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Modern and tastefully furnished panel apartment on the outskirts of Pilsen. The owner, Markéta Hofmanová, definitely does not seem like the type of single mother who would need to ask a non-profit organization for financial help to pay for a ring for her daughter.
In the application of the Club of Single Mothers, she wrote: “Anetka won the Pilsen city cup in modern gymnastics this year. Her six-month tuition is 5,000 crowns, but now I won’t even have lunches or textbooks. I am asking for any possible financial means. Of course, I will document what is needed. I will try to apply to the labor office for help with child support and housing as soon as my health allows it. I haven’t received anything so far.”
“Sorry, I’m not in a good mood at the moment,” says the thirty-five-year-old mother of her eight-year-old daughter on a balcony full of flowers. “The doctor informed me a few hours ago that I have new findings on my spinal cord, so I’m still absorbing it,” he says of the morning visit to the doctor. “One suddenly becomes fully aware that one is not immortal,” he adds with a wry smile.
A fatal diagnosis
Multiple sclerosis, which doctors diagnosed Markéta with three years ago, began to manifest itself more clearly at the beginning of this year. So she had to limit her work activity considerably. The disease, for which there is no cure or treatment yet, hit her hard on the afternoon of June 14th.
“On the way from work, my legs stopped listening to me. I was tripping, I reached the parking lot and there I broke my mouth terribly. I started crying, but not because of the fall, but because I couldn’t feel my legs,” she says about her first major attack, which accompanies the incurable disease. “Then I rested a lot at home, slept, ate a lot of magnesium and thought it would get better.”
They have managed so far, now they are at the bottom
The list The News looked at hundreds of applications in which single parents describe their stories to receive a financial contribution from the non-profit organization Single Mothers’ Club for housing, food, lunches for children at school, camps, clubs or IT technology.
“However, the current crisis is a headless sledge which, due to the increase in basic living costs, affects all single people. It crushes the young, the old, from cities and villages,” says founder Dana Pavlousková. “We are now receiving requests for help from single parents who have been managing the situation until now. They make up roughly a third,” he adds.
Some applicants to Seznam Zprávám openly described their stories, and thus a four-part series was created dedicated to breadwinner mothers who, for various reasons, found themselves in an extremely difficult financial situation.
PART 4: I married the wrong partner
But it wasn’t. A week later, a colleague took her straight to the hospital. “I couldn’t walk at all. I was holding on to the wall. My entire left side of my body was affected, including my face, hands and feet. In the hospital, I received strong doses of corticoids, I was very scared,” she recalls.
With the illness came financial problems
Markéta’s summer was marked by convalescence. She started working out. It took a lot of strength and a lot of tears. “I tried to go to the pool, but I couldn’t swim. The legs were completely dead.” She was given “tuned crutches” and was learning to walk again. “I started counting my steps. First, I dragged myself to the opposite barrack and cried because I couldn’t walk back. As if I had rags instead of legs. Go ahead daughter. He’s looking at you, scared and doesn’t know what’s going on. On the contrary, it gave me strength. So I went to bed and that evening I did the route twice,” he describes the struggle with an unyielding body after returning from the hospital.
Now – at the end of August – he can move around the apartment without any problems. However, the joy of improving health is clouded by financial problems. Since the spring, Markéta has been receiving sick leave from her half-time work as a peer consultant, helping people with mental illness. “I take this job more like a mission, I earn mainly by photographing weddings, children and families. That was my main income and I made good money from it,” she says.
She had He’s been turning down wedding photography jobs for months. “These were all-day events and the fatigue was unbearable.” Then came the attack and she couldn’t even hold the camera in her hand.
“I was used to having a steady income and earning extra money by taking pictures. I suddenly said to myself, now you’re screwed, little girl, you have no income and you don’t have any big reserve.
Single parents without financial savings
According to the available data, it is not unusual for single parents to be without financial reserves. “Single parents and seniors living alone are currently the most vulnerable types of households. Today, 60 percent of single women earn at or below zero, and at the same time, longer-term data from the Czech Statistical Office show that half of them have generated no savings. Therefore, they cannot afford a sudden expenditure,” describes sociologist Daniel Prokop, founder of the research organization PAQ Research and member of NERV.
Markéta currently receives 8,000 sickness benefits, 8,000 disability pensions and receives alimony from her ex-partner. “This will cover the cost of housing, food, medicine and I have absolutely zero. When something goes wrong, like the dishwasher and the car now, I wash the dishes by hand and take public transport, because the priorities are now elsewhere,” he describes his financial situation.
“Severe health problems are one of the reasons that throw even very cautious people into a debt trap,” says Daniel Hůle, who takes care of debt counseling at People in Need.
“Marketa is not yet using the state support to which it is probably entitled. She should definitely receive the child allowance, which is almost 800 crowns for an eight-year-old daughter. Since he lives in his own home, the housing allowance will not be high and he is not entitled to help in material need. Maybe the employment office could help her with the lump sum, but that depends on her assets,” Daniel Hůle describes what kind of help Markéta is entitled to.
“All my life I live with little. I don’t go for eyelashes or nails, I don’t dye my hair, I cut my own hair. I am a very thrifty person, I know that I can save on everything. I compete a lot on the internet and social media and win something here and there.” Examples of recent wins? Grocery shopping, stationery package, perfume voucher, pool access or clothing. “Hundreds of items, but they will help a lot,” he sums up.
Eight-year-old Anetka goes to gymnastics. He loves it, but it’s an expensive ring. Markéta didn’t have enough money to buy a jersey, so she sewed it herself. Jump rope in a store for a thousand? No, she bought it on a Chinese server for one hundred and fifty crowns.
“I always find a way. And above all, I still hope to return to work. I don’t have it in my head that it shouldn’t work. Just no. I don’t accept that I should live with eight thousand from a disability pension,” she says determinedly.
More single parents are headed below the poverty line
According to data from the research project Czechia 2022 – Life without payment by PAQ Research and Czech Radio, it follows that sixty percent of single parents with children have nothing left after paying all monthly expenses or have to go into the red. Which is 23% more than it was in the fall. More than half (53%) are at risk of falling into poverty. The survey shows that the monthly savings of single parents has decreased from CZK 3,200 to CZK 660. The author of the research, Daniel Prokop, points out that it is the group of single parents who are at risk of becoming indebted at this time, because they tend to have minimal savings that they can tap into.
Fortunately, and Markéta emphasizes this several times, she has good people around her. “When I was disabled, friends walked my dog, Anetka was taken to gymnastics, my ex-partner got involved, my family helps me mentally and financially,” she calculates.
“And actually today’s not that bad,” he mentions towards the end of the interview. “After all, this morning I won a new briefcase and school equipment for Anetka on the Internet for five thousand. And that’s good enough, isn’t it?’
She found a reason to be happy and smile again.
Impacts of the crisis in the Czech Republic
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