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Interviews: Czech Organizations in New York Resisting the Impact of the Pandemic

While society in many places around the world has already reopened after the coronavirus lockdown, getting back to "normal" in New York City will take time. The city that never sleeps has been extraordinarily impacted by the pandemic, bringing its cultural life to a standstill. Many local Czech organizations, which are a thriving part of the New York cultural landscape, were also affected, and had to reduce or cancel their programs. What is their experience with this exceptional situation and how do they see the future? In this series of interviews, we spoke with their representatives to find out more. Josef Baláž responded for the BBLA organization, Christopher Harwood for SVU (New York Chapter) and Susan Lucak for the DAHA association.


"humanity will always move forward…"


Josef Baláž, President of BBLA 

with Marek Milde






Josef Baláž, Photo: BBLA Archive


MM: In what situation did the arrival of the coronavirus crisis find the Bohemian Benevolent & Literary Association? What have you been planning during this period?

JB: Overall, 2019 was a very active and – from the point of view of fundraising – absolutely successful year for our organization and the entire Bohemian National Hall. BBLA oversees events and generates contributions for our member organizations, other affiliated associations throughout America, as well as our very close accomplices for organizing cultural events at the Bohemian National Hall, such as the Czech Center New York. COVID-19 put a complete stop to activities in our building. Dozens of cultural and commercial events were canceled. We are returning deposits for the preparation of individual events and canceling subcontractors.



“take this opportunity to recharge your creative batteries…”

Christopher Harwood, President of SVU NY

with Marek Milde


Christopher Harwood, President, and Zuzana Halsey, Vice-President of SVU NY. Photo: SVU.

MM: In what situation did the arrival of the coronavirus crisis find the New York chapter of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU)? What were you planning during this period?

CH: We had four events scheduled for the spring which we had to cancel or postpone indefinitely. The first of these was to have been the twelfth edition of our popular “Six-Minute Challenge” program, in which Czech and Slovak (-American) scientists, scholars, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, and other professionals active in or near New York present their work in six minutes or less. That was supposed to happen on Wednesday, March 24, but of course did not, and programs scheduled for April, May and June have also been scratched. We also had tentatively scheduled events for the summer that now seem unlikely to materialize. We are hoping against hope that we will be able to resume our programming in the Bohemian National Hall in the fall.


“COVID-19 is making us realize what is important in life…”

Susan Lucak, Founding Member and President of Dvorak American Heritage Association (DAHA) 

with Marek Milde

Susan Lucak, DAHA Founding Member and President, with DAHA members, Photo: Archive DAHA

MM: In what situation did the arrival of the coronavirus crisis find DAHA? What were you planning during this period?

SL: When COVID-19 struck New York City, DAHA had on its schedule two major events. The first was Spring Musical that was to take place on March 29, 2020. This is an annual concert featuring young talents mostly from the Juilliard School of Music pre-college division and seasoned musicians organized by violinist Laura Goldberg. The second was a colloquium related to Dvorak’s final opera Armida scheduled for May 16, 2020. This conference was to include internationally renowned opera director Mary Zimmerman and scholars including Professor Michael Beckerman and Veronika Vejvodova, the Director of Prague’s Antonin Dvorak Museum, among others. The Armida aria was to be sung by soprano Meghan Kasanders.