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Cheerful Sunday in the Park: We Came, we Danced, we Sang and Left Happy!

And so it was! Sunday in the Park full of colors, long ribboned pony tails, swift steps, A minor chords, czardas songs, accordions' polkas, and, even poems! A Czech and Slovak Heritage Day is on!

There is not a place in the world like San Diego International Village where over thirty nationalities have a place to gather and share what their culture and ethnicity is about.

It was Paul Drugan who introduced the vision in 1935 and convinced President Roosevelt to send to San Diego federal money to build it.

What was that vision about? Paul Drugan understood that it is in human nature that we are not sure if we like "different" or "strange".

And let us face it: All of us, immigrants, are a bit strange: we speak a strange language, we eat strange food, we may dress strangely, and we have strange habits. But once we get to know those "strange habits", once we understand what it is all about, it becomes less strange and less threatening. And the International village in San Diego opens a wide welcoming gate to experience "the exotic" in a neat Spanish village full of cozy haciendas: The hamlet is called the House of Pacific (Peaceful) Relations, as Drugan believed that building relations between nations in any way contributes to peace.

It may sound naive and idealistic, but my heart is in it!

I am so happy and excited to be a part of it! And It is with vigor I prepare once a year a program for that day to sample our heritage and culture. Each weekend over the year is designated to one of the nationalities to present a program on an open stage in the Park, and yesterday it was our turn! And we take that job seriously! Even if no one would come, we would have danced away and sang on the top of our lungs! But you always come and we sent our love to you from the stage, and now from the page!

And so, for our program we choreographed several folk dances with my six girls from a Czech school, we wrote a poem about a legend how Czechs came to Bohemia, we asked the audience to shout any word there is and proved that every word has a Czech song, we played Ode to Joy on ocarinas, we listened to Dvořák”s Humoresque beautifully played by SrutI on a flute, and to Largo from New World Symphony on piano skilfully performed by Noemi, we listened to banjo and bluegrass, to a traditional Red River Valley played by Kači on a recorder, we tapped our feet to czardases, we burst into polkas so skilfully and with enthusiasm played by the wonderful loyal San Diego accordion club, and we listened to Smetana and Dušek played with master's skill by our sweet Italian friend Chiara Capobianco on the queen of the instruments, the harp!

The Czech and Slovak Heritage Day brings much joy to me and my compatriots, and it means a lot to celebrate it with you!

I am one of the 44 millions Americans who were not born in this country, but came as immigrant. I would never have imagined in my wildest dream that one day I would stand in front of the Americans who are interested in what I have to say about my culture! To see one day America, that I got to know from the poetry of Whitman and Ferlinghetti, and from books by Steinbeck, Anderson, and Faulkner, Sue Kaufmann, Barbara Gordon, Kennedy Toole, Anton Myrer and others the commies allowed to be published, was a dream as unattainable as one can imagine.

But life writes beautiful unimagInable tales. And one of them is my tale of a foreigner living in this charming wild west, a country that allowed me and millions of others to spread my wings and fly as high as my ability would allow. And now you may cringe, it may sound to you as a cliche, but this “cliche” is my reality: I met Americans that are like no other people in the world: patient, kind, tolerant, full of empathy and an interest in what I am about.

And so this past Sunday we came in our cheerful costumes offering to you fast dance steps and songs to cheer you up, to share a bit of our old country, and you cheered us back. What a beauty that is.

Thank you!

My thanks to my great friends and students: Vladislav Hanč, Adélka Hančová, Míša Morán, Petra Popová, Edita Semiginovská, Noemi and Emilka Moran, Kači Popová, Simonka Kapičková, Rachel Chikina, Pavel Chvístek, Christiaan Nazarian, Lou Schlotte, Chiara Capobianco, Sruti Bhaskara, VivIen Bergová, Donna Kaspar, Accordion Club San Diego, Míla Kapička, Palo Dobrik, Lucka Leonard, Renata Halaska.

Photos: Pal'o Dobrik


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