By RUTH RICE
An area arts center is going back to its roots to present a celebration of Slovak heritage.
The Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center at 411 Third Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown will present “Oslavy,” which means celebrations in Slovak, throughout July and early August.
The programs will be presented by members of the Slovak Heritage Association of the Laurel Highlands, which formed after the Bottle Works opened with popular celebrations of Slovak customs and traditions.
Susan Kalcik, president of the heritage association and a former executive director at the Bottle Works, has visited Slovakia twice with her husband, Nick Bocher.
“You wouldn’t believe how much Pennsylvania looks like Slovakia,” Kalcik said. “It’s like being home.”
Geographically located in the center of Europe, Slovakia has remained isolated from much of modern change.
Kalcik, who said she is 100 percent Slovak, said older women in her hometown still wear traditional garments.
Kalcik and Bocher have put together an exhibit of authentic Slovak clothing purchased on their trips to Slovakia. The exhibit also includes clothing from the family of Annett Krisofco of Brownstown.
Photos in the exhibit are from Helen Bodnar Delic, whose parents helped to start St. Francis Roman Catholic Church in the West End section of Johnstown, which was originally a Slovak church.
The clothing in the exhibit features elaborate ensembles for a wedding as well as more practical everyday wear.
While the majority of the clothing is colorful with embroidery, the practical Slovaks don’t use their skillful stitching when it isn’t necessary.
“They don’t embroider where it doesn’t show,” Bocher said.
“Some embroidery is done on a separate panel that can be removed when the rest of the garment wears out.
“We want to match things in the West,” Kalcik said. “In Slovakia, it’s colors on colors.”
Much of the embroidery and where it is placed has special meaning.
Snakes are used to depict good luck and protection.
Shiny materials are used to reflect evil.
Embroidery on a man’s shirt on the arms and chest protects his strength.
“It was originally magical, from a pre-Christian era,” Bocher said.
Christmas in Slovakia is depicted with the figure of St. Nicholas accompanied by a devil and an angel to find out if children have been good or bad.
The Easter display features a basket of eggs decorated with wax batik, cutouts, metal and straw.
Kalcik held a gallery tour of the exhibit when it opened on July 1, and she said she would be available for private tours for anyone who is interested while the exhibit is open.
The exhibit will be on display through Aug. 11.
Today-Aug. 11: Exhibit of authentic Slovak clothing.
Thursday: 7 p.m., “St. Nick, Morena and Slovak Dress” children’s program.
July 18: 7:30 p.m., Slovak wedding.
July 20, July 27, Aug. 10: 7 p.m., cooking classes, $5.
Aug. 3: 7 p.m., “Travel and Finding Family in Slovakia.”
By RUTH RICE