Not many Czechs realize how descendants of Czechs and Slovaks, around the world, are very proud of their ancestry. Czechs also don't realize how many communities in the United States were originally settled by Czechs and Slovaks! There have been many emigrations of Czechs and Slovaks in the history of the two countries. Each migration period led Czechs and Slovaks to immigrate to other countries, with many who became immigrants in the US. There are numerous small communities across the Midwest where Czechs and Slovaks settled. One such place is the city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Cedar Rapids is the second largest city in the state of Iowa, and is home to the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library. This museum started as a way to preserve Czech culture and heritage back in 1974 by second and third generation descendants of Czech immigrants. Over the years, the group came to also include those of Slovak heritage, and the museum was officially created to house all the artifacts the group collected. You can read more about the museum's history by clicking here. The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library is impressively housed, and it attracts between 20,000 and 30,000 visitors each year. The museum houses some 30,000 artifacts of Czech and Slovak culture and history. The museum's current facilities were dedicated on October 21, 1995. The dedication ceremonies were attended by then US President Bill Clinton, President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic, and President Micahl Kovac of Slovakia.
During the recent historic floods along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library suffered extensive damage. This news has been covered by Radio Prague News, here in the Czech Republic--please see these two stories here and here. It has been amazing to read these stories and see how the ties are still very vibrant and active between the Czech and Slovak communities in the US and here. It is wonderful to see the cooperation taking place, even from across the ocean, to help save this very important museum. The museum is also being supported by monetary donations and volunteer work, from the Czech and Slovak communities in the US, to help clean and restore artifacts damaged in the flood. It will take some time to recover from the flood, but the outlook for the museum is very positive.
I wanted to share this story as it marks the importance of the Czech and Slovak contribution to the history of the United States, and to show that this tie is still very important today. Even in my own life, these ties are ongoing. One set of my great grandparents migrated from Czechoslovakia to the United States in the very late 1800's to early 1900's. My maiden name is Czech. Some of my family, including my parents, have visited the Czech Republic, but I am the first one (that I know of) who has come back, after 4 generations, to actually live here! The story of the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library touched me when I read it in the news. I don't have any personal ties to this museum, yet it is a piece of my heritage--and also the heritage of those who are the descendants of Czechs and Slovaks who immigrated to the US. Those Czech and Slovak descendants are a very hearty bunch and are able to handle such tragedies, as the museum flood, by hard work with a clear view toward the future--just as their ancestors did in the past. I would like to wish all those involved in the restoration work all the best.
That's all for today...you all have a great day!
(c) 2008 by czechoffthebeatenpath