Guests at expatriate convention discuss Czech culture abroad
As we informed you yesterday, a biannual event is underway for Czechs living abroad to discuss, among other things, their attempts to keep Czech culture alive in their adopted countries. Today our reporter Christian Falvey went back to the Conference for Czech Compatriots and Culture to talk with some of the guests about their leaving Czechoslovakia and their work to sustain their Czech culture abroad.
“I am a member of the Czech community in Geneva called Beseda Slovan, and I am the chairman of the committee. When I first came to Switzerland, I was asked by the authorities why I had left Czechoslovakia, and spontaneously answered – and I remember, it was the true reason – I haven’t left Czechoslovakia, I’ve left Russia. If the occupation in ‘68 had not occurred, I would probably never have left. I wasn’t courageous, I didn’t know any languages other than Czech and Russian. So it was difficult for me. But I had to go with my conviction.
“I wouldn’t say there is a special style of life for Czechs in Switzerland. We live as Swiss citizens, but apart from that, apart from our integration into Swiss society, we are trying to keep contact with our country of origin, and for several different reasons: some people for sentimental reasons, some people after reflection. And being an active member of the society is one of the ways to stay close to our origins.”
Eva Sitta (originally Eva Sitteová) was a student of Janáček Academy of the Arts in Brno before joining the well known ABC Theatre in Prague. When she moved to Australia in the early 1980s she found plenty of opportunities to apply herself as an actress, starring in many stage and film roles, and even today she finds ways to introduce Czech culture to her Australian audiences.
The formal itinerary of the conference ends on Tuesday evening and the guests will be spending Wednesday revisiting spots around Prague together before most of them go off to their various, far-flung homes.