How Kolaches Come to Texas: Alice Lunakova shared her thesis on Czech immigration

Kolaches are a tasty treat. Soft bread is on the outside and fruit fills the center. Alice Lunakova tells of the kolache’s origin at Carroll Library on Aug. 30. Photo credit: Jessica Hubble

Alice Lunakova visited Carroll Library to share her journey from Prague and her thesis on the history of Czech immigration to Texas in the nineteenth century on Tuesday, Aug. 30.

Lunakova began her presentation by discussing the origin of the kolache, a popular Czech pastry. Kolaches are made by baking sausage, ham or fruits in the center of soft bread dough. Lunakova demonstrated the proper way to say kolache. As a French and English major who is passionate about the linguistic of words. Lunakova has a major in french and english. Kolache is originally from the Czech word kolac, the plural is kolache; however, Texans usually add an extra -s to the end, transforming the word into kolaches. Lunakova expressed that this is redundant, yet comical.

Kolaches came to Texas after Czech cottagers and weavers left Austrian Hungary because of German oppression. Lunakova explained in her thesis that cottagers and weavers lost their jobs with the invention of the spinning wheel. This provoked them to want to move to somewhere with more job opportunities.

Texas was the place to go because of the rich, fertile land and the possibility to have animals and open businesses of their own. The immigrants assimilated into American culture with their newly profound freedoms.

Lunakova was one of two students from Masaryk University in Brno who attended McLennan Community College as an exchange student a few years ago. Later, she was also given the opportunity to be a Texas Collection and Keston Center researcher at Baylor.

During her time at MCC, Lunakova met Kathy Hillman, a library staff member at Baylor. Little did she know, Lunakova would be staying with her and her family for six weeks during her research position.

“Its fun to get to know somebody and to see them grow so much,” Hillman said.

Kathy Hillman’s husband, John Hillman, told the story of taking Lunakova out to dinner before she left for Prague.

“Alice told me when I last saw her, ‘I will be seeing you again,’ and I thought, ‘I sure hope so,” John Hillman said. Hillman was delightfully surprised to get the opportunity to not only see her again, but also to see her grow.

Lunakova’s lecture was part of a speaking tour that included visits to Temple, La Grange, Houston, College Station and West.

“Now, I think I’m more able to express myself when I want to do something. Or when I want to know something, I just ask someone or I just go and do it. I am not shy,” Lunakova said when asked how her time in the U.S. has helped her grow.

Alice Lunakova shares her thesis to crowd at Carroll Library on Tuesday. She is excited to tell the origin of the kolache. Photo credit: Jessica Hubble