23.03.2017 11:52

I lost my home because of war, Brno is the new one, says Alexandra Šmídová

Autor: Simona Zpěváková | Kurz: English section | Kategorie: Features and other

With a bit of exaggeration, the 25-year-old doctoral candidate Alexandra Šmídová-Pysarieva from Faculty of Social Studies in Brno claims that the Eastern Ukraine Conflict was a blessing in disguise for her. „If there was not a war at my home I would not have my son in my lap,“ describes a woman who decided eight years ago to move from Ukraine to the Czech Republic and pursue studies of Political Science and Security & Strategic Studies.

Alexandra Šmídová and her son. Photo by Simona Zpěváková

Brno – The idea of studying a college abroad was brought to her by her dad. „He always told me that nothing good will ever be in Ukraine. He wanted me to study in England or in Switzerland. But when I was graduating my parents had financial problems and so we were looking for a more viable option,“ explains Alexandra. And they found it in the Czech Republic where after fulfilling of certain conditions people from abroad can study for free. And so, then 17-year-old Alexandra flew to the spa town of Poděbrady for a Czech language course.

Originally she wanted to continue with studies of Law at Charles University. But she was dissuaded from that by her teacher.  „He said that I would not be able to pass the SCIO exams with a high enough percentile to get into the law school. According to him, as a foreigner I would not have a chance to manage it after just a year of Czech language course. So I thought I would also apply somewhere else,“ she continues.

Alexandra also applied to Masaryk University, namely Political Science in combination with different fields which Faculty of Social Studies offers. „When I arrived to Brno for the entrance exams I immediately fell in love with the city, but in particular with Faculty of Social Studies. I knew this was my faculty and I wanted to remain here,“ Alexandra describes. And her wish was fulfilled – she was accepted everywhere she applied. In the end she chose a combination of Political Science with Security & Strategic Studies. And she continued in the second one with a master’s studies and now PhD studies.

First months in Brno were not easy. Besides the language barrier, she had problems with shopping groceries. „In Ukraine we are used to completely different groceries and most of all certain quality which is incomparably worse here than at home. I mostly don’t like the fruit and the vegetables if it is not homegrown. In the first year I couldn’t even drink the milk because even the farm one seemed artificial to me,“ woman explains.

But the most difficult part for her was the distance from home. She left her family and friends in Ukraine. She wrote all of her exams before deadline so she could see them soon and be with them as long as possible. And all the while, it was not easy for her to return home. „A lot of my acquaintances died in war. I lived a short distance from the airport and all neighboring houses were riddled with bullets. Many people in the Czech Republic can’t even appreciate that they are living in a peaceful country. There, it is only about survival,“ she describes.

In the city of Donetsk, where Alexandra is from, 1.5 million people lived before the war. „Quality of life there was incomparably different to here. Donetsk was sort of a Ukrainian Moscow or a very rich Prague. Everyone was driving in expensive cars and life was passing quickly too. Here everyone goes slowly, nobody is hurrying anywhere,“ Alexandra describes the life in Brno which is more of a small rural town for her.

She admits that in the Czech Republic she has started to feel more calm and relaxed even when it comes to demands in appearance. In her hometown women would not dare to go outside without makeup in sportswear. „Here it doesn’t matter what you wear. Before the war, Donetsk women used to spend hours putting on makeup and brushing before they went out. Donetsk was a city of millionaires and footballers, every girl wanted to look pretty. And God forbid you go to throw the trash out and you won’t look like a model from Cosmopolitan,“ she laughs.

A young woman can’t imagine living in Ukraine again. After the first year of living in the Czech Republic she wanted to stay here. And aside from that, other wishes became true for her here. Aside from being a postgraduate student, she became a loving wife and mother. Thanks to her interest in Ukrainian politics, she found common ground with her Czech husband who was interested in the Eastern Ukraine Conflict too. „I don’t have a home in Ukraine anymore. Where my home used to be there is war now. Brno is my home now. I matured a lot here and mainly changed the language. Nowadays I talk more in Czech than in Russian. I dream in Czech. I would say I am almost a native,“ Alexandra finishes.

Klíčová slova: FSS, MUNI, Ukraine, Student, Mom


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