I announced a couple weeks ago that I had a surprise and here it is! This is the first guest post from someone in the Czech community, Miss Michaela Steger. She is the reigning Miss Czech-Slovak Nebraska and has an exciting story for you as she reflects back on her reign. Hope you like it!
Week after week I sit in the Doane KDNE Radio studio on Saturday mornings, listening to absolutely incredible and heartwarming music. Nothing of Adele, or other current pop stars, but something that is far more meaningful to my life, my past, and my future. Saturday mornings I work as the Producer for the Česka Muzika Polka show, where I get to reflect on my beautiful Czech-Slovak heritage through music. The hosts get on the microphones, introduce themselves and add, “here with us, being our producer is Miss Michaela Steager, the 2015-2016 Nebraska Czech-Slovak Queen.”
That’s me! It is always so surreal to hear, even almost a year after my coronation. Ever since I was a little girl, all I have wanted to do is dance around in kroj, be a princess, and someday be a queen like all the older girls. I remember going to Clarkson year after year to watch the Prague Chapter Queens compete, and then at Wilber to watch them embrace and share their heritage with the entire community. Of course back then it was about the ‘pretty dresses,’ talents, and crowns. Just as I grew from a three year old running around saying, “Yuck say Mash!” my understanding of the Czech-Slovak heritage and pageants has evolved as well.
When I decided to run for the Nebraska Czechs of Prague Queen, I was running for my Grandparents. Most specifically, for my Grandpa Adolph Nemec who passed in 2013. He was one of the main reasons that my mother, aunts, and a cousin were Queens. Grandpa would always throw Czech words into our daily conversations, and you were guaranteed a “Spanem Bohem” when you left the farm house. Naturally, when I decided to run I was doing it in his memory and his legacy. My reign would be one that would focus on the history of my family, the history of the countries, and all the incredible stories that come along with it. I was no longer the little girl who asked queens if I could try on their tiara, or asked if they lived in a castle. I wasn’t worried about the title, the sash, or the crown. I set out to travel and learn as much as I possibly could, I wanted to tell my stories, learn different takes on Czech-Slovak customs across our country, and touch as many lives as possible.
Clarkson was coming up and I was nervous. Not for talking on stage in front of hundreds of people, or falling during my talent, I was nervous for making my family proud of me. I knew that regardless of the results I would continue to do what I had been doing, that a title did not decide how I would live and help promote my heritage. This is what got me through the pageant, or as I like to call it, our heritage preservation program. Every chance I had to be around my family, I took it. Whether it was for a hug, a bottle of water, a laugh, or a polka, I wanted to be as close to my family as I could that day. That’s why we do what we do, for family. This program, and these events would not have been a glimmer in anyone’s imagination without the history of our families. We owe it to our ancestors and those still with us to carry on the traditions they laid before us. That is the foundation of my reign, not a title, or for parade candy, but family.
As I sit here with a little more than two months of my reign remaining, I have no regrets. I accomplished everything I set out to do. I am so happy and proud to say that I have made friends all across the country to help with my future adventures From Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, Chicago, and even Washington D.C. I know I have gained so much support and love. There are no words for this community. To be able to walk into a room and have someone ask if they can take your picture, only to have a conversation and find out your ancestors lived five miles away from each other 100 years ago, gives me the most heartwarming pride.
That night in Clarkson, I was told to not blink, because this adventure would pass quicker than my heart could handle. I laughed and reassured everyone that I would soak in every second, which I did, but I also blinked. I am so very happy and envious of these new chapter queens who will be contending for this title at the end of June. I’m excited to pass on my knowledge and passion to not only the next Nebraska Queen, but all the queens after her; I just wish I had more time! Of course, once a Nebraska Queen always a Nebraska Queen, and my journey is far from being over.
With a job offer in the Czech Republic, a Study Abroad planned, and of course the Miss Czech-Slovak U. S. Pageant, I am continuing to submerge myself into this beautiful history. Every single one of us has a different story for why we do what we do, and I can’t wait to hear the stories of the other state queens in Wilber in August. Keeping in touch with some of the other girls, and watching their journeys over Facebook, I have complete faith that the future of our heritage is in good hands.
**Images by Dana Meduna