Except in History and Geography lessons (looking for European capitals), I had not heard much about Slovakia. I had never thought of coming here. But I had a good work opportunity. Being curious and after having a look on Internet to see pictures of Bratislava, I thought "why not" without really knowing what I would find.My last foreign experience had been in Russia. So I was really curious to know if Slovakia would be more similar to my vision of Europe or to my vision of Russia.
I have a two years contract. I have already been here for one year and a half. I never was fascinated by nature but here I learnt to like it. The Tatras bewitched me. I am from Grenoble (France), in the Alps, but I was never fond of them. Now, not only do I like looking at the Tatras but I also enjoy a reasonable hike! This is a revolution! My favourite view was Popradské Pleso. Being also fond of history, I can only be enthusiastic about the rich historical heritage of Slovakia. I especially liked the Orava castle and the wooden churches. So far, my favourite one is in Kezmarok. Even though, with the complex history of Slovakia, I am still wondering how history teacher can find a way to teach this subject.
I am more than glad to have the opportunity to live here and travel through Slovakia (even though these days it can be a bit more complicated!)! I am also very happy that I met many different, nice and friendly people through my trips in every part of Slovakia that I visited. From this lady in a mill near Banska Bystrica who absolutely wanted to give us postcards so that we send it back to her, or these old men in the Poloniny park who knew the hockey team of Grenoble and gave us some borsch as we were looking for something to eat, to all the people I saw more regularly through work and activities (rock dancing, Russian tandem or card games).
What surprised me the most in food in Slovakia, is this habit of having a soup every day of the year. But I have to admit you have amazing soups! Another thing that surprised me is when my grandmother came. She had read a book from a Slovak author, where Kofola was mentioned. So while visiting she absolutely wanted to taste it. She did, and loved it. Last year for Christmas, she had a Kofola bottle and was really happy with it!
Once a volunteer, always a volunteer
I volunteer in two associations in France: one which helps refugees in their integration by providing them with accommodation, the other which writes to prisoners. I also wanted to get involved as a volunteer in the place where I would be living. I also think that volunteering is a very good way to open your mind and meet new people and to better apprehend some aspects of the place where I live. Knowing that in volunteering activities, as for many things in life, opportunities are not heaven-sent, I contacted HRL.
Not speaking Slovak, I needed to find an activity where this knowledge wouldn't be mandatory. They accepted to meet me and we discussed what I could do with them. The Human Rights League provided me this opportunity. For more than a year I am in charge of preparation of the newsletter for foreigners in cooperation with the municipalities and cultural mediators in Bratislava, Trnava, Banska Bystrica and Kosice.
I would really like to thank actors like HRL who makes it easier for us, foreigners, to live here, for example by translating essential information and therefore providing a valuable help. It is even more important as this is a very specific period where it is not always easy to understand the updated instructions.
Personal testimonies of foreigners were published as part of activities of the KapaCITY project, which is co-funded by the European Union from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and the Internal Affairs Funds.