Dear Cousin Lada,
We received your name from our mutual cousin from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Margie Ann Nedjl. We tried to get in touch with you for several weeks before our trip to the Czech Republic, but since you don’t have email or speak English, and I don’t speak Czech, we had some difficulties.
Still, we were headed out your direction to see the villages where my grandparents were born, so we thought we take a chance. We hired Robert, who drove a very nice diesel Mercedes and is fluent in both Czech and English. He was intrigued by our rather American boldness to come knocking on your door.
Thank you for answering that door and inviting us in when we showed up and did just that. It was fun seeing the photo of Margie Ann’s family on your lovely bookshelf, and I think you finally believed I really am your cousin when I started naming all the people in the photograph. I enjoyed looking at the family information you had and trying to work down the trunk of our family tree to figure out how we were related. (Your grandmother, Anna, was the fourth wife my great-grandfather, Josef Kroupa, whose first wife, also an Anna, was my great-grandmother. It’s complicated!)
I appreciate you taking us to the grocery store (where, in a twist of fate, we also met your ex-wife) to make copies of the family information you had. And I can’t thank you enough for taking us out to the cemetery so I could see the grave of our great-grandfather, Josef Kroupa. It was very moving for me to make this connection to my family and my past. Seeing his large farm and the old farmhouse was also very special.
After we left you, Robert took us to the village of Zachlumi, where my grandmother was born to old Josef and his first wife. He know Josef married his second wife in Iowa, moved to Texas, married his third wife, and then moved back to Czechoslovakia where he married your great-grandmother. We still may not have counted all his children and stepchildren!
After that tiny village, we drove to Peralec, the village that my grandfather, Wencil Machacek, left when was 17 to move to Cedar Rapids. The old church where he was baptized is still there, fairly recently restored and in wonderful shape.
The beautiful cemetery had the graves several Machaceks, so we know they were also kin.
Like standing on the Charles Bridge in Prague, seeing the beautiful rolling hills of Bohemia, the thriving farms, the rich forests, and the bucolic countryside meant so much to me. After studying Czech history for several years and looking forward to this trip for several months, I feel like I connected with my roots and have come to a better understanding of the world and my place in it. Thank you for being part of that.
Your American Cousin, Bob