Book Talk: Manufacturing a Socialist Modernity (2/23/2017)



February 23, 2017
Embassy of the Czech Republic
3900 Spring of Freedom St., NW
Washington, DC
6:00 PM

Professor Kimberly Zarecor of Iowa State University will give a talk on her recent book, Manufacturing a Socialist Modernity: Housing in Czechoslovakia, 1945-1960.

Eastern European prefabricated housing blocks are often vilified as the visible manifestations of everything that was wrong with state socialism. For many inside and outside the region, the uniformity of these buildings became symbols of the dullness and drudgery of everyday life. Manufacturing a Socialist Modernity complicates this common perception. Analyzing the cultural, intellectual, and professional debates surrounding the construction of mass housing in early postwar Czechoslovakia, Zarecor shows that these housing blocks served an essential function in the planned economy and reflected an interwar aesthetic, derived from constructivism and functionalism, that carried forward into the 1950s.

With a focus on prefabricated and standardized housing built from 1945 to 1960, Zarecor offers broad and innovative insights into the country’s transition from capitalism to state socialism. She demonstrates that during this shift, architects and engineers consistently strove to meet the needs of Czechs and Slovaks despite challenging economic conditions, a lack of material resources, and manufacturing and technological limitations. In the process, architects were asked to put aside their individual creative aspirations and transform themselves into technicians and industrial producers.

Manufacturing a Socialist Modernity is the first comprehensive history of architectural practice and the emergence of prefabricated housing in the Eastern Bloc. Through discussions of individual architects and projects, as well as building typologies, professional associations, and institutional organization, it opens a rare window into the cultural and economic life of Eastern Europe during the early postwar period.

RSVP by February 22 to

Please Note: No bags or suitcases allowed at the Czech Embassy. Only small purses are permitted, but will be checked at the door. You must pass through security for entrance. RSVP confirmation and photo ID required. Doors open at 5:30 pm and close at 6:15 pm.

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Celebrating and Commemorating: The Slovak Folk Calendar in the Fall

Saturday, October 1, 2016
Arlington Central Library
1015 N Quincy St, Arlington, VA
2nd Floor Meeting Room
2:00 PM to 4:00 PM

How much do you know about the Slovak folk calendar, the traditional events that mark the flow of time in village life? What are the origins of these events, and what are they about? Come join us and hear Professor Kopanic talk about the traditional celebrations and commemorations of the fall season: dožinky, vinobranie, Halloween, and All Saints’ Day.


A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Michael J. Kopanic is Adjunct Professor of History and Course Chair of European History Courses at the University of Maryland University College. Specializing in the history of East Central Europe, Slovakia, and Slovak immigration to the United States, he has spoken widely on topics in Slovak history. He also writes a regular column for the largest circulating Slovak-American newspaper, Jednota, contributes to several other fraternal publications, has published numerous articles in journals and books, and serves on the board of the CzechoSlovak Genealogical Society International.

Book Talk: “Dreams of a Great Small Nation” by Kevin McNamara

October 22, 2016
Slovak Embassy
2:00 – 4:00 PM

Following our annual meeting on Saturday, October 22nd we are hosting a talk by the author Kevin McNamara about his recent well-received book, “Dreams of a Great Small Nation” at the Slovak Embassy.

In 1917, two empires that had dominated much of Europe and Asia teetered on the edge of the abyss, exhausted by the ruinous cost, in blood and treasure, of World War I. As Imperial Russia and Habsburg-ruled Austria-Hungary began to succumb, a small group of Czech and Slovak combat veterans stranded in Siberia saw an opportunity to realize their long-held dream of independence. While their plan was audacious and complex, and involved moving their 50,000-strong army by land and sea across three-quarters of the earth’s expanse, their commitment to fighting for the Allies on the Western Front riveted the attention of Allied London, Paris, and Washington.

On their journey across Siberia, a brawl erupted at a remote Trans-Siberian rail station that sparked a wholesale rebellion. The marauding Czecho-Slovak Legion seized control of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and with it Siberia. In the end, this small band of POWs and deserters, whose strength was seen by Leon Trotsky as the chief threat to Soviet rule, helped destroy the Austro-Hungarian Empire and found Czecho-Slovakia. British prime minister David Lloyd George called their adventure “one of the greatest epics of history,” and former U.S. president Teddy Roosevelt declared that their accomplishments were “unparalleled, so far as I know, in ancient or modern warfare.”

Kevin J. McNamara followed the path taken by the Czecho-Slovak Legion shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, traveling almost 2,000 miles along the Trans-Siberian Railway. He was subsequently awarded research grants by the Earhart and Tawani Foundations to acquire and translate from Czech to English first-hand accounts by the men who had served in the Legion, which were published in Prague in the 1920s, but were suppressed following the Nazi and Soviet conquests of Czecho-Slovakia.

A former journalist for Calkins Media Inc., and a former aide to the late U.S. Congressman R. Lawrence Coughlin, McNamara is an Associate Scholar of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, PA, and a former contributing editor to its quarterly journal, Orbis: A Journal of World Affairs. He earned a B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in international politics from Temple University, where he was a student of the noted military historian, Russell F. Weigley.


Book Talk: Confessions of A Refugee

September 17, 2016
Jenkins’ House
Great Falls, VA
2:00 – 4:00 PM

Have you ever wondered how some Slovaks have come to be here? What twists and turns their lives took? Some of them could fill a book…and here’s one that has. The SASW invites you to hear the interesting story of how George and Judy Mesko left their home in then-Czechoslovakia for a short-term trip in 1968 that turned into the journey of a lifetime.


Today’s International Challenges for Slovak Lawyers

May 6, 2016
Embassy of the Slovak Republic
7:00 – 8:30 PM

Is Slovakia’s legal education system sufficiently preparing a new generation of international lawyers for the dilemmas they will face across the globe? They will be challenged by a variety of legal cultures across the world, different understandings of what “law” is, and how ethics comes into play in this increasingly globalized, and often increasingly troubled, world.

How should the Slovak legal education system evolve to prepare its graduates for the challenges of today’s legal issues, such as negotiating with “adversaries” (imagine North Korea or various types of separatists)? What changes beyond the classroom would further promote global engagement? What tools will graduates need to gain a better understanding of their adversaries, and help them become sophisticated lawyers able to resolve disputes with worldwide impacts?


Please join us for a talk by Martina Hrvolova who recently joined the International and Comparative LL.M. Program of the George Washington University Law School. Previously, she served as a human rights expert in the Slovak Foreign Service from 2005 to 2010, when she was appointed Executive Secretary of the Slovak Chairmanship of the Council of Europe in 2007. Between 2010 and 2015, she was posted to the Slovak missions to NATO and the EU in Brussels, Belgium, and primarily advised on public affairs, NATO partnerships, EU enlargement, and the Western Balkans. She received her PhD in European Civil Law in 2010. Ms. Hrvolova is an acting judge in the most prominent international moot court competition and currently serves in the office of the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Slovak Immigration to the U.S. and Canada: Similarities and Differences

October 31, 2015
Embassy of the Slovak Republic
2:00 – 4:00 PM

How does Slovak immigration to the U.S. compare to Slovak immigration to Canada? Professor Mark Stolarik, who has been studying Slovak communities in North America for the past 50 years, will compare and contrast Slovak immigration to these two countries from the 1870s to the present. He will look at when the immigrants came to the two countries, why, where they settled, what institutions they created, what united and divided them, and what contributions they made to the Old Country and to the New World.

Mark Stolarik is Professor of History and holder of the Chair in Slovak History and Culture at the University of Ottawa. From 1979 to 1991, he was president and CEO of the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies in Philadelphia, and director of its press. Prof. Stolarik is a specialist in the history of immigration and ethnic groups in North America, with emphasis on the Slovak experience. He has published nine books and over 60 articles in the field, including Immigration and Urbanization: The Slovak Experience, 1870-1918 (1989) and Where is my Home? Slovak Immigration to North America (2012). He was a consultant and contributor to the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (1980) and to the Encyclopedia of Canada’s Peoples (1999). He edits the scholarly annual Slovakia (since 1982), and also serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of American Ethnic History (Detroit) and Historický časopis (Bratislava).