(I do know it’s no longer one country, I just like saying Czechoslovakia!)
When we discussed whether I should go to Morocco over my work furlough recently Brian encouraged me to do it. He had one condition though — he’d pick the next trip destination. I have to admit, as chief travel planner I tend to bulldoze the way with my choices about where to go. What could I say? It’s only fair that Brian make the choice for once. What’s more though, he wanted to make it a surprise until we got to the airport, and do all the planning himself. He actually held out for about a month like that, but couldn’t contain it any more. No surprise, come Thanksgiving we’re going to Czech and Slovakia.
We’ve somehow never made it to Prague — or Czech at all — though we’ve been to the surrounding countries. And Slovakia, well, after all that’s in Brian’s family tree.
To make a long story short, Brian’s grandfather Edmund came over from Czechoslovakia as a child, returning only once to visit his family in 1972. Brian’s grandma still tells stories about that voyage. In 2005 we managed to get in contact with Brian’s grandfather’s childhood best friend’s daughter. Edmund and Ivan had stayed in touch for decades, so his daughter knew exactly who Brian was. We made arrangements to visit Elena in the village of Bytca, Edmund’s original home. Once there we also found Edmund’s mother’s grave and took a picture with Brian just like the one of Edmund in 72. And surprise! When Elena read a letter from Brian’s grandmother that mentioned long-lost cousins, she announced that she knew them, that they lived a mile away, and let’s go!
The next thing we knew we were standing in someone’s front yard while various cousins clutched Brian’s face, repeating “Slovensko!” They sincerely wanted us to spend the night, but when our translator had to leave after only an hour, there was little we could say to one another. And you can only smile and nod for so long.
So we left with much waving and signaling that we would return. I knew a trip back to ‘the old country’ had been on Brian’s list for a while, so his surprise trip destination came as no surprise to me. We have sent a letter to his family, so hopefully our arrival won’t come as a surprise to them this time!