The year is 1997. The United States have their first female secretary of state, who by the way emigrated to the U.S. as a child to escape the socialistic regime in the Czech Republic. Divorce was legalized in Ireland. Tamagotchi enters the Japanese market, and Dolly the sheep is cloned. British administration in Hong Kong ends. Microsoft purchases a share in a struggling company called Apple, and Toyota introduces the first hybrid car. An international agreement is signed which forbids the production of landmines. The first bird flu epidemic takes place, and the first Harry Potter movie is released in London. The so-called Sarajevo attack takes place in Prague. The most popular Czech movies are Kolja and “Báječná léta pod psa”. The English Patient wins an Oscar, and the radio broadcasts songs such as I’ll Be Missing You and “Dívám se, dívám”.
… and, also, the Counselling Centre for Integration is founded.
A lot of time has passed since then, and a lot has changed – a few things for the worse, but many things for the better. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case everywhere in the world. Our former colleagues, and also we who took the wheel after them, did not sit idly in our office. Since 1997, we have helped thousands of people from dozens of countries who were searching for a new permanent or temporary home in the Czech Republic.
Over time, we will show you portraits of twenty of them. Without any dramaturgy, template, a unified format or matching color filter – just individual stories, moods, findings, ideas, poems, photos and drawings. We asked them to give us a self-portrait; for those who felt overwhelmed with the task, we provided some inspiration in the form of some ideas about their personalities. In some cases, the results were very personal texts and photos, while in other cases we saw rather impressionistic outcomes.
We created a mosaic which could be arranged in many ways, but whose meaning would probably always be the same: it’s not easy to learn to live in a new country, regardless of the reasons (professional, political or personal) for leaving one’s home behind. The volume of changes, differences, minor and major barriers is terrifying – now, add to that a fairly complex language and in some cases also legal uncertainties. One needs to truly invest a lot to overcome it all, including a large dose of endurance and fortitude. And, as you’ll see, a bit of humor can also help… each of us sees home a bit differently, for many it represents a distant and intangible notion, while others don’t even need one to be happy. But, on the other hand, everyone needs a place to live.
To select a story, simply click on the mosaic below: