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Celebrating at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany
Na zdravi! Prost!
Czechs work to preserve culture, history

Czechs work to preserve culture, history
WCN/AL KOLODZIEJ • Reprints at wilsoncountynews.com
Radka Hlatky (left), formerly of the Czech Republic, visits with Charles Kretzschmar of San Antonio and Edita Rybak, formerly of Slovakia. Edita was performing along with her husband, Chris Rybak, at the Czech Gala.

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Elaine Kolodziej
August 26, 2008

SAN ANTONIO — People of Czech heritage and their friends came together Aug. 15 in the St. Luke Catholic Church Family Parish Hall for the annual Czech Gala. The event was hosted by Hattie Poole and the San Antonio Chapter of the Czech Heritage Society.

Jean Blaha Davis, president of the Czech Heritage Society of Texas, was the guest speaker. Following in her father’s footsteps, she now works diligently toward the goal of building a new cultural center in La Grange. Groundbreaking is set for 2009 with fund-raising efforts continuing. The Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center is billed as the “flagship of Czech heritage, preservation, and promotion.”

The new center’s development began after the Kalich House was restored by volunteers and became the Visitors Center. The site also now includes the Sanford Schmid Amphitheater. The Texas Czech Village, a living history center, is being further developed and currently is comprised of the Migl House, Hoelscher Haus, Bucek Store, and a log barn. Plans for the new center were introduced showing the location of a new museum and library, archives building, large conference room, gift shop, and an archive vault.

According to a brochure, an Immigrants Wall and Memorial Rose Garden will be located near the main building.

Committee members for the Czech Gala were Tommy Adkisson, Dennis and Jeannine Hickey, Barbara Stratton Hruby, Jerry and Ann Janecka, Mary Ann Kocurek, Eugene Labay, Hattie Fojtik Poole, and Robert Trampota. All funds from the gala go to benefit the new library and museum complex in La Grange.

This ambitious undertaking of Texas Czechs is being supported in San Antonio by the Bexar County Chapter, which is dedicated to the preservation of the Czech heritage. A general membership meeting will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 14, in the Saint Anthony of Padua Catholic Church Complex, located at Lorenz and Broadway. Call 210-649-2702  for questions or directions.

For more information about joining the Bexar County group, call 210-366-2646 or visit the Web site at http://www.czechs.org.

Chapter dues are $15 per year with special rates for children under 18.

The Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center serves to preserve and promote the history, language, culture, and heritage of Texans of Czech ethnicity who trace their ancestry to the Czechs who emigrated from the present-day Czech Republic or the former Austro-Hungarian empire which includes Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, and Slovakia.

La Grange, about 110 miles from San Antonio, is known at the “cradle of Czech immigration to Texas.”

 More at http://wilsoncountynews.com/article.php?id=20370&n=-czechs-work-to-preserve-culture-history

Texans Polka Across Europe Finding Their Czech Roots

Texans Polka Across Europe
Chris & Edita Rybak Tour Group from Texas in front of the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, Czech Republic.

Linda Lehmann
Fayette County Record

September 16, 2008

LA GRANGE —  “Nedaleko Od Trencina”, a song originated in Slovakia, could be heard throughout the European countries of Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany as
Chris Rybak, the renowned Texas accordion player, and his wife, Edita Rybak, led 32 people through five countries in eleven days.  Edita, with her genuine enthusiasm and passion for her country, taught the Slovakian song to the Texas tour group as a way to introduce the travelers to her homeland’s music and heritage.

The travelers left for their European destinations on July 1 from Houston, Texas. After an eight hour flight and a one hour lay-over in Paris, they finally arrived in Budapest, Hungary where they were met by their tour guides, Lenka Sovadinova and her brother, Tomas Sovadina.  Their tour bus, driven by Jaroslav, was fully equipped with air conditioning, modern conveniences and a PA and Video system.  Chris, Edita, and Bernard Tupa, Chris’ assistant, kept the tour group entertained as they went from the Liberation Square Monuments (Near the parade route built by the Communists for May Day shows of power) to downtown Budapest and the Danube River.  “As this was my first trip to the Czech Republic, I can not say enough as to how much I enjoyed it.  Especially enjoyable was the trip since Chris and Edita are special friends and very good hosts. As most people know who have heard Chris, he is a phenomenal accordion player.  So not only was this trip a treat in itself, but to be entertained by Chris and Edita was a delight.  And the joy I felt in being able to play trumpet with Chris is indescribable,” stated by Bernard Tupa. 

Kosice, Slovakia, once part of Czechoslovakia and the second largest city in Slovakia, was the next scheduled stop.  Reflecting on entering her hometown and seeing relatives, Edita Rybak, tour organizer stated: “The favorite part of the trip for Chris and I was when our whole busload of fans arrived into my hometown of Kosice and my Mom (also named Edita) along with my Grandpa (Ladislav) were waiting to greet us.  The feeling was almost indescribable as everyone was breaking down into tears of happiness.  What a moment!”  The tour group experienced the flavor of Slovakia at Edita’s Mother’s and Father’s homes where entertainment was enjoyed and food was served.  As stated by Judy Rundell, a member of the tour group, “Chris and Edita enriched our trip to Central Europe through their family’s generosity.  We not only experienced the “tourista” side of Europe, but more importantly, we experienced the culture and the food.  They invited us into their homes to show how they live.  That is what set this trip apart from any other.”   At the end of the day, the Americans walked to the downtown area to what resembled an American “Ice house” for refreshments and entertainment by a local band.  The travelers had noticed that no ice was served with their drinks while in Europe.  Chris, Edita, and Bernard joined in the entertainment, with the band without having any prior rehearsals and the locals were fascinated by their talent and their musical style.  Edita Rybak remarked, “The Europeans enjoyed Chris’ high energy style of entertainment.  Some were amazed when he came out into the crowd singing and playing, sitting down right by them.  This definitely gave his performance a special touch.”

Leaving early the next morning, the group drove through the High Tatra Mountains in upper Slovakia.  Lunch and hiking was done at Strbske Pleso, a ski area in the Tatras.  The next stop was the Czech Republic where the sight-seers toured Dr. Simecek’s Texas Immigration Museum in Lichnov.  Tour group members, Vera Matocha Wehring and Ray Bacak were met at the museum by Karel Matocha, a relative from Roznov. (Several members of the traveling Texans met distant relatives while in Europe.)  “Karel had faithfully waited four hours for their arrival, thinking we were to be there earlier,” quoted from Ray Bacak’s travel journal of the trip.  The evening meal was enjoyed at Koliba nad Vlcinou in Frenstat, a ski resort restaurant.  Owned by the Oldrich Kutac family, the owner’s comical escapades kept the group entertained all evening; yelling in Czech as they were walking up to the restaurant, being serenaded by Wallachian music as each person’s name was called, receiving the butt-swat initiation and a souvenir Wallachian passport before entering the restaurant, firing a blank pistol to get everyone’s attention and dancing while wearing a medieval head dress and with a Tina Turner cardboard cut-out.  Chris, with his amazing ability to “play by ear”, along with Bernard joined in the entertainment along with Mr. Kutac who played his instrument - a pole with a drum attached and cymbals called Vozembouch.  “Czechs love a good party and that’s what the trip was….”a heck of a good party!” stated by Judy Rundell. 

The next day, Karel Matocha drove his American cousins, Vera and Ray to Hovezi, the original city of the Matocha and Kovar relatives.  They visited a cemetery that had familiar South Texas Czech names and then met with the bus group that had attended mass at the Svaty Hostyn Church.  “Attending mass at The Church of the Assumption gives one a sense of connection with ancestors who emigrated from this beautiful country.  A surprise “Welcome to the visitors from Texas” expressed during the mass provided a comforting sensation of belonging to this place where many Texas Czech family origins are rooted.  As we gathered in the parking lot to board our bus, we met with another bus load of Texans from East Bernard.  True to form, Chris and Bernard brought out their instruments with Edita joining in on singing; immediately there was merriment and clapping of the hands to the beautiful music.  Many more “pilgrims” were surprised by the “parking lot concert” and paused to enjoy the entertainment,” said fan of Chris Rybak and member of the Texas group, LaVerne Dancak.  As quoted by Betty Danner, member of the group, “On previous trips to the CR in 1992 and 1994 we had met several members of our Vydrzal family from my Mom’s side since we traveled with her sisters, Vickie Matocha and Frances Janecek.  We had stayed in touch over the years so we planned a visit with them on Sunday night when we arrived at the Hotel Garnia in Zlin.  It was a wonderful visit even though I was the only one who could speak limited Czech.  We all brought photos to share and exchanged gifts.”

A dinner cruise was enjoyed through downtown Prague and Chris, Edita, and Bernard entertained the travelers on the upper deck of the ship. Those passing by on shore were amazed by their musical ability and talent. Prague is known for its beautiful church spires and elegant architecture.  From Mr. Bacak’s journal, “We visited the Prague Castle and viewed the changing of the guards before taking a walking tour of the government building areas and the beautiful St. Vitus Cathedral.  The views were spectacular.  We were in the same general area where Condoleezza Rice had been the day before to sign a treaty with the Czech Republic on missile defense sites.”  

A six hour bus trip ended at Salzburg, Austria where many scenes from the “Sound of Music” were filmed.  “The country is beautiful and the setting of our hotel up against the Alpines was awesome.  The hotel was family run, very homey, and my favorite of all we’d stayed in.  The currency in Austria and Germany is the Euro and shockingly, the American dollar was worth only 60 cents per Euro,” said Betty Danner.  After a short drive to Germany, the group took special buses to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest resort high in the Alps.  In order to enter the resort, the group had to walk through a tunnel to a gilded elevator which finally brought them to their destination.  The vacation place was a gift to Adolf Hitler on his fiftieth birthday and he only used it twice and never spent a night there.  The sitting room has a large granite stone fireplace which was a gift to Hitler from Mussolini.  Munich, Germany was the last locale to visit.  The entourage enjoyed an evening, seeing Town Hall and Hofbrauhaus – a hall dating back to the 16th century. 

The tour group departed for the United States on July 12th after eleven days of seeing beautiful countryside and experiencing many cultural differences in each of the countries; the bathrooms were called water closets, there was no air conditioning and no screens on the windows, (very scarce in Europe), for one of the breakfast entrees, sauerkraut and cold cuts were served and daylight was around 4:30AM and people were moving around at that time.  As quoted by LaVerne Dancak, “Europeans take good care of their resources…they walk, ride bicycles (there are large bicycle parking lots) drive small cars and don’t use Styrofoam!”   Edita Rybak stated, “Chris and I probably got 2 – 3 hours sleep every night because we wanted the group to see and experience as many sights as possible.  We even went to the 24 hour Tesco at 3:00AM so that they could see the European version of Wal-Mart.”  Chris added, “Traveling to Europe has always been a great experience…but traveling to Europe with a busload of your fans and friends, this was priceless.  There is nothing better than being able to share in the joy of the travelers seeing a site for the first time and experiencing the cultures with them.”  The dedication and eagerness of the Rybaks helped make the trip a memorable one.  Along with the beautiful scenery of Europe, the tour group will forever have the enthusiasm of Edita Rybak and the superb music of Chris Rybak in their memories.  The Slovakian tune “Nedaleko Od Trencina” eventually learned, enjoyed and sung by the members of the Texas tour group, will ring on forever in their hearts.

Now folks, listen to this! Edita and her team (Chris Rybak & Bernard Tupa) now have a new website out dedicated to the Czechs in Texas. It’s the place where you can find the lyrics and audio to your favorite Czech songs and relive all of those Czech phrases you heard before. You can also find here a database of various annual Czech picnics and festivals and also check out the favorite Texas-Czech recipes. This website is brand new and is being updated daily with more exciting info. So go and Czech it out now at: www.texasczechs.com.

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