gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Tag Archives: Czech Republic

The Woman in Gold

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Woman-in-Gold

I recently saw The Woman in Gold, and as I am usually touched by movies, I was particularly touched by this one. I could relate to it because although I am not Jewish, my grandparents are from the Czech Republic and their families had everything taken away from them by the Russians. The scene that particularly touched me was the one where Maria had to say goodbye to her parents before escaping. I couldn’t help but cry. My grandparents left Czechoslovakia separately and they couldn’t even tell their families that they were leaving. My grandmother left on a scholarship to study in Paris with the promise of returning, but of course, she never did. My grandfather hired a spy and left in the middle of the night with only a briefcase in hand. He made his way to a refugee camp in Germany and then eventually to Paris where he rejoined with my grandmother. I can’t imagine leaving my family without saying goodbye and knowing that I would never see them again, which is what transpired with my grandparents. In the movie, Maria and Fritz’s escape was very dramatic and nerveracking. I guess what I liked most was simply how emotional it was. I don’t know if it evoked the same kind of emotion in others, who might not be able to relate to the film at all, but I imagine it was even more touching for those who have a similar story.

Living in my grandparents’ house

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lalalala 047

I recently moved for a new job, which is conveniently located where my grandparents live, and while they do not live at home but in a nursing home, I am living in their house. Living in someone else’s house can be strange, especially when it’s still full of all their things. However, when it’s someone you know or are close to, it’s not quite as strange. In fact, I am rather enjoying living in my grandparents’ house. ¬†Of course, I am lucky because they have a rather nice house. It’s full of art, books, records, Scandinavian furniture, culture, and history. I can feel the culture and history because I know about my grandparents’ past, but to a guest who might not know about my grandparents’ past, the culture and history might not be as obvious. My grandparents are immigrants from Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) and they escaped when the Russians invaded. Their story is very interesting to me because I can’t imagine going through what they had to go through…having things like their homes taken away from them, their rights to do certain things, and ultimately leaving their families behind to have a better life elsewhere. So with these things in mind, I look around the house and take in all the history and culture as much as I can. There is something that feels very foreign about the house, but in a good way. It transports me to a different time and place that is unknown to me, but no less interesting.

Stories from the past

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Visiting my grandparents in New England has always been a cultural experience. They are immigrants from the Czech Republic, former Czechoslovakia, and they certainly have a rich history to recount. I love hearing their stories, but also sometimes resent them for their strict ideals and harsh criticisms, in that German/Eastern European kind of way. My grandparents got married at a young age in Prague before leaving shortly after the Russians invaded and escaped communism. They left separately, my grandmother on a a scholarship to study in Paris with the promise to return but never did, and my grandfather escaped with help from a trustworthy (luckily) spy through the woods one night with only a briefcase in hand. My grandfather spent time in refugees camps in Germany before making his way to Paris to rejoin with my grandmother, and how incredible it is that they were actually able to find each other.

I’ve heard stories about the Nazis, one Czech soldier and one German soldier, going to my grandfather’s house at 6 in the morning, searching the house, taking their radio so they could not hear the news, and arresting his father, my great grandfather. He was a diplomat and was being watched when on a trip to Sweden and then arrested when he arrived back in Prague. He spent a few months in jail before being released because he knew German and the guards were worried he would overhear what they were saying. I’ve heard stories about loudspeakers throughout the city announcing who had died in the prisons that day and people in the streets crying for those they had known. I’ve heard stories about how the communists took away my family’s possessions, as well as their house because it was a nice house and forced them to live in a place that was not as nice because the communists wanted the house for themselves. I’ve heard stories about the communists not allowing my great uncle to pursue his studies because some of his family members (my grandfather) had fled the country. I’ve heard stories about the communists forcing a family member who had been a lawyer to leave his job and work in a coal mine. I’ve heard stories about a second cousin, now a publisher, writing underground pamphlets protesting the communist regime.

It is stories like these that interest me in what my family and so many others like them have gone through under the Nazis and then the Communists. It is stories like these that I associate with visiting my grandparents in New England and haunt me – not necessarily in a negative way, just in an intriguing way. I was recently in New England and these memories and stories resurfaced, as I talked to my grandfather, who is unfortunately in a declining state and not as coherent as he used to be, but I hope to hear more stories in the future still…