Re: Slovaks in the US face generational divide, By Beata Balogová, Aug 16 - 22, Vol 10, 31
About three years ago I travelled through Omaha, Nebraska on business and found some free time to explore the city. To my surprise, on the car rental company map was a point of interest named the Czechoslovak Cultural Center. It was in an old leafy neighbourhood that had long ago ceased being Slavic and was being settled by new generations of Hispanic immigrants. It was gratifying to see an urban neighbourhood that was still full of life, but the Czechoslovak Cultural Center was out of place in its transformed surroundings.
There were a few families playing in the playground and a few old people staffing the surprisingly well-kept building. The man who was looking after the place when I visited didn't speak the language anymore. He did when he was young, but his parents were the last generation to take the language with them when they passed away. They still try to organise a trip to Slovakia and the Czech Republic every year, but it gets tougher and tougher to find enough people of our heritage to make the journey.
The old Sokol posters and yellow newspaper clippings on the wall made it a very discomforting experience for me. When I arrived and saw the building I expected a thriving community. Afterward I did not know whether to be sad at the decline in the cultural identity of these Midwesterners or happy that they have been able to keep it up so long.
On the other hand, my brother-in-law is Mexican and lives with his wife and child in Dallas. One weekend they visited Waco and he was astonished at the active Czechoslovak community there. He even FedEx'ed [sent by rapid post] some vacuum packed "Kolache" (that's the spelling that survives for cakes) from one of several Czechoslovak restaurants! I doubt he was as astonished as I was. I've kept the brochure from this place so if anyone has a craving for their grandmother's baking and no one at home remembers how to cook these - this is as good as its going to get without actually crossing the Atlantic.
23. Aug 2004 at 0:00