Border Crossings at Sokol Detroit Czech/Slovak “Festival of Beers”

SATURDAY afternoon, July 19, 2014 – starting at 1:30 p.m., I’ll be exhibiting and selling Charles Novacek’s award-winning memoir, BORDER CROSSINGS: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance at Sokol Detroit’s CZECH and SLOVAK FESTIVAL, 23600 W. Warren, Dearborn Heights 48127. Come on out for the FESTIVAL of BEERS, Souvenirs, Crystal, Jewelry, Pastries, Music, Dancing, and Much More!

Charles Novacek was born in Czechoslovakia and immigrated to Detroit, MI, USA in 1956 where he became a Sokol Detroit member for 50+ years. His book, BORDER CROSSINGS is his firsthand account of his life spent in the Czech Resistance during World War II and the Cold War between the ages of 11 and 20. The book has been endorsed by Madeleine Albright and has been a winner and finalist of 14 awards for independent publishing.

bcczechslovakfest2014Sokol is the oldest non-profit organization still in existence in the greater Detroit metropolitan area. The vision that started out in the Czech Republic in 1862 and traveled to the United States with new immigrants of one ethnicity, has become a diverse multicultural organization

Their focus is physical fitness for the family and the education of their members and the public to the history and culture of the Czech and Slovak people. In this way, they bring a diverse population together working toward the goal of an educated mind in a healthy body building a strong cohesive community. SOKOL is Czech for “falcon.” SOKOL is English for a great group of people bonded by a common ethnicity, heritage or interest.”

Summer Reading Adventures – The Count(s) of Monte Cristo

bccountofmontecristoSome people think that summer is over after the 4th of July, but I disagree. We have the rest of July and most of August with daylight until 9 p.m. There’s still time to venture into reading a long book (or two), especially a classic that you always said you were going to read, but never have.

A book like THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by Alexandre Dumas.

Why do I bring this book up here? Because it was one of Charles’ favorite stories and one of mine, too. We read the novel out loud to each other and saw the movie several times. But, Charles first reading of the 1,000+ page work was when he was 9 or 10 before the start of World War II.  “I attended the third grade. I liked my teacher immensely; he encouraged us to read. . . My reading skills increased, and by the end of third grade—June 1936—I had read all of the books in the little school library. Then I started reading my father’s books, which required greater literacy; I had to read them twice to understand them better.” Charles told me one of those books was Hrabě Monte Cristo.

The book is a wonderful masterpiece full of intrigue, love, passion, social satire, and great fight scenes.  Set in the early 19th century mainly in Italy and Paris, it tells the story of 19 year-old Edmond Dantes, a handsome young sailor who is about to be married to the beautiful Mercedes. Dantes is also to be made captain of a ship and his future seems bright, but his success creates jealousy among his mates and wins him enemies.

Edmond’s good times end on his wedding day when he is falsely accused of treason and arrested. Despite his innocence he spends 14 years in prison on the island fortress Chateau d’lf without a trial for a crime he never committed. In prison, Edmond befriends a wise priest named Faria, who teaches him many languages and sciences and tells him of a vast hidden treasure on the island of Monte Cristo. The priest eventually dies and Dantes finds a way to escape. The rest of the story deals with how he carries out his plans for revenge.

bcblackcount2A companion to this remarkable story of “fiction” is the true story of the real Count of Monte Cristo. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss brings to life the forgotten hero who inspired Alexandre Dumas to write The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. 

That real-life hero is General Alex Dumas, the protagonist of The Black Count who is not well-known today, but has a familiar story because his son Alexandre Dumas used it to create some of the beloved heroes of literature. What’s even more incredible is the secret that the real hero was the son of a black slave who “rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time.”

Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas was briefly sold into bondage but made his way to Paris where he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy. Enlisting as a private, he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution, in a bold campaign across Europe and the Middle East – until he met an enemy he could not defeat.

The Black Count is a riveting adventure story and a poignant story of the enduring bonds of love between a father and son. It won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 2013.

I highly recommend reading one or both of these books during the remaining days of summer!

Detroit Indie Publisher + Indie Bookstore Offer Slice of History with a Slice of Cake

detroitflagDETROIT – The City of Detroit marks its 313th birthday on Thursday, July 24, 2014 and Midtown Detroit’s Source Booksellers and publisher 1021 Press will be celebrating with a slice of history and a slice of birthday cake.

Stop by the bookstore at 11:00 am on the 24th for the walking tour “Book Marked on Cass Avenue: Talk + Walk.”  1021 Press publisher/Detroiter Sandra Novacek and Detroit architecture blogger Jonathan Peters will be your guides.  

This tour covers a slice of history of Detroit’s Cass Avenue and selected landmarks from Willis to Old Main with a literary twist.

vennfront4crbrightLearn about the early architects of this amazing avenue, hear the magnificent stories of buildings and tales of notable residents, discover who the streets are named after and experience what this vibrant area is like today.


9780985415105-JacketGray_novacek.inddFeatured on the walk will be the historic Venn Manor (c. 1904), the place where Charles Novacek, Czechoslovak Detroiter and an immigrant,engineer, artist, writer wrote his award-winning memoir from 2000-2007, Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance, endorsed by Madeleine Albright.

The tour ends back at the bookstore with a slice of birthday cake and for book lovers – 10% off selected books on Detroit or by Detroiters.

bcsourcebooksshelvesSource Booksellers is located at 4240 Cass Avenue, #105. This Detroit 313 Birthday event is free and open to the public.

For information contact Sandra Novacek at 313.832.1148 or Janet Jones at Source Booksellers at 313.832.1155.

Summer+ Calendar of Events – Novacek’s Border Crossings

Cayena Roja: Series 21, a watercolor by Charles Novacek

Cayena Roja: Series 21, a watercolor by Charles Novacek

Summer is in full bloom and Sandra Novacek is enthusiastically presenting programs and participating in events focused on Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance, the award-winning memoir by her late husband Charles Novacek. Sandra presents book talks; book signings; and programs for libraries, book clubs, arts and history organizations, etc. She also does a literary walking tour of the neighborhood where Charles wrote his book and appears as an exhibitor at conferences and events. Contact Sandra at novaceks@att.net for details to plan your event featuring Border Crossings. 

                                               SUMMER+ CALENDAR OF EVENTS 

                                                                   Detroit, MI

BORDER CROSSINGS will be at EASTERN MARKET “SUNDAY STREET MARKET” in DETROIT, MI, 48207, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Sundays through August, 2014,  www.detroiteasternmarket.com

      Warren, MI

7/21 – Warren Public Library - Presentation/Signing, 6:00 p.m., Civic Center Library, 12 Mile & Van Dyke, Warren, MI 48093, www.warrenlibrary.net

Detroit, MI

7/24 – “Book Marked on Cass Avenue: Talk + Walk: Happy 313 Birthday, Detroit!” 11:00 a.m. A walking tour covering a slice of history with a slice of birthday cake.  Starts @ Source Booksellers, 4240 Cass Ave., Ste. 105, Detroit 48201, www.sourcebooksdetroit.com

     Huntington Woods, MI

8/13 – Huntington Woods Public Library – Presentation/Signing, 7:00 p.m., 26415 Scotia, Huntington Woods, MI 48070, www.huntington-woods.lib.mi.us

    Cedar Rapids, IA

9/4 – National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library – Presentation/Signing, 7:00 p.m., 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404, www.ncsml.org

   Ann Arbor, MI

9/7 - Kerrytown BookFest - Exhibitor/Vendor, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, www.kerrytownbookfest.org                                     

                                                                 Berkley, MI

9/20 – Berkley Public Library – Presentation/Signing, 2:00 p.m., 3155 Coolidge Hwy., Berkley, MI 48072, www.berkley.lib.mi.us

Detroit, MI

10/8 – Scarab Club – Presentation/Painting & Textile Exhibit/Signing, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., 217 Farnsworth, Detroit, MI 48202, www.scarabclub.org

                                                             Ann Arbor, MI

10/15 – “Study Group on “Border Crossings,” University of Michigan, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), 10:00 a.m., Turner Resource Center, 2401 Plymouth Rd. Suite C, Ann Arbor, MI 48105, www.olli-umich.org

                                                                Novi, MI

10/27 – “Authors Live Luncheon” Sponsored by Novi Public Library – Presentation/Signing, 11:30 a.m., Fox Run, 41000 13 Mile Rd., Novi, MI 48377, www.novilibrary.org

                                                          Pittsburgh, Pa

11/2 – “The 24th Annual Slovak Heritage Festival.” University of Pittsburgh, Cathedral of Learning Commons Room, Pittsburgh, PA, 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. Features folk dancing groups, singers, cultural displays, lectures, Slovak food, vendors. Free admission.
www.slavic.pitt.edu

Winged Lion Memorial Unveiled in Prague Honors World War II Czechoslovaks for Courage

Source: Royal Air Force

Source: Royal Air Force


One of Charles Novacek’s assignments in the Czech resistance during World War II was to greet and find shelter for RAF-trained Czechoslovak paratroopers who were dropped into the Moravian hills to bring supplies and information from the Czech government in exile in England to their homeland resistance.  

Yesterday, June 17, 2014, a monument was unveiled in Prague honoring the courage of the 2,500 Czechoslovaks who fought against Nazi Germany in Great Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF).  These brave young men and women escaped from their homeland to Great Britain for training as Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots and paratroopers. Like Charles’ family, they risked their lives to fight alongside their friends to free Europe from Nazi oppression.

The monument, called the “Winged Lion”, is a gift from Prague’s British expatriate community in gratitude for the airmen’s contribution during World War II. British Sculptor Colin Spofforth was commissioned to build the two meter memorial which was cast in bronze at a foundry in Horni Kalna (Trutnov region), Czech Republic.

Veterans were on hand for the event, which was followed by a Spitfire plane flying down the Vltava River. Sir Nicholas Soames, a member of British Parliament, a former defense minister and the grandson of Winston Churchill, gave the main speech at the unveiling. He stated that “freedom is often only appreciated by those who don’t have it” and remarked that “A cruel irony was to follow in that the freedom and sovereignty for which they fought would be lost as they suffered the unforgivable persecution by the communist regime just a few years later.”

Expatriate leader Euan Edworthy remarked about the idea for the memorial, “‘We were thinking about World War II and how admirable it was that volunteers from Czechoslovakia had surmounted incredible obstacles to join the RAF and join the aerial battle against the Nazis. They were very good: many of the aces in the Battle of Britain were Czechs and Slovaks. We realized that there was no memorial in the Czech Republic from the British to the sacrifice that these men made, and we decided to put that right. . . We Brits have enjoyed centuries of freedom: free speech, free association, free thought. Czechs and Slovaks were entitled to the same freedoms until 1938 and were then denied them for a further 48 years.”

He added, “Our Winged Lion is a tribute to the Czechoslovaks who simply wouldn’t allow themselves to be oppressed. Many paid for their beliefs with their lives. We should not forget the debt that we free Europeans owe to these warriors who paid with ‘blood, sweat, tears and toil’ for the liberty which is our birth right today. Freedom cannot be taken for granted.”

You can read about Charles Novacek’s interactions with RAF-trained Czechoslovakian paratroopers in the award-winning Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance, 1021 Press, 2012.

Award-Winning Book at Detroit’s Sunday Street Market

bceasternmarketsundayhorizon1021 Press and Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance are excited to announce that we will be a vendor at Detroit’s historic Eastern Market’s new SUNDAY STREET MARKET starting Sunday, June 15, 2014. Market hours are 10 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. every Sunday.  Special market pricing will be offered for Charles Novacek’s award-winning memoir.

The SUNDAY STREET MARKET will feature local items such as home goods, art, jewelry, clothing, Michigan-made products, antiques, books, furniture, and more. A limited number of produce and flower vendors will also be on hand.

Visitors to Eastern Market will find Shed 2 filled with local products (that’s where we’ll be) and find Shed 3 featuring weekly entertainment activities. Food trucks will also be present.

If you’re looking for an alternative shopping experience to what you find at big-box stores or shopping malls, this Market Day is for you!

For over a century, Eastern Market has connected the citizens of Metro Detroit with farm fresh food and plants. SUNDAY STREET MARKET seeks to accomplish a similar mission for non-food goods.

9780985415105-JacketGray_novacek.inddBorder Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance has been endorsed by Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State who calls the book, “the well-told and dramatic story of a young man whose comfortable life is abruptly transformed by the savagery of World War II.”

Please stop by and visit the Sunday Street Market and Border Crossings!

For information visit www.charlesnovacekbooks.com or call Sandra Novacek at 313.832.1148.

Detroit Choirs Honor WWII Concentration Camp Prisoner’s Voices of Resistance

bccommunitychorsuofdetroitA once-in-a-lifetime concert was presented in my hometown of Detroit, Michigan on May 18, 2014. The Community Chorus of Detroit joined by three choirs, totaling 175 voices; a full orchestra; and Metropolitan Opera soloists, performed Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Their masterful performance paid tribute to the courageous Jewish prisoners in the World War II Nazi concentration camp at Terezin in Czechoslovakia. It honored the imprisoned Czech conductor Rafael Schachter who formed a choir of 150 of his fellow Jewish prisoners to boldly perform Verdi’s Requiem 16 times in 1944 before the very Nazis who had condemned them to death.

Schachter taught the Latin text, which promised divine judgment against evil, to his choir of 150, using a single smuggled score. They performed the Requiem 16 times for a selected group of Nazi officers accompanied only by a single piano. What appeared to be a soaring rendition of a choral masterpiece was intended as a subversive condemnation of the Nazis and a desperate message to the outside world. In the face of horrific living conditions, slave labor, and the constant threat of deportation to Auschwitz, the Jewish inmates of Terezin concentration camp fought back with art and music.

“Apart from the performance of this great music, there is a profound social purpose in our concert presentation,” said Detroit Community Chorus founder Diane Linn. “In commemorating the Verdi Requiem performances by the WWII Terezin concentration camp prisoners, we want to promote greater awareness of this dark history of the 20th Century to the greater Detroit community; to use music as a means to stand — as a united community — for tolerance and human rights, and against prejudice; to build bridges across chronological, geographic, and cultural boundaries in the name of peace, and to give voice to the courageous Terezin singers who perished, but whose message lives on to speak to us today.”

The Community Chorus of Detroit searched the world for descendants of the Terezin singers and invited 83-year-old virtuoso violinist, author and Holocaust survivor Samuel Marder from the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra to serve as assistant concert master. Dr. Edward Maki-Schramm conducted the singers and orchestra. from miles around attended the Detroit concert. They honored history, defiance and resistance to oppression with music.

Book Marked on Cass Avenue: A Talk + Walk + Cello Concert


   litinthemitt     vennfront4bcrfb     9780985415105-JacketGray_novacek.indd

On Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 1:00 p.m., Sandra Novacek, Cass Corridor resident, librarian, writer, and publisher (Ten21 Press) will read an excerpt and talk about Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance, the memoir written by her late husband Czech/Detroiter – artist, author, engineer Charles Novacek.

The event begins at Source Booksellers, 4240 Cass Avenue, #105.

Sandra will also trace Charles’ footsteps along his Cass Avenue walk breaks from writing and talk about a few historic landmarks along the way. Charles Novacek wrote his award-winning book at home in the historic Venn Manor (c.1904/1905) on Detroit’s Cass Avenue from 2000 – 2007.

Accompanying  Sandra as a tour guide will be Jonathan Peters, Detroit blogger and architecture aficionado.

A special bonus Cello Concert sponsored by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will follow this event at Source Booksellers starting at 3 p.m. Seating is limited.

The talk + walk is part of Lit in the Mitt Month: A collective celebration of the literary arts in Detroit. It is free and open to the public.

Home Again: A Library, a Book, and Friends

bccromaineconferenceroomcr2brightI did “go home” again! And it was magnificent!

In a recent blog post I reported that I would be returning on May 9, 2014 to the town and place where Charles and I first met in person – the Cromaine (District) Library in Hartland, Michigan. The town where I had been a library director for twenty-one years.

I was honored to be invited by the Library and Friends of Cromaine Library to speak about Charles’ award-winning book, Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance and for a gala opening for an exhibition of Charles’ paintings.

So here I am in the above photograph (second from the left in the front row), accompanied by some of the fun and talented people I used to work with – at least one of them dating back to 1975!

bcmadonnaofthechairThere was some magic going on when we all worked together and I felt glimmers of it and Charles last Friday night as we stood proudly in front of Raphael’s “Madonna of the Chair.”

It was the first time I had been in that exact place since the year I met Charles – 1996.

So hard to believe so many years have passed since we had our award-winning library  team – including a John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award! We proudly called ourselves the Cromaineans or Cromainiacs on those hectic, crazy days one experiences when working in a public library!

Two of the team pictured still work at the library. One made a pilgrimage from Columbus, Ohio just to be there for the event and albeit brief reunion.

All hail, Cromaineans!  Thanks for going back “home!”

Have you ever “Gone home again?” If so, please share a bit of your story.

An Art Show, A Conference Room and Border Crossings

bccromaineconferenceroomlargeThis room is in the building where I first met Charles Novacek in 1996 —  Cromaine District Library where I was the library director for 21 years. We had spoken on the phone, but virtually didn’t know each other. One morning Charles surprised me and drove  60 miles from downtown Detroit to meet me in person at the library. I took him on a tour of the facility and ended up in the library conference room. It was here that he revealed his reasons for seeking me out.  But, this discussion must be the topic of another blog post!

Charles’ art show “Border Crossings Revisited” opens tomorrow night May 9, 2014 at 6:00 p.m.in that same conference room with a fundraiser for the Friends of Cromaine Library.  The room hasn’t changed too much. New paint. New carpeting. But, sadly no Charles, but of course he lives on through his art, his writing, and in my heart.

I will be speaking about Charles’ art work and book, Border Crossings: Coming of Age bcbayaninain the Czech Resistance. A menu of Czech foods from appetizers to soups to desserts and non-alcoholic beverages (sorry, no Czech beer) will be offered. Bayanina, an Eastern European accordionist will entertain as guests enjoy the exhibit and a book signing. Many old friends and staff members will be there.

Tickets for the evening are $35. For details contact the library at 313.632.5200 of Czech out their Facebook page and/or website. Thanks to the library staff and Friends for sponsoring this event! The art show runs through June 6, 2014 during library hours.

This is a wonderful tribute to Charles and investment in the Friends of Cromaine Library (founded in 1976 when I was library director) who single-handedly manage donations of many thousands of used books and media each year turning discards into summer music, scholars, performers, free NEW books, and much more.

Please join us if you can!