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On the coronavirus, trips and the relationship with the president

Jiří Ovčáček about the coronavirus and the relationship with the president: Even on the darkest day, we can find light

David Budai
16.Dec 2020
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5 minutes to read

Jiří Ovčáček is known to be on first-name terms with the president, they're friends and they debate regularly together. And now it's been exactly seven years since he started working for him as his spokesperson. How has their relationship changed, how does he experience the current coronavirus period and what does he miss the most? He revealed this and more in an interview for

Mr. Ovčáček, how are you making it through the current difficult period?

I try to be, despite the signs of the times, in a good mindset. The worst is when one falls into deep sorrow and gives up hope. We are experiencing, in my opinion, the end of an era, which is associated with growing contradictions at home and abroad. Looking at what is happening around us, when more new conflicts are emerging, a dangerous disease is spreading, the roots of Christian-Jewish civilization are being attacked, there is a temptation to look to the future with absolute resignation.

But that aforementioned hope, that reaches beyond us, tells us to move on with this life. Let us worry about our loved ones, but let us not succumb to fear. Even on the darkest day we can find light. We just have to look for it using our hearts, not the web browser.

By all accounts you haven't had the covid-19 yet. How do you protect yourself and are you afraid of the disease?

I follow the recommended measures, not only for myself, but also for others. A mask is an expression of respect for one's neighbor, it is not an instrument of non-freedom, as some people try to claim. When we have a cold, we also don't blow our nose into our hand, but into a handkerchief. And when there is a pandemic, we wear a mask. I have a respect for this illness and the concern is for my loved ones.

What makes you happy during these times and how do you chase away the gloom?

For me, the pandemic period is associated with long walks. At least twice a week walking ten kilometers in nature. And what beautiful places can be discovered in Prague! But most importantly, the period of quarantines and emergency states mainly offers the opportunity to calm down. To know the beauty of silence, which is immeasurable. So far, we have lived in the great noise of all sorts of modern devices, and it is the present that allows us to stop.

What do you miss the most at the moment?

At the time of the tightest restrictions, I missed the opportunity to travel around the country to my favorite places. Now that the DOG is already at level three (ed. note: At the time we did the interview, the DOG was at level 3), it is possible to secure accommodation while adhering to epidemiological measures and set off outside Prague for a few days. In my case, to even more silent places than the coronavirus-muted metropolis offers. I highly recommend silence to everyone!

Describe the current atmosphere at the Castle. What is it like when tourists are missing, is it deserted and empty? I assume that even the castle soldiers are not on patrol now. How do you feel when you go to work every day?

The soldiers hold patrols, they perform their duties. But you are right, the Castle is indeed unusually quiet and empty. Early in the morning you can observe and hear the kestrel, which has a nest on the main tower of the Cathedral. A special atmosphere in which you can feel the breath of the past.

In the morning, on the way to the office, I was grateful to be able to go to the Cathedral, empty and glorious, to worship the national saints. However, the bustle in the offices themselves remained, and during the week we still have a number of official events of the President, even at this time. But I look forward to the time when the Castle opens again.

Pronájem bytu Praha 1 - Nové Město - 112m
Pronájem bytu Praha 1 - Nové Město - 112m, Praha 1

As a citizen, how do you view the steps and measures of the government in recent weeks and months?

The government is in an unusually difficult situation. It must protect human lives, the most valuable thing now, while addressing the economic situation. We should all keep our fingers crossed for the government. However, the situation is somewhat different, with the opposition constantly shelling the government. When the government tightens the measures, the opposition calls for loosening, when the government loosens, they cry for tightening.

I find this a sad image of political parties that call themselves democratic. When water flows into the ship, everyone should go to the pumps. There will be time for billing when the pandemic subsides.

The government is often criticized for not having a plan. But this is not the socialist central planning, this is a virus pandemic. And the virus does not respect human plans. I consider it decent behavior to help the government. And whether people find the government's actions beneficial will ultimately be decided by the free elections.

In older interviews, you mentioned that you have a friendship with the President, you are on first-name terms and you like to discuss things often. But is there anything that annoys you about him and you are not afraid to reproach him about it?

The friendship with the President is based on dialogue. So in that sense, we don't reproach each other, but we openly express our opinions. I can't think of anything that upsets me about the President. I try to take every person as they are. By the way, you can only change something if you respect the other party and don't force on them your own views of the world.

It's been exactly 7 years since you became the spokesperson of the President. How has your relationship changed during that time?

Seven years, it's like the war during the Maria Theresa's reign, it sounds that way to me. But it's amazing that my seven years were not a war, but a wonderfully free period associated with an extremely interesting profession.

By the way, I am very grateful that I get to work in a free environment where there is no ideology or a plastic and hypocritical corporate culture. The Castle combines the traditions of this country with the personality of the head of state. It's very unique. Over the years, our relationship with the President has strengthened even more in our mutual trust.

Were you afraid when the President injured his hand in a fall?

Of course, I was worried about the president. Fortunately, everything went smoothly and his hand is gradually healing. It's interesting, and it is historically known, that such situations reveal what has previously been hidden. The president has to wear a brace temporarily, he needs support when walking. And it evokes in some people, who appeared like the standards of morality, dark rage, a rain of insults and evil words. What can I say? As the President says, you don't need legs to do politics, you need brain.

Byt k pronájmu Praha 1 - Nové Město - 66m
Byt k pronájmu Praha 1 - Nové Město - 66m, Praha 1

You are known for your travel around the Czech Republic by train, or

hiking. Even now, you are still posting photos on Instagram…

Yes, nothing beats a good nature trip. Autumn is also beautiful with its scent, which indicates that a new life has already been written in the departure of the old, which will appear in spring. By the way, notice that late autumn reveals unexpected views into the distance in the landscape. In spring, all will be covered with fresh green leaves again.

Do people stop you on the street? And if so, what do they want to talk about?

Sometimes it happens. They express their support for the President, they want to explain some opinions or communicate theirs, rarely does anyone complain. I really like talking to people.

What books have you read recently? Or did you watch an interesting movie or series?

For instance, I read a novel called Viktor by Knut Hamsun, a Norwegian novelist with a very complex life story, and of course novels by my beloved Agatha Christie couldn't be missing. And I love to draw inspiration for life as well, every day I read at least a passage, a clear source of The Word from the Book of Books - the Bible.

Regarding movies, I don't want to be monotonous, but I'll never miss the Poirot movies. I recommend Murder in the Orient Express, the end of the film has a spiritual depth. So it's not just a spectacle for relaxation.

Thank you very much for the interview.

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