Stories| Dominika Kourilova

Student Dominika Kourilova: Bullied at school, taking care of four brothers at home. Now, she graduates from a prestigious school and lands a job of dreams.

“It is difficult to persevere when people bring you to your knees all the time. But go and meet good fortune halfway, you are not alone for this,” advises a successful young girl, Dominika Kouřilová.
Dominika Kouřilová spent her childhood in a little village in Vysočina. Her mother was progressively “presenting her with” little brothers, Kristián, Daniel, Matěj, and František, with the hopes of giving her a sister. However, Mom always had to go back to work soon after delivery, since the family was short on money.

“I was eleven and left at home alone with a baby (two months) and a toddler (two years). Mom left milk, diapers, and an instruction manual at home for me,” Dominika narrated to an audience of 1,600 in Forum Karlín at a TEDxPrague international conference. Instead of having a conventional childhood, she was in for feeding, diaper changing, and the nerve-wracking task of pacifying her crying brothers.

Unfortunately, these were not her only difficulties. She suffered a great deal not only at home but also at school—because of her darker skin and the surname Kouřilová. “Ten-year-olds can be strikingly cruel. I was accompanied by all sorts of hints, insults, and bullying. Not only at school but also in the village square when I went, say, shopping. My classmates and their jeers were there again.”

This hell on earth caused her mental anguish, heavy depression, an inferiority complex, and difficulties at school. Dominika started to flunk in the elementary school. “Then my teachers told me that I would never achieve anything. Not exactly encouraging.”

She found support in her grandma and grandpa, the only people who believed that she was not dumb and could make it in the world. The turnaround came when she was thirteen. Her grandparents learned of the Open Gate Grammar School and drove her to Babice near Prague for the admissions tests. Despite all the naysayers, the schoolgirl from the small village of Luka nad Jihlavou passed the challenging tests, and thanks to grants from the Kellner Family Foundation, started to attend the prestigious grammar school.
She has learned fluent English and Spanish, fought for a Nobel Peace Prize for Sir Nicholas Winton, taught English in a preschool as a volunteer, and visited a home for the elderly to help them. She traveled and videoed in Africa, met with the Countess of Wessex, made her way to a veterinary medicine school then left it, and enrolled at the University of New York in Prague as a psychology major. She recently landed a job at one of the most sought-after ad agencies in Prague.

“I have not established world peace, and the earth has not stopped rotating, but I have achieved something that everyone told me was not feasible. While attending the grammar school I would go back home for the weekends and again see the faces that had been telling me this. I went shopping again. Those schoolmates were there on the square again, and I met the teacher in the shop. But by then, they no longer could hurt me. They stared at me as if I had achieved something unfeasible. They are not aware that here, everybody has this opportunity to learn, to travel, to find a good job,” she narrates with satisfaction resounding in her voice.

The intellectual audience at the conference seemed to be entranced by her story more so than by the successful scientists and thinkers. Indeed, Dominika Kouřilová’s message did not sprout from books but from her difficult experiences in life. Smiling, she says that two years ago her mom finally delivered the promised little sister, Eliška, following the five brothers. Anything can therefore happen in this world now.
“Opportunities and people who will help you are everywhere around you. It is difficult to persevere when people bring you to your knees all the time. But go and meet good fortune halfway, seek good fortune, you are not alone in this. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t achieve,” concludes Dominika.

Author | Zuzana Hronová
Source | https://magazin.aktualne.cz/dominika-kourilova-tedxprague/r~7f967d6eceb411e79704ac1f6b220ee8/

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