When most of us who are blessed with Czech blood in our veins and in our DNA hear the above phrase (Na Zdraví) we think of hoisting a good, cold glass of beer (pivo in Czech). Usually if we are especially true to our roots it is not only a beer, but a beer brewed in the pilsner tradition, such as Pilsner Urquell.
But wait…while beer may have a longer history in our Czech culture, there is another drink which should hold an equally important place in our lives…and that drink is champagne!
Now I can hear you saying “What? Champagne? No way! That is French!” And while I will agree with you, there is also a very important reason Champagne and Czechs go together — or should.
If you subscribe to the wonderful Czech cultural newspaper, Czech Slavnosti, you may have caught my story on this connection in one of their recent issues. If you missed the newspaper you can catch my story in two parts by clicking here for part one and then clicking here for part two. But today we offer something no one else has! Not the website for Korbel Vineyards, no one! Only here at Onward To Our Past® and with a huge debt of gratitude and thanks to our translation partner on this effort, the incomparable Moravian, Martin Pytr, we bring you the exclusive transition of the story of František Korbel from the up to now hidden pages of Amerikán Národní Kalendář!
Let us begin!
Amerikán Národní Kalendář
Year: 1921, Volume: XXXXIV, Pages: 264-283
“Memoirs of Czech Settlers in America”
He fought for the freedom of our nation in 1848 – and lived to see it in 1918
Died in Prague, on the 1st of January, 1920, at the age of 89 years
“Perhaps it was the winds of Good Fortune to reward at least one of the young enthusiasts, who in 1848, in the year of the “Spring of the Nations” fought at the barricades, ready to sacrifice their lives in order to free their homeland, to see that their wishes and endeavors were fulfilled.
This lucky one was František Korbel, a native of Bechyně, one of the most well-known American Czechs, who, thanks to his age, survived not only the cruel war in the heart of the Old Country, which was a big challenge for our nation, but also to be a witness to the revolution that brought freedom to it, was able to spend at least one year in his home country free of tyrants and under the great name of a “Republic”.
In František Korbel we lost not only the old “Prague Forty-Eight’er”, but also a typical pioneer of the American West; firm, brave, and an up-and-coming man, who overcame all the troubles of the far, hostile, and wild (in those times) area. Svornost was right when it published, in his obituary (shortly after the telegraph brought the news of his death), that the deceased man was one of the sort of men about whom are written the novels and about whom characters like him are played in theatre performances.
“Only few of today’s Americans”, wrote Svornost, “lived such a stormy life as he and no other American Czech was as succesful in the world of American industry and business – only František Korbel. As a political outlaw, out of money, and without any friends, he came to America in 1848. Today, deceased, after a long lifetime, his name excels among the greatest names of the famous sons of our nation, who never forgot their homeland and its needs, and who contributed a lot to save our nation, and towards the victory of our freedom.”
As one of his great acts of his patriotism, which American Czechoslovaks like to remember, wrote the magazine, was the contribution of František Korbel to the Ustredni Matice Skolska (Central School Foundation), the institution which saved tens of thousands of Czech children from Gerrmanization in ethnically mixed areas. His contributions came at the time when the institution suffered from a terrible lack of money and when its very existence was in danger.”
Tomorrow we continue with our exclusive translation of the story of the famed Bohemian-American, František Korbel from the pages of the rare, Czech-American journal, Amerikán Národní Kalendář! Only here from Onward To Our Past®