crowns”, and he was very successful. The magazine sold like hot cakes and I had to keep going inside the building to get more and more copies. I was moved to tears. The parade of the Sokols went by accompanied by marching bands. Look, there are the Sokols from Switzerland, and there is ing. Hajek, our representative in Switzerland! We greet each other “Nazdar”.And then came the Sokols from Sweden, USA, Australia. And so many familiar faces! I had to go to them, greet them, shake their hands….I was very touched and happy and Janek kept selling the magazine and soon it was all gone.
In the middle of the square was a wooden scaffolding. Café Alfa used to be there some years ago - I used to go there to musical and dance parties when I was fifteen. Some people were sitting on the lower crossbars of the scaffolding. Janek and I were walking by and suddenly a saw a familiar figure - it was Milan Vyhnalek from Tasmania.”Evicko, so glad to see you.” And we hugged and he said: ”Do you know this lady, our diplomat from Australia Jarka Moserova?” And I noticed another person standing up. We knew each other then only slightly but later we became very close. I sat down with them and we all enjoyed the sight - seeing so many Sokols marching in all their splendor through the square – after so many years!
And then came the gymnastic performance. The Strahov stadium full of enthusiastic gymnasts and equally excited spectators. I was moved and my handkerchief was busy wiping my tears away. But I had to laugh also. My newspaper accreditation had the number 007 ( that was James Bond’s number.)
The next slet took place in the year 2000 - six years later. I was there again and met many friends from the whole world. Yet I was somewhat disappointed that the main organizer of the Sokols (COS) did not take care of sufficient publicity. There were almost no billboards, almost no news articles in the papers, and nothing on television. There were fewer people in the St. Wenceslav’ Square than six years ago.
The next slet was in 2006. And again – I could repeat the previous sentence - publicity almost nonexistent. But I was told that they spent a lot of money on publicity…
Yet I have great memories from those days. In 2005 I met in Texas an 85-year old lady- Anezka Burger-Elzner. She had promised to come to the slet - and she did come! I had arranged accommodations for her near the National Museum on St. Wenceslas Square so that she would be near the main parade in which she was very interested. We met the next morning, took the subway to the Mustek and then we waited on the Narodni street near the National Theater for the Sokol parade with all the banners and marching bands. Soon we were joined by Helenka Kovarikova (my volunteer secretary, a great patriot, also 85 years old), also Lilka Komnjacka, originally from Russia, a professor of Czech, who has been a Czech patriot for the last 40 years and the last 10 years a citizen of the Czech Republic - she desired to become one and she finally achieved it. And we were joined by another gentleman from London who told us that he enjoyed my magazine.
When the parade was over (unfortunately there were fewer onlookers than last time) Anezka wanted to go to the Old Town Square where all the Sokols were to meet. I was horrified: This 85-year old lady who did not walk anywhere in the USA, but always drove a car, wants to walk to Old Town Square? Yes, she insisted on it and she became quite irritated with me. And so we went - I, Anezka and Lilka. We got there when many groups of Sokols from various parts of the world were arriving. Anezka greeted enthusiastically the group from the USA, I greeted my friends from Sweden and Australia - and we met Honza Kroupa from Australia and Jaroslav Trombik from New Zealand… It was so much fun that we decided to stop for coffee at some outside café - Australia, Russia, New Zealand, Czech Republic, USA. Because it was almost 12-noon, someone suggested that we go to lunch and to a good Czech restaurant on the Ujezd. When I asked Anezka whether she would be able to walk there – she almost slapped my face. And so we walked along Karlova Street, across Charles Bridge, along Karmelitska to Ujezd. The restaurant served very good food like roast pork, dumplings and sauerkraut, also smoked ham with lentils, etc. The gentlemen ordered a bottle of wine, and later another one. We had great fun and the conversation was very lively with no end in sight. Eventually Anezka got up and said that she would go to her hotel. I wanted to get her a taxi but she refused - did I think that she could not take care of herself? She said good bye and left us. She called me at home later in the evening and said: “I walked across the bridge to the National Theater, then along Narodni street to St. Wenceslas Square and then along the Square uphill to my hotel. I was very smart, right?”
I just stood there totally amazed! Anezka- who would not let me out of her car in Texas for one second because she was afraid that something might happen to me - had walked several kilometers over Prague pavement…
That was a great experience from the last slet.
What will happen this year?
Picture: Anezka meet sokols from Prostejov in Prague
Transl. by M. Dolanska
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