Letters

Letters 02-08-2016

Less Ageism, Please The January 4 issue of this publication proved to me that there are some sensible voices of reason in our community regarding all things “inter-generational.” I offer a word of thanks to Elizabeth Myers. I too have worked hard for what I’ve earned throughout my years in the various positions I’ve held. While I too cannot speak for each millennial, brash generalizations about a lack of work ethic don’t sit well with me...Joe Connolly, Traverse City

Now That’s an Escalation I just read the letter from Greg and his defense of the AR15. The letter started with great information but then out of nowhere his opinion went off the rails. “The government wants total gun control and then confiscation; then the elimination of all Constitutional rights.” Wait... what?! To quote the great Ron Burgundy, “Well, that escalated quickly!”

Healthy Eating and Exercise for Children Healthy foods and exercise are important for children of all ages. It is important for children because it empowers them to do their best at school and be able to do their homework and study...

Mascots and Harsh Native American Truths The letter from the Choctaw lady deserves an answer. I have had a gutful of the whining about the fate of the American Indian. The American Indians were the losers in an imperial expansion; as such, they have, overall, fared much better than a lot of such losers throughout history. Everything the lady complains about in the way of what was done by the nasty, evil Whites was being done by Indians to other Indians long before Europeans arrived...

Snyder Must Go I believe it’s time. It’s time for Governor Snyder to go. The FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the EPA Criminal Investigation Division are now investigating the Flint water crisis that poisoned thousands of people. Governor Snyder signed the legislation that established the Emergency Manager law. Since its inception it has proven to be a dismal failure...

Erosion of Public Trust Let’s look at how we’ve been experiencing global warming. Between 1979 and 2013, increases in temperature and wind speeds along with more rain-free days have combined to stretch fire seasons worldwide by 20 percent. In the U.S., the fire seasons are 78 days longer than in the 1970s...

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A journey through war & peace

Robert Downes - September 13th, 2007
We tend to shy away from reviewing self-published books at the Express, because generally, they are - how you say? Not so good.
But there’s a poignancy to the story of Father Walter Marek that tugs at the heartstrings on almost every page of his memoir: “Cache the Czech -- A Divine Journey to America.”
It’s a small, plain-spoken book -- just 99 pages -- but its 89-year-old author weaves a tumultuous tale from simple threads as he takes us on a journey through war and peace. As a young man, he lived through the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany, and then through the occupation of his country by the Soviet Union. The book tells of his calling as a Catholic priest and subsequent escape from the Communist secret police, narrowly escaping possible torture and execution. It tells how he made his way to America as a refugee priest to make a new life in western Michigan.
Some of you oldsters may remember Father Marek; he spent five years in Traverse City in the mid-1950s. This is where the blessings of peace came to bear in his life. Inspired by the example of the music camp at Interlochen, he became one of the founders of the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp near Muskegon, and also the Czech Music Camp for Youth in his native country.
What gives Fr. Marek’s book its power is its juxtaposition of good and evil, often on the same page. The story opens with sunny memories of his childhood in the small town of Horni Jeleni (“Upper Elk Country”), Czechoslovakia. The town of 2,000 had three general stores which were renowned for roasting coffee. But when the Communists took over, even small town coffee roasters feared for their lives: “I can still smell the heavenly aroma of roasting coffee beans and see the streets of our little town...,” Marek writes. “... I sometimes wonder what happened to such companies during the Communist occupation, when almost all company owners were banished from their businesses, imprisoned or killed. Those who joined the Communist Party were lucky just to stay alive and have menial work.”
As a youth, Marek recalls that anti-Semitic views were common in Czechoslovakia, with ugly Jewish stereotypes taught in his elementary school education by Jesuit teachers.
Yet during seminary school, he found that even Catholic priests were targets of first the Nazis and then the Communists. Some of his teachers and fellow students were tortured and murdered by the Nazis at a “model” concentration camp, set up to impress the Red Cross.
He notes that Hitler’s reign of terror went far beyond persecuting the Jews. “Czechs commonly believed that Hitler planned to resettle the whole nation, some 10 million souls, to Siberia. Today, we know that he could have accomplished this using cattle cars as he did with the Jews. Most Catholic priests believed that Hitler intended to erase the Catholic Church and all priests from Europe.”
After the Nazis fell, one evil was replaced by another. The Communists confiscated all private property and shipped many professionals and members of the middle class off to labor camps from which they never returned. Father Marek got involved with the resistance movement of the Czech underground, but it was dangerous work, owing to constant spying by informers and the
confessions of others under torture.
You didn’t want to get caught: “Conditions in Communist prisons were particularly cruel and the guards were known for their utter brutality,” he writes. “Communist prison guards routinely forced old and sickly priests to stand outside in the cold and completely disrobe.Sometimes they were forced to stand at attention for hours or until they fell. People have asked me, ‘Who was worse, the Nazis or the Communists?’ Such inhumanity has no Earthly measure.”
One day, the secret police came for Father Marek in what was likely to be a one-way ticket to a labor camp and the grave. He offered them some liquor and casually told them he needed to go downstairs to get his clothes. He slipped out a back door into the winter cold, grabbed the janitor’s old coat and hat from a utility room, and fled into the night.
Father Marek eventually made his way to Germany through the Czech underground, living in refugee camps until an opening arose in the diocese serving Northern Michigan. The book has a happy ending: his love of music has since touched the lives of thousands of children through two camps dedicated to the arts. As one of the last members of “the greatest generation” who lived through one of the darkest times in modern history, his story reminds us that life is a coin with two sides -- good and evil. Who knows which way it will flip?

“Cache the Czech“ is available for $9.99 through SMDBooks@excite.com, a publisher based in Traverse City. Or, request a copy at your local bookstore.
 
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