A Stitch in Time: a journey into the past through family memories

Author of the painting for graphics: Johana Trejtnar

In 2021 I was approached by Leah Gaffen from Class Acts, an initiative that works with bilingual children in the Czech Republic, with a particular focus on drama and writing. Leah and her colleagues were interested in family history, and they invited children and teenagers between eleven and eighteen to write a story in English about someone in their family who had inspired them or influenced how they see the world.

Leah Gaffen | Photo: archive of Leah Gaffen

Many of the stories are beautifully and sensitively written. At the same time they offer subtle and often unexpected insights into recent Czech and Czechoslovak history, and sometimes into places far beyond this country’s borders – fragments of 20th century history reflected in the stories of individual families. There is drama, sometimes tragedy and loss, but also a great deal of humour.

Michael Lovitt in the studio | Photo: Radio Prague International

The participants were invited to the radio, and we recorded them reading their stories and talking about how they developed their ideas.

Leah Gaffen at the awards ceremony | Photo: Radio Prague International

In this series we join them on a journey into the past, but from the perspective of a generation that is looking to the future.

The title, A Stitch in Time, is inspired by one of the stories, written by 17-year-old Johana Trejtnar. She writes about her great-grandmother and a dress she made that has stayed in the family to this day.

“History is hidden in the stitches in the seams of this dress,” she writes, and I think Johana’s words sum up beautifully the way that each family’s past is sewn into the present.


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