Your first work is called Chaloupky, it is about people from the defunct villages of Chaloupky and Jelení in the Ore Mountains. how should I look at the place where I suspect the original settlement was?
Defunct villages are a phenomenon of the Ore Mountains. I feel when I am in such a settlement that the presence of someone and something is felt. I think it’s because when people lived there for 500 years, children went to school, buried there, married there, tried to survive there, worked there. Just because you tear down the houses and evict the people doesn’t mean that the energy of the places disappears.
Štěpán Javůrek and his first book Cottages|photo:Martin Carpenter, MAFRA/Profimedia
Sometimes I feel a little sorry that defunct villages are much sought after by tourists, because they are beautiful, untouched locations. Tourists stand there, admiring the places, but they don’t know what was there before them and how incredibly powerful the story of those places is. This is also the reason why I try to bring the landscape closer to the readers, so that they can gain a deeper relationship with it.
In the Sudetenland there is a mixture of people from all over the country. Was there a German dialect, did it disappear or is it preserved somewhere? You can’t really identify with anything other than that region…
It is very easy to recognize the language, the language is the best way to identify people. Those who speak the same language are automatically close to each other. Today, almost everyone has their own dialect. In the Ore Mountains, no dialect has emerged in the 70 years since the war, and there is not. It is one of the reasons, in my opinion, why we still have some problems specific to our region.
Instead of swearing, every person should try to do something for their region and the area where they live, give something back to that place.
Which ones are they?
I call it shallow roots. Identification with the region and history. I think the way it goes is that people pass it down from generation to generation. Parents tell their children things that their parents told them. This chain was quite violently broken in the Ore Mountains after 1945. People who came there after 1945 had great difficulty learning anything specific about what was there before them.
Do Germans still come to today’s Sudetenland to see where their parents or grandparents lived?
They are coming. I think that today the relations in the borderland between Czechs and Germans are the best they have ever been. Czech-German relations are mostly commented negatively by people who do not experience them on a daily basis.
People are united by love for the landscape and the place. It is the home of all of us. They still subconsciously feel that they once gave energy to it and once built those things. But if it weren’t for the Czechs who came after the war and started to restore things, maintain them, keep traditions, those things would have disappeared forever.
When I see a repaired way of the cross somewhere, I know that it is the joint work of both. The Germans once built it, then it almost disappeared, and then there were enterprising people from the newcomers who restored the Stations of the Cross. So it’s such a common child.
Sudeten House 1 and Sudeten House 2 – it is the story of the Smolík family, who get to the foothills village with their modest possessions, where they are assigned a house. It’s just that they are assigned with their original German owners and have to learn to live together. This story has a real basis…
This story took place in many places in the borderlands. It was not unusual that newly arrived Czechs, especially in the first wave, when they arrived just after the war, had to live for some time in houses with Germans who were waiting to be deported.
I’m interested in how writing and researching the past enriches you. What does it do to your personal and professional life?
It enriches me in that I have to study a lot of material. I combine the hobby of exploring the Ore Mountains with creation. How does it affect personal life and work? Fundamentally. I came to take care of the Krušnohoří Destination Agency by living in Krušnohoří. It was a natural path.
Instead of swearing, every person should try to do something for their region and the area where they live, give something back to that place. Everyone should do it to the best of their ability. Someone is able to build something, someone teaches children, I try to bring the region closer to readers and show it in a favorable light.
How does Štěpán Javůrek remember his first impression of the places where Chaloupky stood? For what reason did Chaloupky and Deer disappear? And why has the history of the Sudetenland become such a popular topic in Czech literature? Listen to the full interview.