Student earns national recognition

Student earns national recognition

by Vista Kalipa

In the age when beauty contests are riddled with scandal, a different kind of pageantry continues to be a source of inspiration for women around the country.

Junior Katie Ziskovsky is enthusiastic to share her story of a program that has allowed her to develop a stronger understanding of her heritage, the Iowa Miss Czech-Slovak Pageant.

This contest is aimed at increasing awareness of the Czech-Slovak Heritage. It is, by no means, a beauty pageant, but an ethnic pageant. To qualify as a contestant you must be an unmarried lady of Czech, Slovak, or Selesian descent and also be between the ages of 16 and 26.

Contestants go through four stages of competition.

First stage is a private interview with the judges and second stage is an on-stage public interview. The third stage is the Kroje modeling.

“Kroje is the word for national folk dress in Czech, and they are the costumes that we wear as symbols of our Czech heritage,” Ziskovsky said.

Ziskovsky finished first in this year’s regional eliminations. At nationals, she competed against seven other girls from Texas, Florida, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Oklahoma.

The last stage of the pageant is the talent gives the women an opportunity to showcase their talents. Ziskovsky won this portion of the competition with the poem, “The Highwayman,” by Alfred Noyes.

“The title means the world to me and I have come to appreciate it more and more as time has gone by during my reign,” Ziskovsky said.

With this title, she hopes to learn much more about the culture of her ancestors who have inspired her. She has learned about the struggles they have gone through to keep the culture alive against all odds.

Ziskovsky says her biggest goal during the year of her reign is to begin learning the Czech language. She understands that the language is a very difficult one.

She also adds that one of the unfortunate things is that much of the language has not been passed down. “When my aunt (the oldest child) was young, my grandparents spoke Czech to her all the time. When she went to elementary school that was mostly what she knew.” But, because her aunt only spoke Czech, she was ridiculed by other students. So, her parents decided not to teach the language to the rest of their children, in fear of ridicule. Ziskovsky has also heard similar stories from others.

Ziskovsky says that she has decided to learn the language and hopes to someday pass it on to her own children, along with the culture of the Czech people.

This is not the first time that Katie has won a pageant. In high school she was Czech Princess for the Czech Heritage Foundation.