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My Century And My Many Lives, by Frank Munk
Memoirs, 1993
Postscript, 1994

Frank Munk, my grandfather, wrote this autobiography to record his memories from 1901 onwards. This history and its postscript are available on our family website in his memory as they tell a complete story of the 20th century. These memoirs may be referenced as long as proper attribution is made; our family retains ownership and copyright. We have one request: if you reference this material in any way, please send us email at and a copy of the paper, if possible, as we would like to know when this material is of interest and we are curious as to how it is being used. We'd like to hear from you.
© Copyright 1993, 1994, The Munk/Ragen Families


The earliest thing I can remember is the tinkling of a silver bell. At least I was told it was made of silver, although I rather doubt it now. It rang at three in the morning and at three in the afternoon and I always thought the sound was magical. I could not help hearing it because our house stood in the shadow of Saint Jacob Church, built around 1430, with a very tall tower. I know now that in reality it did have something to do with silver: it marked the changing of the shifts in the silver mines.

I was born in the town of Kutná Hora in Bohemia [click here for a few pictures], then a part of Austria, on May 26, 1901. It was not an ordinary town. Silver mining started around 1300 when it was found that the area had some of the richest deposits of the metal in Europe. It rapidly grew rich and powerful and became the second residence of the Kings of Bohemia, some of whom also served as Emperors of the Holy (German) Roman Empire. In the middle of the 14th century, Kutná Hora became the location of the Royal Mint, after the kings brought in experts from Florence to mint Bohemian Groschen. They built for that purpose what still is called the Italian Court, later used as the king's residential palace. Our back door abutted the palace. The city is full of medieval churches, including the magnificent St. Barbara Cathedral begun in 1388.

The name Kutná Hora means, very sensibly, Mining Mountain. Its glory faded in the 16th century as a result of wars and the discovery of America, when cheaper silver from Peru and Mexico made the mines uneconomic, although some mining continued until about 1800. It was even revived recently, because it was thought the mines could produce some uranium and certainly some copper. At any rate the town was for a long time a ghost town and I one of the ghosts.

One other thing I vividly remember was the Corso. That was of course somewhat later, when I was about 16 or 17. The jeunesse dorée of the town assembled every day in the early evening on the sidewalk of the city square next to our store. The boys stood mostly on the side appraising and commenting on the girls who walked in pairs or threesomes up and down. Occasionally a boy would join a girl and continue to walk with her. I was an early and avid devotee of girl watching. One of the girls that I found unusually attractive was one with long brown pigtails, brown eyes, evidently very nicely put together. Unfortunately, she did not seem at all interested in us boys. Her name was Nadezda Prásilová, I knew her since she was a small kid. Her father was director of the Agricultural school.

Unbelievably, she is now my wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother of our American family. Strange things do happen. I might just as well tell how it happened. Some time around Christmas 1921, when I was already very active in the student movement, I invited a group of medical students from the University of Strasbourg, newly returned to France, to visit Kutná Hora. In order to include some attractions besides cathedrals, my friend Karel Kriz and I decided to invite some girls to a dinner we planned. Our choice was Nadezda and one of her friends, because they knew some French. It was a happy choice. As I understand it, it was not my physique or my charm that made Nadezda interested in me, but my fluent French. Anyway life was never the same thereafter. The dinner at Cerny Kun (Black Horse) was a great success.

I ought to add something about the school. I spent the first four years at the training school of the Teachers College, presumably a model institution with excellent teachers whom I still remember. I was then sent for a fifth year to the local public school, the reason being that my handwriting was not very good and needed improvement. Next I started at the local high school, with the official name of Imperial and Royal Real School. The grade schools were provincial, but high schools were run by the Austrian government in Vienna, although in the Czech language. Ours was of the scientific kind, with lots of math, geometry and the physical sciences. I would have preferred a so-called "gymnasium" oriented to humanism, where Latin and Greek were one of the main subjects, but there was no such school in Kutná Hora, so we had to take private classes in Latin. It should also be stated that European high schools have very little in common with their American counterparts. American high schools are more democratic, European more scholarly. In effect the last two years (out of seven) of our school were more like the first two years of a typical American college, as I came to know them.

I spent the first 18 years of my life in Kutná Hora and in a way I never left it.



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