Caught in the Crossfires of a Russian War

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Gale Nemec, Palm Beach born storyteller, award-winning actress and voice talent has led a remarkable life. She lives by faith in God and Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

She is the fourth of seven children in the Nemec family, of which she proudly proclaims places her right in the middle, and “the youngest of the oldest and the oldest of the youngest.”

FAMILY HISTORY

Her Grandfather immigrated to the United States as a young boy from Czechoslovakia. As her father grew up, he was surrounded by only his family and fellow Czech’s and didn’t speak English until he started elementary school. With only his faith and that humble beginning, her father rose to become a prominent lawyer in the town of Palm Beach. He and his wife passed on that faith and humility to the seven Nemec children.

Gale told Palm Beach Christian Voice, “It was wonderful growing up here in Palm Beach. My parents were heavily involved in the community and in our lives. We were at the First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, almost every Sunday morning and on Wednesday nights too. Our family was full of love, and we sang all the time.”

Growing up in a large family didn’t seem unusual to Gale. She said “Everyone helped with dinner, cooking and cleaning up. We all had chores to keep the house clean. Mom and Dad had rules, but they were not dogmatic. If we did something wrong, there were consequences and no question about it. There was none of this “time out” for bad behavior. The good news is, we learned not to do that again.”

FOUNDATION

Gale expresses gratitude to her parents for planting and nourishing the seeds that gave her the faith that she lives today. “To know that there is a God who loves every single one of us is huge. Seeing God in everything–in our daily lives and in the details. Who made the trees? Who made the rain? To believe in the forgiveness of our sins, to believe and know we can talk to God, and thank Him day, or night, and He hears us. To have faith, allows us to see a beauty that is indescribable and that’s a gift.”

But one experience in particular helped to shape the depth of Gale’s faith. An experience that took place, not in the church or in the town of Palm Beach or even in this country, but in the land of her grandfather’s birth: Czechoslovakia.

CAUGHT IN WAR

Nemec family late 1960’s

Gale wrote a book about the experience, Caught in the Crosshairs of War. She felt she had to share this experience because she believed that people needed to know how easy it is for one nation to take over another country.

Gale shared, “In 1968, our family was on vacation in Europe, discovering its history, beauty, and experiencing Czechoslovakia, a country we’d heard about our whole lives. We were traveling in our red Volkswagen bus we named the Truckey-bus and found an apartment by Wenceslas Square in downtown Prague. The night of the first day we arrived in Prague, Russia and the Warsaw pact invaded Czechoslovakia because they didn’t like the freedoms that the Czech government was increasingly granting to its citizens.

Earlier that evening, we had been out to a delicious traditional Czech dinner, and Dad had parked the Truckey-Bus on the street. For some reason, in the middle of the night, Dad decided to move the Truckey-bus from the street into the garage. That decision turned out to be an enormous blessing because later that night Russia invaded Czechoslovakia. 

Caught in the Crossfires of Russia Czech War. ©Nemec, LLC

Its tanks ran over and flattened cars, bicycles–every form of transportation–and the buses were shoved aside like small toys. So there was no way for anyone to get out of the city. Suddenly, in those few hours, our family was in the middle of a war with no way to get out. We didn’t know what was going to happen, where we were going to go, or if we would get out alive or dead.”

The first day of the invasion, Mom and Dad came up with a plan. If soldiers came into the apartment or if anything happened that put our lives in danger, we were to run to the furthest room from the windows, grab our mattresses, blankets, and pillows, whatever we could carry and hide under, to protect ourselves.

Gale explained, “That night, we were all sleeping when we were abruptly awakened to the harsh sound of rapid gunfire filling our ears and saw thousands of fiery red-orange tracer bullets randomly streaking across the sky.”

Gale shared with Palm Beach Christian Voice that she witnessed, one of the first things the Russians did when they invaded Czechoslovakia was to take over, and in some cases destroy, the telegraph offices, the newspapers, the radio stations, and any form of communication in the country. So, the people had no way of knowing how bad the situation was or what the chances were of being able to escape.

Gale said in addition to taking over the communications, the Russians took away the people’s weapons. She said, “The people had nothing to fight with but rocks, their voices and their paint brushes. They shouted and painted signs in support of the Czechoslovakian leaders and for the Russians to go home. That was it.”

AMID THE CRISIS

Gale described the terrifying moment when she met an armed soldier coming up the stairs toward their apartment. “I froze as we both stopped at the landing and stared at each other. I didn’t know what to do—to run past him or to just stand there. I didn’t know if he was going to shoot me or if I would ever see my family again.” The soldier finally pushed her into the wall and ran up the stairs. Gale quickly ran down the stairs to the safety of their little red bus. 

 “I will never know what that soldier was looking for when he ran up the stairs past me. That was a frightening moment.”

Gale’s sister, Joy (Nemec) Loper, recounted her experience during the crisis. “I was eight years old and my mom asked me if I believed in Jesus and wanted to make a commitment to live my life for him.” That was the day that she gave her life to Christ. She has held fast to her faith ever since.

BORDER CROSSING

Because Gale’s family’s last name is Czechoslovakian, the border patrols thought they were Czech citizens trying to defect, and the family struggled for over seven hours to get across the border. Gail remembers when they finally got across, jumping out of the bus to kiss the ground and hug the nearest soldier.

Gale credits God, the United States, and her parents’ calm demeanor with getting them out of the terrifying ordeal. Gale said, “So many more things happened. It was just mind boggling—how we got through and how we survived…it is a miracle.” The rest can be found in her book, Caught in the Crosshairs of War.

Top Row: James | Bottom Row L-R: Mary, Francie, Debbie, Joy, Gale, Ruthie

The Nemecs were fortunate to escape to safety. Gale said of her father, had his intuition not kicked in on that fateful night and had he not decided to move their bus, she passionately believes his faith, his Naval training, his business acumen, and his sheer ingenuity would have gotten them out.

Gale returned home to the quiet town of Palm Beach, finished high school, then her undergraduate degree in the arts, and finally her Master of Arts degree from the University of Georgia.

From teaching to production to acting and print modeling to writing children’s and Christian books and songs for all ages, Gale’s career path has been varied. She said, “It was never my intent to write stories or songs. I didn’t choose children’s books. They just started coming to me. Most of the stories and lyrics come without effort, and during normal life experiences. 

BOOKS AND SONGS

The first book Gale published was Little Stockey & the Miracle of Christmas, which she performs as a one woman show. The story is about a little stocking who is the only stocking chosen to celebrate Christmas. At first, he is happy, then sad, then lonely, until an Angel shows him the true meaning of Christmas. She wrote the story after work on a Monday and continued working on it every night. Five days later, on Friday night, she finished the book, illustrations, and all. She just recorded it for Audible audio books as well as its theme song Don’t Know Your Name, which she wrote.

Your Song – The Ten Commandment Song – musicians L-R: Neel Shukla, Jeanne Bennet, Gay Dedo, Tom Lubben, John Lariviere, Gale Nemec. Not pictured, audio engineer Ray Holzknecht

Gale also recently published Dragon in the Mirror. It is a creative arts book that encourages children to draw. The children read a poem, and in the book, they can draw what they interpret about the poem. Imagine what a treasure that book could be, passed down through generations of little artists.

So far, all the books she has written are educational in some capacity. They deal with rhyming, creativity, observation, numbers, counting, problem solving, or faith and more books are on the way.

The book, Andy’s Adventurous Nightmare, a creative drawing book, happened when one of her nephews was having nightmares. She made up a story to comfort him. He later reported that in the middle of a nightmare, he remembered the story she had told him, and did what the story said to do. His fear went away, and the nightmare stopped.

Most recently, Gale is sharing her new song about the Ten Commandments. She originally thought of the song to sing to her family members, to help them learn the Ten Commandments. That version came out in a more operatic style. But later, as she was on a plane, returning home from having major surgery and preparing to lead a Bible study, another version of the song came to her. wwwShe wrote it on a scrap of paper and quietly sang and recorded it on her phone.

She called her friend, Gay Dedo, who played the song on the piano and connected Gale with other local musicians. Together, they recorded, Your Song – The Ten Commandment Song.

The song is performed as three different verses. The simple lyrics don’t change, but the tempo changes for each verse creating an upbeat song and a meaningful experience. She also created a music video for the song. The lyrics are across the top of the screen with its commandment across the bottom. She has versions with and without singers, so it can be available for karaoke. To date, the music video has been selected for three film festivals and is available on Gale’s website.

Gale is hoping that people will get creative and will sing Your Song – The Ten Commandment

 Song in different styles, such as a classical style or a more Bluegrass style and send the recordings to her. She plans to post those versions on her Facebook page and her website www.GaleNemecBooks.com.

You can contact Gale at [email protected] for further information or to purchase the Lead Sheet. Search Gale Nemec to buy Gale’s books on Goodreads or Amazon and the music videos on Vimeo on Demand.

Gale recommends reading about Communism in Czechoslovakia to learn what happened to its people and their decades of oppression by Russia.

“Look for God’s miracles in your life, large and small,” Gale said, “You will see them every day. That’s why it’s called “faith”.

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