Yesterday I had a nice long chat with living history: my Czech grandmother. I don’t know why I hadn’t asked her about it before. Maybe I didn’t think she wanted to talk about some of the less pleasant parts of her life. But, I am glad she didn’t hold back.
Assuming I understand details correctly, Grandmother’s parents immigrated from what was known as Bohemia. Bohemia comprised was is now the western two-thirds of today’s Czech Republic. About the time she was born here in America, Bohemia was merged into what became Czechoslavakia.
I get the impression American Czechs of the early 1900s viewed their heritage as extremely important. When it came to language, as far as Grandmother’s father was concerned his children could (and I gather should) learn all the English they can at school. But at home, Czech was the official language.
This attitude toward language seems to have resonated with Grandmother. When she wrote to an aunt living in the old country, she took the time to write in Czech. Grandmother was not the most skilled with the language, but she obtained an English-Czech dictionary and made a list of particularly troublesome Czech words and phrases. Her aunt was so very, very happy to have received a letter in her own language. Partly that her niece made the effort to write in her language, but also that she did not have to wait the week or two to have someone translate the letter for her.
It seems to me Grandmother had an interest in language. Perhaps she is where I get my interest from. Very cool.