July 6, 1923 – November 6, 2021
Drahoslava (Draha) was born in the summer of 1923 in Brno, where she grew up with a young republic (First Czechoslovak Republic, 1918-1938) and its wildly popular and widely respected first president, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. Draha’s father was a state police inspector directly serving the President while her mother was a homemaker extraordinaire of modern-day Martha Stewart proportions. Young Draha was a Czech patriot in the true, original sense of the word. She was also a talented artist. In school, she studied design while perfecting her drawing skills. There, she met a nice boy named Jan and, together, they dreamed of being old enough to go out dancing. But instead came war. World War II had a devastating impact on millions of people. For Draha, the Nazi execution of her beloved future father-in-law right before Christmas 1944 became a wound that would never truly heal. But life, as it always does, continued. In 1948, despite the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, Draha was able to regain a sense of a “new normal” when she and Jan married in October. They had two boys just one year apart (1949, 1950)—a very happy accident, Draha would jokingly share. She found fulfilling work as a teacher while her husband climbed the ranks of the Czech military. One day, in 1950, Jan did not return home from work. Draha found out after much frantic searching that he had been arrested by the Communist regime as a suspected traitor. She would not be reunited with him until three years later, when he unexpectedly came home one afternoon after being released from prison. Slowly, life carried on. Draha and Jan created a loving home. While they worked long days, Draha’s mom cared for the children. In 1954, the birth of a daughter completed the family. The home was filled with lots of music, ranging from guitar to piano to violin. And, of course, there was singing. So much singing that it seemed a natural progression for the sons to form a band while teenagers. Life was good—or, as good as it could be in a country ruled by a ruthlessly oppressive government. Consequently, politics once again rocked the family’s existence when Draha’s older son was persecuted by the regime and sentenced to five years in prison. At the same time, Draha’s daughter was frequently followed and interrogated by Communist officials. These years of stress started to take their toll. Jan, at age 53, had a massive heart attack that forced him into early retirement. The upside of this was only that he could now dedicate his effort to his historical research and writing, a hobby that was attracting increasing newspaper and television interviews and coverage. Draha was so proud of him. Once more, life hit a groove. Draha’s younger son graduated from the Conservatory where he majored in Voice and became a notable opera singer whose popularity began to take the theater circuit by storm. Draha retired from teaching and became a costume designer at Brno’s City Theater (Divadlo Bratri Mrstiku). To say that she loved this work would be an understatement. She finally found an avenue through which she could express her tremendous artistic abilities. She was completely in her element and her theater colleagues became a large, ever-growing extended family. Unfortunately, during the 1980s, Draha’s older son, along with his young family, immigrated to the USA, creating a palpable loss. While Draha was acclimating to a shrunken family unit at home, tragedy struck yet again: her younger son was killed in a car accident, in a vehicle driven by his father-in-law. The family’s world completely shattered. So, in their mid-sixties, Draha and her husband packed their bags and joined their older son in the USA. Their daughter promptly followed. They were forced to leave their entire home and most of their belongings, except for books and writings that they managed to ship separately over the course of several months. By the end of 1986, Draha was an immigrant in a country she didn’t know, surrounded by a language she didn’t speak. Despite it all, she was grateful for her new home and a new beginning. She settled in Massachusetts and learned English by watching television. She swam in the ocean. She became a US citizen. She traveled to tropical locations where she saw iguanas for the first time. She created watercolor paintings and held exhibits of her artwork. She became a homeowner and gardened to her heart’s content. She spent hours cooking and baking in her dreamy white kitchen. In her twilight years, Draha was able to finally feel the much-coveted enduring peace that eluded her in decades past. She was a rare soul who had the gift of turning any place into a home. Perhaps equally important, she showed that it is possible to be strong without becoming hard. She shined her unique light in the world for 98 years and four months. Her loss is a tremendous one. May her kindness, compassion, resilience, and zest live on in the hearts and actions of the many people whose lives she touched. Her husband lovingly called her Dasi (“dah-she”). So now, rest in peace, Dasi. Until we meet again…
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