It's Pronounced Yir-Zhee!
By Kamal Sunavala

It is a strange feeling to be writing about the Czech community abroad. All along I have been writing about Czech and expat experiences while living in Prague. Now I am doing the opposite. Writing about the Czech experience abroad.

Sitting in the comfortable office of the Counsellor of the Embassy Jiří Bruna, I felt transported to the Czech Republic for a precious brief sixty minutes. A warm, forthcoming and active man, he helped me to reconnect with the Czech community here in the UAE. Those who have read my previous articles for Tongue-in-Czech will understand why I feel compelled to embark on this adventure.

A humorous, dapper gentleman who was surrounded by all kinds of posters and books and CDs representing Czech culture abroad, he happily entertained my questions and reminisced about the land we both love. A native of Prague, he understood immediately what I missed about that city and agreed that the lack of culture and history as we know it is the first thing to smack one, really hard in the face. Donning his diplomatic garb in word and manner, we began hesitatingly with talking about how Czech professionals were drawn to the UAE and why locals have increasingly made the n CZ their destination of choice. But the first mention of pivo and svíčková sent us both hurtling down memory lane. He admitted, much to my delight, how much he misses the hospoda culture, not so much for the pivo, but for the sheer joy of sitting out and watching the world go by and connecting with people who talk about so many different things and yet all of them are easily understood. Whether it was the beauty of the Krkonoąe Mountains or the smelly trams in summer or the surly old woman behind the counter at the local potraviny or the stunning Staré Město.

Having been in the Middle Eastern region for ten years, Jiří has learned to appreciate this most open of all Arab countries where the expats in fact make up the majority of the population. He appreciates how it co-operates in successfully bringing Czech culture here through music and films. The music foundation set up here for classical music encouraged Czech children to keep alive the memories of Dvořák and Smetana. The Czech film week allowed its natives to enjoy their films from home, appreciating the sound of their language in an exciting medium. I am hoping Želary and Pupendo make it to that list. (Are you listening Jiří?)

He revealed to me that the Czech community was widely drawn to this country because of financial reasons and job opportunities. So much of the talent from the business, financial and medical fields has come here to set up shop and from what I see, are living a life they could only imagine for themselves in Prague or any other part of the Czech Republic.

I could go on and on about the things he said to me but brevity is the soul of alert readers.
What I will say at the end of this piece are two things:
Díky moc for the pivo, Jiří!
To the guy who answered the phone at the embassy: It's not Jee-ree, it's Yir-Zhee!

Read Kamal's Tongue-in-Czech stories from Prague.