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Program

Jun 3, 2016 7:00 PM

FORUM: LITERARY FESTIVAL: BOOK READINGS, SIGNINGS & POETRY APP

Czech Center New York will be presenting a literary festival from June 3-5. On Friday June, 3 at 7PM in the Ballroom there will be six readings by American authors on Czech themes. Including works by Ivan Backer, Charles Novacek, Anna Nessy, Richard Katrovas, Jo-Anne Elikann & Kevin J. McNamara. The authors will have readings from their books followed by book signings. There will also be an introduction to a new poetry APP called Poetizer.

 

My Train to Freedom by Ivan Backer (Skyhorse Publishing)

Ivan Backer, a Hartford humanitarian and former Trinity College community activist, was one of the Jewish children in Europe who were rescued from the Nazis by Sir Nicholas Winton's Kindertransport train that took them to safety to England.

The breathtaking memoir by a member of “Nicky’s family,” a group of 669 Czechoslovakian children who escaped the Holocaust through Sir Nicholas Winton’s Kindertransport project, My Train to Freedom relates the trials and achievements of award-winning humanitarian and former Episcopal priest, Ivan Backer.

As Backer recounts in his memoir, in May of 1939 as a ten-year-old Jewish boy, he fled Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia for the United Kingdom aboard one of the Kindertransport trains organized by Nicholas Winton, a young London stockbroker. The final train was canceled September 1 when Hitler invaded Poland. The 250 children scheduled for that train were left on the platform and later transported to concentration camps and presumably perished.

Detailed in this page-turning true story is Backer’s dangerous escape, his boyhood in England, his perilous 1944 voyage to America, and his mantra today. Now he is an eighty-six-year-old who remains an activist for peace and justice. He has been influenced by his Jewish heritage, his Christian boarding school education in England, and the always present question, “For what purpose was I spared the Holocaust?”

My Train to Freedom was thoroughly researched and shaped by Backer’s own memories. It includes interviews he conducted in 1980 in Czech with his mother and her sister, later translated into English; a collection of conversations he had with his older brother and cousin; insights gained from the Czech film, Nicky’s Family, about the Kindertransport; and concludes with never-before-published death march accounts by two family members.

Backer, now 86, will read from his memoir about that experience and his subsequent life in America. After attending a Christian boarding school in England, he came to America in 1944. He earned degrees in history and theology and became an Episcopal parish priest before serving in various positions at Trinity College. Backer was president and executive director of the Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance and served on many boards of directors, task forces and coalitions.

 

Raising Girls in Bohemia: Meditations of an American Father by Richard Katrovas (Three Rooms Press)

Richard Katrovas is founding director of the Prague Summer Program. He is the author of eight collections of poetry, among them Dithyrambs (Carnegie Mellon,1998), Prague Winter (Carnegie Mellon, 2004), Scorpio Rising: Selected Poems (Carnegie Mellon, 2011) and the forthcoming Swastika to Lotus (Carnegie Mellon). He is also the author of a book of short stories, Prague, U.S.A. (Portals, 1997); a memoir, The Republic of Burma Shave (Carnegie Mellon, 2001); a novel, Mystic Pig (Smallmouth, 2001, Oleander, 2008); and the “anecdotal memoir” The Years of Smashing Bricks (Carnegie Mellon, 2007). His most recent book is the memoir-in-essays Raising Girls in Bohemia: Meditations of an American Father (Three Room Press, New York: 2014). His poems, essays and stories have appeared widely, and won numerous grants and awards. He was editor for Ten Years After the Velvet Revolution: Voices from the Czech Republic (New Orleans Review, Special Double Issue, Spring, 2000). Katrovas witnessed the Velvet Revolution on a Fulbright in 1989, and has been a resident of Prague with his three daughters and yogini wife for much of each year since. He taught for the University of New Orleans for twenty years, and joined the faculty of Western Michigan University in the fall of 2002.

 

The House in Prague by Anna Nessy Perlberg (Golden Alley Press)

Anna Nessy Perlberg has lived a remarkable life. From her early years of privilege in Prague, to the struggles of a young immigrant in New York City, from her years at Barnard College and Columbia University to a career of service and a loving and story-filled marriage with her poet-husband Mark Perlberg, Anna has lived by the humanitarian principles that were instilled in her by her parents.

Anna’s compelling memoir, The House in Prague, welcomes us into her early life in the elegant house near the Castle in Prague. We meet her shining and beautiful opera singer mother, friend of Albert Schweitzer and Arnold Schoenberg; and her father, counsel to the family of Czech President, Thomas Masaryk.

With Hitler's rise to power, everything changes. Anna’s father is Jewish and that, coupled with their political connections, puts the family in great danger. And so their harrowing escape to a new life in America begins. The House in Prague is a memoir in two parts. In Part I, through Anna’s young voice we learn of the family's escape from the Nazis, their voyage to Ellis Island, and her struggles to become an American girl in a city teeming with immigrants and prejudice. In Part II, present-day Anna freely shares stories of the successes and failures of her immigrant family, their cherished Holocaust survivors, and life with her poet-husband and their children. And through it all, there is the house in Prague, elegant, unchanging, helping Anna to find her own way home.

The House in Prague is written with straightforward, lyrical clarity. Neither a romanticized view of the past, nor an unkind tell-all, Anna shares her life in a way that helps us understand our own.

 

Dreams of a Great Small Nation by Kevin J. McNamara 

The mutinous army that threatened a revolution, destroyed an empire, founded a republic and remade the map of Europe 

Kevin J. McNamara journeyed across eastern Siberia shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, where he first learned about the army that exploded onto the world stage in 1918.

Traveling almost 2,000 miles on the Trans-Siberian Railway between Irkutsk and Khabarovsk, he happened upon the story of the Czech and Slovak legionnaires, who riveted the world's attention in 1918 by unexpectedly seizing all of Siberia and nearly toppling Moscow's Soviet regime. Their improvised army played a role in the First World War, Russian Revolution, Russian Civil War, Allied Intervention, the collapse of Austria-Hungary, the founding of Czecho-Slovakia, and the diplomacy that ended the war and re-wrote the map of Europe.

McNamara subsequently acquired and arranged to have translated from Czech to English more than 100 first-hand accounts by these same legionnaires. Their personal stories were published in Prague in the 1920s in a five-volume work, "The Road to Resistance: How the Czech Legion Lived and Fought," but their accounts were suppressed following the Nazi and Soviet conquests of Czecho-Slovakia. No longer censored following the collapse of communist rule in Prague, these first-hand accounts have never before been rendered into English.

The book tells the story of 50-65,000 émigrés, deserters, and POWs from Austria-Hungary and its army who are cast adrift inside Russia at the end of the Great War. Lost amidst the Russian Revolution and a Soviet regime that withdraws from the war, these Czechs and Slovaks - long oppressed by the Habsburg rulers of their Austro-Hungarian homelands - are organized by a fugitive philosophy professor from Prague, Tomas G. Masaryk, into an ad hoc army. They turn against Austria-Hungary, which fights alongside Germany, in order to fight for the Allies - in return for an independent nation of their own. Their search for a safe passage to Allied France leads them on a perilous journey across Siberia, where an altercation leads to a brawl that launches one of the wildest mis-adventures in modern history.

A former journalist for Calkins Media Inc. and aide to U.S. Congressman R. Lawrence Coughlin, McNamara is an Associate Scholar of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia, and a former contributing editor to its journal, "Orbis: A Journal of World Affairs." He earned a B.A. in journalism and M.A. in international politics from Temple University, where he studied under military historian Russell F. Weigley. He holds a certificate in national security law from the University of Virginia Law School. He lives in Glenside, PA.

 

Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance by Charles Novacek 

This memoir extract, by the late Charles Novacek, will be read by his wife, Sandra A. Novacek

Seventy-seven years ago, just months after Hitler’s troops marched into Czechoslovakia, eleven year old Charles (Karel) Novacek, was recruited into the Czech Resistance.  This story and other remarkable details of Novacek’s life are revealed in his posthumously published memoir and endorsed by Madeleine Albright.

The book has been a finalist or winner of 14 awards for independent publishing including a Gold Medal for Memoir in the 2012 Midwest Book Awards.

Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance chronicles the incredible life of Charles Novacek―one that took him from his youth spent in the Czech resistance against the Nazis and the Communists during World War II and the Cold War, to the displaced persons camps of Germany and the military dictatorship of Venezuela before granting him access to the American Dream.

Novacek was born in Czechoslovakia in 1928 to a Hungarian homemaker mother and Moravian,   Czech Legionnaire and policeman father. In 1938, his idyllic childhood was shattered with the Munich Agreement, displacement of the Novacek family to Moravia and the ensuing Nazi occupation of Bohemia and Moravia. The family became actively involved in the Czech resistance. At the age of eleven Charles and his sister Vlasta were trained for wartime resistance by their father Antonin and Czech Resistance leader uncle Josef Robotká on how to resist pain, hunger and fear―and to trust no one.

Novacek continued work in the resistance after World War II ended as the Soviets occupied his homeland. He endured arrest, capture, and torture ultimately escaping across the German border.

Charles Novacek graduated from the Industrial College of Engineering in Brno, Czechoslovakia with a degree in mechanical engineering and attended the Masaryk University School of Law in Brno. After escaping his homeland in 1948, Novacek fled to Germany, then Venezuela and was finally able to immigrate with his family to the United States in 1956 where he taught himself English as his seventh language.

Novacek became a registered professional engineer and spent thirty-three years in the Detroit, Michigan, metropolitan area as a civil engineer, project, design and quality assurance manager. He received an ACI Construction Practice Award from the American Concrete Institute and a Distinguished Service Award from the Michigan Society of Professional Engineers.

In addition to being an accomplished engineer, Novacek was a talented artist who carved stone and painted many fine and vibrant works, and a world traveler who was ever interested in the beauty and intricacy of other cultures. He was a lifelong learner who continually sought knowledge, earning two masters degrees and studying Chinese in his retirement years.     

Novacek died in Detroit, Michigan in 2007. 

 

111 Places in New York that you must not miss! By Jo Anne Elikann (ACC Distribution)

New York, New York - a crazy quilt of evolving neighborhoods,trends, and tastes, and home to natives and newcomers of every nationality, ethnicity, and outlook. New York City's history and grand ambitions live in every street, park, and hidden alleyway. This unusual guidebook invites the adventurous and curious to

explore a wildly diverse selection of little-known places, including: a trapeze school, a giant Buddha in a former porno theater, a Coney Island sideshow, Louis Armstrong's home, a Central Park croquet court, a Gatsby-era speakeasy, and a secret balcony where slaves worshipped 200 years ago. Play chess with the masters on a Midtown office-tower wall; have a pint at a legendary prizefighter's hangout in Soho; whisper messages across a crowded train station. Unexpected and quirky, most of these destinations are sounder-the-radar they will astound even longtime New Yorkers who thought they knew it all.

Jo-Anne Elikann was born in Brooklyn, grew up in Queens,and lives in Manhattan. A freelance writer, artist, and photographer, her proudest achievement is having raised six children in an NYC apartment. She's a New Yorker through and through; a lifelong explorer of its incredible nooks and crannies.

 

INTRODUCTION TO POETIZER APP

The globally first ever social network for poets and poetry lovers called Poetizer was launched a year ago in the Czech Republic. The aim of this Czech startup is to enable everyone the publication of poetry for free, to bring poetry to mass audiences, to help poetry thrive globally, and to encourage everyone to share their emotions and share them with worldwide audience instantly. Poetizer is unique as no other specialized platform as mobile application exists and so it is the first of its kind. It combines a unique crowdfunding feature to motivate people to express their emotions through a poem. Poetizer is a free app available in English language and available for download on Android, iOS and Amazon.

In its first year of existence in the Czech Republic, thousands of Czech users wrote over 10 000 poems into the application. It has gained widespread media attention in the Czech Republic, as well as very positive reviews. Starting this spring, Poetizer extends beyond the Czech borders to international audience in desire to build a true global community.   

Presented by PhDr. Lukáš Sedláček, M. Phil.

 

RESERVE YOUR TICKET

Venue:

321 East 73rd Street
NY 10021 New York
United States

Date

Jun 3, 2016 7:00 PM

Organizer:

Czech Center


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