Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April Update

WOW. Where do I even begin? I can't believe it is already the middle of April.  I will give you all a grand update from the past couple months. It has been such a busy time focusing on my last semester at the University of Houston, preparing for the Miss Texas-Czech Slovak pageant and working. 

In February, I was delighted to speak to a Girl Scouts Troop about the Czech Republic for their International day.  My Czech "little sister" Saylor is a part of this group. I presented a short slideshow about Czech culture and traditions with some pictures from my trips. I made perníčky (gingerbread cookies) for the girls to decorate and copied some worksheets for the girls to color. I led them in saying their numbers, colors and even showed them the children's song "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" in Czech. Saylor brought her Wallachian kroj (Moravian costume) to show her friends and some of them tried pieces of it on. It is awesome to see her actively interested and proud of her heritage. The girls were very interested in learning about another culture. Not only did they learn about another culture, they were challenged to learn more about where their families came from. 


Saylor and I

February was also a month of starting something new! I accepted a position in the Czech Heritage Society of Texas. I am currently a co-editor in training to be Editor of the newsletter called "Česky Hlas."  I am looking forward to becoming Editor and utilizing my design and writing skills for the upcoming newsletters. I will be working on the summer issue soon!

March was a very tough month.  My Great Aunt Elsie Roznovsky (Sebek) passed away at the age of 93. I was very close to her. The days following, I was asked to write an article about her life for the Czech Center Museum Houston. It was like a therapy for myself as I reflected on all of the special moments I spent with her. I will share it with you all here.....

Special Memories of My Great Aunt Elsie
Elsie Sebek Roznovsky was the 4th child of Barbora Kuglova and Vojtech Sebek who immigrated to the United States at the turn of the 20th century. They were both Bohemians. Barbora came from Domazlice and Vojtech came from Kladno. At the time of Elsie's birth in 1920, her father was a baker in Caldwell,Texas. Elsie always had fond memories of her father baking rohliky, kolace, and buchty. By 1923, the Sebek family moved to the Cy-Fair area of Houston where they ultimately settled on their farm. Elsie had 4 brothers, Frank, Jerry, George and Albert. She had one sister, Rosie Sebek Mrosko. Rosie was my grandmother. She and Elsie were close sisters. When they started school, they could hardly speak English. At home only Czech was spoken.
   Once she made her way to Houston, Elsie frequented the Stefanik Lodge in Cottage Grove, Sokol Houston and the old Pokrok Lodge off North Main. She and all of the family held tight to their Czech Heritage. I grew up hearing many family stories from Elsie, because I lost my grandmother Rosie when I was 5 years old. Elsie was always fun to be around. Whenever I visited her at her home in Spring Branch, she always made sure I was well fed and she always had dessert waiting for us. When I was the appropriate age, she made sure I had a pivo (beer) or a glass of vino (wine) in hand. She was always the life of the party!
   Elsie would tell stories of having to milk cows before and after school when she was young. The family was able to be self-sustaining during the Great Depression. They had hogs to butcher, cows to milk, chickens for eggs, and a vegetable garden. Elsie's mom would often bake a duck for Sunday dinner. To this day, we have the crock that they used to make their own sauerkraut. Her dad used to tell the children about Slivovice (Czech Plum Brandy) and how it would knock their hats off!
   Elsie's first job outside of the farm was at a Weingarten Store on Washington Ave. in Houston. She became a manager of the candy department. We all have visions of Elsie working the department as Lucille Ball would work the candy factory on her TV show! Some in the family nicknamed her, "Lucy" because of her similar beauty and personality. Elsie had that fun sense of humor that we all loved. I have had a special bond with Elsie over the years. I have always admired her strength as she managed to get through tough times. Her husband, Louis Roznovsky, passed away the very same night as my grandmother Rosie. Their funerals occurred one after the other on the same day. We believe that strong, hard-working Czech upbringing sustained Elsie over the past 17 years.
   Elsie would speak much about the Czech heritage. She made sure I knew where my family came from. I remember special moments of her teaching me how to pronounce Czech words. Not knowing the meaning of the words, I would read her letters from family in the Czech Republic. She would translate. Always excited and proud, she would come to watch me sing with Kovanda's Czech Band. I feel so privileged to have had those fond moments with her. I know we will share even more stories in the life to come.
   Eliska, to není sbohem, ale nashledanou. Elsie, this is not goodbye, but see you later.

March was also the 1 year anniversary of Robert Ermis's passing. You may remember I spoke about him in my first post. He was my Czech singing partner/mentor.  Aunt Elsie and Robert both greatly impacted my life.  I probably wouldn't know much about my heritage or singing if it weren't for their help. I'm so thankful that they were both a part of my life. With the Miss Texas Czech-Slovak Pageant quickly approaching, I think to myself that I wish they could be here. However, I am certain that they are both watching over me as I prepare for it. 

This semester definitely had its fair share of "ups and downs." But, no matter what life may bring, I (and you) will surely grow from it. 

On a lighter note, next week is going to be such a whirlwind, but a great one! I will have my final exams for all of my courses and then Saturday will be the pageant.  I officially have 9 more days....what?! It is something I have been looking forward to for a very long time. I have been working towards this moment for the past 6 years. I'm very excited to share my heart with so many people. The very next day, I will be singing with Kovanda's Czech Band in Houston at the Czech Spring Fest! It is going to be an action-packed week. Let's hope I make it to my graduation :-)  

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter with your family and friends!
Šťastné Velikonoce!

I will give an update in my next post. Thanks for stopping by my blog! 

S láskou
Christiana Gentry