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On healthcare, Czech politics and bribery, and travelling in the times of coronavirus

Fast Confession – publicist, comedian, moderator and journalist Zuzana Bubílková: It doesn’t matter who wins the election

Karolína Lišková
06.Aug 2021
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9 minutes to read

Zuzana Bubílková, known as Bubu, doesn't mess around. Literally. Her humour, sharp tongue and wit will disarm anyone. She is part of the "Anděl mezi zdravotníky" (Angel among the health workers) project, and it was at the project's medical workers retreat in Chateau Šanov that we interviewed the comedian. Therefore, the interview couldn't have been about anything else but health and our healthcare system. However, in the interview for Bubílková also revealed her opinion about the current Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and the purposive Czech politics.

Zuzana Bubílková na sedačce
Bubílková v klobouku
Bubílková v přírodě

We are in Šanov at the Angel among the Health Workers camp. What do healthcare professionals mean to you?

They mean incredibly much to me because they saved my life. I was diagnosed with a thyroid tumor in 2004. Fortunately, I had no metastases, no recurrences. I don't have any other limitations besides eating pills for it. I have to say I feel great. Much better than ever before, because as it turns out, I probably had it bad from birth – inherited from my grandmother, who had a bad thyroid as well. It's just that mine went really wrong, and no one knows why.

So I have the utmost respect for the medical profession. I really think the job is insanely hard, you have to find a relationship with each patient. Last year I had a bad joint and there was a vacancy at the hospital, so they offered to replace it. They did the surgery, and then as I lay there I got to see their work up close.

Prodej funkcionalistické vily Praha - 360m
Prodej funkcionalistické vily Praha - 360m, Praha 8

What was it like?

Unbelievable. For example, there were all these old people, already over eighty, getting their joints replaced, and after the surgery you have to lie on your back for three days. You can't lie on your side these first few days, and these old people didn't want to respect that at all. It was terrible what those nurses had to put up with them! They actually had to restrain some patients, because if you lay on your side, the joint would pop out and you'd have to go into surgery again. They had absolutely no respect for that, they would yell all night. One guy even popped the joint, so they had to re-operate, they assembled the operating teams right away, and so on, and all this stuff the nurses had to deal with. Some of the patients didn't even want to be washed. That was something terrible.

The nurses would come to me afterwards, saying: "We come to you for a breather, you always lift our spirits," and so on. So I witnessed their hard work and I must say I really admire them.

I was walking on crutches myself, trying to walk it off, but there were people that they had to drag around, they didn't want to stand up, they felt sick and just refused to fight it. But you have to stand up on the third day because otherwise your tendons and everything hardens and you won’t be walking. And that's just the orthopaedic ward, I can't imagine how it is in other wards. The nurses took turns day and night, always polite to everybody. I really bow deeply to them. I couldn't do that.

Medicine keeps moving forward very fast, people's lives are being saved even in cases that couldn't have been helped twenty years ago. Do you remember healthcare in that era?

Of course I remember, it was basically all aspirin and penicillin and not much else. I had a grandmother who had bunions, dislocated thumbs. It was so bad she had to cut holes in her shoes for it so that she could walk at all. My mother has it, too, and I inherited it, unfortunately. It's starting to break down now, getting misplaced, every man's dream, really (laughs).

Back then, this wasn't operated on at all. My other grandmother had thyroid issues and it wasn't operated on either, because there were no synthetic hormones you could take to replace it. She would have died without the thyroid, because you can't live without hormones.

Medicine is moving forward in leaps and bounds, and you are right in that oftentimes people tell me that there weren't that many old people back then. The average age was about sixty-eight, seventy at most. I remember when somebody lived to eighty, everybody wondered how that was possible. You were almost obliged to die at that age. Nowadays, being eighty years old is basically the average age, if somebody says "they died at eighty-one", we'll think they didn't live very long...

With all this progress in medicine making us live longer, it's also more challenging financially. Healthcare gets all booked up, because old people need it, of course, and they have civilization diseases that weren't treated at all before.

I remember it all very well. I lived in Holešov and then in Martin, and getting to the hospital was really a problem there, they always just prescribed you aspirin or penicillin and that was it. Especially during the former regime, and not many people know this, there were two kinds of hospitals: for the communist party members, where they actually had all kinds of medicines from abroad, and then for the regular people. I remember that I had a colleague in the editorial office whom I dated for a while afterwards. When we both had the flu, I was prescribed some aspirin or something like that, and he brought about twenty different medicines from his doctor. He was a VIP, because he worked for the Pravda newspaper and was a communist functionary. He got, and I'm really not making this up, maybe twenty different medicines, and he had exactly the same illness as me.

That's how it was, health care was dual. There were shortages of medicines, we only had what our companies produced and the bigwigs had something completely different.

You'll be 70 years old soon, but apart from the problems you mentioned, you're fit as a fiddle. You go running every day. Other people in their 70s are glad to barely walk. What’s your secret to being this fit?

Luxusní byt na prodej s terasou a výhledem
Luxusní byt na prodej s terasou a výhledem, Praha 1

I don't know, I'm sure if I started now, it won't probably go well. But I've been doing it for 30 years, I even used to ski competitively. I got bad joints from that, I did slalom and I took some nasty falls off the trail, they didn't have those safety nets and barriers back then. Those were some really scary falls, once I banged my hip horribly, knocking down some kind of fence. That's what I got for that.

But really for over thirty years, I've been basically exercising every day, going to the gym and stuff like that. I don't overdo it, don’t picture me lifting weights or getting into bodybuilding, but I do warm up. It's a habit. I can't imagine not doing it.

I'm more surprised that you feel like working out every day.

I suffer if I can't go some days, at least for that one hour. It's really become a habit. Moreover, in order to not gain weight or fluctuate, I got into the habit of cutting out sweets and fatty foods out of my diet altogether. For me, there are no crackers or cakes. I would be an ideal salesperson in a cake shop, nothing would disappear on my shift (laughs). When I was young, I loved sweets, but now I have no sweet tooth at all. You make it into a habit, and when you get the hang of it, it basically sticks with you, so it’s not a problem at all, I don't even think about it. People ask me how can I not eat schnitzels or meat, and I'll have a schnitzel occasionally, of course, I just don't eat it every week.

You said in Quick Confession that you don't care who wins the election. Are you that callous yet?

No, but when you've been doing what I do for thirty years, as I have had, since the revolution, you can see that there are no big differences actually. It's never just one party to govern anymore, a single party can’t ever win in a way to govern by itself, because in our country we don't have a majority system but a proportional system, so there's always a coalition. When a coalition is put together, that electoral program becomes something completely different from what the separate parties had. It's always a compromise, which then leaves so little difference between right or left. In fact, it's basically the same, give or take, because the economic situation and reality dictate the terms anyway. Where it differs is whether you give out more money to pensioners or teachers, or some facilitation to entrepreneurs. But if you look at it that way, in four years' time there will be another election and it will be reversed again, because someone’s always unhappy. So I don't get excited about it at all, because unless a party appears that wants to completely overturn the political system and throw it into some kind of a dictatorship, which isn't going to happen, there’s not even a reason for it to happen, it basically doesn't matter who's there.

It's exactly with the president, like you asked me before. The head of state in this country doesn't have as much power as in the USA. It's a position that in a way can make a difference, but as you can see for yourself, even though the president has completely different views from the government, nothing happens, because ultimately the government and parliament have the deciding power. I don’t mean anyone in particular, just any president. It's just a question of whether he's more east or west oriented, or both, whether he's broadminded or narrow-minded, but he doesn't have any extra influence to really change anything fundamentally here.

What do you think of Prime Minister Babiš? Do you think he has done good for our republic? He still stands by it.

It's hard to say, depending on how you look at it. I think that everything is propaganda against him, because in politics, as soon as someone exceeds the five percent, as you see now with Šlachta, he’s cornered. Whoever he might be, as soon as he starts taking someone’s votes away, everybody's going to turn on him. He has taken votes away from everybody, and the fact that people have given him their trust is a thorn in everybody's side, so everybody is attacking him.

I think it's ridiculous to address conflict of interest and the Čapí hnízdo resort. If he hadn't entered politics, nobody would care about Čapí hnízdo and whatever else he bought, dividends and all that, no one would as much as bat a lash. These are all deliberate attacks at him, and when you enter politics you have to expect to be scrutinized by political parties and the others all the way back to kindergarten. They'll hold against you that you stole someone‘s pen at school or took their shoe and stuffed it with paper.

After the revolution, there was a politician called Češka, he was very ambitious and on track for a good career. When they found out, they pulled on him that he got drunk while he was at college, opened someone else's car and fell asleep there. That tanked him. Falling asleep in someone else's car while drunk. I don't think that would fare today, but after the revolution... who could be taken down for using a fake degree, like Kalvoda did? Nobody would even care anymore, everybody has a fake degree now. It's this kind of things, and it's brought up on purpose.

Let's also say that Babiš probably has to concede to the coalition parties, that can’t be easy for him. Personally, I think that if he were running this on his own, he would run it very differently. But that is exactly what I am saying - when you are in a coalition, you can do literally nothing on your own. Of course, he thinks that all the successes are his doing, and all the failures are the other’s fault, you can’t distinguish it that way at all. Whether he was, is or wasn't good is hard to say, I really don't know. And these attacks on him, I really think they're purposive.

The fact that he has a conflict of interest...he does, but then so does everyone. So, let's say that whoever owns big assets or is a businessman should stay out of politics. Because what can you do with it? If you put it in a trust fund, they can always say it's a conflict of interest because you haven't completely given it up. Should he really sell it all? And even if he did, I'm sure they'll keep attacking that he still has some influence.

That's just how politics is. It's exactly the same with Professor Arenberger, who thought it wouldn't come up, that he was doing these things. That was something so naive. Yet I have quite an affection for Mr Arenberger, because he found my cancer, and he found it in time, it hadn't spread yet. So I'm grateful to him for saving my life in a way, but the things he did in politics...

I don't get these people who are experts, they mean something. I don't understand Babiš either, I've even told him to his face why he entered politics. He started to tell me some stories there, how there was bribery and they asked for more than he could tolerate and such, but of course he has no evidence for that, so it doesn't count. I don't know if it’s that these people already have everything, so they want also power on top of that. I don't understand Professor Arenberger taking on this non-starter mission for six months, knowing all the while he has conflicts of interest and thinking maybe the press won't find out.

Last time you said you wanted to go to the USA really badly, your son was going to have a baby. Are you going?

I'm not. They're not vaccinated, because it's quite a risk there, a lot of women have miscarried after vaccination. So his wife didn't get vaccinated because of that, and he didn't, because he doesn't believe in it. By the way, I'm not vaccinated either. My son was like, "you know, mom, don't be mad, you might not bring the coronavirus per se, but you can bring all kinds of crap from the airports where you change planes." Which is true, I've already contracted the summer tonsillitis this way, they say it's from air conditioning. I didn't have a fever, nothing, I just couldn't swallow. It was so bad, I had to take a painkiller to swallow the penicillin. I couldn't eat for three days, I wasn't able to take the pill because it hurt so much. The doctor told me that it's common now, that ten, twelve people a week come in like that. I could have brought this in with me, and now imagine she's eight, nine months pregnant. I could infect them, so we finally agreed that no offence, but I would postpone my visit until Christmas, that is, if we won’t be in a lockdown again.

Mrs Bubílková, thank you so much for the interview.

Fast confession:

What does age mean to you?


What does politics mean to you?


Who do you think was the best president of our republic?

I don't know, but probably Václav Havel.

Who would you like to be the next president?

Someone who won't be an embarrassment.

What would you say to our health care workers?

That I thank them very much.

As a journalist, what do you think about the murder of the Slovak journalist?

I'm not surprised.

Which animal best describes you?

The dog, probably.

Do you think there's another coronavirus crisis coming?


Which politician has annoyed you lately and why?

They annoy me constantly, but wait... MP Volný for not wearing a mask, the whole House had to be disinfected, and they had to build him this expensive booth to isolate him, which amused me. Because when he came out of the booth, then what? He could just breathe normally then? I thought that was quite comical.

Who do you think is gonna win the election in the fall?

I don't care.

If you want relevant information, what do you read?

I try to read several sources and then make up my own mind.

What's your worst habit?

I don't have any bad habits, I'm brilliantly perfect, at least I think I am. No one else thinks that, but I do.

Who do you think is a good comedian these days?

Everybody but the two of us, of course. (with Jiří Krampol, editor's note) - laughs
But no, seriously, the comedy writes itself today, so anyone who deals with the present affairs.

What would you say to people in South Moravia?

That I feel terribly sorry for them. I can't imagine what they’re going through. I witnessed Hurricane Catrina while visiting my son, and it was something terrible. On the other hand, we went back there again a month later and in the middle of all that horror, which was made even worse because the dike broke, plus the prisoners escaped, new life was sprouting. It was a bit ironic that one man there, whose luxury car dealership had been washed away, started selling these inoperable wrecks. And my son brought a brand-new Dodge from there for $3,000, even though with a non-functioning engine. He was happy and so were we, so eventually, a new life sprouted out of that horror, and I wish Moravia to make it just like that.
The interviewee asks the editor:

Why do you do this?

Because I enjoy it, I enjoy talking to you!
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Rychlá zpověď - premiér České republiky Andrej Babiš:
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Rychlá zpověď - developer Marcel Soural:
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