Before studying at Mount Mercy University, international student Sarka Dvorakova grew up with her mother and father in the Czech Republic city of Prostějov, just 40 miles from the Slovak boarder. Though she was only a baby when the Velvet Divorce occurred more than 20 years ago, Dvorakova is able to recognize some of the differences in the eras before and after the non-violent dissolution of Czechoslovakia.
“It’s not really about what happened 20 years ago, but it’s more like the things that remain from it until now,” Dvorakova explained.
Sarka, a junior English major, was asked to write about her knowledge of the Velvet Divorce for Slovo: A Publication of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids. She happily obliged and began researching the Divorce.
“These little nicknames (for the Velvet Divorce)—and the Hyphen War is my most favorite story of Czech history because it is absurd and about grammar.”
She explains the Hyphen War in her Slovo piece: “In a nutshell, shortly after the Velvet Revolution, the Slovaks voiced their unhappiness with the name of the country. They didn’t like the fact that in ‘the Czechoslovak Republic’ the ‘Slovak’ part wasn’t emphasized enough. They wanted to rename the country ‘the Czecho-Slovak Republic’ (notice the hyphen), but Czech politicians wouldn’t hear of it.”
To understand the things she knew little about, she turned to her father for information. It was through him that she realized she knew more than she thought.
Dvorakova said she noticed Slovak customs slowly slipping away from the Czech way of living: newscast anchors are no longer both Czech and Slovak, but only Czech; television shows no longer run with Slovak dubs; in terms of language, Dvorakova said that the countries are basically “strangers to each other now.”
Her essay, “Growing Up After the Velvet Divorce: When You Don’t Know Ask Your Dad,” was published in Slovo: A Publication of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (Winter 13-14).