Yesterday we spent the entire day traveling back from Hungary to our home in North Carolina.
You could say I had Carolina on my mind as it was my destination, while we shuffled through multiple planes, seats, lines of people, airports, coffee cups, etc to get back to my Carolina home. But I wasn't really thinking about home yet.
What had happened in eastern Europe during my lifetime was thoroughly fascinating to me.
After spending a couple of weeks hoofing around Vienna, Prague and Budapest, I had developed an intense new interest about how these three countries that we visited--Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary--had managed to endure and overcome Soviet occupation, which finally ended in 1989.
So I filled those long stretches of airliner time reading a collection of letters that Vaclav Havel had written during his lifetime. Vaclav was a Czech, a dissident playwright who had dared to resist and criticize the Soviets during their many years of trying to communize eastern Europe. Fortunately, Vaclav had squeezed through all that long time of communist mumbo-jumbo; when the Czechs, Poles, Hungarians and other eastern Europeans managed to eject the Soviets in 1989, the newly-freed citizens of the Czech Republic elected Vaclav Havel as their first President.
All of those changes had not come easily.
While trying to understand some of those changes while reading on the plane, I came across a statement that Vaclav Havel had written in 1969 to Alexander Dubcek, who had formerly been First Secretary of the Communist Party of Hungary during the time of the Prague Spring movement and the subsequent military invasion by which the Soviets had crushed the Czech initiatives with their tanks, guns and occupying soldiers. Through the roughest part of the 1968 showdown between the Czechs/Slovaks and their Soviet oppressors, Alexander Dubcek was the Czech in charge who had tried to reconcile the two differing positions of Czechs and Soviets.
Here is a thought that Vaclav wrote to Dubcek in 1969 a few months later:
"Though (I was) moved by the physical and psychological pressures you endured, and deeply aware of the complexity of the situation and never for a moment doubting the honesty of your intentions, I was still convinced from the beginning that by signing the Moscow Agreements, you were making a terrible mistake. . ."
Vaclav Havel was quite an independent thinker, a brave man who survived perilous persecution to ultimately prevail and become President of his own people.
He was one of many dissident Czechs. There were many, many others of eastern Europe who suffered all those changes.
We heard quite a bit of info about it, along with other facts about Czech history, as we followed two excellent guides through two different walking tours in Prague.
On the Discover Prague tour, guide Kevin provided an excellent backstory for us about the events/effects of World War II in Czech lands, and the subsequent Soviet communism period.
On the Sandeman's tour, guide Karel featured the main points and places of historical interest, such as the Castle, but also including this one:
Our Prague guide Karel stands here in front of Universitas Carolina, which is actually called Charles University, because it is named for Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire back in the 1300's. So this association of similar names is one reason that I say Carolina is on my mind, aside from the fact that both of our daughters are graduates of the University of North Carolina, back home in the good ole USA, to which we have just returned.
A curious collection of European confusion can sometimes be recalled and possibly correlated when one considers the cornucopia of names directly related to this Carolina root. For a long time I have wondered about it. Between England, France, Germany, the Roman Empire, Austria, Hungary, Czechia et al, the Car… prefix nomenclature becomes quite confusing. There's the Latin Carolus, the several French kings Charles, going back to Charles Martel, Charlemagne (the main guy), and the Carolingian dynasty that arose from their loins. Also, across the Channel, we find the several English kings Charles (including the one who was beheaded), not to mention the German version Karl and the Czech iteration Karel, and we shan't neglect to mention wild and crazy American variations like Charlie and even Chuck. And as if that wasn't enough. . . my own name, Carey, was mentioned to me-- by a girl I knew many moons ago who was proud of her German heritage--she claimed that my name was a French or English corruption of the German Karl.
But as I was saying. . . Karel in Prague was telling us about Charles IV, and the founding of Universitas Carolina in 1348 as the first University in central Europe, not to be confused with Central European University in Budapest,
which I hear was funded by George Soros, a financier quite unpopular among my American conservative colleagues because they say he wants to cram more immigrants into Old School Europe.
Nevertheless, lest I digress, I will mention, in closing, that Charles University or Carolina, as we see in the first above pic,was attended by Franz Kafka, Albert Einstein and many other notables. This collection of courageous revisionists goes way back. In the 1400's the Universitas Carolina became, under the influence of Jan Hus, a hothouse of emerging Protestant revision of the Christian faith.
Thank God for that!
Anyway, speaking of God, back here in my Carolina home, we have an old joke: If God's not a tar heel, then why's the sky Carolina blue?, which only adds more curiosity to the confluence of C-words connected to a Carolina root from which it all came and later culminated, I must conclude.
All in all, it's good to be back in the New World Carolina, the one sung about by James Taylor,
the very same Carolina that I was on my mind as I was returning here from recent travels in the Old World Carolina.
King of Soul