1/ Who are you? Where are you from?
My name is Ingrid Hudabiunigg. I am a retired German university professor, permanently living in Berlin. Since 2013 I have had the position of a „garant“ for the department „nemecký jazyk pro odbornou praxi“ at the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy here in Pardubice.
2/ How long have you been in the Czech Republic and at the University of Pardubice?
I commute from Berlin to Pardubice and usually stay here for 5 weeks during each semester.
3/ How is the communication at the University of Pardubice with your colleagues - are they supportive? I was told that they speak German with you, how do you feel about it?
Communication with my colleagues is very good. Usually it is in German but with some people here it is in English or in my basic Czech. On the whole people here are very supportive and friendly.
4/ How are the Czech students compared to other students you have taught?
I cannot see great differences between Czech students and all the other students I have been teaching. Having been invited to so many universities abroad, I have been lecturing all around the globe, including China, Russia, Iran, Jordan, Israel, Bolivia, Colombia and the United States and I have had students from more than fifty countries. Nowadays we are all in the middle of the digital revolution and globalisation. These developments are stronger than regional features.
5 /I was told that besides teaching German and Literature, you also teach History. Could you tell us more about the German-Czech relationship? (Before the Second World War, after and now.)
Yes, I also teach history here. The German-Czech relationship is a long story – sometimes conflict-ridden and sometimes peaceful. There has always been a lot of intermarriage and bilingualism of some sort. For some centuries Bohemia and Moravia were part of Habsburg Central Europe, which was a multilingual and multicultural society. This society, which certainly had its deficiencies, came to an abrupt end at the end of WW1. The concept of nationalism being the basis of all the successor states was the cause of the catastrophic development of the 20th century. After the integration of the Czech Republic into the European Union there is a large amount of political, economic and personal cooperation between the neighbouring countries again. That’s also what I am working for, though of course my contribution is only very small.
6/ Is it your first professional experience abroad? Why did you decide to work in the Czech Republic, in Pardubice? Is it related to the fact that part of your family was from the Sudetes?
I decided to work here in the Czech Republic because I was invited to come and also because part of my family had lived here until the forced expulsion of the German population in 1945.
7/ Speaking of Sudetes, do you and your family have ‘hard feelings’ about what happened in the Sudetes between the German and Czech people?
I couldn’t give you a simple answer to your question about bad feelings of the expelled family members against „the Czechs“. As all the material posessions of my maternal family had been taken away, stolen and robbed „at gun point“ they had – as old people – to build up an existence again. My grandfather worked extremely hard as a country doctor in the Austrian border land to Yugoslavia until he was 84! My great uncle was a veterinary doctor in Bavaria until his death. Looking back I am very grateful to them as they managed in spite of all the hardship to give us such a protected childhood. I never came into contact with a fascist or post-fascist ideology in my childhood and youth. We didn’t miss all the things children have nowadays. As the family library had to be left in the house of my grandparents near Opava, we didn’t own books in the beginning. Being an early reader, I had only half an encyclopedia, so I was reading the tattered pages scrupulously from A to M and enjoyed it. The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic for me was some grey country behind the Iron Curtain and my wish – which I shared with most members of my age-group – was to „go west“, to America, which I finally was able to do by means of a Fulbright scholarship.
8/ How is life in Pardubice? What do you do in Pardubice that you don´t do in Germany?
Life in Pardubice on the whole is comfortable. Frequently I go to classical concerts, as there is a very good philharmonic orchestra here. The music life has a very high standard taking into account that the town is relatively small. I am lucky having a friend here in Pardubice who is a semi-professional violonist and who takes me to all these lovely concerts.
9/ Do you have a favourite place in Pardubice? My favourite places are the lovely banks of the river Labe and the beautiful parks
10/ How do you find the Czech culture: the food, the way the people are, their sense of humour?
I have difficulties answering this question. Which exclusive features should a distinct Czech culture consist of? The quirky poetics in the Jará Cimrman theatre in Praha 3 could be seen as Czech sense of humour, perhaps. But figures like Švejk you have in other European literatures as well. I understand the non-verbal communication here well, even when I am not able to follow all the words. There is a famous bonmot by the writer and ambassador (to Germany and Austria) Jiří Gruša, which corresponds to my own observations. It runs as follows: „Austrians and Czechs differ in one phenomenon: They have the same character!“.
11/ For internationals, the way that Czechs use titles is always surprising. Do you know the origin of this tradition? Do you have it in Germany?
Titles in everyday life are used not only in the Czech Republic, but also in Poland, Hungary and Austria, more so than in Western countries. It probably has to do with the courts and the class-based societies of former centuries. It is an amazing fact that societies in East Central Europe have kept some traditional features more than Western countries have, though they had decades of Communist rule with their egalitarian doctrines in between
12/ What are the main differences between Czech culture, on the one hand, and German culture, on the other hand?
Societies in Germany, Austria and Switzerland are more cosmopolitan nowadays than the Czech Republic, Poland or Hungary.
Do you know any words in the Czech language? If so, how did you learn them? Do you find there is one that is the most complicated or funniest to pronounce?
The phoneme /ř/ ( a raised alveolar non-sonorant trill) is usually seen as the most difficult sound. I once had the funny experience that I wanted to buy one kilo of cherries and arrived home with a bag of one kilo of garlic. Obviously the shop assistant had taken my pronunciation of třešně as česnek. When I went back with that bag we all laughed a lot!
How long would you like to keep teaching in Pardubice?
As long as I can do something useful.