|Note for accuracy: This trip actually took place July 5-7, at the start of my time in Europe.
Welcome to Osinalice - a small "municipality" (if you can even call it that), in the Sudetenland of the Czech Republic. For those of you for whom that name might be ringing an unplaceable bell, the Sudetenland was probably on your high school history tests as the region that was given to Hitler and the Nazis before World War II in an effort at appeasement. Well, we know how that played out. And there are people in the town who still personally remember. In the photos above, the moody gentleman who owns the horses was able to personally recount two months of American bombings that eventually led to the liberation of the Czechs in this area from the Nazi regime (for historial accuracy, it was the Russians who liberated Prague, under an international agreement).
The country house my Auntie on my father's side owns in Osinalice has been in the family since the end of WWII. Post-liberation all Germans were booted out of the area and their land was put up for sale by the government, resulting in this home being purchased by my grandfather the lawyer who had some in's at the time. It's been passed down to my Auntie who is firmly resolved to keep it in the family and maintains in with genuine love and care.
I don't know much about my father's side of the family, much of what I've learnt about it having come from my Mom or my Auntie, with only the occasional detail by Dad. What I do know:
Great-grandfather was a geographer who was quite well known for his atlases and maps, passing on a certain affinity for academia down the line. Granddad was a lawyer (more will be heard about him in a few weeks...) and Grandma on this side was the Editor-in-Chief of a fairly influential magazine at the time. To continue in the academic vein, my Auntie is an RNDr and my father is a software consultant for Microsoft (fyi: we're estranaged, which is why he's not much involved or present in my life). But, back to the history...
Grandma, with her career as it was, had her fair share of political connections that lasted through and after the war. Now, the Czech Republic, such as it is and has been, is an area of land that has changed hands (and thus, political affiliations) on a fairly frequent basis, particularly through the past century or so. From Austria-Hungary to Czechoslovakia to Nazi-controlled territory to Communist Czechoslovakia to Russian satellite nation to liberated Czechoslovakia and finally to where it is now as the Czech Republic - it's been tumultuous
Grandma, with her political connections went from being well-connected with power to being a political danger to those in power. The details aren't clear, but apparently someone/s (within the Communist party), somewhere, at some point, implied viciously to Grandma that "it might be better for her children" if she put herself out of the picture. She was found dead by her own hand when my father was just 5 and before my Auntie could even have any memories of her. Auntie says she doesn't think Grandma did it for bad reasons - she was just trying to do what she thought was best for her kids, like any mother would.
Granddad did his best to raise the kids and apparently did a decent job of it. Strong, smart, but still human - Dad and Auntie grew up faster than most and learned things a little differently. Auntie, while I was helping her clear the branches she chainsawed off the trees out of the yard, told me about how she's been caring for the house in Osinalice since she was 17 and on her own since she was my age. There's a different mentality at play in my family, in the entire Czech Republic, when it comes to being resourceful and self-sufficient because these are people who have done it out of survival for as long as they can remember.
As hard as times have gotten for the people of this lnad, there's a spirit of "We can do it!" - and not the way Obama means it. People who make their own food from scratch; who have entire wardrobes of hand-sewn clothes; whose children play with homemade toys, in self-renovated homes. My family has gawked at my lack of ability to cook, take care of my clothes or be otherwise self sufficient. There's a lot to learn here.
This is family history.