Monday, February 9, 2009

100 Years in America

Thereis no greater force under heaven than life. Young plants will find open sky through concrete, and the will to live can at times subdue the course of terminal illness. This power drove my great-grandfather, Antonin Plašil, a Bohemian-born soldier, to a new life when he left Strebersdorf, Austria for America. Shortly thereafter, his young Viennese wife, Josefa, my 4 year old grandfather, Rudolf, and 10 month old daughter, Emma, arrived under a flaming torch to a new land, a new mother tongue, and a new name: Blosil.

Rudolf married a Danish beauty named Gertrude who bore my father, their only child. A first generation American, Dad married my mother, an only child from the War. Her brother perished with the U.S.S. Bullhead in the Java Sea the day we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and two weeks before our last enemy surrendered. Consequently, my five brothers, sister and I grew up without uncles, aunts or cousins. The Blosil Family Reunion was every night at the dinner table. Cousins have become a phenomenon to us through the Blosil grandchildren, 24 and counting.

Rudolf, "grandpa Bub", embraced the American Dream through hard work and Harley-Davidson. With pre-Brando swagger, Bub would taunt and outrun the Indian motorcycles underneath the local L.A. police. This bravado was born from a bluff at 16 years old. Bub would regularly receive the "strap" from his hard drinking father. Prior to another beating, Bub stiffened his tall, New World frame, faced down generations of Old World discipline and pointed, "You raise that strap again I'll knock you across the room!" His father slowly sat down on the bed and stared at his son who had become a man in one sentence.Alcohol also ended with Bub. When his father died, the examining physician remarked how well preserved his father was. "He ought to be," Bub told him. "He's been embalmed 50 years."

As a college student I moved to Strebersdorf to learn German. It turned into an advertising internship in Vienna, arranged for by a second cousin of Bub's who, ironically, was the Director of the Austrian Wine Industry Fund and a prominent author of viniculture. I hiked with my relatives through the local mountain trails and vineyards, learned their language, learned to Waltz, and returned a few years later with my wife where our first son was born. Through his own experience, our son has learned German, as have two of his younger siblings. We have set a family direction to enrich our children through the Arts and fluency in another language before they finish high school. I attribute this voyage to Bub and grandma, who provided our father a home of love, values and work, the sum of which is an adventure that courses through our veins.

On August 16, one hundred years to the day young Rudolf arrived on Ellis Island, my siblings and I gathered on the island for the first time and dined that evening at Wallsé, a Manhattan Austrian kitchen. We lifted our joy high with glasses of non-alcoholic Spirit and silently prayed our gratitude for our blessings, our family name, for Life, and for the will of our ancestors who gave us all of it.

Randy Blosil

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