A One Act Play in Memory of Our Good Friend: Dr. Hana Tomasek – D- 05-25-2020  

Dr. Hana Tomasek:  A Most Remarkable Woman

I am reposting this blog in memory of my good friend Dr. Hana Tomasek who died at 10:45 AM this Memorial day morning (May 25, 2020) from the Coronavirus.  Dr. Tomasek led a life that most of us can only dream about.  She was 85 years old.  Every year on July 4th, Hana would have a wonderful Independence Day Party to celebrate the country that she felt gave her everything that she could possibly want.

We would have a band, dancing, lots of good food and a series of roasts to poke good natured fun at Dr. Tomasek.  She had a great sense of humor and enjoyed the gags.  The highlight of the day though was the speech that Hana always gave to remind us all of her love for America and what a great country she lived in.  Five years ago, I wrote this play for our July 4th party in 2015.  Seems like just yesterday, that we were all sitting on her deck overlooking her beloved lake and drinking Becherovka.

Introduction to the Original Blog Written on June 1, 2015

Once upon a time there was a very remarkable young woman and young man who decided to flee communism and come to the United States of America in hopes of finding a better life.  Leaving their families and at great risk to their own lives they managed to elude the authorities in their home country and find their way to America.  With hardly anything except the clothes on their backs and speaking no English Hana and her spouse found asylum in the USA.  With the help of some good spirited people, they began to construct a new life based on their dreams and abilities and not simply by adhering to the “party” line. 

Hana became a good friend of ours in the late 80’s when we met at Process Management Institute, where Hana was now an esteemed consultant as well as educator at the University of Minnesota. Over the years, we shared many thoughts and ideas together.  Hana was one of the most competent consultants I have ever worked with.  She was wonderful at combining both “high tech” and “high touch” in working with her clients.  She was very capable of applying TQM technology but equally capable of compelling the leaders in the organizations she worked with to make the needed psychological changes to adopt a “new philosophy” as Dr. Deming called it.  TQM was ultimately more a change in attitudes then a change in technology.  A point that Hana was quick to recognize. 

Hana will be 80 years old this July and she had a birthday party this past weekend in honor of the occasion.  I was invited to say a few words about Hana at the party.  A picture of her as a young girl inspired my thinking about what I would say.  I thought of how Hana must have been when she was young. With this in mind, I decided to write the following fictional account of an interview with her as a young girl.  I decided to compose it as a short one act play.  At the party, I asked a good friend Nancy Hoy to play the part of Hana, while I narrated and played the part of the young reporter from Prague. 

A One Act-Play:  The Little Girl with Big Dreams.

The Background and Setting:

The 1948 Czechoslovak coup d’état (often simply the Czech coup) –  was an event in February 1948 in which the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, with Soviet backing, assumed undisputed control over the government of Czechoslovakia, marking the onset of four decades of Communist dictatorship in the country. Czechoslovakia remained as a Communist dictatorship until the Velvet Revolution of 1989.  More immediately, the coup became synonymous with the Cold War. The loss of the last remaining democracy in Eastern Europe came as a profound shock to millions.  For the second time in a decade, Western eyes saw Czechoslovak independence and democracy snuffed out by a totalitarian dictatorship intent on dominating a small country

The play takes place in Prague, 1948.  The Daily Prague newspaper has become a part of the Communist means of controlling the population and is looking for human interest stories.  It has heard of a young precocious girl who is the highest rated student at her school and they have decided to do an interview with her to help show the masses how wonderful life in a communist system can be.

Hana has been notified to expect a reporter from the Daily Prague.  Hana lives in clean 2 bedroom apartment with her mother, father and brother Jan.  Hana sits in a small chair near a larger sofa reading a book and waiting for the reporter to arrive.  It is a small but comfortable and very neat living room with a few pictures of relatives and friends on the mantle.

A One Act-Play:  The Little Girl with Big Dreams.

John:  (Knocking at the door. He is a young man of 25.  Medium height, blond hair. He has been very nervous lately and constantly has the feeling that someone is looking over his shoulder.  He has been warned to stay away from “compromising” subjects.

John:  May I come in?

Hana:  (An attractive looking young girl just turning 13.  Well-proportioned with short brown hair.  Her friends would describe her as elegant and very sophisticated.)

Hana:  Yes, please do.

John:  Hi, I am from the Daily Prague and I am here to conduct the interview with you.

Hana:  Wonderful, let’s get started.  Please sit down.

John:  Thank you. Well, Hana, I will begin by asking you a few questions.

Hana:  It’s Ms. Hana, if you don’t mind.

John:  Sure, Ms Hana.   Well, Ms. Hana, what would you like to be when you grow up?

Hana:  I would like to be President of the United States of America.

John:   (Nervous chuckle noticed by Hana) But you don’t live in the United States of America and even if you did, you could not be president because you were not born there.

Hana:  (Quite composed)  I am going to move to the United States of America and then change the law when I live there.

John:  Well, let’s just say that this might not work out; do you have a backup plan?

Hana:  Of course, I will become a rich and famous management consultant.

John:  But in Czechoslovakia system, only communists can become rich and even they are not allowed to become famous.

Hana:  Then I will go to the United States of America and become a rich and famous management consultant there.

John:  Why do you want to become a management consultant?

Hana:  So I can tell people what to do.

John:  Are there any other reasons?

Hana:  Well, so many companies are so poorly run and they need lots of help.

John:  How are you going to learn about business when you live in a communist system? Wait, I know, you are going to move to the United States of America.

Hana:  Right.  I will learn all about how to become rich and famous when I get to America.

John:  (More nervous now and deciding to change the subject) Could you tell our readers what your hobbies are and what you like to do for fun?

Hana:  I like to study, read and learn about new and interesting things.

John:  Yes, but what do you do for fun?

Hana:  I just answered you.  Maybe I did not understand your question.

John:  Well, like do you jump rope, play doll house or do dress up?

Hana:  What are those things?

John:  (Uncertain where to proceed) Well, I understand you are a very smart young student.  Do you like school?

Hana:    Yes, but recently they changed all the textbooks and they took out all the good stuff about the United States of America

John:  I have not heard about that but maybe it was because they thought it might be lies.

Hana:  Well, I don’t think that people should rewrite history just because they change their minds.  What about facts?

John:  (Quite nervous again)  I think you have a very inquiring mind.  You would make a good management consultant.

Hana:  (Very Serious) Do you know where I could find a good textbook on Management Consulting?

John:  I don’t think we have any of those in the library anymore.

Hana:  Why not?

John:  Well, in a communist system, nobody worries about how the system runs since it is up to the government to decide how things should be run.

Hana:  That does not sound like a very good idea. I don’t think they do it like that in the United States of America.

John:  Well, Ms. Hana, it has been wonderful talking to you.  Our readers will be quite pleased to see how happy and great life in Czechoslovakia is for you.

Hana:  (Very skeptical) May I review your notes?

John:  (Ignoring Hana’s request)  Well,  Ms. Hana, we always like to send our contributors a token of our appreciation.  Would you like a framed picture of General Secretary Joseph Stalin or Defense Minister Ludvík Svoboda?

Hana:  Could you send me a picture of Mickey Mouse?

The END: 

Time for Questions:

What would you do if you lived in a total dictatorship?  Would you risk your lives and those of your family to flee? Would you simply go along as best you could? How would you get started in a strange country where you could not speak the language?  How much courage does it take to start a new life?

Life is just beginning.

Love Me Tender – Will I Really Love You Forever?

elvis-presley-gty-jef-170816_16x9_992

Love me Tender was a song made popular by Elvis Presley in 1956.  Elvis was credited as one of the writers of the song along with Vera Matson but apparently it was really written by Ken Darby.  Ken Darby is one of the most interesting and successful musicians who ever lived but surprisingly he never achieved wide popularity.  The music was composed by George R. Poulton an English musician and composer born in 1828.  The original music was used for a Civil War ballad.  For more on Ken Darby go to Wikipedia.  I looked for a biography of him on Amazon but it seems none have been written.  Among the amazing attributes of his career is his sixty-year marriage to Vera Matson.   In Hollywood, a sixty-year marriage stands in my mind as a far greater achievement than winning an Oscar although Ken won three Academy Awards for his music scoring.

aa5028c6f162f4cb693880f8f6a024c4Elvis recorded this song at 20th Century Fox Studios in Los Angeles on a 7” single format.  The publishing label was RCA Victor.  The song became so popular that it was used as the title for an Elvis movie for which the song was written.  It went on to become a number 1 hit on the pop charts and has since been used in numerous movies and sung by hundreds if not thousands of other recording artists.

I reflect back on Elvis and though I was only ten years old when he achieved fame and fortune, I associate him most with his rock and roll songs such as “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Jail House Rock” and “Hound Dog Man.”  It is now almost 65 years later and I hardly if ever listen to any of these old rock songs but “Love Me Tender” seems timeless.

It is interesting to think about the character of a man who could sing such beautiful ballads as well as songs as fluffy and mindless as “Hound Dog Man.”  Elvis was one of many tragedies in the world of pop music.  Talent beyond measure but sacrificed to the almighty dollar.  A man exploited by an industry who was in many ways a child that never grew up.  His collision between meaning and materiality led to his death at the age of only 42.  The King joined the list of too many other performers who have had their lives cut short by a contradictory desire for fame and fortune and significance.

DSC_0004I was on my cell phone a day or so ago talking with some old friends about another friend.  One of my best friends in the world of management consulting was a wonderful woman named Dr. Hana Tomasek.  Hana had emigrated from Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) after the Russian invasion in 1968.  The Russians invaded to put down the political liberalization known as the Prague Spring.  Hana escaped Czechoslovakia with her husband Jara on a secret journey in the middle of the night across the border and to freedom in a non-communist country.  Hana and Jara left everything behind and eventually arrived in the United States for sanctuary.  Years later they achieved their dreams of citizenship in the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.”  Hana is one of the most patriotic citizens of the USA that you would ever meet.  Sadly, Jara passed away many years ago and Dr. Tomasek (She is very proud of her degree) is now suffering from dementia and lives in a nursing home in Spring Park, Minnesota.

woman scuba diverAfter discussing Hana’s health with the two friends I know, both who regularly visit with her, I was suddenly struck with the need to listen to Elvis’s version of “Love Me Tender.”  Somehow, talking about Hana I associated my feelings for her with this song.  Hana was a friend and mentor to me at the consulting firm of Process Management International which I joined after graduating with my Ph.D. degree in 1986 from the University of Minnesota.  Hana and I became good friends after working together with a number of clients.  Hana was by far the more knowledgeable and capable as a management consultant and she taught me much about how to be successful in the field.  Karen and I eventually got to know Hana and Jara on a personal basis and it has been a rewarding friendship.  It saddens me very much to see how frail and fragile she has become when I think of the strong virile person she once was.  She was an avid skier, sailor and scuba diver.  Hana made over 600 dives throughout the world.  Each year for many years she would go skiing in the Alps or in Colorado.

Here is how I relate “Love Me Tender” to Hana as a friend.  I think this song is fitting for so many good friends that we might have and never want to “let” go.

If you want to play the song as you read the following, click on the link “Love Me Tender.”

Love me tender, love me sweet

Never let me go

You have made my life complete

And I love you so

When someone dies, do they let you go?  I think of Hana who will soon leave this earthly plane and will go away.  I don’t want her to go.  I love her as friend who was intelligent and loyal and trustworthy and compassionate and caring and who tolerated my foibles and my stupidity.  She helped make my life as complete as anyone can who truly accepts you for who you are.  I never heard a word of reproval from Hana for anything I ever said or did.  Hana was a very honest and direct woman, but she was always beyond kind and thoughtful towards me.

Love me tender, love me true

All my dreams fulfill

For, my darling I love you

And I always will

I love Hana with what Aristotle called Philia Love.  Aristotle defined this kind of love as “affectionate love.” In other words, it is the kind of love that you feel for your close friends.  We have shared so many wonderful moments with Hana and her friends.  Every year she would have a big 4th of July party to celebrate her coming to America and the birth of our country.  She had a house overlooking Medicine Lake and her ski boat moored to a dock where you could take a dip in the water or go for a ride with Hana on her lake.  Later in the day, her friend Cecil would set up with his band and play calypso music that we could all dance too.  The culmination of the day would be Hana’s speech about what America meant to her and how life had been in America for her.  She was always heartfelt and inspiring.

“Without friends, no one would want to live, even if he had all other goods.”  ― Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics

The house that I was sure she would die in is now sold.  Many of her friends have moved elsewhere or passed away.  I ran into Cecil at a friend’s home in Puerto Penasco a year or so ago.  It was quite a coincidence since I had no knowledge that Cecil would be there or even that he knew where Puerto Penasco was.  We talked about Hana and the good times we had with her.  A few days ago, I started thinking of what kind of a memorial I could help setup for Hana when she passes.  I was doing some online searches when I came upon Hana’s name several times.  I was surprised to find that Hana had done some print memorials for a friend of ours who died 27 years ago.  I guess there is a circle to life and what was once the past for us then becomes our present and future.

Love me tender, love me dear

Tell me you are mine

I’ll be yours through all the years

‘Till the end of time

If there is no time or if time only exists on clocks and in our minds, perhaps we will all share some space in the future, where we can once again join those whom we loved and cared for.  I am dubious of this potential (some would call it heaven), but I have learned that death does not end the lives of those we love.  Death only ends their physical existence.  There is an existence that continues for as long as we live.  It is the memories of the person we knew in various phases of our lives.  We may remember them as lovers, friends or relatives.  We remember the events we shared and the days when we were young together and the days when we were old together.  We remember the sick days with them and the days when we were exuberant and bursting with energy.  We remember the hopes, dreams, visions and ideals we shared together.  None of these things can ever be erased by the passage of time.  They will be ours forever through all the years.  “Hana, I will never forget you or our times together.”

DSC_0010

“Those we love don’t go away; they walk beside us every day.” – Unknown

%d bloggers like this: