When you walk with them in the park and talk, they look like a perfectly matched couple. They complement each other, have similar interests and adore spending free time with their two children. Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček and his wife Iva gave us an insight into their privacy in an interview for LP-Life.com and also recalled how they started dating in university. Did you know that they got married spontaneously shortly before they went abroad for Erasmus, or that the minister likes to "dig around" in flowerbeds? You didn't, right? So continue reading…
Tomáš: I wouldn't say that I'm a busy beaver, I also like to rest or read a book. But she's right, I can't ever be still and not throw myself into anything. I hate inaction.
Tomáš: Something is constantly happening in politics, so planning is not entirely possible and it is necessary to respond to current events. I have to be prepared to respond 24 hours a day, all week long, because in today's world, information is very fast and an equally quick response to any event in the world is expected. But I am trying to make more effective use of the time I spend consulting at the ministry and with colleagues in the Social Democracy party.
Can it be said that working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is an ungrateful job? You're kinda just responding to the whole world…
Tomáš: I don't think it's an ungrateful job, all fellow ministers must be ready to respond to news, and we're all on the phone all the time.
Iva, what is it like from the wife 's point of view? It's eight o'clock in the evening, your husband is basically working even during this interview, while having started early in the morning…
Iva: There are two modes in our lives. When the children are at home, I often look to Tomáš as this salvation of sorts. And when the kids aren't home, it's cool, because I can come to him and be with him, which is very nice. I enjoy seeing Tomáš at work.
How often does Tomáš get bugged by his phone when, for example, you have a quiet romantic dinner or you are on a trip?
Iva: Often, but we're used to it. I prefer it when Tomáš always tells me in advance "I'll have something at 12", and I can adapt to it and alter our program a bit. Then he always runs off to a quiet place, I "redirect" the children, and when he finishes, he returns. I admire him for being able to switch back and forth very quickly.
Tomáš: We usually have a quiet morning. When we are at the cottage, breakfast lasts an hour. We like to go on trips, sometimes we go out biking or we go to the water in the summer. Or take a break in the garden and "dig around" in the flower beds.
Iva: It is perfect that we have instituted a siesta and the children respect it. Thanks to that, we have time to read something after lunch, which we both quite like. With the birth of children, this hobby got sidelined a lot. (laughs)
Tomáš: Various books. I read literature on foreign policy, now I have read a book on artificial intelligence. And I also like to read history books, fantasy and sci-fi.
Iva: I am a member of KDU-ČSL, but I am not active, I am more of a hybernating member. I don't deal with politics, I came from the non-profit sector and the business sector, where I worked a lot with women from top management. But sometimes I accompany Tomáš to ČSSD events, we go together during the campaign and since he's the foreign minister, I accompany him to various receptions or social events.
Iva: Before the coronavirus crisis, it was really intense, I felt that we were on the edge of our "production" rope - getting ready, getting the children sorted out and other things. I hope that in the fall I will be able to cover it better so that I don't have to do everything and be everywhere.
Tomáš: This is always the biggest challenge - to say that you can't go somewhere. It is not in the human capacity to go to all the conferences or activities of the diplomatic corps that I would like to go to with Iva. It does happen that we have two or three obligations in one evening.
Iva: It is important to decide where to be and where not to be. To have time for the children. I don't want them to get stressed out when they want to tell me something, and I don't give them enough attention. I try to feel when there is a lot so that I can withdraw and be more of a homemaker.
What does it look like when you invite a diplomat "to your office" and want to scold them for something? It's happened a few times lately…
Tomáš: I could use a literary description of diplomacy - the art of sending someone to hell, and the person in question thanking you for that. (laughs) But of course, when we deal with serious matters in relations between the Czech Republic and another country, it is always proper. As diplomats, we must defend the interests of our country, and at the same time we know that our diplomatic counterpart is doing the same. And just because we're pushing hard doesn't mean we're being undiplomatic.
Iva: We met at the Faculty of Social Sciences. We both studied international relations and got hitched using deceit. Tomáš claimed that he had a class reunion, and asked if I didn't want to go there too. And I told him I also had a class reunion. But in reality there was no class reunion on either side and we ended up together at a concert at the Acropolis…
Iva: I remember that Tomáš took the seminar Introduction to Aristotelian Philosophy because of me. (laughs) I took it because it was an easy two credits, and Tomáš took it because of his interest in…
Tomáš: We got married relatively early because we wanted to go to Erasmus together. It was very spontaneous, we wanted to go abroad for a year and it occurred to us that we could go as a couple. I was 23 and you were 21…
Iva: It was pretty spontaneous. The original plan was to get married after Erasmus, but then we thought it didn't matter. So we had about eight weeks to prepare for the wedding.
Tomáš: I agree. When you run out of energy, the other will support you. These are the times when partnership is important. And children are the glue of it all.
Tomas: Sometimes. But sometimes that's why our quarrels arise, because in the evening I don't like to talk about what I did at work and what happened to me. But Ivka wants to talk about work. We usually end up with a similar answer that our children now have when we ask them how it was at school. "Good." And at work it was also "good."
Iva: And then I say, "Put more effort into it." (Laughs) I can tell that he doesn't want to talk, and the biggest gift is that I don't ask him. I just need reassurance that Černín did not burn down. (seat of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, editor's note)
Iva: See, that's exactly his kind of answer. And then he goes off to me about how annoying Navalnyj was, whether to make boxes for him at work. But then I thought it was too much work and we'd better risk it. (Laughs)
Tomáš: I have never felt in danger, there is little that is threatening us in the Czech Republic. You are more likely to meet pickpockets on the tram. I'm more scared when it rains and I ride my bike downhill fast. I don't feel completely stable on a wet road. (smile)
When we talked a year ago, you said that you had gained eight kilos since you'd entered politics. And you wanted to lose those...
Tomáš: I admit that it hasn't improved much. And during the coronavirus crisis, it went the opposite way, I gained a few kilos. Fortunately, I managed lose some of it in the summer, it's also because I do a lot of cycling. But I still have that goal.
Tomáš: Definitely. You can probably imagine what it's like to ride a bike uphill when you weigh a little over a hundred kilos… If I weighed ten kilos less, it would be better. (Laughs)
Iva: I was very pleased to meet Mrs. Susan Pompeo (wife of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who visited the Czech Republic in August, editor's note). I liked her inner peace and was a great encouragement to me. You could see how much she and her husband were in love, and I thought that if two people stick together, they can handle an extremely demanding job.
Iva: An alley! We have a charity project that we are really looking forward to. In October we will plant an alley, each diplomat will plant one tree. It will be on a 300-year-old road that has disappeared, but thanks to the two villages it falls under, it has been restored. If all goes well, 68 pears should be planted, each planted by a diplomat with his expat community. It's Tomáš's idea. He wanted to plant an alley, and now it's finally coming to fruition, thanks to the tremendous help of the Partnership Foundation, which helps us with the know-how and applications.
Tomáš: On the bike. A lot of things occur to me while cycling because I have time to think. Alleys are a part of the Czech landscape and it is a pity that they disappeared and were not restored around a number of roads. So we want to plant an alley - as a symbolic expression of tolerance and international understanding. There are similar initiatives in other parts of our country, so it's not an original idea, but I think it's nice.
Iva: In addition, our media coverage will be focused on the need to maintain such an alley. There is a lot of talk about "sticking" a tree into the ground, but no one is solving the need of putting stools there so that birds of prey can sit on them, or that trees that have withered must be replaced.
Tomáš: It's not enough to just come together, but it's important to maintain it. And that is the essence of diplomacy. Sometimes it may seem like a job without results, but in reality maintaining good relations between the two countries requires a lot of effort.
Iva: He is not into DIY at all and the architects say that he is mainly an investor. And when he does do DIY, it's in the style of: "I know I have to do it, you told me last year!"
Tomáš: No, I have to defend myself… But it is true that my grandfather and father are quite critical, because I did not get any manual skills from them. (smile)