Frantisek Kostlan (49 years old, publicist)
What do I thing about Czech and Slovaks, now living in the U.S.? Indeed, all the best. Those who emigrated from their homeland in 1948 were guided by an ardent longing to live in a free land. In so doing, they had to gather a lot of courage. In those days, they did not know what kind of fate was waiting for them in another country (meaning America). Their liberal-minded goals have been fulfilled with dignity by a great majority. However, there might be some of them whose ambitions were set on a gigher level than their abilities would allow. My admiration is especially focused on how they overcame all the various difficulties they had to face. Doubtless, such problems were not an easy matter. They had to adjust their lives to the new conditions of the daily current life. This was certainly a great stress both spiritually and physically for all of them.
Some of these emigrants previously had to undergo stiff opposition against the oppression of the Communist rulers during their stay in the home country. I respect them even more so, when observing that they accommodated themselves throughout the years of their emigration to the new circumstances in their acquired country, without forgetting their own native Czech language, customs or contacts. Also, I appreciate how they keep educating their children in the same native standards. I cannot but hope that they would all be still keeping close contacts with their old Czech or Slovak countries, thereby expressing a deep interest in their cultures.
I think that a great majority of those emigrants who escaped from their former country during the year 1968 and thereafter, have maintained the same attitude in their acquired country. In such a case when they were communists, they had to revise additionally their ideology with the democratic one by cultivating new contacts with the non-communist community of their former country. In any event, they were bound to get it out of their system. Such a kind of purification or purgation of one´s emotions is frequently called inner catharsis. Obviously, all of them cannot be judged in the same manner. Everyone may undergo different stages of emotional evolution. Thus, we have to appraise every person individually.
On the other hand, those emigrants who escaped for only economical reasons have to be assessed differently. In such an event, the situation becomes more complex. After all, they may also have often been guided by a long-yearned-for freedom, but that was certainly not their main incentive. It is true that to be able to undertake and become rich, one needs at the same time, freedom. I understand that some of them are even sponsoring some of their countrymen´s activities. On the other hand, there are supposedly those, who were heavy-handedly shocked, as they came up against the ethics of Western civilization.
They were still under the farmer strong influence, they carried them with them from the old countries. As for the pre-war WWII or later emigration waves, I am unable to be a judge of those. Nonetheless, they deserve our thanks for their support of the newly arrived persons. That is to say, they helped them to start their new lives by incorporating themselves into their cultural or any other additional activities on the spot.
Actually, I keep up contacts with former emigrants who have returned to their native country in the meantime. Of course, I am also keeping up contacts with those emigrants who preferred to stay in their acquired country, be it in the USA or any other countries. During the years following 1990, I have been talking to them, while they were visiting their native country. Moreover, I have a chance to read some of the countrymen´s periodicals and various articles of many emigrants in the Czech press, ad proved by the prudent considerations of Jiri (George) Levy or some other journalists. That is why I consider it important to keep in contact with them. It would be naive of me to think that some Czechs/Slovaks are emigrating for only idealistic reasons. They imagine the streets are paved with gold and money in easily come by. For us, who keep staying on the political scene in the old country, our philosophy of life might still be affected by the long-termed Bolshevik indoctrination. On the other hand, all emigrants are fully enjoying the mighty influence of democratic attributes in the acquired country. Consequently, the latter can considerably enrich us by their gained experiences.
No doubt, it would be a scandalous attitude, if anyone would show any hesitation concerning the real value of maitaining their contacts with the old countries. As is generally known, many experienced former emigrants offered their services after our November 1989 velvet revolution. Regretfully, a great many of their offers were rejected, including those of very many of our ex-soldiers and even war heroes who expelled communists from our lands and put them in jail. Alas! Many such so called staunch Czechs kept their materially and financially advantagous posts tooth and nail by maintaining that "the western countries did not care a bit about Czechoslovakia at the critical time of the Munic negotiations". Also, they reproached, green with envy, all emigrants who were absent from Czech/Slovak lands during those critical times that they were taking advantage of "living like kings" in western countries and became "moneygrubbers". Yea, at that time, there were in addition many other jealousies of those who did not leave their home country. The latter refused to admit that emigrants returning from abroad home did not want to get hold of their "fat" posts, because in reality, they were eager, in the first place, to help their native country to rebuild in every respect.
I want to speak now about the problem of Czech emigrants who may have influence, interest and even voting rights in elections and referendums in the Czech Republic. In Czech lands, there is constant contention, which has festered for several years. It relates to emigrants´ election rights or their rightful participation in referendums. In my opinion, such inconsistences are shameful indeed. Our governing bodies´ official attitude is to reject any help or justification to our emigrants to také part in such electoral actions. Such a standpoint reminds me of a well known fable of Orwel´s Animal Farms, where in one of its sections it is indicated that pigs are the only ones who are first among the equals. Oh well! Let us wait and see what will be the result of their subsequent discussions. After all, this is anyway one of the typical examples of the inherited communist indoctrinations.
Not a long time ago, Mr. Ross Havlicek, who is in possession of a Canadian passport, wrote me a letter. He described in it all the difficulties he had had when passing the border line at Breclav, while travelling from Vienna (Austria) to Czech Republic. Czech controlling agents allow current crossing of this border line only to those persons, who own either Czech or Austrian passports. All other tourists arriving at that spot do not know about such regulations at all. This being so, the customs officer refused to let Mr. Havlicek pass, sending them back, and telling him: "I do not care that you a have a valid Czech entry visa. For me, you are a foreigner with foreign curency exchange." So he got, after all, through while crossing another border line at Mikulov. When he concluded his sojourn in the Czech Republic, he returned again via Mikulov, but this time, the controlling border agents levied a fine. They maintained that he had not fulfilled his obligation of announcing to the pertaining local police station about his stay in Czech Republic. Unfortunately, in some cases this is a way of our officers´ approach to foreign tourists and visitors. This view is very often applied towards Czech visiting emigrants. I am sorry to say that this kind of attitude towards Czech visiting emigrants, whether they arrive from the USA or any other foreign country, is not only a question of our republic or state, but is unfortunately much more the negative and deeply rooted attitude of a great many Czech citizens. The latter cultivate in this way their "small, but definitely Czech" envious feeling, mixed with some dosage of xenophobia, meaning hating foreigners.(Translated by Charles Opatrny)
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