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my lifestory

I was born in Prague where I worked the potato fields until I was almost 19 years old. Then I moved to the US where I live now. The End.

Just kidding! Let me be a little more specific about my life. The trouble with me is that I have both sides of my brain working so that means that I have always liked math as well as drawing (see some of my doodlings here) and music. So, when someone would ask me:”What do you want to be when you grow up?” I wouldn’t know what to say! Well, first I wanted to be – as the 98% of all the other girls – an actress. I did try out for the University of Acting in Prague but didn’t make it to the last round. So, after some soul searching, I decided to try out for the University of Business. After all, my mother always wanted me to be a diplomat (!!), so why not? As I was waiting for the exam results my father’s American friend (let’s call him Mac) came to visit us. The summer before Mac’s visit I worked as an Au pair in England to improve my English skills for the upcoming high school final exams (I guess here the equivalent of that would be the SATs). Because of this nannying experience I was able to communicate with Mac very well. One day all of us were went for a walk around town and Mac made me an offer. He said if I tried out for a scholarship at their local college I could live with his family for free. The thought of me going to AMERICA was just insane! First of all, my dream was to go to Italy (!) and second, America was so far! But I did apply for the scholarship and low-and-behold – I got it! By that time I also found out I was accepted to the University of Business as well.What to do?? After some time of thinking everything over I decided I would go to the US just for a year – to master my English skills.

Right before I left I had a couple of “star” moments: I was a one-day tour guide to a famous European DJ Paul Van Dyk when he performed in Prague and played a part in a Japanese TV show!! The tour guide experience was a success but the Japanese show totally flopped. But since it was shot in Prague I got to fly back home for couple of weeks for free. Anyhow, once I started school in the US – guess what – I began to like it here and stayed for 2 more years until my scholarship was over, transfered to a local University and – after changing my degree about 5 times – I finally graduated with a degree in Biology. During these school years I had also met my wonderful husband in one of my GE classes, married him and now we have a beautiful baby girl ! Simply a fairytale come true…even Popelka* would be jealous!

Although I love America I am proud of my Czech heritage (as well as my Slovak heritage since my grandpa was Slovak) and do miss the Czech culture. That is why ever since the beginning of my stay in the US I would always try to find some Czechs or Slovaks in my neighborhood. The International Club at my school seemed to have all nationalities but Czech. After months of searching I finally sniffed out this local Czech guitarist player who told me that him and other local Czechs met once a month and that I should come. I became really excited and when the time came I headed for the Czech meet up. When I got to the restaurant I looked around but didn’t see any Czech-looking group. The only gathering I saw was this table with a bunch of old and grumpy-looking guys who were sitting in a complete silence, each staring at the big jug of bear sitting in front of them. I thought to myself: “that couldn’t be the Czech group I am looking for!”. So I asked the hostess and she, indeed, pointed to that particular table. Without giving it another thought, I then proceeded to turn around and drove back home. That was my first “Czech community” experience. Throughout the years I met some other Czechs/Slovaks but they would either have the “everything-sucks” attitude (which would make me feel depressed) or they were just visiting and went back home after a while. I also tried to look for some Czech info on the internet. Most of the Czech-American websites I found were just….let us say…unsatisfying. Even the “Current Events” page listed at the Embassy of the Czech Republic website were 2 years old for Heaven’s Sake!

This whole bitter-sweet journey of trying to connect with other fellow Czechs made me wonder: ” There must be an easier way for us to find each other”. That is how I started to think toward the Czechmate diary direction. I just didn’t know where to start. I knew I wanted to write a series of short stories someday that would describe some of the things I had to face while getting used to a completely new culture. One day my husband suggested that I start a blog about all this. And I said: “What’s a blog?” After a few months of frustrating as well as rewarding experiences of finding out what blogging was all about I finally arrived: I created my own blog where the content is exactly what I have been looking for all these years! And it works out great because it allows me not only to connect with other Czechs and Slovaks in the US (and abroad), but it also motivates me to research things from Czech culture and history that I have always been interested in. That is how I stay in touch with my Czech heritage and it makes me feel fulfilled. The satisfaction also comes from the fact that lot of my viewers are also 2nd and 3rd generation Czechs living abroad who do not speak the actual Czech language anymore (fluently anyway) but are very interested in Czech culture. These people want to connect with the Czech culture as much as the “regular” Czechs and Czechmate diary allows them to do that.

* Popelka = Czech-style Cinderella

If you liked this post buy me a coffee! (Suggested:$3 a latte $8 for a pound) Thanks!

67 comments… add one
  • Kathy January 26, 2011, 11:23 pm

    I’ve been doing some research on Czech and Slovak studies as my 17 year old son (Keith) is looking to spend next year studying abroad in the Czech Republic (senior year of HS), and would also like to major in Slovak studies in college.

    Keith would love to get a some exposure to the language before heading over in August. I was wondering if you knew of anyone that would be interested in doing some language tutoring? We live in Greensboro but travel often to Raleigh often, my daughter lives there.
    Thanks so much

  • Helen Tjioe May 1, 2011, 11:49 am

    Hi Tanja,

    I’ve enjoyed reading some of what you have written in your post. I lived in Prague for a year-and-a-half (when I was around 25) while I studied at piano performance at the conservatory with a wonderful teacher. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I deeply miss Prague. I learned so much from attending concerts, wandering all over Prague by foot, and steeping myself in the beautiful culture. I was born in southern California and grew up here, and I’m just about to finish my biology degree at Cal State Long Beach. One of my main passions is classical music–which is what brought me to Prague in the first place–and I plan to concertize again one day after science schooling is over. Thank you for writing this post! I’ve tried to look for Czech meet-up groups in my area too. It would be nice not to forget the Czech I learned.

  • Tanja May 1, 2011, 3:15 pm

    Hi Helen,

    guess what I also have a degree in Biology and love classical music (I also play the piano)! Let me know if you have a concert somewhere I would love to come 🙂

  • Helen Tjioe May 1, 2011, 8:28 pm

    Hi Tanja,

    I surely will let you know about any future concerts in the area. Did you grow up in Prague?

  • Tanja May 1, 2011, 9:09 pm

    Yes! In Prague 2

  • Helen Tjioe May 2, 2011, 9:05 pm

    You must miss your homeland and home city very much. I know you now have your family here, but if I miss it as a foreigner and visitor, I can only imagine how you feel! I know that the United States is a very blessed place to live in (especially So CA where I live now, the weather is heavenly!), but I miss the culture there, and the different attitude towards the arts people in general have there. The people also are special, I found, and relationships are different there than in California, a lot of the times. Do you live in San Francisco? Also, since I was living there by myself (my parents helped me to rent a flat on the other side of the bridge where the national theater is, very central to many beautiful places), I had a lot of time & space to dream & wander around & meet new people. I had one Czech friend while there, who is now teaching classics in Charles University. One of the main influences that remains to this day in my heart was all I learned from studying with Frantisek Maxian at the music conservatory. You may have heard of his father, who was a famous pianist (he had the same name). He inspired me so deeply as a musician, and without him I would not be at the level I am now artistically. Can you believe that our lessons were totally in Czech by the time I left Prague? (When I got there for the first time, I knew nothing about the language at all). I’m curious, what are some of your thoughts about how different the culture is here? What were the main “culture-shock” issues that you dealt with? You may have written about this before, and if you have, please excuse this question. Also, I’m curious as to whether or not you were taught that humans evolved from monkeys in the schools, growing up there. As a bio major, you probably got a lot of that here, as I did!; I believe God made us (Adam/Eve the 1st humans) & we did not evolve from animals.

  • Vlastimil May 3, 2011, 8:06 am

    We have not evolved from monkeys, we did evolved from apes …. Monkeys and apes are different species.
    There is also another story: God created Adam and he was alone and since he could not procreate only by looking at his legs, God called for the meeting, where all the beasts were present (I guess, some monkeys too) and proposed Adam to pick his “friend” , so he would be happy. Unfortunately (actually fortunately) Adam did not fall for any beasts out there and he left the meeting very depressed. Then once when Adam slept, God ripped one of ribs out of Adam’s body and got so excited and said “Whoa man!!!”….That’s how “Woman” got created. She was beautiful, blond, but there goes also another story, that there were two women the other had dark hair …. I will not get into the details 🙂 but it has been removed from the Bible as many other things that were either too graphic or not very convenient for the official priesthood…

  • Chasity Jenny June 21, 2012, 8:03 am

    Hello! My name is Chasity, and I have just now found your blog. I have smiled at your witticism, and I know my grandma (full-blooded Czech, or Bohemian as she would say) will get a kick out of it! She has told me many wonderful stories of her grandparents, all from the “old country,” and we are a family of very proud heritage. I am researching for a cultural background paper, as I am studying to obtain a Master’s in counseling, and that is how I have come across your blog. Thank you for all the information and fun stories!

    Chasity Jenny, of the Soukup and Jirak families.

  • Cynthia Dvorak Grandjean May 27, 2013, 7:18 am

    Found your blog while looking for Czech recipes. Visited Czech Republic once and loved it! I am a member of the Texas Czech Heritage Society and really enjoyed their annual conventions. Yes, I am Czech, both parents were 100% Czech. Doing a little genealogy work and found out my family came from Vsetin. I found one letter written in the 1960’s to my cousin, from an Anna Dvorakova. That piqued my enterest..trying to trace origin of that letter from Prague. Anyway, looking forward to reading your blog.
    Cynthia Dvorak Grandjean
    Lake Jackson, Texas

  • Rick Porvaznik October 21, 2013, 4:08 pm

    I miss the Slovak songs growing up as a child in
    Lansford Pa. At least with the Internet I can keep up
    With Slovak culture of today., like Kristina Pelakova the
    Number one singer in Slovakia.

  • Roy Rezek December 9, 2013, 4:37 am

    Hello, I was curious of any information on if you can tell me about a town in Czech Republic named Horazavodice . My grandfather came to U.S. (Danville Va. ) 1904 about at age 14 . I wonder if there are distant relatives . Thanks Roy

  • Tanja December 11, 2013, 8:44 pm
  • Jerry September 23, 2014, 3:15 pm

    My son Vincent and I just came back from visiting Prague and loved it. We originally went to Munich and met some people from the states and they told us about Prague and how interesting it was. Being of Mexican-American heritage, the German people were not to hospitable. My son and I took the train to Prague and when we arrived we found a hotel in Florenc. The people were so friendly and made us feel comfortable. We went to the old square, new districts, even the Jewish section, took the boat ride by the famous Charles bridge. We were planning on going to Berlin then to Amsterdam but we enjoyed Prague so much we stayed an extra week there. I learned so much and fell in love with the city and the people. I even thought of going back some day maybe to retire?? Vincent definitely wants to go. I want to learn more of the culture and the History is very interesting especially the saint Walenska who set himself on fire. also the two students at the university who, when protesting communism, also set themselves on fire. Anyway, I saw your article, enjoyed and decided to respond. Good luck to you and your family. P.S. loved your guy’ s coffee and food, where can I get some in San Diego?

  • Jan Ševčík October 25, 2015, 10:36 am

    I want to take this opportunity to say hello.
    I came to work for one month in Dallas as a support service on trains.
    Good luck in your interest for others

  • Lumir Cech February 20, 2016, 9:18 am

    I am a full blooded Czech. My father came to America in 1910 at twelve years of age. My mother was also Czech but was born here. I am a third generation farmer. Still farming at age 76.
    Would love to meet some people that are “real Czechs.” Although, I am far from California – I live in Nebraska. By a small town, Clarkson, which is about 90 miles west of Omaha.
    One more thing. I could not speak English when I started school. Speak Czech fluently.

  • Tanja March 13, 2016, 3:05 pm

    Hi Lumir,

    If you go on, you can find a Czech group in your area. Good luck!

  • jarmila April 29, 2016, 6:56 pm

    Ahoj Tano,
    kontaktuji te z duvodu relokace z Chicago do Portland,OR. Rada bych se seznamila s ceskymi lidmi zijicimi v Portland a ziskala informace o doporuceni bydleni,v kterych castech hledat, rada bych se zapojila do akci poradanych ceskymi organizacemi,atd.Muzes mi dat vedet,prosim,jestli mas nejake kontakty?dekuji ti mockrat,Jarmila

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