Thanks to having opened up communications with Aleš Korábek recently I have had an opportunity to wander around some more of the material being put up on the Web relevant to Valérie Čižmárová and last night I made a quite astounding discovery via a picture – that would stop one dead in one’s tracks in view of Eastern European history of the Twentieth Century – of Valérie’s grave. (So strange to see a star like Valérie being the smaller name at the bottom of the stone).
She is not buried in her hometown of Michalovce, but rather at the Jewish Cemetery in Prague.
It seems that I might have put two and two together and made five on the basis that Valérie’s grandmother was a Hungarian speaker. On reflection, speaking Hungarian would not automatically coincide with being Hungarian, ethnically speaking.
It all raises the question of how the Kind family survived such a period in the history of the Jews in Eastern Europe. I can only assume that, in view of Valérie’s famously blonde-haired and blue-eyed appearance, the family members would have had appearances themselves that could, theoretically, have fooled any Jew-hunting authorities.
As a follower of aerial war of WWII vintage I am very familiar with the strange tale of the Luftwaffe general, Erhard Milch, who was, remarkably, part-Jewish. Indeed, in amongst the many crimes of Hermann Goering, I suppose that he could be granted an admittedly somewhat twisted ‘credit’ for having repelled some of the more swivel-eyed elements in the SS who would really have wanted to have seen Milch carted off to the camps with the words, “I’ll decide who’s Jewish around here!” So, it was quite possible to be (at least part) Jewish and to hide in the plainest possible sight!…so, just another blonde-haired, blue-eyed family somewhere in the fastness of Eastern Europe may not have attracted undue unwelcome attention.
Since some of the Hungarian and part-Hungarian population of Czechoslovakia was targeted in the immediate aftermath of WWII as ‘Nazi-sympathising war criminals’ that might have added insult to injury if some of Valérie’s family had been targeted on that basis!
So, one of Valérie’s background survived into the late 1960s to go on to live the dream as a Pop Star, partly singing the music of the American composers of Jewish stock whose ancestors were amongst the huddled masses making their way to the States from towns like Michalovce.
Being a star on the ‘wrong’ side of the Iron Curtain the following picture of Valérie posing in front of a PanAm poster was perhaps the closest she came to joining them in the teeming city of New York. The aforementioned ‘dream’ could have been even bigger than it was….and should have been, in my opinion.
All this background didn’t put Valérie off singing in German. In 1974, she recorded a duet in German with the East German star, Peter Albert, whose home city of Erfurt I have also, incidentally, visited…not as ‘my scene’ as the lilting, melodic Pop, Soul and Swing for which Valérie was most noted, but if the Germans like that sort of galumphing stuff then so be it, she probably thought to herself!