Charlotte Glorieux and Amelia Mola-Schmidt –
Larry Mikulcik is all smiles, and it’s not because it’s sunny in Saskatchewan in the image above. A retired history teacher, Mikulcik grew up in Glenside, a village located approximately one hour’s drive from Saskatoon. In Glenside, a small and humble church, by the name of the “Jan Hus United Church”, stands to this day. The church was built in 1913 by the locals, and many of the newly immigrated Czechs and Slovaks made the church their place of worship, a little slice of their homeland, in a very Canadian province.
Back in the heart of downtown Prague, a statue guards the city’s Old Town Square. That man is Jan Hus, a Czech theologian and forefather of the Protestant Reformation movement in Europe. Hus was a fierce critic of the Catholic church during the 14th century, and preached for its reform; especially when it came to the sale of indulgences, a practice of granting forgiveness for sins in exchange for money. In 1415, Hus was burnt at the stake for his unwillingness to renounce his teachings. “After this death, Hus was perceived as a mere (unsuccessful) predecessor of Martin Luther, the successful reformer of the Church”, explains Dr. Zdeněk Žalud, Editor-in-Chief of the Hussite Tábor Magazine. While today’s Czech society is rather secular, Dr. Žalud, notes that Hus remains historically significant, with Czech’s voting him their greatest national hero in a 2015 poll. But the legacy of Hus is not solely exclusive to the Czech lands, the values Hus spread continued across the Atlantic Ocean into Canada, where many Czechs immigrated at the beginning of the 20th century. Larry Mikulcik’s family was one of them, his grandfather arrived in Saskatchewan in 1927.
Growing up Mikulcik remembers Sunday services at the Jan Hus church in Glenside. “My parents and grandparents would attend services in Czech, up until the 1970s.” As a young man, Mikulcik never learned to speak Czech, and remembers his parents saying that “even teachers picked on them because they had an accent and spoke Czech.” Today, he’s fighting to preserve the Jan Hus church in Glenside, “I couldn’t let it be torn down.”
The church maintenance means more than keeping the faith of Jan Hus vibrant within the community, it’s about keeping a link with the Czech roots of the town. “I don’t want to lose the history”, Mikulcik explains. “It’s a vibrant community, the church is in fantastic shape for its age. We’re hoping to host events there, as we move forward.” Keeping the legacy of his family, and the other Canadian-Czechs who came before him alive, is top of mind for Mikulcik. “You’ll find out as you get to my age, you get a lot more sentimental.”