A slice of Czechia and Slovakia in Toronto: The Masaryk Memorial Institute
Established in 1945 by members of the Czech and Slovak community, the Masaryk Memorial Institute, a non-profit organization based in Toronto, Canada, provides a space for young and old to celebrate their Czech and Slovak heritage.
Czech and Slovak culture is thriving far from Central Europe. Across the pond in Toronto, Canada, Masaryktown is a plot of land dedicated to preserving and celebrating Czech and Slovak culture. Herb Dubsky, Co-President of the Masaryk Memorial Institute, explains its history.
“This property, known as Masaryktown, was purchased by the Czech and Slovak community in 1948. On that property we have a Prague restaurant, with traditional Czech and Eastern European food. There’s a chapel on the property where there’s an occasional Sunday service. We have a library with about 10,000 books, and there is a monument to the victims of communism.
“Also on the property are two low rise apartment buildings, the Masaryktown Residences that have 112 units, and the MasarykPark Homes, which have 177 units. There are quite a number of Czech families that reside in these buildings, so the Masaryktown property is really a focal point for the community.”
The Institute hosts various cultural events throughout the year. Earlier in June, they held their annual Czech and Slovak Festival, Herb says.
“I expect we had somewhere between 500-700 hundred people attending. As part of the festival we had about 15 different vendors selling breads, cheese, and imported Czech foods. We had musicians there and a Dixie Land band, and we try to keep the flavour of Czech and Slovak culture, so we had Vychodna Slovak dancers on stage who are really a great hit and they never let us down. Overall it was a very nice day, and I think everyone had a really wonderful time.”
As Herb explains, the festivals are not just for the Czech and Slovak community, Canadians of all backgrounds attend their year-round events.
“We have this Czech and Slovak festival which has blossomed into an event not only for Czechs and Slovaks but even your next door English neighbours will come and enjoy. We have a Czechtoberfest in September which is really popular with the younger crowd. We also do a Christmas bazaar and a Christmas dinner.
“There are also a number of programs that we run as an organisation. We have a language school for children aged six to twelve, we offer that in person and online. We have a scholarship program that we offer to students entering their first year of university or college. So these are the main mechanisms we use to engage and maintain this community that keeps us all together.”
Masaryktown has been and continues to be an important place in Herb’s life, since his family immigrated to Canada from Czechia in the early 60s.
“In 1960 my family came from Canada. In the early days when I was a teenager, I would go out to Masaryktown occasionally and play soccer for the team called Sparta Toronto. But then came the university years and I kind of drifted away from the community for maybe about 30 years. But once I got closer to retirement, I realized watching the grass grow is not my thing, I had to get involved!
“Now every day I probably spend some time on the Masaryktown file. There are so many challenging things you can do, I’m really enjoying it and having a good time doing it.”