Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU) has been awarded a grant
from the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs to survey historical
sites and monuments, and the archival material relating to Czech
Americans. The project is envisioned as a long-term and broadly
based effort, involving close cooperation with individual Czech
American organizations and the relevant
institutions in the Czech Republic, such as the Naprstek Museum. It is our hope to eventually enlarge the project to also include the Slovak materials with the cooperation of the relevant Slovak organizations in America. The project is coordinated by Dr. Miloslav Rechcigl who has had an extensive experience in the area of history of Czechs and Slovaks in America.
It has been estimated that there are some 1.5 million Czechs in the US which is considered the largest Czech community abroad. Cities like Chicago, Cleveland and New York could at one time boast of flourishing Czech life. Due to the inevitable effects of the "melting pot", this distinct life has, however, been, steadily fading away. As the old grandparents die, the subsequent generations lose interest not only in the Czech language but also in their own family heritage For generations these families have kept old Czech books, almanacs, anniversary publications, calendars, posters and other family treasures which have reminded them of their old country and which they have held in great reverence. Many of these publications are long out of print and cannot be found even in the Naprstek Museum in Prague.
If we look at the Czech American community, as a whole, the
situation is equally alarming. As the community leaders get older,
it is difficult to replace them with the young blood. Many a society
may thus cease and desist with the death of its president. To
make matters worse, a number of Czech American societies have
lost PURPOSE for meaningful existence, other than mere
socializing. Oddly enough, this trend has been accentuated following the Velvet Revolution, when a number of organizations reached the conclusion that their work is no longer needed.
The Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences, which has had a long interest in the history of Czech and Slovak Americans, has anxiously followed these trends. This concern led the SVU to hold in July 1997 a special conference in Belton, TX on "Czech-Americans in Transition: Challenges and Opportunities for the Future," in conjunction with the historic celebration of the 100th anniversary of the SPJST . A direct product of the conference was a joint proclamation by the two societies to establish a Cultural Heritage Commission for the purpose of coordinating a joint effort towards preserving Czech cultural heritage in America. The idea soon caught on and the topic became one of the principal issues discussed in the October 1997 conference convened by the Ambassador in Washington, D.C. At the end of the conference the delegates resolved to support the SVU and the SPJST in an effort to launch such an effort with the participation of the major Czech organizations in the U.S.
It is in this spirit that the SVU now turns to Czech American societies and organizations to get involved in and fully participate in the proposed project:
Please send your suggestions and comments, and all inquiries to the SVU President, Dr. Miloslav Rechcigl, 1703 Mark Lane, Rockville, MD 20852; Phone/FAX: (301) 881-7222; e-mail: email@example.com
SVU Press Release