Children and chickens

As you know, my daughter Lisa, and her husband Karel, have just had their third child, Zora. Petra, their oldest child (5), has some understanding that Zora came from her mother’s tummy. Milan (3) is pretty clueless.

A few weeks before Lisa was scheduled to give birth, Karel returned to his teaching duties. Among other things, he teaches biology. He decided that it would be a good learning experience for his students to incubate live chicken eggs, and watch the tiny little beings emerge from their individual eggs. Petra and Milan frequently went with Karel to school during the weekends to make sure the chicks were maturing properly in the eggs. They adjusted the incubator temperature and that sort of thing.

During this time, Zora came into the world and she is now home. Petra and Milan love to hold her. Coincidentally, the chicks hatched this week. Below, see the photo of Milan and Petra reacting to the brood of chicks that have made their startling appearance in Karel’s lab. Notice Milan’s facial expression.

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Now, go back in time with me to 1980. My first wife, Verdella, is not feeling well and she has gained a little weight. Because she is tall, a bit of extra weight is not apparent on her long frame. Verdella goes to see the local doctor. He makes a referral to an OB/GYN in Lincoln because “your uterus just doesn’t feel right.”

Verdella decides to take Marne (about 8) and Lisa (about 5) with her to see the OB/GYN in Lincoln. After the visit, the three of them will do something fun in the big city. When they arrive at the doctor’s office, the children, who are all dressed up, sit quietly in the waiting room paging through books for children as Verdella sees the doctor. An ultrasound quickly shows why Verdella is not feeling well and has gained a little weight. She is pregnant with our son Keller.

Verdella is stunned and surprised. We had no plans to have a third child. Collecting herself, she walks into the waiting room and sits down with the children. The shock shows on her face. Marne asks her mom what is wrong. Verdella says she is “pregnant.” Marne asks Verdella to tell her what “pregnant” means. Verdella patiently explains and includes a passing reference to the “egg.” Lisa is silent. Both children seem perfectly satisfied with Verdella’s explanation and off everyone goes to the car.

As they are walking to the car, little Lisa asks Marne: “Is Mom going to have a chicken?” Marne looks down, and sternly informs Lisa, “If Mom has a chicken, we’ll love it anyway.” At that point, Verdella burst out laughing and crying at the same time.

Some things are more important than others.

RGK

Zora

Zora Marie, born September 9, 2014 to Lisa and Karel in Matilda Hospital Hong Kong.  She was 6.0 pounds and 19 inches long at birth. We heard her sweet coo last night over Facetime.  Zora is Czech for Dawn.  Karel is a Czech.

Zora Marie was born September 4, 2014 to Lisa and Karel in the small but picturesque Matilda Hospital in Hong Kong. She was 6.0 pounds in weight and 19 inches long at birth. We heard her sweet coo last night over Facetime. Zora is Czech name and is the equivalent of  “Dawn” in English. Karel is a Czech.

The beautiful place Zora was born stands on a peak providing 360◦ views of Hong Kong. The hospital’s history is both unique and heart warming.

It is perhaps fitting that Granville Sharp and his wife Matilda, newlywed in India and embarking on married life in a Hong Kong by no means established and stable, should make landfall in the Territory on Christmas Day – a time of giving – in 1858.

Theirs is a story of fortitude in the face of shipwreck and piracy in the South China seas, grit and determination in the disease-wracked colony and quiet generosity. Above all, however, their lives in Hong Kong stand as a testament to their compassion for the lot of their fellow beings, as exemplified, among many other examples, by Matilda’s work for widows and orphans.

While Granville successfully struck out into commerce on his own as so many in Hong Kong have done before and since, Matilda set about relieving suffering wherever she met it, further etching an indelible affection on her husband’s heart as well as that of the Western and Chinese communities she came to know so well.

Outliving her by just a few years, Granville set out in his will, in extraordinary detail, his bequest to Hong Kong – a hospital to be constructed “not for the glory of the medical profession . . . but for the benefit, care and happiness of the patient.” The hospital, to be a refuge for all in medical need, was to be called Matilda in loving memory of his departed wife.

The Matilda International Hospital [MIH] is a 102-bedded, not-for-profit private hospital situated on Hong Kong Island/

Photo credit: Expatliving Hong Kong.  The Matilda International Hospital [MIH] is a 102-bed, not-for-profit hospital.

Take a look at this view from the hospital:

Photo credit:

Photo credit: Matilda Hospital.

Only 15 minutes from Central Hong Kong, the hospital is situated on its own promontory atop Victoria Peak. It is a perfect place to watch the dawn begin to illuminate the world. Perhaps that will be Zora’s mission too.

RGK

 

Like the German Judge Lothar Kreyssig, a Czech lawyer by the name of Dr. Egon Schwelb was a hero too

Judge Frank E. Schwelb of the D.C. Court of Appeals (the equivalent of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia) recently passed away. Advocates like Elaine Mittleman who argued cases before Judge Schwelb say that he was “wicked smart . . . with a wry sense of humor.” Elaine also noted that “When I thought again of him, I saw some similarities with . . . Chief Judge Kozinski.” Judge Schwelb was a Czech by birth*, and Judge Kozinski is a Romanian by birth. Brilliant, brilliant men.

We should mourn the passing of this interesting man who came to this country (and Yale and Harvard) as a young child chased out of his homeland with his parents by the Nazis. His is a story of how immigrants have enriched, and continue to enrich, our society and the legal profession in particular. Rest easily Judge Schwelb. See his Washington Post obituary here.

While I am sure that his father was proud of Judge Schwelb, that pride was reciprocated by the son for his father. And, it is that story–the story of Dr. Egon Schwelb–that I wish to highlight today. Sometime around 2006, Judge Schwelb gave a fascinating account of his father to the Czechoslovak Government in Exile Research Society. See here.

Told in the Judge’s own words, here is the story of Dr. Egon Schwelb:

  • My father, Dr. Egon Schwelb, was a prominent Social Democratic attorney who handled a lot of what might now be termed civil liberties cases, and who represented, among other clients, anti-Nazi German refugees who fled to Prague after Hitler and the Nazis came to power in Germany. On March 15, 1939, German troops goose-stepped into Prague — I still have some slight memory of that — and on the following day my dad was taken into custody and held at the Pankrac prison.
  • In May, 1939, my father was released, though I have never been able to find out exactly why. My parents were able to obtain British visas and an exit permit, and on August 12, 1939, we travelled by train from Prague through Nazi Germany to Holland. I know that my parents were afraid that we might be taken off the train before we crossed the Dutch border, for events were not very predictable at that time, but cross we did. We travelled in a Dutch ship from the Hook of Holland to Harwich, arriving in Britain on August 13, 1939. The war, as you know, began on September 1, when the Nazis invaded Poland, so we made it by less that three weeks. Those members of our family who did not manage to leave the country, including my mother’s younger sister, perished in the Holocaust. My parents were both of Jewish origin, though not practicing Jews.
  • We spent the first few weeks of our stay in Britain in refugee hostels in Surrey. In late 1939 or early 1940, my parents obtained a flat in Mill Hill, in the northwestern part of London. We were in London during the Blitz, and I collected shrapnel splinters after air raids. Eventually, President Benes named my father to the Legal Council (Pravni Rada) of the government-in-exile. My dad served in that capacity until the end of the war. During his service as a legal adviser to the Benes government, my father sensed that postwar Czechoslovakia would not be a democratic country for very long, and (much to my dismay at the time) my parents decided not to go back.
  • After serving in the United Nations War Crimes Commission from 1945 to 1947, my father was named Deputy Director of the Human Rights Division of the U.N. in 1947.
  • Our family came to the United States in 1947, and lived here ever since. My dad had a very distinguished career and earned the nickname Mr. Human Rights. In 1979, shortly after his death, he posthumously received the Dag Hammarskjold Award for his contributions to peace and human rights. He died just a few months before I was named by President Carter to my first judgeship.

Like the German Judge Lothar Kreyssig, the Czech lawyer, Dr. Egon Schwelb, was a hero too. Our profession should be proud to count these men among us. We can only hope to emulate them in some small measure. But try we must.

RGK

*In the “small world department,” my son-in-law Karel holds dual Czech and Canadian citizenship and speaks Czech fluently. With daughter Lisa and their children, Karel teaches in China. Keller’s wife Stacey, residing with Keller and Fletcher in Australia, is also of Czech origin. Her maiden name is the same as Karel’s last name. My late wife and I lived in Wilbur, Nebraska when I attended law school. Wilbur is the “Czech Capital” of Nebraska. We lived in that small community so that my late wife could teach high school French to the Czech kids. By the way, if you have not tasted Kolach, a Czech pastry, you have missed one of the essential joys of life.

Far away

Keller, Petra, Milan and Fletcher

Keller, Petra, Milan and Fletcher

Karel took his (very good) high school soccer team in China to a couple of tournaments, and that gave Lisa, Petra and Milan a chance to fly to Australia to see Keller, Stacey and Fletcher. It takes nine hours to fly from Hong Kong to Sydney and then another hour or so by air to Albury. Albury is on the southern border of New South Wales and Victoria, three hours or so north of Melbourne by car.

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The families visited an Australian farm near Albury and by the looks of things had great fun.

The "Beastie Boys." Fletcher (Keller and Stacey) and Milan (Lisa and Karel).

The “Beastie Boys.” Fletcher (Keller and Stacey) and Milan (Lisa and Karel).

They seem so far away.

RGK

 

O Chanada

Photo credit:  s.yume's photostream (Canada's golden moment) per Creative Commons license.

Photo credit: s.yume’s photostream  (Canada’s Golden Moment, Vancouver Olympics, 2010) per Creative Commons license.

My first grandchild, Petra, loves Chanada even though at four years of age she can’t pronounce “Canada” properly yet. She can’t pronounce ‘merika either, even though she spells it like Michael Moore.  Her daddy Karel grew up, and her paternal grandparents live, in Canada. Karel, Petra and the rest of the family now hang their hats in China, across the bay from Hong Kong.

Anyway, behind the scenes, I can see how many folks from a specific country visit this blog.  I was surprised to see the number of hits from Canada today and yesterday.  They were way up.  Now, I am worried. I made some snide comments about Canada in my post regarding the movie Battle Earth.

To be clear, I love Canada, I love Petra and I love my son-in-law, Karel.  Karel is a helluva hockey player. He particularly endeared himself to me when he got into a good old-fashioned Canadian fist fight with a player from a Chinese national hockey team during a scrimmage in China.  Karel was skating for an ex-pat team of has been hockey jocks.

So, to Chanada, let me say I am sorry.  That said, I still think Canadian Bacon was the best movie ever made.  But, then again, John Candy was a Canadian.  So, everything is OK, right?

RGK

Image credit:  bhaggs’ photostream (John Candy Lives On) per Creative Commons license.

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