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My Slovakia, My Family

One Family's Role in the Birth of a Nation

John Palka

True to its title this book presents much of the history of Slovakia while narrating the story of the author's family, one of the most notable in the country's history. Part genealogy, part historical analysis, and part immigrant story Palka's narrative covers a span of 300 years. Starting in the era of the craft guilds the book concludes with the author's personal encounters in the Slovakia of today — a Slovakia that reflects both the culture and its turbulent history. Including ordinary people as well as towering historical figures, this is a fascinating and superbly documented biography of the Hodža and Pálka families' significant role in Slovak history.

A Slovak edition of the book was published in 2010. That volume garnered great media attention and favorable reviews in Slovakia for its gripping narrative, its meticulous documentation, and its uplifting message. While most American know little of the Slovak history, early readers in the United States have been similarly captivated.

Dr. John Palka is a retired professor of biology (University of Washington, Seattle) with an academic specialty in neuroscience. He is the winner of numerous prestigious awards in this field, including two Fulbright Fellowships for teaching in India and a Guggenheim Fellowship for research in Cambridge, England. The breadth of his interests is revealed in the titles of courses he developed, among them "Brains, Consciousness, and Evolution, " "Science and Culture," and "Nature in Scripture." He is the co-founder of the University of Washington's highly lauded Program on the Environment. He and his wife Yvonne have two daughters and five grandchildren, two of them already in college.

A two-time refugee from his native land of Slovakia — in 1939 from the Nazis and in 1949 from the Communists — Dr. Palka has retained a love for his Slovak homeland and fluency in the Slovak language. Since the fall of Communism in 1989, he has visited his family in Slovakia almost every year. These experiences form the foundation of his account of the role that many generations of the family played in the national life of Slovakia.


PROFESSOR PALKA'S book My Slovakia, My Family is a fascinating and superbly documented biography of the Hodža and Pálka families' significant role in Slovak history. It includes dramatic accounts of his family's escape first from Nazi occupied Europe and then from Communist controlled Czechoslovakia to a new life in America. It provides vivid portraits of courage and love of freedom and country that will resonate with anyone interested in Slovak history and Slovaks in America.
Theodore E. Russell, U. S. Ambassador to Slovakia, 1993-96.

John Palka, scion of one of the most distinguished families in the history of Slovakia, has written a beautiful account of the history of his family within the context of developments in his ancestral homeland. Incorporating social, cultural, and political history, Palka interweaves a sweeping account of Slovakia over the past several centuries with the story of a family situated at the heart of the major developments and events of that history.
James R. Felak, Professor of History, University of Washington.

While the book's focus always remains on the family level, the author's command of the general historical sources is impeccable. This permits him to make important contributions especially to Czechoslovak history . . . The fact that he was able to identify several illustrious poets and intellectuals among his forbears enabled him to construct an impressively complete and representative cultural history of the emerging Slovak nation.
Diethelm Prowe, Laird Bell Professor of History, Carleton College.

This is a unique book, in which the grand sweep of international history intersects with the personal, in which dramatic milestones of the 19th and 20th centuries alternate with the moving destinies of Slovak families and individuals who changed the face of Slovakia, Czechoslovakia, and Central Europe. Its author, John Palka, is the grandson of Milan Hodža, Slovak journalist and political leader, Czechoslovak prime minister, opponent of nazism and bolshevism, and visionary of European unification. Thanks to personal reminiscences and diaries, historical events take on an intimate quality. From the archives emerge animated participants in the struggle for national and individual freedom, passionate patriots, and loving men and women. My Slovakia, My Family is not only a unique historical document about the travails and struggles of a small nation, it is also a surprisingly contemporary work that enables the reader to better understand today's European concerns, crises, and visions of the future; in short, to comprehend the struggle to build a Europe better than the one in which the protagonists of Palka's book lived and worked.
Martin Butora, former Slovak Ambassador to the United States, 1999-2003.


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My Slovakia, My FamilyMy Slovakia, My Family

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ISBN: 978-1-933794-55-6
416 Pages
xSize: 6 x 9
Binding: Perfectbound
Publisher: Kirk House Publishers
Quantity in Basket: None
$24.95

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