Yesterday I woke up just before dawn as usual and the plan was to start working on my new book about Werner Baumbach and Albert Speer and not get on Facebook, that greatest of all timesucks. But I got on anyway, figuring I could limit it to just five or ten minutes. But when I got on, I saw that my sister Mars, in Austin, had sent a link to a TV station in Waco, and that's how I learned about the fertilizer factory explosion in West, Texas. It said something about possibly up to sixty or seventy dead.
I saw that my buddy Martin Vana, who hosts a morning radio show here in the Czech Republic, was also on Facebook. He likes to FB-chat with his friends while he's on the air. So I wrote him and asked if he knew anything about it. He got on and said he didn't. Then I asked him if he understoond that West, Texas is considered the Czech Capital of Texas and that everybody stops there when they drive between Dallas and Austin to get real Czech Kolaches. And he seemed surprised by that. He went and talked to the news director who knew about the catastrophe, but not about the massive Czech angle to it. He told Martin he'd check into it.
A few minutes later my phone starts ringing. And it's this lady in Prague, with Cesky Radiozurnal, asking me to explain what I knew about West and what the town was like and how Czech it was. And so I did my song and dance to her and she also seemed very surprised. Then she asked if I thought my wife would mind being interviewed, since she was the one who spoke Czech. And I said she was asleep, but that I'd get her up and ask her. And she said she'd call back in a few. I got my wife up and explained to her what was happening and she was groggy and unenthused, but when the woman called, she was alert and coherent and readily agreed to be interviewed, which took place live, over the phone a few minutes later. She told them about the Kolaches and how everybody, but everybody goes there, instead of any of the other thousand places on the way to Austin, how it is a Texas tradition, and how massively West, the Czech Stop and Texas Czechs play upon the Texas psyche.
Not long after the interview ended, there was another call. This time it was from TV Barrandov wanting to know about West and Czech Texas. All of it was basically new to them. And as we went on, I kept remembering all the many times in the last twenty years, I've told Czechs about the Czechs in Texas and how crazy they were about their Czech heritage and how the old people all spoke Czech, like they had for generations. And I'd tell them about meeting ancient Czech shit-kicking cowboys, who hadn't learned to speak English until they went to school. And how everytime I did, I just got blank stares back, like whatever I was telling them simply didn't compute. And that's when I started coming up with my personal theories about what makes Czechs so different from Poles, is that Poles always understood and accepted the Polish diaspora as being part of themselves. But the Czechs had lost connection with the diaspora after the War, especially following the communist takeover. To the Czechs, if you were gone, you were GONE and when you were gone, unless you were immediate family, you were the subject of the the massive Czech indifference.
But this time it was completely different. For the first time, the Czechs we talked to were genuinely interested and curious. Everything we told them seem to mean something. The TV Barrandov asked where we were. When we told them how far outside of Prague we were, it didn't bother them. They said they'd send a crew from Jihlava to shoot an interview with us within an hour.
Then there were more calls, Radio Prague wanted to interview both of us, me for their English-language broadcast, Katka for their regular show.
Then another national TV station called, they were also sending a crew, this time from Havlickuv Brod.
We ended up spending the whole day giving interviews. Before it was over, we were hearing that the Czech ambassador was announcing he would fly down to West to meet people and see if there was anything the Czechs could do for their American cousins.
Now Mother Jones quotes me on West, TX:
But the real point to all this is that for the first time, the Czech seem to understand how much Texas loves its Czech heart and how it beats in everyone's heart back home in the Lone Star State.