A Stitch in Time: Part 2 – A New Circle of Life

Růženka Kindlová (right) and her older sister Viktorie

In this episode we continue our journey into the recent past through the eyes of the youngest generation, starting with a classic tale of European emigration in search of the American dream. It is followed by the moving story of a Czech family whose world was turned upside down by the First World War and the story of a Moravian village that has disappeared without trace.

We hear from fifteen-year-old Gabby Gartner, who lives in Prague, fourteen-year-old Žaneta Málková from Sezemice, a small town about a hundred kilometres east of Prague, and seventeen-year-old Martin Rada from Brno.

Adam Gartner as a younger man | Photo: archive of Gabby Gartner

Gabby writes about her great-great-grandfather, Adam Gartner, who left on a ship for the United States in 1876. “I had to fill in some details,” Gabby says. “For example, I didn’t know the name of the ship, But the boy he shared his food with was real, and I also know for a fact that he had just a wheel of cheese and a loaf of bread,”

We gradually find out more about Adam’s journey. Here are a few lines to give a flavour of the story as told by his great-great-granddaughter:

Gabby Gartner | Photo: Radio Prague International

As time passed, the steerage got fuller, and fuller and fuller. People were packed into every possible centimeter in that room. Out of everyone there, I think I had the most belongings. More came empty handed than not.

After what felt like forever, everyone had boarded. Suddenly, the boat started to move. We set off for what were the longest three weeks of my life.

Růženka Kindlová with her daughter Zdena,  1943 | Photo: archive of Žaneta Málková

Žaneta Málková’s family stayed in Europe. Her great-grandmother Růženka was born just before the First World War, and the family’s life was torn apart when Růženka’s father was sent to the battlefield.

Žaneta Málková | Photo: Radio Prague International

A few years passed, it was the year 1918, and Růženka’s father came back from the war. But he wasn’t the same as he used to be. He wasn’t the man they used to see everyday. It was as if someone completely new replaced him. He became more aggressive, angry and abusive.

Žaneta goes on to tell the story of how her great-grandmother overcame hardship and went on to bring up a family of her own, including Žaneta’s grandmother Milena. Žaneta says that she is a pessimist by nature, but that she believes in silver linings.

Martin Rada and David Vaughan | Photo: Radio Prague International

Martin Rada also wrote about his great-grandmother. Her name was Blažena and she came from village of Staré Kníničky just outside Brno. Before the Second World War the village was sacrificed to build a reservoir to serve the city. Martin says he finds it strange having roots in a place that has completely vanished. In his story he writes:

Village of Staré Kníničky | Photo: Masaryk University Brno

The reservoir is there till now but Staré Kníničky is just something in history books, journals and old maps. And in the stories of its former inhabitants.

He tells us some of these stories from the time when the reservoir was being built, combining family memories with his own background research.

The music we hear in this episode is composed by Bára Dočkalová and played by Vít Beneš.

Next week we move forward in time to the period when Czechoslovakia came under the shadow of the swastika, with a moving story of escape and return.

This series was created in cooperation with Class Acts. Special thanks to Leah Gaffen, Tereza Dubsky, Lenka Žižková, Robin Smith and to many others who have helped to make the series happen.

Author: David Vaughan
  • A Stitch in Time
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  • A Stitch in Time

    I was approached by Leah Gaffen from Class Acts, an initiative that works with bilingual children in Czechia, with a particular focus on drama and writing.