SVU in Ceske Budejovice

Congress of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Science

The south Bohemian city of Ceske Budejovice has seen a large influx of foreigners this week, especially Americans of Czech heritage. The annual congress of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Science is underway in Ceske Budejovice from June 25th to July 2nd.

Congress of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Science
The 23rd World Congress of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Science—or SVU—has gathered many of its faithful members for a week of presentations and discussions in south Bohemia. Based in Washington, D.C., the SVU attracts not only Czech and Slovak exiles to its ranks, but many Americans who claim Czech or Slovak ancestry. Jenny Blaha Jones is one such member, and several generations after her Czech relatives immigrated to Virginia, she maintains a strong interest in her Czech heritage—and she explains whether this has brought her identity as an American into question:

"No, but sometimes when I hear people say that they are African-American, or they're Italian-American, etc., then I say we could go around saying that we are Czech-American. But you should say American first and then Czech, because you are living in America and you are an American citizen, so that should be the first word. Even though our roots are very, very strong—all my life I can only think in terms of Czech roots."

Jenny Blaha Jones  (on the right)
When did you first visit the Czech Republic?

"Well, I worked in Europe for the United States government—not a military, but a civilian employee. I was in Germany from 1982 to 1985, then I went back to the USA for four years, and then I came to Italy from 1989 to 1993. So even from Italy I went to Bratislava by bus, and from Germany I went to Prague, so I have visited Czechoslovakia often, looking for my roots. I was so frustrated when I opened the phonebook in Prague, and I looked under 'Blaha' and it must have been twenty pages! So I asked the tour guide why there are so many Blahas—and my last name is Jones—and she said, 'Well, Blaha is like Jones, there are a lot of them.' That's why I was so amazed that we found the Blaha roots. Now we're in the process of looking for the Vins roots, because only one brother left; the rest of the family stayed. We want to know where they left from in Czechoslovakia. We think it's 'S-I-R-A' in the Plzen area. We are going to go out into the villages, and try to find cemeteries and people to talk to. So we'll stumble around in the countryside and try, because sometimes you have great luck, you know."

Richard Pavlasek
Jenny Blaha Jones has already traced one half of her family tree thoroughly, and she, like many other Americans of Czech ancestry, has a keen interest in genealogy.

After a week of sessions, the SVU congress in Ceske Budejovice is wrapping up, and Richard Pavlasek of Austin, Texas, who gave a paper about 150 years since the Czechs came to Texas, is happy with this year's choice of venues:

"We especially picked Ceske Budejovice because we know what a historic town it is, and it's very vital for many of the early settlers that lived around this area—many of them moved to Iowa, USA, so it is very important that we be here. We were invited to come to Ceske Budejovice, and we're very happy that we did. Every place that we went and had our celebration, we were never disappointed—the love and the generosity of the people was excellent."