Language summer school in Dobruska


Students from all around the world with ties to the Czech Republic have come to the annual Czech language summer school in Dobruska, northeast Bohemia. The programme is now in its seventeenth year. Christian Rühmkorf spoke to Jan Paterson, who works for the BBC in Great Britain, about the reasons that brought him to this year's popular summer course.

"My mother is Czech and she came to England in 1948 so she has been living there for sixty years and still lives there. I am now in my forties and don't speak any Czech and I came to a stage when I wanted to learn more about my background and the family history. So it's a fantastic opportunity to come here and study Czech and see the castles and eat the food and just learn about the Czech heritage."

Is this your first time in the Czech Republic?

"I have been to Prague with my mother and we have been driving around but really I have been quite protected because I didn't have to speak because she did all the speaking. It's said that neither me nor my brother were brought up speaking but our dad was Scottish and we were brought up in London so there was no need to speak Czech at home. We had some Czech traditions at home like having Christmas on the 24th and having wonderful Czech cookies that my mother always made. We didn't have any knedliky at home - she was not a great fan of the knedliky."

"In 1968 when I was a small boy we had a number of refugees come to stay at the house and that was great fun for a small boy to have all these people sleeping on the floor and everything like this so I kind of remember that and what's been going on Czechoslovakia and so on so its really exciting to be here now."

Could you tell us the reason why your mother left Czechoslovakia and why she came to Britain?

"It was difficult for my family during Nazi occupation. Some of our family had already gone to America and to Britain and then obviously after the Nazis there was a period of stability, but very brief, before 1948, and with family already established in Britain it seemed more sensible for my mother and my grandmother to leave the country and go to Britain and make their home there. So in the end we had family in Britain, in France, in Canada, in Nicaragua and I think even in Australia. So it was a big diaspora."

"I would like to spend more time here so that I would learn the language properly but of course I have a career back in England. It was even hard to take four weeks out of work but I would like to spend more time. One thing I would like to do here is to spend Christmas and see the snow and see the Bethlehems (nativity scenes) and so on in the Czech Republic."

Photo: Martina Stejskalova