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Program

May 8, 2020 7:00 PM

Talk & Staged Reading: The Accidental Hero by Patrick Dewane

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Czech Center presents the extraordinary, true Czech-American story of a U.S. soldier with Czech ancestry, Lt. Colonel Matt Konop, who became the harbinger of the end of World War II in western Czechoslovakia. His grandson, Patrick Dewane, brings to life his grandfather’s story in an exclusive ZOOM talk and staged reading event titled The Accidental Hero on May 8, 2020.

Join us to watch the event recording 

to learn the extraordinary story of Matt Konop, in a talk by Patrick Dewane,

performing several staged scenes from the play itself and sharing archival footage

from the liberation of western Bohemia.

 

As a Lt. Colonel in World War II, Matt Konop’s native language of Czech put him in charge of the Advance Party liberating Czechoslovakia. A string of jaw-dropping coincidences had Konop freeing the villages of his grandparents. The Czechs gave him a hero’s homecoming that changed Konop’s notion of his identity.

He then returned home, only rarely talking about the war. Yet when he died, his basement yielded a treasure trove of typewritten accounts, photos, and rare film footage. It was only when Konop’s family discovered his writings did they learn his remarkable story.

On May 8, 2020, Konop’s grandson, Patrick Dewane, will bring this remarkable story to life in a special online event, featuring his grandfather’s movie clips of Czechoslovakia. He will tell the enthralling, humorous and heartwarming tale of miraculous escapes and astonishing coincidences, recounting his grandfather's journey from Omaha Beach, the Battle of the Bulge, and the end of WWII. In the last week of the war, Konop’s story turns away from a soldier’s survival tale to something from mythology. He discovers his lost identity, embraced by the tribe he never knew. Like Luke Skywalker, Konop thought he was just fighting the Evil Empire, in this case the Nazis. But unlike Skywalker, this story is true. His was an epic homecoming. As he freed the Czechs, they liberated him.

 



Lt. Colonel Matt Konop Matt Konop Domazlice, Czechoslovakia, 1945. Photo: Archive of Patrick Dewane

 

Audiences across the US and the Czech Republic have thrilled to this remarkable, uplifting story from The Greatest Generation. Konop's grandparents had left the Old Country in the 1860s to pursue the American Dream. Konop was raised with their language, Czech, but expected to “become American.” To get ahead, he needed to discard the old ways and his first language. Dropped into WWII, his fluency in Czech got him the dangerous assignment of commanding the Advance Party to liberate Czechoslovakia. And once at the Czech border, his curiosity drew him into the country of his grandparents, well ahead of the rest of his division. What he found changed his life. The Czechs couldn’t believe the miracle of “being liberated by one of our own.” He couldn’t believe the hero’s welcome that greeted him. It deeply changed his notion of what it meant to be both Czech and American.

However, like many of his generation, Matt Konop didn’t talk about the war when he returned. His story vanished with passing time. Back in Czechoslovakia, the Communist coup of 1948 brought an ugly, repressive regime that would last the rest of Konop’s life. The Communists also changed the official history of WWII and eliminated the fact that the US Army had liberated Southwestern Czechoslovakia. So while Konop’s story faded in America, it was illegal to tell it in Czechoslovakia. When Konop died in 1983, his family knew little of his heroics, and the Czechs were forbidden to talk about it. It seemed his war stories were buried with him.

Twenty years after his death, his long-forgotten writings were discovered in a family basement. Along with his war manuscript were reels of color and black and white film he shot during the war on a Kodak 8mm handheld camera. Konop’s grandson became obsessed with what was found and turned the story, film footage and period music into the one- man show, The Accidental Hero. Dewane has toured this story in the Czech Republic each of the last eight years, and in over a hundred venues in the US. Konop’s story, once lost, is now told with great joy by his grandson.

 

        

 

 

Patrick Dewane has performed his one-man show “The Accidental Hero” at the Ford’s Theater in Washington DC, the National WWII Museum in New Orleans and over a hundred theaters across the US. He has been a regular feature at the WWII Liberation Celebrations in Plzen and Domazlice, and has performed at the US Embassy in Prague, and in Klatovy, Holýšov and Klenčí, Czech Republic. His 30-year career in the arts includes an Emmy nomination and work on an opera that won the Pulitzer Prize for Music. He has an MFA in Theater Management from Brooklyn College and lives in Minneapolis.

www.accidentalhero.net

 

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Event is organized in collaboration with the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in New York


 

Venue:

Bohemian National Hall, 321 East 73rd Street
NY 10021 New York
United States

Date

May 8, 2020 7:00 PM

Organizer:

Czech Centre


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