This past Sunday, October 28th, was the 100th anniversary of Czech and Slovak lands, and I feel very privileged I could be here to witness this celebration! However, my expectations of the celebration were a bit far from reality…
[For those in need of a short history lesson: Czechoslovakia was officially declared a country in 1918 due to the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire; it remained a country throughout World War II, then peacefully split in 1993 because the Czech lands and Slovakia essentially just grew apart (I won’t get into the details). Because the split was so peaceful, Czechs and Slovaks are very interconnected to this day, and I probably meet an equal number of Czechs as Slovaks in my classes as well.]
There were a lot of special occasions happening this weekend like fireworks, parades, free museum entries, and the re-opening of the National Museum that had previously been closed for 6 years.
I was excited all Sunday, noticing the colors of the flag everywhere and everyone in good spirits. However, when I arrived to the parade and saw the masses of people, the atmosphere changed. I came in with the expectation that this parade would be similar to a Fourth of July parade in the United States- colorful floats, lots of food, and just general fun. When the parade started, it was much different.
People stood still.
No candy was thrown.
Decorative parade floats were nowhere to be seen.
Smiles weren’t on everyone’s faces.
We stood and watched all the military march by, followed by all the military vehicles, and we all stood solemnly, remembering all of those who fought for the country and didn’t win.
In the grand scheme of things, 100 years isn’t very long at all! Most countries are far older than this. Czechs and Slovaks had a far longer and less convenient road to becoming a nation. Since these countries are still new, the losses that it took to get to where we are now are still fresh. Instead of deaths due to war happening centuries ago, it was just a couple generations ago.
The United States has a lot to celebrate because, well, we won a lot of what we fought. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that Czechia and Slovakia didn’t have such a simple history. The time before 1918 was filled with a lot of struggle. With empires taking over, religions being oppressed, cultures and languages being pushed away, this time was far from peaceful.
This parade was an eye-opening experience to show how the wound that these countries acquired in the recent past hasn’t quite healed yet.
CZECH REPUBLIC – MASARYK UNIVERSITY, 2018 FALL
Hannah Langford is taking a break from studying Integrated Sciences at DU to study history and culture at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. She’s looking forward to exploring the unique geography and outdoor opportunities in the area and the surrounding countries. She’s also looking forward to eating a lot of chocolate.