Long Journey Home
One evening some years ago, I’d booked a box at the magnificent Prague State Opera. Rusalka was being performed, the Czech composer Antonin Dvořák’s most celebrated opera. I was familiar with his most famous aria, the “Song to the Moon,” but had never seen the entire work. My father had loved opera, and when I was a child I’d heard its haunting music emanating from behind the closed door of his den at our home in Toronto.
I was born in Prague, but at the age of four was torn away when the Communist party took over Czechoslovakia and my family fled to Canada, leaving everything and everyone behind. As a child listening to my mother’s stories, I fell in love with that mythical place and the mysterious characters – my extended family – that she described. Her grief and longing for that lost paradise set me on a quest that was to run like an underground river through my life.
Over the years, I’d been drawn to Prague again and again, living in Canada but driven by an urgent longing that would not let me go. Coming to see Rusalka was part of my search.
I sat listening, entranced by the soaring, lyrical music. Suddenly I caught my breath and had to stop myself from crying out. This was my story! Rusalka, a water nymph, has fallen in love with a human prince and longs to be with him. Dissatisfied with her lot, she dreams of being human. Her wish is granted. The libretto tells the story of their two incompatible worlds colliding and in their case, since it is an opera, their inevitable tragic end.
Walking home a daze, I realized I needed to write down the story of my own two worlds colliding and the fallout from that collision. A story of exile and the search for my own resolution.
And, perhaps, redemption.