Amber ‘Ambryzy’ on MCing and childhood

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By Ryan Keating-Lambert

Unbelievably wicked sense of style and an unbeatable wit are things that spring to mind when thinking of Amber, also affectionately known as Ambryzy. She’s at the heart of expat life in Prague and all who know her will surely crack a smile reading this interview, and those who don’t know.. Well, how the hell do you not know her anyway? She’s MCing at ‘FIERCE’ party in Café v Lese this Friday night from 11pm. Be there.

Also, she’s basically from Lake Placid.. Has anyone else seen that giant crocodile movie?

Where are you from originally?

Originally I’m from a small town in the mountains of upstate New York. I grew up on a farm.

What was it like growing up there? What is NY state known for?

Well, growing up in upstate New York you had to make your own fun. I spent a lot of time outside playing pocketbook in the road and I’ve built many forts. I also built a raft once and still enjoy fishing. And just generally growing up on a farm was an amazing life experience. I learned responsibility at a young age and I’ve seen and done things that you’d never imagine. Hahaha. Also barn cats.. lots of barn cats.

I’m not sure what NY state is known for.. maybe high taxes.. ha, but where I’m from it’s known for the Adirondack mountains and Lake Placid is pretty popular as it was the site of the 1980 winter Olympics. I miss the mountains.

What did you want to be as a kid?

When I was 11 I wanted to be a trucker, an Olympic diver and a hairstylist. I actually had it all figured out, that I could drive my mobile hair salon to each of my Olympic events.

What brought you to Prague?

My family hosted a Czech exchange student named Tereza, who became like a sister to me and convinced me to move here ten and a half years ago.

I really dig your postcard tattoo, what’s the significance?

After living in Prague for 7 years I started missing home and the mountains so I actually got a postcard of them tattooed on my leg. It shows Heart lake, McIntyre, Colden and Mt. Marcy of the Adirondack mountains.

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Tell us about your music and MC work..

I got into rapping after hanging around my friend’s studio for years and just being around the music. I was also fortunate enough to collaborate with the Czech artist named Klara and since then different opportunities have opened up to me including MCing the upcoming ‘FIERCE’ vogue party this Friday night.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Either the love child of Amy Poehler and Tina Fey or the little girl who played Annie in the original movie.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

I’ve thought about this and… I’m going to keep it simple and say I wish I could have seen the Notorious Big in concert.

What’s your favorite word in Czech and in English?

Favorite word in English is ‘wonderful’, because it can be used in so many different ways… and in Czech my initial thought was ‘pivo’.. because I love that stuff… so I will go with that.

 

Photos from Amber Sayward

Interview: Osamělý Králíček / The Lonely Bunny

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By Ryan Keating-Lambert

 

Scroll down for English

Odkud pocházíš?

Já jenom vím, že můj otec je Čech a nikdo mi nikdy neřekl, kdo je má pravá máma.

Jsi z velké rodiny?

Jsme tři bratři: Bob, Bobek a já.

Jak jsi se dostal do Prahy?

Přijel jsem sem jako oficiální maskot na Mistroství světa v ledním hokeji, společně s mými bratry.

Proč se citíš tak osamělý?

Protože komise vzala Boba a Bobka jako maskoty, ale mě vynechali :((( Moji bratři byli slavní a já ne. Opustili mě a nikoho jsem neměl…ale potom jsem potkal Bobinu, super sexy bílou králici s úžasným ocasem a velikánskýma černýma očima. Zamiloval jsem se do ní. Byla tím jediným důvodem, proč znovu začít žít. Potkal jsem ji na Letné, a pak přišel sníh, Praha byla zasypaná sněhem, všechno bylo tak bílé…jeden druhému jsme se ztratili. No nebyl bys nešťastný, kdyby se ti něco takového stalo?

Jaké jsou tvé sny, čeho chceč dosáhnout?

Chci najít Bobinu, prochodím celé město, každé místo, každý kout, jsem si jistý, že tu někde musí být.

Co rád děláváš v neděli odpoledne?

Čekám na svou princeznu. Sám, samozřejmě.

Jak bys popsal Prahu jen v několika slovech?

Praha? Je úžasná, skoro jako Bobina.

Jaké je tvé oblíbené jídlo?

Moravská mrkev :))) samo sebou :)))

Čeho se nejvíc bojíš?

Troubení tramvají, vždycky mě to vyděsí! Ne ne ne prosím, blázniví lidé!

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Jak udržuješ svou krásnou srst tak bílou a nadýchanou? Jaké je tvé tajemství?

Ráno piji mrkvový džus, k obědu si dávám mrkvový salát s několika bio mrkvovými párečky, a večer…DIETA!

Připravuješ se nějak na Velikonoce?

Dokud nenajdu Bobinu, nikdy nebudu na nic připravený.

Where are you from originally?

I just know that my father is Czech, nobody told me who my real mum was.

Do you come from a large family?

Three brothers: Bob, Bobek and me.

How did you get to Prague?

I arrived here to be the official Ice Hockey World Championship mascot with my brothers.

Why are you alone now?

Because they took Bob and Bobek as mascots and the Commission excluded me😦 My brothers are successful now and I’m not. They left me and I had nobody… but then I met Bobina – a super sexy white bunny with an amazing tail and big big black eyes. I fell in love with her. She was the only thing that gave me a reason to live. I met her in Letna Park, but then the snow came, everything was white so… we lost each other… Wouldn’t you be sad if something like that happened to you?

What are your future dreams and goals?

To find Bobina, I will travel the whole city, every place and every corner. I’m sure she is here somewhere.

What’s your favourite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon?

To wait for my princess. Alone, of course.

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How would you describe Prague in just a few words?

Prague? It’s amazing, almost like Bobina.

What’s your favourite food?

Moravian Carrot :-))) of course.

What’s your greatest fear?

Tram horns that alert pedestrians. They make me so scared! No, no, no, please! Crazy humans!

How do you keep your beautiful fur so white and fluffy? What’s your secret?

Carrot juice for breakfast, carrot salad for lunch with a few little bio carrot sausages, and in the evenings… DIET!

Are you getting ready for Easter?

I won’t be read for anything until I find Bobina.

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Follow the white rabbit here

Photos by The Lonely Rabbit. Translation by Misa Rygrova.

Activist Sergii on Ukraine’s revolution

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By Ryan Keating-Lambert

Regular Prague visitor Sergii Shchelkunov is a Ukrainian civil activist based in Kyiv and has been at the core of the changes that the country has undergone in recent years. Sergii entered politics at a young age and has been striving for change in Kyiv and the whole of Ukraine. However, one of the most interesting parts of Sergii’s story involves his participation in the Euromaidan revolution protests in and around Independence Square against the Yanukovych government that unfolded this time two years ago. This interview gives us a first person insight into the extremes that Sergii and others went to, including making napalm.

So you’re originally from Kyiv? What was it like growing up there?

Yes, not from the historical centre, but one of the outer districts. I grew up around an aircraft plant there, where my father worked and still does. I went to a school for oriental languages and I studied Chinese. You were never allowed to leave the school without your parents. I always had to wait for them to take me home so there wasn’t really any time to play with kids in your neighbourhood. I’ve never learnt how to ride a bicycle, and these are things that kids usually learn quite early.

Well, it’s overrated anyway. What did you want to be as a kid?

I think when you learn foreign languages like I did, you are supposed to grow up to be some sort of diplomat and deal with international affairs, and it was kind of what I wanted. But then I changed my mind and wanted to become a politician. It was just the idea of wanting to change something that got to me. I was hoping to get a national university scholarship, but despite all efforts I had to pay. That’s why I went looking for a job, and then got into social engineering and politics.

And what are you doing at the moment?

In October I finished two big projects – the renovation of the Zhovten cinema in Kyiv and a media project, which was a combination of internet and TV channel stories focusing on urbanism. So now I’m looking for what to do next, meanwhile I keep updating my activist’s blog: shchelkunov.kiev.ua

So onto the Euromaidan revolution. Where were you when this was happening?

I was there. I have a ball bearing (pictured below) that hit my shoulder from some debris. I wasn’t participating every day but I was there when people were first getting together. I was also there the night before the riot police had their last crowd ambush attempt and that’s when they burnt down The Trade Unions Building.

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After that happened, I went back home and tried to process what was going on and I was receiving a lot of text messages that people were organising medical help points and needed all sorts of equipment – scissors, knives, needles etc. When the riot police first started to ambush they shut down the subway, there were also issues with mobile internet. Basically, they were trying to limit communication between protestors. So we had a girl who was sitting down and monitoring requests from these medical points and relaying what they needed to us. We then created a group of people to try and fill the requests and go to pharmacies and shops etc. That’s how we spent our nights during the revolution.

And the last thing that we did was actually prepare napalm.

Napalm? The explosive?

Yes, we got all of the components together and brought them to the city centre, but during the revolution people were using tyres to stop the riot police, and there was a man who had two tyres in his car, got arrested for it and went to prison for two years. And we were carrying NAPALM components (laughs). As we were passing through the checkpoint on the way to the city centre it was quite scary, but we got through

And was it ever used?

No, nobody ever used it but there were a lot of Molotov cocktails around. It was more of a precaution to protect ourselves from the riot police who were using a lot of different weapons. They would throw gas grenades with screws and nails taped to them. They would throw these at protestors.

What was the atmosphere like there? How did it change over that time?

Well in the beginning it was quite good, people were singing and playing music on the stage. Everyone was in a good mood. Everything smelt like a campfire, people were cooking food, musicians were playing the piano that was there. There were kids there as well.

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Source: euromaidan-researchforum.ca

But when the protests had to become violent, everything changed. There was a smell of gas everywhere, you could always hear people screaming or gas grenades exploding. We were building barricades (pictured above) with bags filled with water and snow. It was -20 degrees so they would quickly turn into ice. But they soon learnt how to break through them, so then we used garbage, snow, wood and other things. The barricades never really lasted long, but sometimes a few minutes was all we needed.

How old were the people protesting and working with you? Who was the youngest?

It was a bit different every day but I do remember asking for metal bulletproof vests and a 16-year-old protestor there had some.

Unbelievable, Now for something a little more light-hearted.. What is Ukraine’s idea of Czech people and the Czech Republic?

Probably the first things they think of are beer and also Krtek (laughs). I think that cartoon was on TV in Ukraine as well.

What do you like about Prague? Why do you keep coming back?

I have some friends here involved with human rights who ask me to participate in some things sometimes. And to be honest, it’s also good because It’s not as expensive as other European countries and the Czech and Ukrainian languages have a lot in common, so you can understand a lot here. I also really like DOX, the contemporary art gallery. Prague is really like a labyrinth with Kafka’s scent. Even with the GPS on, I never know which direction I have to go in. Other cities are ok, but here it’s just impossible.

If you could travel back in time and see anything, what would you see?

I’d have to say Ancient Greece.

What’s your favourite word in Czech?

“Pozor” (caution). We don’t have it in Ukrainian, but in Russian the same word means shame. So whenever I hear it I think of that.

If there was a movie about your life, who would play you?

Well, I’m not really into celebrities but I guess some kind of bearded guy with a tattoo. But… if Keanu Reeves played me, that’d be quite funny.

Finally, if you had to give a message to the rest of the world about Ukraine right now, what would it be?

That Ukraine is the outpost between western civilisation and Russia, and if Ukraine fails then Europe will fail too.

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Photos from Sergii Shchelkunov

Bělá-Jezová: Inside a Czech refugee camp

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Illustration by Delarock

By Ryan Keating-Lambert

I wanted to pay the Bělá-Jezová detention camp a visit after reading some rather negative articles late last year on the subject. In a recent DW article, human rights official Anna Šabatová said the camp in many respects, offered worse conditions than a Czech prison. Upon first glance, it seemed that the camp had improved, however after speaking to a refugee there about her own personal experience within the camp, I started to doubt some of these improvements. On top of that, the staff were unable to divulge any information whatsoever. As you read on, keep in mind that the names and details of some people have been changed in order to protect their identities. This is also the only ‘People in Prague’ interview I have done where I have not been able to put a photo of the person. Due to not being able to capture details on camera, Czech artist and illustrator ‘Delarock’ was kind enough to interpret my description of the grounds.

I arrived at the camp with Jonatan and his wife Eliška – 2 local volunteers who were bringing some supplies such as food, literature and other materials. The camp, which was formerly a military training facility is reasonably well concealed and had I been driving I would’ve gone straight past it without blinking an eye. We were greeted by security who closely examined our ID, but surprisingly didn’t ask that many questions about a native English speaker carrying no supplies for the detainees. Lucky for me.

After receiving our entrance key cards, we were escorted to the main building where we were instructed to lock up all of our possessions including phones, keys, lighters, wallets – anything that could be stolen, used as a weapon or as a recording device.

We then started to walk to the main building through a narrow path carved through the thick snow that had fallen the night before. During the walk I took in everything around me, the high 4 metre fence with barbed wire sitting coldly behind a snow-covered children’s playground that reminded me a bit of the opening credits of Terminator 2, but the apocalyptic fire had been replaced by a thick blanket of monotonous snow – later I realised that this image painted a depressing portrait of the monotony and loneliness felt throughout the whole camp. The playground was there, but the high barbed-wire fence made it almost invisible. Eliška informed me that the playgrounds and children’s art on some of the walls had obviously been put up after Šabatová’s visit to the camp in an attempt to make it more comforting and friendly for children. While we passed through yet another security gate, Eliška and Jonatan also spoke about the conversations that the workers had about the refugees and other migrants, that they referred to them as objects or things rather than people.

Finally, we entered the main accommodation building and our ID was taken before entering the recreational rooms through a prison-like gate. We were then told that the Macedonian migrants, whom the volunteers had ordered books for, had since been released. According to Eliška and Jonatan, the staff never make known how many migrants or refugees are present in the camp, so we were unsure of what numbers to expect when we entered the ‘tea room’.

Upon entry, we removed our shoes and entered a living room with a small TV, a few armchairs, a bookshelf and a table and chair set where four women were sitting, two Ukrainian and two Serbian. A volunteer told me that most of the people now in the camps were not refugees anymore, but rather regular economic migrants and that maybe some of them had simply forgotten to submit paperwork or made another mistake in the visa applying process. According to them, it wasn’t like that before the refugee crisis. Apparently there was even an American in another camp in Drahonice that actually used to be a prison. While listening to this, I started to think about my own visa status and they warned me to keep a close eye on the process or maybe I could end up in the same place.

We were soon greeted by a woman with a purple head scarf that had entered from the other room who spoke to us in English. I soon learnt, that she was the only person who spoke English in the camp, not even the staff did. After serving some tea and biscuits, we sat down together at the table and had a lengthy two-hour conversation about how Naciimo, from East Africa, ended up in the camp.

Surprisingly, she was not there alone but had her teenage children upstairs that refused to leave their room because they were angry. Angry at the staff and angry that they had to be there at all. It was then that I learnt that despite several meetings with lawyers, their situation hadn’t improved. It had almost been six months since they arrived to the camp. She seemed to believe that the staff were simply exercising their power by keeping her there. Her release date should be some time during February, but the look on her face told me that she wasn’t too optimistic. I found this interesting because the whole camp is run by SECURITAS – a private security company, and I wondered who these people in power were. Since November, the Czech government have also stationed prison guards there.

Naciimo used to be a teacher before they began to be executed by rebels in her town, so she fled. “10 countries in 4 months,” she repeated over and over again. She spent most of her time travelling in a large group with mainly Iraqi refugees and walked a lot of the way, aside from the occasional boat, and a car ride through Syria.

When I asked her about her trip through Syria, she replied that “it was dangerous, but here is worse.” She wanted freedom, and felt that it was a waste to be stuck in the Czech Republic after travelling so far for so long. I could see that she was incredibly lonely. I thought back again to the picture of the snowy playground. Her daughter was in another camp in Belgium and she wanted to meet her. Since her phone was taken away from her upon arrival, she didn’t have many opportunities to speak to her. There was a landline phone in the camp but with limited access.

Naciimo’s dream was to eventually move to Ireland. As we sat there drinking our tea she was holding a book about Ireland that she said she’d been reading. She also made it clear that she didn’t want to go to a country where there were a lot of refugees. It sounded as if she wanted to be immersed in something completely different, and from her journey so far I don’t blame her.

Something that had the most impact on me was that during her time in the camp so far, she had seen many families come and go and couldn’t understand why families from Afghanistan or Syria could leave before her. She was convinced that it was because she was black. Her frustration escalated until she organised a one-week-long hunger strike with other detainees in an attempt to get some answers, which she didn’t get. This caused her to become sick and she was eventually sent to a nearby hospital which started her on a course of medication to clear any infections as well as medication to help her sleep. Naciimo averaged about 3-4 hours of sleep a night.

However bad things had been, I kept thinking about how much was still to go for her and her children. Thankfully, the volunteers had managed to keep her optimistic about leaving and helped in every possible way that they could.

Our two hours were soon up and I was quite upset to have to leave her there. We said our goodbyes and it did seem that the detainees were in higher spirits than when we arrived. The two Ukrainian women were getting out the following day, the Serbian women probably not much later. As we crunched our way through the snow and gravel in the playground one last time I kept thinking that Naciimo’s story is just one out of millions.

I continued to think about that on the train ride back to Prague looking at the man sitting across from me with a ‘BLOK PROTI ISLÁMU’ (Block against Islam) button badge on his sweater – quite a difference to my arrival to the camp with the cheerful and caring volunteers.

Maya on casting, fashion and film

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By Ryan Keating-Lambert

There are some incredible expats living in this city. Each and every one as inspiring as the next, especially for an expat like myself who is constantly searching for the next step; the next challenge. Maya is probably one of the original expats in Prague. Arriving shortly after the Velvet Revolution, she has seen it all and has played a huge role in this insanely addictive city. Her influence can be felt all over the art and fashion scene and speaking to her in her hidden Ujezd studio of Myrnyx Tyrnyx was not just an interview, but invaluable advice about creative life in Prague from one generation of expat to another. Hopefully in the future I can pass down the same wisdom. And also.. her first great love was superman! Read more. Now!

Where are you originally from?

I’m from California, from Santa Monica.

What was it like growing up there?

I grew up during the 80s. Performance art was just emerging and the punk scene was happening. It was so thrilling and new for me! The scene was the beginning of a rebellious voice that I could relate to. That doesn’t exist now. It’s hard when everything has been done.

Why did you come to Prague?

Well, I knew that I didn’t belong in the United States. I wanted something much more challenging. My idea was to set up some kind of business that would be successful but also would be beneficial to the city. Originally it was a little squat in Betlemske namesti where we made a performance centre for about 4-5 months. But after talking to local artists, I eventually decided on a vintage clothing store. But I chose the Czech Republic out of absolute serendipity.

I read that your casting agency Myrnyx Tyrnyx has been pushing racial and cultural boundaries since the beginning. Tell me a little bit about it.

There was a very homogeneous commercial industry here at the time – everybody was white, and not just white but very straight and classically attractive. To me, this was very boring. I tried to shake up the scene a bit with some fashion shows so that people could understand how to wear the clothes I was selling in the store. It was 1995 and at that time people here had just come out of communism. They weren’t individuated. They were very careful not to stand out. And I’d come from this internal and external universe of people shining and being themselves in L.A. So I invited talented interesting people, pierced, dreadlocked, African, South American and Asian, all different body types. And this was the first time the Czech Republic had seen multicultural elements, and I added other elements such as a man wearing a dress, and looking gorgeous! I was also not pro models being thin and classic, I was pro models being healthy and alive.

So you’ve recently started casting for films as well. Tell me about The Zookeeper’s Wife which was recently filmed in Prague Zoo with Jessica Chastain, I’m a huge fan of hers.

She is incredible, isn’t she? It was a unique project. Very deep. A wonderful director from New Zealand, Niki Caro. Something that was very unique about this project and something that I’d never seen before, was that she pretty much didn’t leave the set. She stayed within the mood of the scene that she was shooting. You never saw her floating around and gabbing with people nor did you see her in a classic director’s chair. It’d been said that the film would get some attention for the Academy Awards, so there was a lot of pressure around it but it was actually very calm on set and everyone was in good spirits. I cast 54 roles from people that live in the Czech Republic, and other Eastern European countries.

What are some of your favourite films?

Well, I love The Great Beauty, You, Me and Everyone We Know, and also What About Bob!

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

I’ve been thinking about that and they’re all dead (laughs). Maybe Gilda Radner, she’s from ‘Saturday Night Live’. She was my first idol, or maybe it was superman?.. No, actually superman was my first great love. He was also the only person that I had a poster of on my wall. I went to see one of the old superman films one night and my mum and I were seated behind Christopher Reeves… I saw him kissing a girl and was absolutely flabbergasted!

That’s such a good story.

My heart was crushed! He was MY superman.

How would you describe Prague?

Sparkly and unknowable. In these streets there are possibilities for things to happen that don’t happen anywhere else. You are thinking of someone and they run into you or other coincidental things. There is a lot of that going on here. If your eyes are open and you’re here, a lot of amazing things can happen. It can be very heavy though, especially in the winter.

What is your favourite word in English and in Czech?

I love the word embark. In Czech.. maybe my favourite is one of the first difficult Czech words that I was able to say. So mine is trychtýř, which is a funnel! Whyyyyyyy? (Laughs).

Mine is ‘zmrzlina’.. for the exact same reason.

What advice to you have for creative people that want to establish something in this community?

Have tolerance and compassion. It’s the same advice I’d give to someone who wants to stay in a relationship. Be prepared to stand your ground and persevere, but be diplomatic. Always look for the next challenge and the next adventure.

Photo: www.marielletepper.com

Mirek on Old Prague Legends and Sean Connery

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By Ryan Keating-Lambert

I stumbled across Mirek’s project Old Prague Legends when I was doing some research on Czech legends to write about for a client. Had no idea that this even existed but it actually premièred in 2013… Thought I might put it out there for other expats to get stuck into. Stunning animation that pays homage to famous Czech animator Karel Zeman and others, coupled with creepy creepy tales of Prague’s past, plus a little moral message embedded in each one to keep you all well behaved. Mirek is also a cameraman by day and has managed to film some interviews with some VERY big international names. Read on for more info.

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Jeseník, but I moved to Prague in 1987.

What is Jeseník known for?

Good skiing!

Nice, and what did you want to be when you were a kid?

I wanted to be a musician and travel the world.

What do you do now?

I’m a cameraman.

Great, how did you get into that?

I studied at a film school in Zlín and have worked for a lot of Czech TV channels. I’ve done a lot of interviews with many interesting people, for example Ozzy Osbourne, Mark Knopfler, Ian Anderson, Ron Wood, Michael Hutchence, Sean Connery and Michail Gorbatschow..

Wow! I’m not even sure who to ask you about.. What about Sean Connery? What was he like?

The interview was done at the premiere of the film The League of Extraordinary Gentleman here in Prague. He’s a great guy and a very good actor. It was also just a great atmosphere to be in.

Who was your favorite?

Definitely Václav Havel. I shot a lot of interviews with him and I really respected him.

He was an icon. How did you start your Old Prague Legends project?

I’d had an internet project for a while and I was looking for some good content. I like the history of Prague so that was an impulse to create the animated legends.

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Why do you think it’s important to know these legends?

Legends can be interesting to anyone who visits Prague or likes history. Each legends takes place in a different part of the city and the audience will discover some very interesting secrets and mysteries about these places.

What is your favourite legend?

Well, I like all of them but my favourite is The Innocents of the Jewish Cemetery (pictured below).

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Sounds pretty chilling. Tell us a little bit about the creative process.

The animations were created by director Ondřej Žatečka and the main animator was Marek Berger. Basically, it’s a mix of a few techniques – silhouette animation: which closely resembles shadow plays, as well as classical drawing animation and realistic elements.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

I’d have to say Kevin Spacey.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

The time of Rudolf II in Prague.

For more information and to order Old Prague Legends, check out the website and stay updated on Facebook.

 

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Photos: Mirek Vesely

 

Nick from Nottingham on crafts and cats

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By Ryan Keating-Lambert

So this was kind of cheating, because Nick does NOT live in Prague. But how many time do you get the chance to interview an expat living in the isolated Czech countryside?? He also lives with 8 cats (one of them named Mario from Milan) and a German shepherd, so I couldn’t resist having a chat with him. I’m fascinated by country life but definitely couldn’t handle the islolation myself… Nick deals with it by crafting, building and rebuilding furniture with vintage market materials from his village. I realised after looking at his handiwork around the house that he wasn’t just a handyman, but a kind of home decor “MacGyver”.

 

Where are you originally from?

Nottingham England, like Robin Hood!

What was it like growing up there?

Looking back, it was perfect. I was living in the suburbs only a bike ride away from beautiful countryside and yet we had a pretty big city on our doorstep. As a child I spent most of my weekends playing in the forests and gardens of Wollaton Hall, an Elizabethan Mansion close to our house, and later for a teenager at art school, Nottingham was a fantastic place to live.

What did you want to be as a kid?

I got into acting when I was young which is kind of strange as I was quite shy, but my real passion was drawing, designing and building…anything and everything! I think I wanted to be a roofer first, then a builder, carpenter, set and costume designer, artist… the list is endless!

What made you decide to pack your bags and leave England?

I had been studying then working in London which I loved but felt I was no longer following my dreams-is there such a thing as a ‘mid-twenties crisis? A friend of mine in Italy suggested I take a break and visit, and within a couple of months I had moved to Milan and started a new life. It was totally irresponsible and I was broke, but it was fantastic.

And what made you decide to come to the Czech Republic?

I’d spent most of my summers in the Czech countryside with my friends and family at my father’s neglected holiday house (my father also loves Czech but doesn’t have the time to visit often) This area is a dream-it’s truly beautiful and Ustek the closest town, is stunning. It was so different to what I was used to, but somehow felt familiar. When I left Italy I took my cat Mario and our junk, and decided to come here and start working on the house and garden in Czech. The first night I slept here alone, I felt like I had come home.

Tell us a bit about your home here. What do you spend your days doing?

This house is about 200 years old and has gone through many changes. Most of the original features had sadly been removed over the years and it was kind of plain. I started little by little removing modern walls, opening original doorways and fixing problems as and when they came up and things continued from there. I taught myself to plaster and build and as I didn’t have much of a budget I found creative ways of reusing materials and doing the work myself. It now feels like I’ve made some progress but there is still a long way to go.

What are some of the things you’ve made in here?

In the kitchen I built the fireplace (pictures below) and put in an old English stove. Around the fireplace I painted 17th century tile designs by hand (using ‘real’ tiles would have cost soooo much) I copied the designs from images on google and painted them straight onto the plaster.

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I also built the staircase paneling from old wardrobes and made the sofa from old wood, some curtains and some flea market feet. The sofa was kind of a bet with a friend who said I wouldn’t be able to make one.

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I also design and make bags and small accessories, from surplus or vintage materials, under the name ‘From No 19‘which is the house number here. It started off as a necessity as I didn’t have any money, now I think it’s something I should do – I hate waste!!!

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Very nice, and do you ever miss the big city life?

I thought I would, and sometimes I do miss the anonymity and diversity, but overall I’m pretty happy being one of the village people😉

You’ve got some pets! Tell us about them..

After spending his life in a flat in Milan, my cat Mario slotted himself into Czech country living with remarkable ease. When a farmer offered me a German Shepherd puppy I gladly accepted but vowed he would never enter the house…he now spends his nights on the sofa with Mario and the 7 other cats I’ve given a home to over the years. I know I’m falling into the stereotype of a mad old person, but I do enjoy the company of animals.

8 cats?! That’s a lot. How is your Czech?

Bad! However, I would have gone mad without the daily company and conversation of the friends I’ve made here in the village, an older Czech lady and a Roma boy, neither of which speak English and so I guess I have at least some level of communication. I find some people make an effort to understand my bad Czech which really helps me, and others don’t even try-that’s just the way it goes.

How would you sum up Czech Republic in a few words?

A pretty door, closed but unlocked, hides something far more interesting and beautiful.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Someone unknown.

If you could travel back in time and see anything, what would you choose to see?

I think the village and area in which I live has such an interesting history it would be fascinating to see it in the past-to know who also loved and lived in this place. On my attic ceiling there’s a painted love heart with the words ‘built with love’ in German…I’d love to see this house when it was first built. Mind you, I wouldn’t mind going back in time and revisiting all the places I’ve been! What an adventure it would be!

For more on No 19, check out the website or Facebook.

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Refugee crisis: the difference in photos

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Photo: Human Rights Watch

By Ryan Keating-Lambert

So this is a little bit late, but it’s still extremely relevant now. I was talking about the topic of refugees recently on the November 17 holiday in the Czech Republic, a day dedicated to the struggle for freedom and democracy. There is absolutely no way that you haven’t heard about this crisis and you may even feel that you’ve heard it all. But I thought you might like to see a new perspective on the situation; a perspective that can help you relate directly to this crisis.

Like countless others I have witnessed the pain and loneliness of these refugees through 100s of photos posted on news websites all over the world and when I think about these photos, two come to mind in particular.

The first being the photo that most people have seen in the Guardian or somewhere else… The one of the dead Syrian boy on a Turkish beach. This photo sparked a lot of controversy in the media and it seemed that people started to pay attention to the situation much more after that.

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Photo: Reuters

The other photo (pictured under the headline) is one that a lot of you probably haven’t seen. A photo of Syrian doctor and student Ali when he was in transit in the Budapest Keleti train station waiting to go to Germany. He looks reasonably healthy, not smiling but also doesn’t look particularly upset or angry.

What was interesting to me was that even though these photos appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum, both are capable of provoking an intense emotional response.

The death of a child, especially when it’s associated with war, is utterly heartbreaking and shows the true destruction of innocence. But at the same time, isn’t that what the media usually uses these photos for? To provoke emotion and read on and sympathise? This definitely works and does make people more aware of the situation which is certainly an advantage… However, it shouldn’t only be these photos that make a situation like this hit home.

Ali is a young doctor and student, wearing normal clothes and a baseball cap. He could be me and he could be my friends, and that is what makes it terrifying. He is not the typical poor and rugged looking refugee that the public is trained to see and feel for.

Refugees are not in rags anymore, they are in your clothes. These people ARE you. They are me. They are everyone we know. They worked and had families and were simply trying to live their lives.

You can find more information on Ali’s story through Human Rights Watch here.

Kateřina on women’s rugby in the Czech Republic

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By Ryan Keating-Lambert

Prague born Kateřina’s lust for life and appetite for experience is inspiring and addictive. She gives off a kind of infectious energy and is an essential drug for the dark winter months of Prague.. AND, she’s also the captain of a women’s rugby team. Check out the interview below to delve into her travels and the growing rugby scene in the Czech Republic. Take a moment to watch their kick-ass promo video too…

 

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

A journalist or some kind of traveling job. I spent hours on my special little pink chair pretending I was on a train or plane.

What sports did you do back then? How did you discover rugby?

I played tennis for my entire childhood, my mum is a tennis trainer. I wanted to start playing some team sports and being a teenager I also wanted to play a sport that my parents didn’t choose for me. And then I read an article about the first rugby club in Prague. It was very random when I think about it..

You recently went to Switzerland for the European trophy, tell me about that.

We went to the Swiss tournament not to win but to try our best against much better and older teams and get the experience of high level 15s rugby. But we found out that it’s actually possible for us to win after intensive preparation! We trained together just a couple of times before going to Switzerland and that was our biggest problem, especially in the technical parts of the game like in line-outs or scrums where you need to spend a lot of time and training. However, the tournament was great motivation for us and a kick off for (hopefully) a brighter future for Czech women’s 15s rugby.

How do Czechs generally respond to rugby? Is it becoming more popular?

Recently rugby is gaining popularity due to the Rugby World Cup that is broadcasted by CT. Rugby is a very attractive sport to watch and even people that don’t know the rules can watch and learn something. People are usually either curious or totally freaked out when I tell them that I actually play rugby. I usually try to postpone that info until later in a conversation, just because people never look at me the same way after they find out I’m a women’s rugby player.

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I heard you also studied in the US for some time?

Yes, I studied film production in Santa Monica College and spent two years on the west coast. I had my dream beach life, but it is good to be back in Prague🙂

Film production sounds cool, do you have a favourite movie?

Hard to say, I don’t really have a favourite, but my favourite book is ‘Tracey’s Tiger’ by William Saroyan.

What else are you currently doing in Prague? Any other hobbies or interests?

I work for an amazing crew of artists at DRAWetc. I don’t usually have time for anything else besides work and training but these things keep me pretty happy. I like skateboarding and spending time with my friends though.

How would you describe Prague in only a few words?

Friends, family and freedom.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

Either The Velvet Revolution in Prague in 1989 or the days I spent laughing with my friends.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Drew Barrymore.

Nice choice! What is your favourite word in English?

Asparagus, it feels so good when I pronounce it right. It’s hard to make people have a casual conversation about asparagus though.

What is your favourite word in Czech?

It is hard to choose just one, but one of my absolute favourites is to call someone ‘jantar’ – amber.

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Written by Ryan Keating-Lambert. Photos from Kateřina Pokorná

5 more people in Prague that you should know

By Ryan Keating-Lambert

1. Mirek

Mirek

How would you describe Prague in only a few words?

Sometimes beautiful, crowded and very historic.

Where do you like to hang out in Prague?

Anywhere near the train station.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you choose to see?

Having this chance, I would like to meet my grandpa in his twenties.

What’s your favorite word in English and in Czech?

’Pusillanimous’ in English – I like the way it is pronounced; and ’jídlo’ in Czech – as I’m always hungry and love eating.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Brad Pitt. He also has chicken legs.

2. Javier

Javier

How would you describe Prague in only a few words?

An open air museum. A world of contradictions.

Where do you like to hang out in Prague?

Due to my work, I always hang out in the historical center, you can find not so touristy places if you look for them hard enough. Other than that, you can find me in Vinohrady and sometimes in Letná.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you choose to see?

The time of Rudolph II, the Renaissance era in Prague must have been wonderful.

What’s your favorite word in English and in Czech?

Maybe ’fashionable’ in English, I like the sound of it. ’Ahoj’ is one of the few words in Czech that I find optimistic, too bad they don’t use it that often, at least with me.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Leo DiCaprio or Daniel Craig.

3. Tish

Tys

How would you describe Prague?

Prague is a haggard old woman who’s got her claws in your heart. Prague is magic.

Where do you like to hang out in Prague?

Prague 1,2,3,7,10. Everywhere.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

I would like to go back around 80 years and see Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong play in a Harlem blues joint.

What is your favourite word in English and in Czech?

My favorite Czech word is ’sbohem’ (godspeed). It is so wonderfully finite and loving and tragic. My favorite word in English is ’grace’.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Russell Peters.

4. Jan

Jan Kopecky

How would you describe Prague?

A magnificent historical city where even low-income students can live a rich life.

Where do you usually hang out in Prague?

Náplavka, Riegrovy sady and Havlíčkovy sady.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

Ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome to see some of the great wonders being created.

What is your favourite word in English and in Czech?

’Air’ because it brings about the lightness. ’Život’ (life) because the sound of it is in soothing harmony with the meaning.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Michael Fassbender, Bradley Cooper or Alexander Skarsgård.

5. Martina

Martina

How would you describe Prague in a few words?

Still running, endlessly stunning.

Where do you usually hang out in Prague?

Well, when I’m with my friends I don’t care that much where we hang out. Company is more important for me. But usually I prefer underground pubs or bars, restaurants or café anywhere in Prague 3 – Žižkov.

If you could travel back in time and see anything, what would you see?

I wish I could go back to the 60s and see Elvis Presley in concert!

What’s your favourite word in English and in Czech?

In English, ’fluffy’ – sounds so funny. In Czech, ’hovnožrout’ which means ’shit-glutton’ – so funny.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

I can’t decide between Renée Zellweger (before that awful plastic surgery) and Tom Hanks – they both fit perfectly to my role and actually sometimes I’m on ’The Edge of Reason’ like Bridget Jones and sometimes I feel like I’m a ’Cast away’.

Written by Ryan Keating-Lambert.