Since 1974, the CzechoSlovakian Country Club has been a meeting place for Czech and Slovak people becoming an integral part of Sydney's CzechoSlovak community. Below is an account of the origins and formation of the club as written by founding member Mr Jan Hanousek, one of the club's first presidents. (Kindly translated to English by Karel (Karl) Bulis).
By a club's president - Mr J Hanousek
I left Czechoslovakia and crossed the border into Germany, and then to England, where I spent a few years. The migrants knew each other, or of each other, and their whereabouts from the refugee camp. Even in the event that they may have been situated at different locations and separated by distance, we maintained contact. That's how we knew that one of our friends migrated from Germany directly to Australia. I received a letter from him, from Australia. He was really happy there and inspired by this country. He praised it at length 'A country with great many opportunities'. I decided to pack my bags and migrate to Australia. It was an easy decision...it was becoming quite cold in England.
Upon my arrival in Sydney, I became aware, that there was a sports organisation Sokol here, as well as, practically everywhere else around the world. It strived to gain a landed property for its traditional sporting and social activities. We hoped that we'd be able to acquire land somewhere in the geographical centre of Sydney to provide our countrymen with a, not too distant position, where lengthy travel, from all parts of Sydney, would be eliminated. It was not to be. Land became available at Frenchs Forest and was allocated to Sokol. It was a beautiful parcel of land, though easily accessible mainly to our countrymen from Sydney's Eastern suburbs. Not so for people living in the outer Western suburbs. Imagine that to go to a dance or any other social activity, one would have to travel such a long distance. Then, after the social is over, one would have to travel just as far, but this time late at night. That in itself would be quite an ordeal and not ideally practicable.
We maintained friendly interrelations with Sokol and its members. Yet, between the citizens of Eastern Sydney and the Westerners, there were certain differences. Easterners were more advanced in many fields. They were professionals, business men, bankers, etc. In other words ?the upper crust". They had an easy (easier) access to many services. We, the Westerners, were more of the "workers" class, usually disadvantaged linguistically, and economically and professionally. We had to start ' from scratch'. There were quite a few Czechs and Slovaks living in the West, West of Parramatta and up to, quite high up, in the Blue Mountains. All of those people were homesick and pining to have a piece of land in the middle of our new home ? Australia, but there was nowhere to go. We managed to meet on quite frequent occasions at alternate friend's places and backyards, organising BBQ's etc. Later as numbers increased, we hired outlets such as Civic Halls, School Halls, etc.
It was then decided that a group of us would organize a BBQ at J. Rutar's place. Those of us who attended made a decision that each of us would lay down a sum of money that should be used as a deposit to purchase a parcel of land. To acquire it wasn't an easy task. We visited and viewed several blocks, but when we thought to have located the right one, there was a stipulation in place, that there cannot be a club founded and operated on the premises. Then there was a block where the local council wouldn't object to the club's ops, but the land wasn't, for some reason, suitable. Finally, we saw an ad in the papers that there was a block of land with an old house on it for sale at Kemps Creek. Our effort was finally rewarded, and we purchased the property. The club was to be situated in the centre of Western Sydney, a location easily accessible by all westerners, including those living in Blue Mountains. The local council didn't object to our plans to found a community club. And the house... That was an unexpected bonus.
At the beginning, there was a very active support from our community, that allowed us to pay off the loan in a reasonably short time. Having bought the building material we, with self help, built a dining room of a potential restaurant. Mr. V Blaha, who was a professional carpenter builder, was the "mainstay" of the entire building project. There were no work benches, so we improvised as well as we could. The self-sacrifice of all of the helpers was overwhelming. It was wonderful. We followed the ads in the papers and soon as a "sale" advert appeared, we'd go and purchase a carload of soft drinks to re-sell with a small profit. A lady arrived and took over the kitchen and began cooking traditional meals. The time of the club's ops and self-support began. We still had a lot to learn. Like the one time, when we purchased a whole pig to roast on the spit. As it was nearing completion, it looked and smelled wonderful. Unfortunately, it was only partially cooked on the outside as we found out later. We eventually got it right.
All was going well. Yet there was still something missing. We wanted...No, we needed to organize some social events, like dances. Because the club was already at such a state of development, we actually could, and began organizing them, but they all were in the open, during the daytime as well as "under the stars". All was well, but not ideal. It sometime also rains in Australia. One of the members, a Mr Sergejev donated a barn from his farm. Mr Rucko had a bulldozer, so he came to clear some trees off the land and level the ground. Then the volunteers arrived to begin the construction. As soon as the concrete floor was down and concrete cured, the old barn was re-assembled and when the roof was completed, the site was ready for our first celebration. Our first New Year's Eve party. So may party goers arrived that, many of them didn't find places within the roofed over area and had to sit in their cars. There were two bands playing and the beer and other drinks were cooling in ice in an old bathtub. It was the best celebration we had in years.
The money was steadily rolling in, we bought a new fridge and the club began to prosper. The only problem was that the activities were mostly centred at the restaurant in the old house. Only the socials were conducted in the unfinished ?barn". When we built a new kitchen and a dining room in the ?new" building, we could operate the restaurant at a better, higher standard. New people, non-countrymen, began trickling in. Removal of a nearby German club, for a government project, proved to be advantageous to our club. Even their chef transferred and bought many of his customers along with him. The restaurant was always full. The social activities, e.g. dances, continued and the hall was always full. People began forming folklore dancers groups, and sewed their own national costumes. To observe these activities was very pleasurable. We also organised markets on the premises.
The club had prospered. The - then president - Mr Rutar became ill and I temporarily took up the supplementary position of president. Mr Rutar's state of health deteriorated and he - subsequently - died. I then remained in the position of president. Though we built everything by self-help volunteer work - the constructional plans were drawn by professional architect and the correct protocol was met. He envisaged the need for extra space for future installation of poker machines. There was a room provided for such an enterprise. We weren't at a financial stage, where we'd be able to purchase the slot machines. They were very expensive. Not too much later an opportunity to buy the poker machines arose, when an Italian Club in the centre of Sydney was closing down. Their pokies were up for sale at a very reasonable cost - so we bought eight of them. They bought such revenue to the club. The poker machine takings amounted to $30000 per annum (approximately $90000 in today's value). It wasn't popular for Czechs and Slovaks to partake in such entertainment, but it was an important part in Aussie's lives of entertainment. Many things could be done with the money gained in this way. Kitchen was being supplied with goods, that it could operate at the most efficient and professional manner. Then later - when the Club's premises were hired out to "outside groups" for private parties. The kitchen became a self contained business.
Many changes took place when Mr Vlad Foltan became President. He possessed professional know how and social skills. The club was refurbished in its entirety. Its functionality had dramatically improved.
The club has done a lot for the Czechoslovak community. It was a meeting place for friends and a place where new friendships were formed - where on occasion - people met others and found their sole mates - and life partners. It had become "home" away from home, and it opened doors to a newly founded society. Now, that the new restaurant was opened and fully functional, was the time to coordinate our efforts and organise an all Australian meeting of Czechoslovak migrants to our club. There were people everywhere.
Well - with a club like ours - there has to be a deeply seated initiative and an unceasingly fuelled drive. There's lots and lots of work involved - but work itself is insufficient. One has to have love in one's heart - or give one's heart into the entire operation.
Czech to English translation by Karel (Karl) Bulis.