These reminiscences are an intimate account of Mila Rechcígl’s saga, his fascinating life, his varied and successful professional career, and his highly visible public life, encompassing some fifty years, since the earliest childhood in a small hamlet in northeastern rural Bohemia to his government career in the World’s Capital, Washington, DC and spending his retirement years in active scholarship and voluntary work for non-profit organizations. He views his life as a chess game, in which he confronts various challenges head-on, usually ending with a “checkmate” in his favor.
He describes his idyllic youth at family mill, in an area known as “Bohemian paradise,” talks fondly of his parents and grandparents, the time he spent in a one-class rural school, followed by eight years in gymnasium in Mlada Boleslav, four during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia and four in the post-War era under the communist threat. After successful escape from communist Czechoslovakia, he immigrates to America, spending his greenhorn years in New York City, working in a glass jewelry factory. He gets a scholarship, is accepted by a prestigious Ivy League school (Cornell) and with skimpy English manages getting his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in two and half years, followed by Master’s and Ph.D. Gets hired by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda where he conducts some pioneering research on enzyme turnover and later is offered training in science policy and administration, leading to his appointment as Special Assistant for Nutrition and Health, and later is put in charge of research at the US State Department’s Agency for International Development.
Beyond the call of duty, he publishes numerous books and in his “spare time,” devotes energies to organizing an international Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences into a first-class institution and does premier research on immigration history.