PROSVETA – August 25, 2010

Unexpected connection discovered at Spring Hill Lodge 778

by DARIA PERSE
Lodge 778

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SPRING HILL, Fla. — It’s been almost three years since someone pointed out an ad in St. Pete Times to me. The Slovenian-American Club was having a dance. My first reaction was, “Slovenians in Spring Hill?” I couldn’t be more surprised… and happy. Especially after looking for anything Slovenia-related in this country for seven years to no avail. And as soon as I moved to the middle of nowhere, as my friend Claire likes to call the place where I live, I heard about something promising for the first time.
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At the time I didn’t know anyone who might have been interested to go to the polka dance with me, so it took a lot of effort and diplomacy to talk my teenage daughter into going with me. She kept telling me how she had no intention whatsoever of hopping around the dance floor.
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Doroteja finally agreed to go after I promised her that she only needed to come with me this one time and then I would never ask her again. I’m not sure if I ever thanked her properly for that decision, or told her how very thankful I was.
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So we went. I don’t remember anymore if it was Saturday or Sunday, nor which band was playing. When I’m thinking about that day, it seems like everything happened in my dream. The music sounded, hmm… different, except for the familiar three-step beat. We sat down at the end of an empty table and just looked around. I’m not going to repeat what kind of comments my daughter had, but let me tell you, they didn’t help me feel any more comfortable in this place with dimmed lights and people I’d never met before!
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All of the sudden, things started happening. Vice president and president at the time, Walt Harfmann and Ben Drongosky, came to us and greeted us, asked us where we were from, and told us some things about Suncoast Lodge 778. Then someone sent Nežka Guardia to us and we talked in Slovenian. I think we liked each other right away. It felt beyond-description-good to finally met someone who was actually speaking my mother’s tongue! I also spoke to John Laurich, another Slovenian-speaking member of the Lodge.
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However, the turning point was yet to come. A lady who was sitting at the table behind me approached me with a question. “Are you really from Slovenia?” Then she told me that she and her husband were also Slovenians, and soon invited my daughter and me to sit at their table.
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You Are My Sunshine round ornament
You Are My Sunshine round ornament by DariArts
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I gladly accepted the invitation and we all had a great time. I danced to quite a few tunes and we had something interesting to talk about for the whole time we stayed. Dancing again, I felt kind of rusty since I haven’t had any polkas or waltzes in my life for too long, but enjoyed it nevertheless.
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I also sat with these nice people from The Villages who made me feel welcome and at home. The funniest thing is that they weren’t even SNPJ members, and yet they were most responsible for me sticking around the Suncoast Lodge in Spring Hill: Barbara and Jay Vodovnik, and Lois and Jim Vitali. Much later on I found out that it was their first time at Lodge 778 as well.
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After that I came to the Lodge again, probably to the next event. I offered to start the web site, since the Lodge didn’t have one yet, and that’s how I became an involved and active social member at the end of the 2007- 2008 season. Later on there was someone else who talked me into becoming a full member, and here I am at a point where there aren’t too many things in my life that mean more to me than this fraternal Society.
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Only a few months ago I heard Barbara telling one of my friends, “I’m like a mom to Daria. Someone has to take care of her.” I don’t know if anyone can even imagine the way that statement touched my heart. Thank you, Barb!
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During my time with Lodge 778 there were more couples that kind-of adopted me, or maybe I adopted them. And deep inside I feel astonished because I’ve never in my life met so many wonderful people as I have at the SNPJ Lodge in Spring Hill. If there’s a friendlier and more hospitable place in the world than Suncoast Lodge 778, I have yet to discover it.
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Lois Vitali and Barbara Vodovnik during a Spring Hill, Fla., Lodge 778 gathering.

Lois Vitali and Barbara Vodovnik during a Spring Hill, Fla., Lodge 778 gathering.

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Daria

Most of all Daria enjoys creating, designing, taking photos of, writing about and sharing all the beautiful, cheerful things and moments. She finds them everywhere she goes. And tons of fun people, too!

1comment
Jean Narquini - January 22, 2012

Good to hear from you again and reviewing some of your past things.
Now I want to tell you what has got me excited.
I have been in touch with a grade school friend from (now)West virgina
and is planning a visit to Fl.on Feb , 6th and hopes to come visit us.some time that week. ( I can’t wait} She is of Slovenia Parents–has Cousins there and made 6 visits
there. had her 90th birthday in Sept.
Hope to hear from you soon
Sending Good Health and Love
Jean

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