Lost Girl of the Week: Dana Newman

Lost Girl of the Week — By on August 24, 2011 at 12:45 pm

This week’s Lost Girl of the Week, Dana Newman, graduated from the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida.  Though she had jobs waiting for her at the time of graduation, she decided the idea of settling down in one place and one career was for her, well, unsettling.  So, she sold the little belongings she had, packed the rest into two duffel bags and headed off to Prague to live and work as unsettled as possible.  She chose Prague not only for its world-renowned beauty and convenient location in the heart of Europe, but also because it is the location of her family’s roots. Dana uses the memory and historical legacy left behind by her grandfather as the inspiration for her travel.

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My Grandfather was Vaclav Majer.  He grew up in a tiny Czech village north of Prague called Pochvalov.  He grew up living a rural lifestyle, starting from his birth which took place in his house, not at a hospital.  He began his career in journalism and from there segued into politics.  During the years in between the Nazi occupation and the Communist occupation he grew to be the Minister of Food and Agriculture, which at that time was similar to the current American title of Vice President; if something happened to the President he was the next in line to take control.

During both the Nazi and the Communist occupation there was a bounty on his head with reward money offered and he was wanted dead or alive.  He stayed in what was formerly Czechoslovakia and helped others escape through the Underground Railroad until he was finally forced out in 1949.

Unfortunately for me my grandfather died before I was born, but his memory has lived on in my family.  My mother has filled many nights with stories that he passed down to her about his life in Czechoslovakia, as well as stories about how he would have been as a grandfather to me.  From the vivid descriptions she has given me I can imagine hugs in his safe, strong arms, the smell pipe tobacco on his clothes, and the sound of his loud, booming laugh.  I took off to the Czech Republic for an adventure but also to walk in his footsteps.  Every time I ambled up the steps to the castle gates, wandered through the gardens, or gazed over the whole city from an overlook, I wondered if his feet had touched these same places years ago.  I felt complete joy as I overlooked the breath-taking city, but I wondered if he had felt the complete opposite watching it 60 years before as the Nazis or the Communists took it over.

During my first cold December in Prague I visited his village of Pochvalov, where his house still stands today with a plaque of remembrance on the exterior wall.  I also visited the nearby town of Louny, for which he was the representative in Congress. The largest street in that town is named after him.  As I travel freely around Europe I try to remember that my travels were made possible by the brave men and women, like my grandfather, who fought and struggled for Europe’s freedom.  Without them we lucky travelers may still today not be allowed glimpse its magnificent cities and breath-taking landscapes.

I am currently still living and traveling around Europe. If you are interested in reading more please visit: http://i-wanted-an-adventure.blogspot.com/.  I have written about many of my adventures, including a trip to visit my “long-lost” Czech relatives, a crazy vacation in Egypt, and obtaining a job in Prague.

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