Czech Republic

It’s Too Early to Say It’s Over

My dad and my country: My complicated relationship with my father and my fatherland. Two stories, some parallels.

Petra Hůlová, Czech author.
Petra Hůlová, Czech author.Petr Kralik

My dad died 10 days ago at about 9 a.m. while I was in the little town of Tonberg, about one hour by train from Oslo, staying with my friend Vesna Evans, a Czech-Bosnian writer who recently moved to Norway. I spent the evening before his death reading Oksana Vasyakina’s autobiographical novel Wound, in Vesna’s daughter’s room. The whole novel circles around how the author copes with her mother’s death. I read straight through until late in the night and woke the next day with a fleeting memory of my dad. An image of him that passed me by like a car on a highway. An hour later, I got a call from my father’s caretaker in Prague informing me that my dad had died about an hour earlier.

My dad died 11 days ago and I’m in Cairo, sitting in a tiny apartment. Up until now, I’ve just been waiting to be ready. The things that matter most often resist a direct approach. Which suits me, since most of the time I circle around things anyway. In the proximity of death, even precious things tend to seem banal and vice versa. I play it cool and act playful, trying not to fall apart. I think I can finally start to talk about my dad.

„Guilt is a constant in the story of my country  after 1989.“

Petra Hůlová

My father was born in Czechoslovakia on May 11, 1945, two days after the date the Communists designated as the official end of World War II. He was conceived amid the fear of war and born into ecstatic applause for freedom. To this day, we commemorate the end of the war in my country with bouquets of lilacs. They were typical of the period, and their intense fragrance was probably one of the first my father smelled as a baby. “People greeted the Russians liberating our country with violet lilacs,” was an ever-present sentence in my childhood. In math class, we counted its words, in art class, we drew pictures of lilacs, in history class, we studied the war, and in Czech class, we memorised and recited poems about it.

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