Czech Essay Contest - Sept 2006

Czech Students Honored For Their Essays

September 16, 2006 Narodni Archiv, 133 Milady Horakova, Praha
Four Czech Republic students who won CGSI’s family history essay competition were honored Saturday, September 16, 2006 at a special award event CGSI sponsored in Prague. Hosted by the National Archives’ Dr. Lenka Matusikova, assisted by her colleague Dr. Helena Klimova, the reception featured a special tour of the archives’ most ancient documents.

Pictures were taken of the winners and of the presentation.

Prizes of $250 for first place and $100 each for three winners who shared second place were awarded by CGSI 1st vice-president Dottie Speidel, assisted by Dr. Miroslav Koudelka, CGSI’s local representative.

The competition’s first prize went to Sona Svancarova, Kunstat, who wrote about her great great great-grandfather who was a master potter in that town. Sona hopes to study law in Brno after graduation from gymnasium (high school). The second place winners of $100 each were Michal Morawetz, Ceske Velenice; Klara Borovcova, Mlada Boleslav; and Lenka Vomackova, Cernosice. As the winners were announced, the students introduced their guests and spoke briefly about the subjects of their essays, which will be available from time to time in the Nase rodina and on CGSI’s web site.

The first place essay by Sona Svancarova is available for your review.

At the event, local coordinator Vojtiska Kupcova explained how the competition was conducted and introduced members of the screening committee, which had chosen the six best essays as finalists. A volunteer, she had circulated the competition announcement and later convened a screening committee consisting of Dr. Vladimir Karfik of the Czech Writers Union, chairman; Dr. Koudelka; literary editor Zdenko Pavelka, and genealogist Jan Dus.

Final selection of winners was accomplished in the US by Daniel Necas, Immigation History Center at the University of Minnesota; and CGSI committee members Chuck Romportl, Ginger Simek and Dottie Speidel.

In addition to the special tour, Dr. Matusikova presented the students and guests with three of the archives’ publications, the 50th anniversary book “Nothing and Nobody Should Be Forgotten,” “Treasures of the Central Archives,” and the publication prepared for the exhibit at CGSI’s 2005 Back to the Homeland conference.

During the tour, the visitors saw samples of the berni rula, the Soupis, ancient color-coded volumes with painted decorations, and a sample of old documents destroyed by corrosive ink or fire. Especially compelling was a skull and crossbones-decorated volume, its black cover recording victims of the Black Death (14th century) and a “constitution” of the same period outlining the responsibilities of the common people to the owner of the property on which they lived.

After the tour, the group reconvened for coffee and strudel, and informal discussion, with comments from Dr. Karfik noting the intertwining of national and personal histories.

Michal, whose family home in a Sudeten area had been under many different flags, and whose family had been evicted from their home at one point, volunteered that his interest after graduation next year will be the study of history.

Gratitude was expressed to the Czech-based Open Society Foundation and the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their assistance with the competition. In addition to those mentioned, attendees included US embassy public affairs representative Jitka Vildova, who is investigating her own Czech family history.