She was over 80 when she arrived in our village. She travelled over sea by a steamer. She prided herself a lot that she was the oldest citizen and she was honouredby captain by a dance. It was the year 1939. Europe lived in stress about what happens in following months and years. The war was said to break out. It didn´t take long and it broke out. In September that year fights broke out on the Polish territory and it spread out around Europe.
The old woman settled in her friends´house. The village inhabitants got used to living with her but the women had such a stranged American name which was difficult to remember. She was simply American.
Tall, slim, for somebody she might seem thin.. She wore a long black dress going down to nearly a ground. From ascetic face stared black eyes. Her hair was black too, a bit threaded with silver, put up into a bun. And all this was hidden under a funny flat small hat. Nobody wore such a hat in our village. Well, American was quite different and commanded respect. Especially ours, boys´.
When there was nice weather outside, old woman went for a walk to the chateau park. She marched slowly, as straight as a ramrod, leaning on a thin stick, curved at the top and with a metallic tip at the bottom. She never hurried, she was walkling slowly. Serious, with a light gloomy smile in face.
She went the chateau around on a sandy path and very slowly returned home. But the time of war rushed on very quickly. Every day brought again and again new events. A few war years passed over those miserable times.
Spring of the year 1945 came at last. There appeared more and more often white bands in the sky left behind by American bomber units. Low-level bombing raids held the sky and it was an open secret that war was about to finish. As time passed on every day brought something new and interesting. Nobody remembered an old lady those days. Well, there were some sunny days, but American didn´t go out for a favourite walk. Rumour was she was sicky.
Events tokk unparalleled speed. On 1st May in the morning appeared a Czechoslovak state flag on a high triangulation tower situated on the border of the wood Háj. A few days passed off, it was on 5th May and rumour went that „ A revolution broke out in Prague, the war is over !“ For us boys it was an event of priority. Morover, on the following day, when American tanks, cars, jeeps with soldiers – Americans rushed into the village. We welcomed them enthusiastically. We didn´t understand a word, but it wasn´t so much important.
The American military unit staff got accommodated at the chateau, soldiers pitched uptheir tents in a chateau park. There was as in a beehive in the village. We milled about among cars and soldiers putting up tents. What a cheerful muddle all around. A muddle in the Army? It wasn´t possible.
Soldiers closed access tothe chateau park, posted guards in access roads and civil population was not allowed to enter.
One of the guards post was at the park entrance, not far away from the chateau building.
In a few days the village was getting quiet and life got back on the rails.
We boys didn´t get calm so quickly. We were always near to American soldiers getting acquainted with them. We became especially fond of the post at the border of the chateau park. There was such a small place to play a small football on. We looked up at the guarding soldier waiting for something given from him. It happened that he called out and gave us chewing gum or a piece of chocolate, sometimes a cigarette.
We really didn´t remember of an old lady.
Not until one day. It was a sleepy May afternoon. A soldier at guard was swinging on a chair, a rifle leaned against a small table, helmet dropped down deep over the face. It didn´t seem today that we would get something and so we took up football again. When suddenly we became attentive. At the very beginning of the sand path appeared a black figure and went on marching slowly to the chateau park. She was clattering with a stick against small stones in sand. We stopped playing and watched what would happen.
The soldier at the table went on swinging on the chair, he might not take notice of the coming person. The old lady was approaching to his post. We approached too. Then suddenly the soldier made a movement, slided up his helmet still keeping quiet. He stood up slowly. The old lady approached. Civil persons are not allowed to enter the chateau park.. The soldier at the table stood already, with a rifle in one hand, giving the lady to understand that she must not go on walking, but go back.
This was what we boys were interested in, what will follow? The old lady was already a few steps away from the soldier. This grasped the rifle in both hands, put it paralelly on the breast and moving ahead and back indicated accurately his intention. Go back, keep off this place! The old lady however moved along close to the soldier. He was evidently confused and began to explain the lady that she was not allowed to enter the park and he was on guard. This is what I suggest he was saying and he was sure that the old lady couldn´t understand him anyway. She seemed to have looked at him in amusement and then, looking right in his face began to speak pure „American laanguage“ saying that she had been walking there through for long years, that this was her regular walk and that he should not prevent her from walking thereto. This is what she might have talked. WE heard everything but didn´t understand a word. The soldier however understood all. He stared at the old lady. He seemed to be a bit smaller. He was still holding the rifle on the breast and didn´t believe his own ears – this old lady is speaking his native language. The old lady had finished talking. She lifted up her stick and stabbed the soldier slightly into breast.. This , still astonished, stepped back and the old lady went on walking in direction of the park. The soldier went on staring at her for a while, then he turned quickly around, leaned the rifle on the table, grasped a field telephone and turned fast the winder. He was giving report with a faltering voice. We didn´t even breathe of curiosity. We were interested in what would follow. The old lady went on walking.
When suddenly a heavy wooden gate of chateau moved a bit open and two American officers looked out through the slot. They looked around and set out right towards the old lady.
They saluted, said something, then took an old lady between them and all the three set out to the chateau. „Well, now they arrested her“, said somebody of us. We didn´t wait for anything and ran out to announce this news around the village.
We made a mistake. As I learned later, things proceeded quite in another way. Theold lady was accepted by the commander of an American military unit and other officers got together to have an interesting accidental talk. Then all accompanied the old lady till her home.
And what happened then? Since then the old lady had been allowed to walk into the chateau park as before. The soldier at the guard post smiled and always saluted. It was honour for all American soldiers to have a small talk with an old lady or to salute her only.
And what about the first she met on this sleepy May afternoon? It was certainly the greatest surprise for him which he experienced at the end of his long war way around Europe, in a westbohemian village – Dolní Lukavice.
For editorial :
„American woman“ was born on May 30 1858 in Dolní Lukavice in the house No.51, having her maiden name Marie Hrubá. She left for America with her parents and three sisters in 1883. Here she got married taking the name Jursíková. She was returning from the USA periodically, always for a few months, to Dolní Lukavice. About 1925 she had here built by her nephew Josef Hrubý a house, which still stands here provided with no. 161. In Mrs.Jursík´s absence the house served in winter as a canteen where soup was served for scholars until the year 1938, when the old lady returned for the last time from the USA to Dolní Lukavice. After the war, about in 1949 Mrs. Jursíková was over 90 and began to lose her memory and orientation. The family decided to put her in an aged people institute in Šluknov, where she died in a short time.
Na Kopci 1236
363 01 Ostrov