Saturday, January 11, 2014

How it all began....(Part 1)

Have you ever wondered where exactly your ancestors came from, what types of people they were or hardships they endured? This is something I often think about. Throughout my life, I have found some of the answers to these questions.
     Ever since I was a small child, I have been exposed to my Czech heritage. My maternal ancestry has been a huge part of my life and is something I truly care about. Call me a nerd, but I think it is quite interesting. I think it made such a great impact on my life when my distant cousin, Katka from Plzeň came to America in 1996. I was only 6 years old when the unafraid 21 year old came to see the other side of the family that had been a mystery for years.
Christiana (me), Katka, & Jon (my brother)

You see... this whole genealogy thing is an intriguing mystery. My great grandmother, Barbora Kuglova, left Bohemia when she was 18 (around 1912). She left behind her father, 4 sisters and 1 brother. Barbora kept in contact with her sisters-Magdalena, Anna and Marie. Anna is Katka's great grandmother. Katka's mother, also named Marie, found numerous letters that  Anna had written to Barbora over the years. The realization that some family resided in America caused Katka's mom to search for us. Marie wrote a letter to the same address that was used about 100 years ago which was still in the family. After passing the letter around, my mom received it and wrote back. That reply changed all of our lives. 

Since then, we have found our other distant cousins (Magdalena's family) in a small town called Milavče near Domažlice, CZ. We have kept in touch with our family over the years and continue to visit one another.

      My first trip to the Czech Republic was in 2003. My mom and I stayed a month  with our family in Plzeň and toured the country. I was 12 years old. This was a trip to remember for sure! Excited and nervous, I had not seen Katka since I was 6. She had gotten married and had her first child, Matyas. We had a fabulous time meeting more of our distant cousins-Katka's parents (Marie and Jiří) and brother (Tomáš). 
     On our generous tour of the country, Marie, Jiří and Tom took us to the most beautiful cities-- Prague, Karlovy Vary, Domažlice, Český Krumlov and numerous small towns. As a small child, one of my favorite activities was visiting many castles. It was fascinating- like I was living in one of my fairytale books! We also went to the Chodsko Slavnosti which is a 3-day folk festival in Domažlice. I fell in love with the entire show. From the women and men dancing in their bright and beautiful chodsko kroje to the singing of old world songs.  Another highlight of our road trip was finding my great grandmother's and great grandfather's birth homes. It was a fun adventure. It was a matter of talking to our distant cousins in Domažlice, going to the courthouse there, and looking at archives in Plzeň. My mom also acquired her great uncles' journal which listed information about where my great grandfather's ancestral homes were located. The journey seemed much like the TV show "Who Do You Think You Are?"
Katka and I
Katka, Matyas and I

 Marie, Matyas, Katka and I

                          My Mom and I with Magdalena's daughter- Marie Coufalová, with her daughter, Marie and great grand daughter.
My great grandmother, Barbora Kuglova's, birth home in Starý Klíčov. A new house was built there.
 Barbora's second home and possibly last home before coming to America in Stanetice.
A small church in Mrakov where Barbora went to church.
  All of the "babičky" (Grandmothers) still wearing their kroje

It was a wonderful first time visiting. We were all sad to leave each other....we just knew we would see each other again. So... In 2004, Tom and his mom, Marie, came to Houston for the first time. In return, we also gave them a tour of our country! We took them to all major cities in Texas, ventured into Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri.

In 2007, my mother and I returned to the Czech Republic to visit the family again. Over the years, Katka had a second child, her name is Viktoria. We met her for the first time. We also visited the Moravian side of the Czech Republic and took a night train into Slovakia. Mind you, this was only two weeks after I saw the horror movie, "Hostel 2." We made a few jokes during the night trying to spook each other.  Since I was older, I was more eager to go hiking. We spent the day hiking up part of Vysoké Tatry and took a cable car to one of the peaks. At a beautiful restaurant on the way up, I had my first taste of "Dršťková polévka" aka tripe soup. ha!!! We also revisited our family in Domažlice and once again went to the Chodsko Slavnosti.
 Matyas, Marie and I
Katka, Viktoria and I
Before we started hiking up Vysoké Tatry

 The restaurant where we ate lunch.
Going up!
 Almost to the top

My mother and I at one of the peaks in the clouds :-)

Marie Coufalová, and her family in Domažlice.
Assembly of the head dress before the parade of costumes at Chodsko Slavnosti
One of the many performances. All men and women in Chodsko kroje. This is the kroj I wear at different events. Great talent! My biggest dream has been to sing with a group some year. :-)
Little did I know, the next 7 years of my life, I would look much like a performer at the festival....

S laskou,


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