A Russian with a Czech Passport

A brief story of a foreigner who found in Russia his homeland...

A Russian with a Czech Passport

My name is Jaromir Druzba. I was born in Czechoslovakia. Because people like to ask me these kind of questions quite often I prefer to answer on them ahead: no, there are no Russians in my family, both parents are Czechoslovakian and my surname in translation from Czech means "wedding toast-master".

Right after birth I traveled with my parents to Leningrad, as they still had a couple of years of university education ahead. Once their education was at an end we have returned to Czechoslovakia. During that time the country was in turmoil as a result of fall of socialism in it and in other socialist countries in the World. Soon after that my little brother was born. A poor situation in Czechoslovakia and necessity to feed a family made my father to try his luck in going through an interview for a job in Kuwait. Back then the war with Iraq has just ended. He was accepted for work and after few months of his departure mother with me and brother has followed him.

When I was about to reach school age I was accepted into a Russian school at the embassy of Russian Federation in Kuwait. Important to notice – I didn’t understand a word in Russian at the time. However I was accepted under a sole condition – that I will be capable to communicate at least on the basic level within three months. This was overcome sooner than expected. After only two months I was able to communicate with others freely. School was rather “Soviet” than “Russian” as nationalities of practically whole former Soviet Union were present. In this school I went through all eleven grades and graduated in year 2005.

At the same time I have enrolled into a Czech primary school in Czech Republic and later into a gymnasium. For this reason I was absolving annual trips to Czech for yearly examinations. These two schools bring up a peculiar fact that I graduated from the Russian school at the age of 17 (without repeating any grade), but graduation from the Czech school was supposed to be at my age of 19 (also without repeating any grade). It is nothing extraordinary that after being for such a long time in a Russian-speaking environment which was not only at school, but many times also out of it, Russian language became practically my native language. How more native it might be? I was thinking, expressing myself and feeling in it.

Saint-Petersburg was my choice for university education. Such decision I made on the basis of the growing dissatisfaction with Europe in which I was spending many summer vacations. I have spent over seven years of my life in Russia from then on. To describe in few words what was happening during all that time is almost impossible. Studying, participating in student activities, clubs by interests, parties, playing guitar on evening streets of Saint-Petersburg, various kinds of part-time jobs etc. Good times and bad times – both were at place. But the most important thing is that I found myself in that place. As a result I was even called accordingly: “A Russian with Czech Passport.”

Upon my graduation from university I tried to get hired, but honestly speaking a person with a non-Russian or non-CIS citizenship has extremely low chances to get hired even if he knows Russian language as his own. It is not a bad thing. It’s just such kind of visa system which forces own population to get moving. At that time I tried to start own business or to participate in some projects. However bad luck was after me so I failed and ended up in a debt. And that was not an issue to joke around with.

By such circumstances I was forced to leave to Kuwait where my father was still residing. I tried to find a job on spot. I had higher chances, but not much higher than in Russia. Regardless of my knowledge of languages, my education and my international experience – nobody wanted to hire me. It’s nothing extraordinary. Expatriates who were trying to find a work on spot in a country with tough visa regulations will understand what I’m talking about. But finally after half a year of daily searches I managed to find a more or less normal work.

Now it is almost two years since I left Russia. I keep working in Kuwait. Slowly, with patience, I’m trying to change the stagnating situation I’m in and I hope soon to return back to Russia. Back then I already knew and felt that I didn’t want to leave but sometimes in our life we don’t have too many choices. After I have arrived Kuwait I have accepted this turn of events normally and all was well. But over time the wish to go back is only growing.

Such is my story. What will be next in life? We will see. But that’s not important now. I just wanted to write down a very short story about me: where I am from and how did I become a Russian. You, foreigners willing to learn Russian language not only as means of communication but as a soul of nation, you, who is trying to understand and feel the way of Russians are – don’t give up. It is hard but so it is to understand any other culture to which you are a stranger.

As what goes for me – in our family we always spoke in Czech. My first language I have ever learned is Czech (and also Slovak). When I have reached a more conscious age we were already in Kuwait. There was English and Arabic everywhere. Parent’s friends were mainly English, French, Arabic, Russian, German, Polish and Turkish speaking people. Additionally our father was trying by all means to make me and my brother to love Czech as a country and Czechs as people. Whole environment was so to say in favor of us becoming Czechs as we were born. A Europeans. But from early childhood both, me and my brother, preferred to communicate with Russian speaking children. No. We spoke English perfectly, Polish as well. Even some French and German we did speak. This wasn’t an issue. It just wasn’t interesting for us. Communication with “Soviet” people was somehow far more open, sincere and intellectual. And even more, after each summer vacations we spent in Europe, me and my brother started to realize more and more that these places are strange to us and we are also strangers to them.

Everything is possible, as you may see. It all depends on how person takes it and what his soul is closer to.

Who will be interested, please, send me any questions. I will answer as much as I will be capable to. If I will clarify some contradictory things, which may arise in minds of Western people upon hearing word “Russia” – I will be very happy. It can concern anything – daily life issues, philosophical questions, Cultural differences or problems in understanding the mentality.

2014-03-24 10:27:08Z   Jaromir       2014-03-25 08:22:39Z   Jaromir