In 1953, in Brazil, Jan Antonín Baťa and Jindřich Trachta founded the city of Bataypora in places where there used to be primeval forest. The original industrial colony is today a city with 11,000 inhabitants, in which the presence of Czech culture is still clearly visible. Tracht’s descendants still live here. His grandson Evandro is even the Czech honorary consul in Bataypora. “I feel more at home in the Czech Republic,” says the native Brazilian.
Although you were born in Brazil and have never lived permanently in the Czech Republic, you are a great promoter and lover of Czech culture. In Bataypora, you work as a Czech honorary consul, with your office right in your home. Since when do you have such a warm relationship with the Czech Republic?
When I was little, there was no central electricity in Bataypora, only a motor. That’s why we always sat outside in the evening and my grandfather Jindřich told us fairy tales or read books that he brought from Czechoslovakia. Apart from that, we ate a lot of Czech food at home, for example, sauce with chicken and bread dumplings.
I am my grandfather’s first grandson, so he tried to speak Czech with me, but at home only single words were used. Of his children, my mother and my cousin Milan can speak Czech, but nowadays he can only understand it.
So how did you learn Czech?
For us, Czechoslovakia at that time was a complete fantasy country that did not actually exist. All my growing up, I dreamed that when I was an adult, I would go there. At the time of my university studies, it was possible to study in Czechoslovakia, but because my grandfather fled from the communists, I could not. Otherwise, many Brazilians studied in the Czech Republic at that time.
After the revolution and after I finished my studies, I immediately took the opportunity to go to the Czech Republic. I graduated in January and already in April I was in Brno at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine for a doctoral internship. My grandfather still had many friends there who helped me.
How did you manage studying in Czech?
Before I came there, I thought I knew Czech. Unfortunately, it was not like that. Speaking in particular was a real problem for me. However, I did not attend any Czech courses, my grandfather taught me Czech. Although it was rather a mix of Portuguese and Czech. But thanks to the fact that there were a lot of Czechs living in Bataypora and my grandfather met with them, Czech was often heard at home.
Evandro Trachta with his grandfather Jindřich, whom Jan Antonín Baťa entrusted with building Bataypora. | Photo: Anna Sochorová
Although Bataypora was founded in 1953 by Czechs, the city only recently started cooperating with the Czech Republic. How did it begin?
Throughout his life, grandfather put together a collection of materials about the history of the Czech Republic, about Bať and Czech post-war immigrants abroad. The collection was really extensive. Right after the revolution, my grandfather started intensive communication with the Czech community, and so Czechs started coming here. But it was only after my grandfather’s death in 2000 that a larger collaboration was established.
There was an awful lot of material in my grandparents’ house, photographs, magazines and letters. We were all afraid Grandma would throw it away because she kept cursing what a mess it made. However, shortly after her grandfather’s death, she told us that he had worked on the collection all his life and it would be a shame to throw it away. She gave me and my uncles the task to come up with something and use the collection.
We therefore decided to open the Jindřich Trachty Memorial Center, where you can learn not only about Czech-Brazilian cooperation, but also about Bataypora and its surroundings. We founded the organization and about 15 years ago we managed to get a Czech teacher here. And we deepened the cooperation every year. For example, we sent Brazilian children to a camp in the Czech Republic, and volunteers started coming here. In addition, we were also visited by Czech Television and various other media.
You have had many Czech visits during that time. Is there one that really sticks in your mind?
Yes, for example when the two folklore ensembles Oldšava and Nisanka arrived. Due to the large number of members of both ensembles, they had to live with different residents, who often did not speak English or Czech. Two gentlemen were sleeping with an acquaintance of mine. She prepared breakfast for them on the first day, and we eat cheese here, which is in a glass and has milk in its name. They considered it cream and put it in their coffee. But the cheese was sticky and mostly salty. Both of them had no choice but to pretend that they liked it. An acquaintance then told me how interesting it is that in the Czech Republic we have coffee with cheese.
We don’t drink coffee with cheese, but otherwise we have a rich culture. What do you like most about the Czech Republic?
That’s hard for me to answer. I love folklore and of course also food. Overall, I like the Czechia very much. I even sometimes feel like a foreigner in Brazil, and I was born here. I feel more at home in the Czech Republic. When I left there for the last time now, I felt very nostalgic. I used to go more often, but now it was more difficult due to the pandemic and work.
Is it possible to deepen the cooperation between the Czech Republic and Bataypora?
A bridge between the two countries already exists. I spent a lot of time building it. I think that the transport through it already works for the most part on its own. Now, for example, I am trying to convince our mayor that the Moravian towns of Veselí and Žeravice, where my grandfather comes from, become our partner towns. This is another possibility of cooperation.
I believe that not only Czechs should come here, but also the other way around, so that the cooperation is mutual. For example, there are investment options. Although only six people have Czech citizenship in Bataypora, the Czech roots are strong here.
The text was created with the financial support of the EU, the author is solely responsible for its content and may not reflect the EU’s position.