Czech Fest a 'taste of home' (video)
Jennifer Lee Preyss
Sept. 22, 2013 at 4:22 a.m.
Polka music blared in the background of the Victoria Community Center as Bohdana Wise, 39, turned around to greet an aged stranger at the 28th Czech Heritage Festival.
Leonard Pokluda, 70, tapped the brunette on the shoulder and uttered a traditional Czech greeting.
Surprised, Wise excitedly replied in her native tongue.
Both native speakers of the language, they were able to exchange stories about the mother land and where each of their families originated.
"It makes me feel so good to be here," said Wise, a delicate Eastern European accent present. "I've been feeling so homesick lately, and this gives me a little taste of home."
Wise grew up in the town of Bruntal in the Czech Republic and emigrated to the United States when she was 9 years old.
On Sunday, she convinced her husband, Scotty, to drive two hours from San Antonio, where the couple lives, to attend Victoria's annual Czech event.
"I was extremely shocked to find out there was a Czech population here," she said. "It's not exactly the same as back home, but I think it's fun."
Pokluda, a native of Praha, about 10 miles north of Schulenburg, spoke only Czech until first grade, when he was forced to learn English.
Praha, named after Czech Republic's capital city, Prague, was originally named Mulberry by Anglo settlers. The city was renamed in the 1850s when Czech families moved in and dominated the area.
"When I was growing up, there were maybe two families in the town that weren't Czech-speaking. My grandmother didn't know how to speak any English," said Pokluda, who also speaks with an Eastern European cadence.
Pokluda and Wise said they are proud of their heritage and enjoy festivals like Czech Fest because it allows them to celebrate who they are.
"I've been coming to this event for 10 years, and this is pretty much what you can expect to see when you get Czech people together: eat kolaches, drink beer, listen to good music, sing and dance polka," Pokluda said.
Wise and her husband plan to return to Czech Republic for Christmas and have discussed the possibility of moving there full time to be near Wise's parents.
Pokluda said he's never visited the homeland but hopes to make it soon.
"I'm not dead yet. There's still hope of me going," he said.