The Komenský (Comenius) Club at UNL is one-hundred-years old
The history of Czech language instruction in Nebraska is closely tied to the history of the Komenský Club at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the involvement of its members. The club was named for Jan Amos Komenský, or Comenius in Latin, the pioneer educator (b. 3-28-1592 and d. 11-15-1670). Conceived in December 1903 and officially established in 1904, the Komenský Club became a nursery for influential personalities in Nebraska political and cultural life. A few notable examples include state and U.S. politicians Roman Hruška, Otto Kotouc, Joseph Vosoba, and Rudy Vrtiška; poets Ferdinand Musil, Jeffrey Hrbek, and Hrbek’s sister the writer, politician, and educator, Dr. Šárka Hrbková. Dr Olga Štastný, the founder of the US Association of Women Physicians and recipient of numerous medals from governments in Europe, was also one its members.
According to the club constitution, the goal was to form a bond among Czech-Americans and provide a model of cultural association with other university settings where students could study Czech language, history and literature informally within the club and later formally in regular courses for which the members fought to make part of the university curriculum. In fact, the UNL Czech language program and the UNL Komenský Club cultural activities were thriving thanks to these same students. To meet this goal the UNL Komenský Club organized poetry readings, musical performances, and other activities for university students and the Czech community in Lincoln. The UNL Komenský Club cultural program was quickly adopted by students and intellectuals in other towns and universities and resulted in the foundation of 29 other groups throughout the North American continent by the end of the WW I. The Komenský Club activities became a model for other academic groups in Nebraska and other states. The resulting clubs joined in the Komenský Educational Clubs Association that was founded by Prof. Bohumil Šimek of the State University of Iowa, F.J. Pípal, a student of the University of Nebraska, who later became a professor at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, and others.
By 1909 club members started to publish the monthly newsletter, Komenský. They announced the news of their own club as well as the news of other Komenský Clubs that continued to be founded in Nebraska (Lincoln, Omaha, Crete, and later other towns) and in other states, as they united in the Komenský Association (established in Cedar Rapids in 1908). The members realized that there was a need not only to cultivate their mother tongue, but also to educate the Anglo-Saxon community about the achievements of Czechs in the USA as well as in Europe. This was done in programs for the English speaking community, such as public concerts and lectures in English.
The Czech Komenský (Comenius) Club celebrates with Czech Days at UNL
The Czech Komenský Club at UNL invites you to take part in the celebrations of a century of cultural programs offered by the Komenský Club. The celebration will start with the visit of the Czech Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Martin Palouš, on February 12–15. (See below about his many accomplishments.) On February 12th, 2004, at 7:00 PM, the Ambassador will give a talk entitled The Integration of the Czech Republic and Central Europe into the European Union. On Friday, February 13th, 2004, you are invited to the Cornhusker Ballroom for a fund-raising banquet and dance organized by the Czech Language Foundation, benefiting the Czech Language Program at the University of Nebraska. There you will have a chance to talk to this important European personality and for a modest fee, have your photo taken with him. The $65.00 banquet/dance tickets are available from Cathy Oslzly, Mila Saskova-Pierce and Jeanette Smith. Hurry, they will go fast! Use the special form we have inserted with this newsletter, stating how many tickets you want.
The Czech Days will continue with lectures (see the program on the first page) and close with the Czech Culture Night that will take place on February 25 from 6:00-9:00 pm (admission fee $2.00). Special activities include Czech folk games, teaching of folk dances, and Czech ethnic food prepared by the Czech language students. The proceeds will go to the Komenský Club. Everybody in the community is welcome, regardless of membership in the Komenský Club.
In order to make the Czech Days successful, we need your help. Please help us spread the news; participate and bring your family and friends.Cathy Oslzly
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