Oh, my lovely home that I hold so dear…

… here I am, here I stand before thee! And you before me. ‘Twas long, too long a separation scattered with saddened shards of recollections of picturesque details of you, my native town, details making you so very cosy.

Well, perhaps I shouldn’t make it sound as though the three months between the second (and last) of my pre-summer-holiday visits to home and my eventual arrival at home for the duration of the summer holiday had been unbea-rable to survive through. They certainly weren’t boring. Okay, maybe just a little bit, here and then, but now that I’m looking back it seems to me that the whole of the first year at the university passed unreasonably quick. One shouldn’t be so surprised, I suppose; it sounds like an awfully long time when you say “year”, May seems far away when you’re standing at the beginning of September. But then, before one even manages to notice the passing time, it’s Christmas – and with them comes the end of semester one. Home for the holiday for the first time in more than three months. Almost summerly warm May doesn’t seem to be any closer when you shiver with cold in January. But this twisted perception of time is deceiving more than anything. Days are slowly getting longer, nights shorter, May exams closer…

I don’t mean to dwell upon some contemplative evaluation of the past year; it is the first academic year that already came to an end, but it hasn’t been a full calendar year since September 2016 just yet (although it surely will have been in no time). I don’t even have all of my exam results yet, so I’ll have to undergo a full self-assessment of my academic merit some other time when I have all the necessary data for one thing, and a fairly calm mind for another. It’s been almost a month since I arrived from Scotland, but what I still haven’t ma-naged to do is to get rid of the feeling that I’m here merely for another short visit. For a month, I have felt like a tourist who finally got to go to a place where he had wanted to go for a very long time. That may be the subject matter about which I want to talk – about this trifling happiness springing from the simple fact that I’m home. Jsem doma.

Home, domov, is – I’m mentioning this just by the way – a most interesting word, a word of many meanings. There is a fine difference between domov, that is home, and domovina, vlast, that is homeland or native country, but as a synecdoche, domov can very much mean the whole of domovina as well. German allows its speakers to use a similar range of affecti-onate designation for the native German lands. Heim, Heimat, one even gets to choose between Vaterland and Mutterland, that is fatherland and motherland, something that, strangely enough, has a direct equivalent in the English language, but in Czech, you could only say otčina, that is fatherland, but matčina would be a made-up word and thus a violati-on of the Czech language.

I was overwhelmed with happiness the moment I landed in Prague – which may not be my home town, but it did feel like home nevertheless. Praga mater urbium had me remember how much I had missed her, and that she is as much home for me as North Bohemia. The actuality that I could hear Czech being spoken everywhere around me alone truly made me feel home. Being able to pronounce words without the need to suppress my (be it slight) Slavonic accent that I show to have, from time to time, when speaking English and not pay-ing enough attention to proper enunciation, gave me an amazing feeling of freedom that I had forgotten what it was like to feel… And when I arrived home, that is in my native town, that is in Děčín, I was overwhelmed yet again, but this time with a feeling of contentment – not with extolled happiness, immoderate transitory joy, no; just seemingly endless con-tentment and mind at peace, at least momentarily, drawing its balance from the ruddy silence of a warm evening. Home is, after all, more of a feeling that a place.

 

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