Many reasons to give thanks....

Trip Start Oct 15, 2007
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Trip End Dec 20, 2007


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Flag of Slovakia  ,
Friday, November 23, 2007

So Corey arrives, a bit worn and with a somewhat different hair color than I remember...I'm thrilled to see her..esp having her arrive safe and with no problems.  We sit for over an hour at the airport and catch up a bit...and then, after a quick nap at our couchsurfing home, it's off into Prague...I want her to feel she's arrived in another country before the day is out.

  We spend a couple of days wandering...seeing some sights, like the Communist Museum for example.  It brings the communist era and the resistance movement to life with it's vivid exhibits and videos.    Each day we catch up a little more and drink coffee and eat dumplings and cabbage and sausages and other Czech specialties.  We plan our trip to Slovakia...apparently Presov is about 10 hours by rail so we decide to do a sleeper train.  I'm a little nervous...I've never actually used a sleeper car and I can't imagine feeling safe enough to sleep in a bed on a train.   I've heard all sorts of horrible stories of travelers being robbed, etc. but the reality for us is another delightful experience.  Those cars are cozy and clean and feel safe to me.  The only intrusion to my sleep is the series of screeching halts the train makes along the way...but I keep falling back asleep and it's the fastest and most comfortable 10 hr trip I've ever taken.  Way beats a bus ride.  And the real treat is yet to come...the relatives....now how are we related to them?  We're about to find out....
 
Well I'm just blown away.   Corey and I have just spent 4 amazing days with people that have the same name as us...that bring us into their family...that feed us and take us all over to show us all they can and are so eager to connect with all their heart....the reception we get far surpasses anything I might have imagined.   We have traveled to visit people that spent a month with us in NY in 1968.  Corey re-found them by googling them up, sent them an email....and the rest is simple...they were very happy to hear we planned to visit...but still I really didn't know exactly what to expect...
 
Well, it turns out that these are cousins of my fathers...and their children.   They know all my relatives on this side of the world...apparently only a small fragment of the Kotlars ever made it to the US and by now there are no Slovak Kotlars left except for my generation and younger in the US.   So we are taken to the rest of them, on this side of the world. .   Peter, who I haven't seen since we were both 13 yrs old, and his wife Julianna, have two sons...in fact Corey is out doing some late night hanging with Tomas, the 19 yr old, right now.   The other son, also named Peter, is 26 and we meet his lovely girlfriend, Lenka.  Everybody has taken days off work to be with us and to tour around the Slovakian countryside with us...to share time with us.   First night there, we are part of a huge dinner table full of people that are there just to meet us.  I go to bed each night filled with amazement of this feeling of connectivity. 
 
We visit Spisske Podhradie, the small town my father spent the first 12 years of his life in.  I never thought I'd ever get to this town...I'd heard about it my whole life...and esp the Spisske castle which he used to play in when he was a boy.  The castle is right in his backyard...of course, it's an awesome sight, all castle-like and high atop a hill,  but most of all, it's incredible to me that I'm in this place that holds my history.  We visit the cemetery of Spisske Podhradie (which, in fact, means at the foot of the castle), where there are many Kotlars, including my grandmother who I never met. 

Peter is being an amazing host...he has organized our time so that we can fit in lots of family ...and also visit some beautiful and historic towns and churches and travel through the countryside and even see the High Tatras...the big mountains...and go way up to the border with Poland and visit the Andy Warhol museum...PLUS eat some tasty food...my favorite so far has been these piroghis in this reconstructed castle...I want to see if I can talk him into taking us back there tomorrow.   I don't know if I can leave here without having one more plate of them.  But what is the coolest to me is sitting with people I'm related to and talking with them....of course Peter and his sons help interpret...but most of all looking directly into each others eyes and sharing that bond...hearing one of his cousins say that she thought the family in the US was lost to them...that she never thought she'd see that part of the Kotlars again...that meeting us is better than winning the lottery...having my hand warmly held for a long time...there is such a sense of familiarity and belonging here....and I watch Corey get to know this side of her family...she was never raised w/ Czech relatives as I was, speaking another language, with doilies on all the furniture and radically mismatched floral prints all over the house...and endless dishes of food brought out to you, welcoming you as family.  She gets all generations of it at once.  Tomas and Peter are spending lots of time with us ..they are her generation and are as open to her as is the older part of the family. 
 
We extend our time here by a day...that's all we've got before Corey has to go back to NY.  Tomorrow we'll see more cousins up in Poprad with Peter and his wife Julianna, who is so warm and delightful.  I'm looking forward to spending the day together...although I really didn't even know these people 3 days ago, I now feel like I've known them a long time.  And I feel like connections have been made that will continue into the future...
 
On the train ride home back to Prague...another sleeper car for the 10 hours of the trip...Corey and I find ourselves speechless and so moved by our time in Slovakia; we reflect on the past 4 days and feel truly gifted by this family.   This Thanksgiving we received much to be thankful for ...
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Comments

cck10388
cck10388 on

its been incredible..
hey mom, i had such a wonderful time with you there and with everyone else. its so nice to relive it all from my dorm room here in geneseo..it was certainly the trip of a lifetime and i loved seeing everything with you. from checking out the casinos and the shopping, to sitting and people watching at cafes throughout the city, it was amazing. although seeing you reminds me how much ive been missing you, i also see how much joy you get from checking out each new place and i loved seeing you in your element and so happy. so i will see you in a few weeks, but til then, i will be thinking of you doing ur thing and i love you tons and tons!! xoxox

shoefits
shoefits on

Wow
Reading your account of reconnecting with your family brought tears to my eyes, Karen. I was moved by how quickly and surely your family welcomed you into their homes and hearts. I'm happy that you and Corey have had this experience!

suzanangel
suzanangel on

Wow
Amazing, Karen. And reading Corey's entry about being back at Geneseo and reliving it was great, too. So sweet. Wow wow wow.

kdjaffee
kdjaffee on

what an emotional journey
Corey and Karen - Was practically crying by the end of this... the pictures, stories were so wonderful and powerful. But then the real tears came when I read your comment Corey. Geez I miss you both... can't wait to see you around New Years!!!!
kim

dolphindiva
dolphindiva on

Home is where the heart is....
....and having someplace to go. So happy for you that you are visiting your many homes. Thank you for sharing. Love you all. Hope to see you in December. Dolphin Diva.

paulshoemaker
paulshoemaker on

Thanks for sharing
We're feeling very priveliged sharing your joy with newly found family...it was just a year ago that we had thanksgiving together...Many thanks, Paul and Simone

licia
licia on

more tears
ok i feel like @ the michigan's gospel on sunday and can't stop crying
thanks for moving all of us (to tears)
love, peace and family
Licia

barbarastreets
barbarastreets on

Happy with you
Dear Karen,
You are blessed to be able to meet extended family. Your notations are inspiring. Wishing you the best.
Barbara

enticestarlight
enticestarlight on

An Experience Like This
Rawhideone, your story is really touching. I couldn't casually read it all the way through, like I do with other stories. I had to take many breaks, resting in the tender feelings it produced in me.
It makes me wish I had an experience like this.
Entice Starlight

rawhideone
rawhideone on

i appreciate your thoughts...
thanks, enticestarlight....the experience was so memorable for both my daughter and myself...makes the connected world of family a small and loving space.

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