In the 19th century many immigrants from the present-day Czech Republic, settled in Texas, U.S.. It has influenced a local culture, still perceptible in this region. We can here find a town named Praha, and listen to Polka at different festivals or in pubs. How is the new generation perpetuating traditions? We interviewed Austin, who founded “Hardcore Czechoslovaks” – a platform presenting Czech and Slovak traditions, lifestyle, history, and trends in a funny and humorous way. Austin moved from a small town, Vanderbilt in Texas, to Washington DC metro area where he is currently preparing his master’s degree at American University in International Relations.
KITnDO : Can you tell us more about your cultural background?
Austin: I’m a Czech/Slovak-American and German-American. My mom’s family has mostly Czech roots, but we think some Slovak also; we belong to the Texas-Czech community. My dad’s family has German American background. I identify strongly with Czech culture, because I grew up in a Texas-Czech environment. I also have studied abroad twice in Czech Republic, so I have good friends there who make sure I keep up with my “Czechness”.
KITnDO: What were your motivations when you started “Hardcore Czechoslovaks”?
Austin: My motivation for creating “Hardcore Czechoslovaks” was to make Czech and Slovak culture interesting to millennials and young people. In Texas there are so many Czech-Americans a lot of them are very interested in their heritage and maintaining their culture. I have met Slovak-Americans from the northeast who feel the same. However, it is hard for millennials to identify with Czech and Slovak stuff because it is not presented in a way that is interesting to them.
In addition to this, I learned that many Czechs and Slovaks did not know about the large communities in the U.S.; this gave me motivation to let the world know we exist, and create a platform that encourages ties between the Czechs and Slovaks in Europe and the diaspora communities. In order to appeal to young people I decided to do this in a fun and engaging way.
When I went to college, I met other people with Slavic backgrounds (Serbian, Croatian, Russian, and Ukrainian), and I realized we had many things in common. This made me familiar with Slavic memes and Slavic stereotypes, but I thought they only slightly represented Czechs, Slovaks, and other Central Europeans, and some stuff was completely unrelatable. In fact, much of the English language Slavic social media presence was about Eastern European or Balkan stuff, and Central European Slavs were typically left out. I decided I wanted to put Czechs, Slovaks, and other Central European Slavs on the map, and I hope as this account grows I will be able to do that!
KITnDO: What is your biggest satisfaction and contrary, what do you find challenging when you communicate with your community?
Austin: My biggest satisfaction is the engagement I get from my followers! It makes me so happy to meet Czechs and Slovaks from all over the world (Ohio, Argentina, Pennsylvania, Florida and many more places). Some of the followers do not live in a Czech or Slovak community or around other Czechs or Slovaks, so I take pride in giving them a piece of home or a way to connect to their roots!
On the flipside I find it difficult to get as much engagement from European Czechs and Slovaks and people living in large Czech or Slovak communities like Texas. My most engaging followers are people who are living away from other Czechs and Slovaks. I think this is understandable because people who are always surrounded by their fellow Slovaks & Czechs take their identity for granted. However moving forward, I want more European Czechs and Slovaks and people from large diaspora communities in order to foster conversations and the exchange of ideas like I set out to do.
KITnDO: Besides social media, how do you keep in touch with your roots?
Austin: I keep in touch with my roots by staying in touch with my friends in Czechia, continuing my study of the Czech language, learning new Texas-Czech (based off of Moravian Czech dialects) words and phrases, cooking Czech/Slovak foods (I love “guláš” and “halušky”!!!), and calling my grandparents a few times a week. When I was in Texas I would go to our Czech festivals and church picnics. Now I have a Czech “Kroj” (folk costume), so in the future I will be able to go to them dressed as a Czech. In the future I also plan to start learning to play accordion.
KITnDO: Can you recommend any places related to Czech culture in your region?
Austin: In Texas there are so many places to experience Czech culture, you just have to get out into the country and know where to look. I would recommend visiting the small town of West, Texas and going to their Westfest Czech festival in the early fall. Here in West they have the Czech-American restaurant, and also the Czech stop koláče bakery. I’d also recommend going to the National Polka Festival in Ennis Texas, to hear Texas Czech polka bands. Further south go to the Shiner Brewery and visit the painted churches of central Texas. These churches were built by Czech immigrants in the early 1900s to imitate the baroque architecture of the homeland, they make for a beautiful short tour.
The Shiner brewery was founded by a German immigrant, but it is closely associated with Texas-Czechs. We even have folk songs about the brewery and the city of Shiner because we love it so much, so you should go see what the magic is about! If you are in that area I’d also recommend stopping at Wiekel’s Bakery in La Grange Texas, and Kountry Bakery in Hallettsville Texas for some good koláče. These two small towns are near Shiner and the painted churches. And don’t miss the Moravia general store. It is called a store but it is more like a pub where Czech polka bands go to play. The sign saying “957 leads right to the door” is from a Texas Czech folk song called “Moon Over Moravia”. We have a few Czech language songs that are unique to Texas. Unfortunately there are no Czech restaurants here now, but hopefully some will come in the future!!!
KITnDO: What is your favorite recipe transmitted to you by your family?
Austin: I have a few favorites: our koláče, guláš, halušky, and chicken noodle soup recipes. My family makes the traditional round Czech koláče, not the big fluffy square koláče you find at most Texas-Czech bakeries, and we are very proud of the fact!
KITnDO: What three things could you say to someone, about your origin that you’re proud about?
Austin: I’m proud of the fact that we Czechs are:
- Laid back: We live a laid back lifestyle; we don’t like to stress too much or work too hard. I think the Czech word “pohoda” best describes it. I love this word, and I love that we try to apply it to our lives.
- Stylish and good looking: Many say that Czechs & also Slovaks are some of the best-looking people in the world, and also many of us are stylish and have good fashion taste (aside from the socks and sandals lol).
- We have so many traditions: We have so many different preserved traditions, and folk costumes that people still proudly wear to festivals! Traditional Czech culture is not something you have to go to a museum to find, it is alive and well and increasingly influencing modern trends in Czechia!
If you want to discover more, don’t forget to follow: Hardcore Czechoslovaks | Facebook and Hardcore Czechoslovaks / Instagram. And, if you’re reading us from Texas, we’ll enjoy if you can share your experience in comments and please, add other places related to Czech culture in KITnDO.