Luboš Brieda, born 1980
Luboš Brieda was born in Brezno in central Slovakia in 1980 and grew up in nearby Banská Bystrica. His mother Katarina worked in the local dom kultury [House of Culture] as an event organizer and his father Peter was an economist who worked as a restaurant inspector. Following the fall of communism, Luboš’s father opened his own restaurant. Luboš’s family owned a chata, or cottage, in a village outside Banská Bystrica, and he has fond memories of spending weekends gardening and hiking. In 1989, Luboš recalls traveling to Prague with his father to witness the speeches and happenings of the Velvet Revolution. Luboš joined the Boy Scouts and attended a language-focused school where he studied English and German.
In 1993, Luboš’s mother moved to the United States on the advice of a friend. One year later, Luboš (who had been staying with his grandmother as his parents were divorced) joined her. He arrived in the Washington, D.C. area where his mother had first worked as a nanny and tutor, but when she found a new job, they moved to a suburb of Chicago. Two months later, they returned to D.C. and settled in Alexandria, Virginia, where Luboš started ninth grade. He says that because he was ahead of his classmates in most subjects, he was able to concentrate on improving his English. After high school, he attended Florida Institute of Technology for two years before transferring to Virginia Tech, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering. Luboš lived in California for three years where he joined the Sierra Club and enjoyed hiking and climbing. He returned to Northern Virginia in 2008 to pursue his doctorate at George Washington University. Today Luboš works for NASA as an engineer and also runs his own computing consulting company. He is the creator of the web site SlovakCooking.com which shares traditional Slovak recipes. Luboš received his American citizenship in 2004, but says that he does not rule out the possibility of returning to live in Europe. He lives in Falls Church, Virginia, with his wife Sandra.
Luboš says that, as a child, he spent a lot of time at his family’s cottage
“Since a lot of Slovaks live in apartments, the chata serves a lot of the purpose that, for Americans, a house serves. We have a garden, so you go there a do some gardening. You have some trees. But it’s really just to get away from the city, just to go and relax in the countryside. Slovaks love nature; we love to go hiking. I think that’s the most popular activity in Slovakia, just to go for a hike. We have these awesome mountains and people love to go hiking, skiing or mushroom picking. So it’s very popular to go out for the weekend to the countryside.
“So this place is pretty old. There’s actually a beam that’s in the new section of this chata that has carved on it, with some fire or whatever, 1891. So that’s when the new section of the house was built. The older part is much older than this. It’s from the 1800s sometime. There’s running water now. I think there was always running water. There was a studňa, a little pump, but I think now that is actually hooked up to the village water system. But we never had canalization, so we didn’t have a toilet, so there was just a little outhouse on the outside that you’d go to. It gets cold there in the winter; I remember going there in the winter. It takes these houses a long time to warm up, and then they stay warm. Once they warm up, they stay warm, but it takes a long time for them to actually warm up. And the water freezes in the winter, so you have to make sure to turn the water off.”
Luboš relates his experience of the Velvet Revolution in November 1989
“Most of the demonstrations were in Prague and a little bit in Bratislava; there was really nothing at all in Banská Bystrica. But my dad, he saw the news, so he told me, ‘Luboš, this is a big event,’ so we got in the car and drove to Prague. We actually went over to Prague to check it out. We got there a little bit after the demonstration happened, but I remember going to the big outdoor pavilion in Prague and we went there and there was a speech there by Václav Havel. He was giving a speech there, and that was before he became the president, so it was in the transition era when the demonstrations have stopped, but the government was still in the transition to form this new post-communist government. But I remember going and I’m really grateful my dad took me there because it was such an important event, so it’s good to be part of that.”
Luboš sees big differences in the Slovak and U.S. education systems
“So when I came to the U.S., I found it ridiculous how far behind American schools were. I think in Slovakia we were maybe three years ahead of everybody here. When I came to the U.S., I had a really hard time with English, with the language, so it was a little bit difficult to go to school. But the upside was that all I had to concentrate on was the language because, the actual material, we already had covered that. In Slovakia, I left after the eighth grade, so in seventh and eighth grade we had one full year of organic chemistry, one full year of inorganic chemistry. We had a full year of biology, a full year of geology. We got up to trigonometry, so we covered all the basic algebra in the school and I remember coming here to the U.S. and we were just covering the Pythagorean theorem in the ninth grade, and we had this, I think, in the fifth grade in Slovakia. There was a lot of big differences in the speed with which you covered the material.”
Several years ago, Luboš started the web site SlovakCooking.com
“The web site was just kind of a way for me to collect my own recipes. I never expected it to be some kind of popular destination for people, and I was really surprised to find out just how many second-generation Slovaks there were in the U.S. that have interest in these forgotten recipes. I guess that is really who the site became for. A lot of people really appreciate it and I’m glad that they do. I constantly get these emails saying ‘I remember from my childhood my grandmother making some dish, but nobody ever wrote down the recipe and it has since been long forgotten and I thought I would never know this again and I found the recipe here on your site.’ So it helps a lot of people out in this sense.
“I would say the audience for this web site is really the American population, not really the Slovak population. Sometimes I get these emails from people in Slovakia and they’re writing ‘Why is this in English, not Slovak?’ and I’m like ‘Well, I’m not writing it for Slovak people.’ There are a million Slovak[-language] web sites out there. I’m really trying to show people not in Slovakia, people who are not already familiar with the Slovak cuisine, what Slovak cuisine is. Slovak cuisine is really unknown in the world. People don’t really know anything about it and part of the reason is simply because there’s such a lack of English-language literature, books, on Slovak cooking.”
Category: Oral History, Washington D.C.