To Sing a Czech Anthem in Balboa Park Makes me Feel so Alive and Happy!
The third weekend of October is all about Czech and Slovak dancing, singing, reciting dramatized poems, playing instruments, showing off beautiful costumes by high cheeked women and cute children, joking with the audience, and all of this is happening in one of the most beautiful corners of Balboa Park: the International Village stage.
And that place is for me and my family one of the most exceptional and wondrous places in the whole world!!
Just imagine! You will encounter 33 nations sharing this cozy village, each having a small Spanish style cottage that serves as its cultural embassy. It is called The House of Pacific (peaceful) Relations, also known as the International Village. These "embassies" are there to welcome newcomers from their old countries to fill them in with "how-to" in America, and to share the beauty of their heritage while embracing the unique culture of other nations.
The first fifteen cottages were built in 1935, the last nine of them were finished several months ago!
This unique idea of the peaceful ("pacific") international village belongs to Paul Drugan. He not only became a main inspiration behind the second successful international exposition San Diego hosted in Balboa Park in 1935, but he convinced our government, and its President Roosevelt, of the uniqueness of the idea to build our own "United Nations". The government was convinced and sent a financial gift for building our International Village.
And the mission, expressed in the bylaws of the Village, is appealing and vital today as it was 96 years ago: “The purpose of the House of Pacific Relations, International Cottages and its members is to create a spirit of understanding, tolerance and goodwill among the various national and ethnic groups represented in the community".
It is philosophy I share and from it stems my enthusiasm for this "project". I believe that the more we know of our culture, of our differences, customs, history, the less "strange" the "strangers" around us look. And yes, it may be idealistic or perhaps naive, but as I like to say — I do not mind hearing these labels attached to my name!
But let us visit the stage, I cannot miss the performance that is meant for all of you!!
And here it starts!
I sing the Czech and Slovak national anthems and look to my right at my beautiful students. They sing in sincere concentration: that intent unpretentious eagerness to do a good job! And they do, in their perfect Czech and equally perfect Slovak (!!) they, these American children, deliver beautifully the most important songs there are!
And I look at the audience and hear my compatriots singing along, some of us moved by the moment and circumstances: For me, whenever I have opportunity to sing our national anthem for an American audience I feel happy, honored and humbled. It sounds so lofty, but that is exactly how I feel.
In singing that song in America, it reflects my years here. It reflect this life of mine that I could have built here, just like that, only in exchange for working hard, being honest and respectable to my wonderful host country. So as I look at the Americans in the audience, I am taken aback year after year how genuinly they pay respect to my tiny nation not only by listening to an anthem they do not have chance to hear very often, but by welcoming so many of us, strangers, to become one of them while allowing us to keep all what define us.
And the program starts! An accordion Club of San Diego embelishes the afternoon in the Park with famous Czech polkas and waltzes that everyone knows. The immigrants of the WWII made sure these songs became hits in this New World! And yes, even that most famous song is heard: The Beer Barrel Polka that Americans take as theirs! And not many know that this song was written in 1927 by a Czech Jaromir Vejvoda. This famous polka became famous in America when it was recorded in 1938 by Will Glahe with English (and totaly different lyrics) , and the rest is history. So, now you know! "Yours" Beer Barel polka is Czech, and as such "ours"!
And here is the Czech school Sluníčko!! Two steps to the left, two to the right, then some spinning that gets faster and faster only to stop on the beat, hands fly up to wave with a small red handkerchief, a big smile makes these fun Czech dancers beautiful! They bow only to burst into another song, they recite a Czech poem and dance some more and then educate its audience in Czech achievements! Their teacher (that would be me) is asking questions and they offer their answers like: Who invented contact lenses! YES! A Czech prof. Wichterle in 1959! And who discovered four types of blood?
YES! A Czech, prof. Jansky in 1823! And who is the father of fingerprinting? A Czech, yes! Prof. Purkyne, 1907! And who is a father of genetics? Yes, another Czech! Prof. Mendel, 1863! And who coined the word robot, yes! Karel Čapek in 1920! This fun game ends with the most difficult question: Who produces the best beer in the world? YES! Czechs, that famous Pilsner Urquel!!!
A musical quiz and a dynamic dramatized poem follows a dance with umbrellas, and an appreciative applause sends the girls happily to their parents in the audience.
Our program is concluded with several Moravian and Slovak folk songs that I present, while my husband Vláďa is accompanying me on his guitar.
I sing about unhappy love, happy love, broken hearts, yearning for love, betrayed love, being in love ....Whatever it is, all of my songs are in A minor!
I think it must be the key to Moravian heart: Bold, tenacious, giving, proud, and kind.
What a beautiful day. What an inspiring day! What a happy day!
And it was all meant for you, and you came! THANK YOU!