The Cleveland Cultural Gardens are a collection of over 30 gardens each dedicated to a particular heritage. They feature busts, statues and monuments to their cultural icons. The Czech Cultural Garden was dedicated in 1935.
Paul Burik has been caretaker of the Czech Garden for over 20 years and he leads a virtual tour explaining the busts and monuments. Statues and busts include Antonin Dvorak, Karel Havlicek, Bedrich Smetana, Tomas Masaryk, Jindrich Simon Baar, Frantisek Palacky, Jan Amos Komesnky and a tribute to Czech Immigrants.
Watch the video tour.
Czech Christmas Tradition
Cleveland International Hall of Fame inductee Paul Burik says that in the Czech Republic just before Christmas one can find in the town square large wood barrels filled with fish, usually "Kapr" - Carp, that people purchase for the traditional Christmas eve dinner. The buyer points to the fish as they splash in the barrel creating a lively spectacle. The proprietor uses a net to capture the poor creature to joy of the on looking children. The fish often end up in the family bath tub until his unfortunate demise on the Christmas Eve. The Czech Republic is known for the many artificially created lakes in the southern part of the country that sustain this holiday tradition.
Christmas in Prague Old Town Square
Czech and Italian Christmas Traditions
Judge Ralph Perk Jr., president of the American Nationalities Movement of Ohio, says "When I grew up in the 50's & 60's the Perk home joined in a mix of Czech and Italian backgrounds including large families we found ourselves doing the same things year after year. We would start with midnight mass at Our Lady of Lourdes, a Czech parish. Which unlike today was actually at midnight. When we arrived home we enjoyed a meal of ham and potato salad, which to this day was the best potato salad I ever tasted.
After getting up on Christmas morning we'd open presents in a usual disorganized order and attend church again. This was followed by a pork, dumpling and sauerkraut lunch. Then we would always go to our Italian grandparents for spaghetti and meatballs with grandma's unique Italian sauce. Of course, there would be more presents exchanged and lots of stories and jokes before we left for our Czech grandparents. There we had traditional desserts of poppyseed rolls, nut rolls, and apple kuchen with eggnog. Not to forget a few more gift exchanges plus some Czech Christmas cookies (vanocni cukrovi) and kolachkes. Then home (which was just around the corner) to play with our favorite present.
Infant of Prague
In the charming city of Prague, located in the heart of Europe, the Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious is home to a revered 16th-century statue known as the Infant Jesus of Prague.
A German copy of the statue of the Infant of Prague, with a white wig instead of the traditional blonde hair, circa. 1870
The Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation hosted the 74th annual One World Day on August 25, 2019. Police estimates say that over 30,000 people visited the Gardens and attended One World Day. There was a lot of activity in the beautiful and historic Czech Cultural Garden.
Paul and Fran Burik in Czech Garden on One World Day
Paul Burik with marionette in Czech Garden on One World Day
Anna Sophia Tombazzi first Rusyn crowned Miss Czech-Slovak Us National Queen
Anna Sophia Tombazzi became the first Rusyn crowned Miss Czech-Slovak Us National Queen 2019-2020.
Anna Sophia Tombazzi
Anna's maternal Rusyn lineage comes from her great-grandfather, Stephen Pusti from Šoma (now called Driencia) in Šaryš County near Prešov. Anna's great-grandmother, Anna Bittner Pusti was from Kamienka, in Spiš County. Both Anna's great-grandparents came to America in the early 1900's from present day eastern Slovakia. Born and raised in Ohio, Anna has been active in her Rusyn heritage from a young age. She donated (along with her older brother) money proceeds from a toy sale to an orphanage in eastern Slovakia, spoke on Rusyn Radio program based out of Pittsburgh, PA, acted as a family's little girl for the traditional Christmas Eve Velija play in Youngstown, OH. Anna has also played her violin for multiple Rusyn cultural events, been a volunteer at other festival events, like the Simply Slavic Festival in Youngstown, OH.
The knowledge for Anna's national title began when she was a member of the Cleveland, Ohio based Rusyn folk ensemble, Karpato-Rus' Ensemble in 2009. Anna was the lead violinist and a dancer. The ensemble was directed by her mother, Laurel Tombazzi. Paul Makousky, from the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society, informed Laurel about the Miss Czech-Slovak US Pageant. Noticing that the Pageant requires ladies starting at age 16 to compete, the Karpato-Rus' Ensemble had no female performers that were age 16 or older at this time.
In early 2015, Laurel Tombazzi was aware on the Miss Czech-Slovak US Pageant website that the nationalities of Czech, Silesian, Moravian and Slovak were on the Pageant application. Winning Queens are awarded the prize of going to either the Czech Republic or Slovakia. Since Rusyns live in eastern Slovakia, Laurel asked the Pageant Committee to add "Rusyn" to the application. (Rusyns live as a minority group in present day eastern Slovakia and do not have a land to call their own. They are eastern Slavs.) The committee happily agreed and asked Laurel to be one of three judges to select a Queen the same year.
(Photo credit Evening Blush Photography & Miss Czech-Slovak US Pageant)
The annual three day Czech Days Festival has been going for 58 years in Wilber, NE drawing crowds of over 50,000 during the first weekend in August. The Pageant has taken place for the past 33 years and is part of the Czech Days Festival.
Paul Burik inducted into Cleveland International Hall of Fame
Paul Burik was born in the city of Budvar – yes, the namesake of Budweiser Beer, in what is now the Czech Republic. He escaped with his father from Czechoslovakia in 1968 after the Soviet invasion
Paul is past president of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation – umbrella organization of the 30 nationality gardens and currently serves as Vice President. He is Cleveland Chapter President of “Svaz Vedy a Umeni”, aka SVU – Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences, organization dedicated to advancing the understanding of Czech, Slovak and Rusyn cultures. Paul is also a member of Sokol Greater Cleveland – Czech athletic and cultural organization. Paul is currently in his second year as Sokol Greater Cleveland President. He is a member of Cleveland Bratislava Sister Cities and Carpatho-Rusyn Society.
On April 16, 2019 Paul Burik was inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame by University Circle Incorporated CEO Chris Ronayne.
Chris Ronayne inducts Paul Burik
Paul Burik gives his acceptance speech
Watch the video of Paul Burik being inducted and his speech.
Czechoslovakia 100th anniversary celebration at Bohemian National Hall
2018 is the centennial year of the founding of the country of Czechoslovakia after World War I. This little country, formed out of a piece of the Austro-Hungarian empire became an example of people who had persevered for hundreds of years despite challenges to their very existence. Sokol Greater Cleveland and other organizations hosted a weekend full of events commemorating the centennial of the founding of Czechoslovakia 100 years ago at the Czech Cultural Center in Historic Bohemian National Hall in Cleveland Ohio.
Councilman Tony Brancatelli presents a proclamation to Steve Sebesta and Helen Roth
Members of the Czech, Slovak and Rusyn communities gathered for music and dance, gymnastic demonstrations, special food and imported beers, tours of the historic building and museum, ethnic exhibits, children's activities and a gala a sit-down dinner on Sunday.
The Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation (CCGF) hosted the 73rd annual One World Day on September 16, 2018. A highlight is the Parade of Flags where people in costumes of their heritage carry the flags. The Czech Garden was well-represented in the Parade.
Czechoslovakia 100th and Prague Spring 50th anniversaries
2018 is a special year. Not only are we celebrating 100 years of the founding of Czechoslovakia, but also 50 years since Prague Spring - the loosening of the tight grip by the communist regime by Slovak Alexander Dubcek, that came to a sudden halt on August 20, 1968 when the country was invaded by Soviet forces.
To commemorate these anniversaries, a re-installation and a re-dedication of two plaques in the Czech Cultural Garden took place on Sunday, August 19, 2018. Paul Burik is a past-president of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation (CCGF) and is also the delegate for the Czech Cultural Garden. He was the driving force behind the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the formation of Czechoslovakia as well as the 50 year anniversary of the Prague Spring. He also served as Master of Ceremonies.
Czechs, Slovaks, Rusins and representatives from other communities took part as well.
Miss Czech/Slovak US Queen at One World Day in Cleveland
Miss Michaela Marenka Steager is the 2016/17 Miss Czech/Slovak US Queen. She lives in Nebraska and came to the 71st annual One World Day in the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. This was Michaela and her parent's first trip to Ohio. Laurel Tombazzi introduced Michaela and spoke about the competition which now includes Carpatho Rusyn and well as Czech and Slovak heritage. Michaela showed her kroj (traditional costume) which includes a favorite tie from her late grandfather. Watch the video by clicking on the white arrow.
Bohemian National Hall - 4939 Broadway Ave. Cleveland Ohio
The Historic Bohemian National Hall is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Cleveland Landmark.
At the 100th anniversary celebration of the historic Cleveland Agreement of 2015, Master of Ceremonies Paul Burik introduced Marjorie Juba to lead the national anthems of the Czech Republic and Slovakia at the Historic Bohemian National Hall. Marjorie led Kde Domov Muj and Fr. Michael Brunovsky led Nad Tatrou Sa Blyska.
Important Documents from the Cleveland Agreement forming Czechoslovakia
The historic Bohemian National Hall was the host venue for the 100th anniversary celebration of the Cleveland Agreement which paved the way for the creation of Czechoslovakia. Many important documents, maps and other resources were on display.
Since time immemorial, the Czech lands have been the crossroads of European cultures. The cultural character of Czech cities, villages and spa towns has always been a source of inspiration to visitors and guests, who come here from all corners of the world.
The Czech Republic, among the youngest in the family of European countries, was born on January 1st, 1993, when the Czechoslovak Federal Republic split into two independent states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Since May, 2004, the Czech Republic has been a member of the European Union; it has been a full-fledged NATO member since 2002. (The country has not adopted the Euro yet, however, and still uses its national currency, the Czech crown.)
Even though the Czech Republic’s area of 78,864 square kilometers (about 30,450 square miles) ranks it among small countries, its wealth of natural beauty and monuments of cultural heritage contribute greatly to its global prestige as a major cultural destination.