What expats say: Brno is real freedom for me
International programmes at Masaryk University strive to attract professors from distinguished universities around the globe. Nadya Bernadette Jaworsky was a Junior Fellow at the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University when she decided to come to teach at the sociology department here. Dr. Jaworsky grew up and spent most of her life on the east coast US but her family is of Ukrainian background. This is one of the reasons she came back to Central Europe to look for her roots and live in Brno. Does she feel at home here? How does she compare life in US with life in Brno?
Why did you want to come here?
I wanted to come here partially to be close to my family who lives now in Ukraine and Slovakia. My background is Ukrainian. When my father was young he lived on a farm just outside of Brno and he knew the city well. History is such an important part of me so the idea that he might have walked down the streets and squares is pretty cool. And my overall impression of the city when I walk around the center is that the past is always there, I feel the history.
And that is different from what you are used to from American cities?
Sure. Especially now. Where I call home in the US, Charlotte, North Carolina, doesn’t have a history. Charlotte has a history of only two hundred years.
What is the population of Charlotte?
Charlotte is about the same as Brno. Four hundred thousand. But it rises up with narrow buildings all metal and glass and a very small center. All the center is vertical. The only people downtown are people who work and take lunch there. But we don’t have any shopping and you cannot buy food downtown except for restaurants. And dry-cleaning for business people to get their clothes clean. And some museums. But seriously, you cannot buy food, you cannot really shop for clothes or shoes.
Is this what is different about Brno?
Well, Charlotte has a small downtown but people live in the suburbs. It is a suburban life and what you can call car culture. It is very hot in summer. Especially when you get from your air-conditioned home to your air-conditioned car to your air-conditioned destination. So you don’t see much interaction on the street. I was so happy to come back to Brno and just hop on the tram and be able to get around. It is real freedom for me. Whereas in the US freedom means having a car. Here it is different. There is nowhere to park and all that. Having a car is not always freedom.
And what was more convenient in Charlotte compared to Brno?
The only thing I really miss is a good hamburger and a good steak. Maybe Mexican food. I can go for Italian, I can go for Chinese but no good Mexican restaurants here. But there is nothing I am really missing. I like it here. Maybe the prices of clothes and shoes are expensive. In the US we have more choices to buy inexpensive things. Maybe you can find it here in the shopping centers but they are in the outskirts of Brno. But when you are just in the center there is Vaňkovka and Špalíček and those are not cheap.
Do you find something difficult living in Brno?
I did at first. I didn’t expect many people would speak English but it was much less than I thought. Like in shops for instance. So I had to quickly learn how to get around with basic things I needed in Czech. And I think with the expat community I have not connected with them. I don’t find them. I haven‘t made that much of an effort because I socialize with my colleagues from the university. But I would like to know other expats. I am curious about it but I haven’t really had that opportunity.
Can you think of something that would make Brno more open for foreigners?
I think the city as a municipality makes it pretty easy. At the tourist information center they were extremely helpful. Also the city page for culture and what theatres are playing is really helpful.
Who helped you at the beginning to get settled, to find your way around?
A really helpful colleague. A woman from the international office of the Faculty of Social Studies. She showed me everything. And my office mate who is another American, living in Brno for years now. And other colleagues from the sociology department. But mostly that one person. Finding a flat would be really difficult without her. Making phone calls and appointments with landlords who didn’t speak English.
How do you consider Brno as place for your academic development and research?
I like the university very much. The students constantly surprise me how smart they are and how good their English is. Particularly on the Master’s level. That was a really nice feeling to have students who inspire me. Especially some PhD students with their research. I think the library is great, very good for a European library. But there is a problem: professors and teachers are in general very underpaid, not very recognized. I think the wage is very low. But it is almost the same thing in the US. The tram driver would make more than a professor.
Can you think of some favorite place in Brno which is really unique?
There are great cafes. You can go around any corner and there will be some decent coffee. I have a couple of favorites like Mezzanine or Podnebí. Actually that’s probably better than in the US. There is a cafe culture in the US, people go and get their coffee but it’s pretty solitary. Here you meet people and it’s a place to socialize. Oh, and parks. I like Lužánky. The city of Charlotte is decorated with plants I like that too. But Brno is making more of an effort to do reconstruction and plant trees, put benches and all that. And one more thing we don’t have in the US. These outside festivals. Like the Christmas festival, wine and beer festivals at Náměstí Svobody.
Do you go to some farmers’ markets here?
Oh yes, to Zelný trh. Outdoor markets in the US would be like once a week and sometimes end up more expensive. Here you go there to get a better deal. In the US it is all organic farmers and specialized gourmet sort of things, so the farmers’ market is not always for all people. Here it has been for all people I think continuously for six hundred years. And that’s again the feeling of history here.