Happy Petrov Day!

by Martin Sustrik 250bpm2mo27th Sep 20191 min read2 comments

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I don't care much about feast days or memorial days. Assumption of Mary? Meh. Slovak Constitution Day? Shrug. Labour Day? Real socialism had sucked all the joy out of that one.

The only one that I do observe is Petrov Day. Not that I do anything special. I don't even take a day off from work. I just take few minutes to contemplate.

But now I am thinking that maybe, on this festive occasion, I should do a little bit more, maybe something that's public, something that has at least a slight feeling of a ceremony.

And given that while browsing the newspapers today I haven't found a single mention of the event, no op-eds, no commemorative articles, no historical analysis, I decided to write a witness report of my own, no matter how petty and unimportant it may be.

On September 26th, 1983 I was ten years old. I was attending 4th grade of the Czech school by Czechoslovak embassy in London. The authorities didn't want socialist kids to mingle with capitalist kids, so we weren't allowed to attend local schools. (There were sporadic, unsuccessfull, attempts to mix the kids from different socialist countries though.) The school resided in a family house in Hampstead and there were approximately forty kids attending. I don't remember that particular day, but given that it was in autumn and that it was in London, I assume it was raining. It was Monday. We used to live close to the school, several Czechoslovak families close to each other and so, same as every morning, one of the mothers walked us to the school. Kids that lived further away were driven in by a minibus. There were four grades in the school, two teachers and two classrooms. Kindergarten was in a separate room near the entrance. Me and my friend, we once did a puppet show for the kindergarteners. We had only one puppet (a chicken) and so I have no idea what the other one of us was doing. The memories have faded in the meantime. There was a narrow room with no windows in the basement that served as a library. My favourite book was about cars: A hand-illustrated compendium of models from the very beginning of automobilism up to the seventies. One of the cars was called Zaporozhets which was a bit puzzling and mysterious because it sounded like it should have horns. The room was also used for more nefarious purposes, when the boys were all too interested in what's under girls' skirts and the girls were not unwilling to give them a peek. In the afternoon, back at home, we used to play with Lego and my new chemistry set. Mostly mixing all chemicals together and obtaining a boring greyish liquid. We even had an experimental vegetable garden where we successfully grew carrots 2 cm in length. Me and my sister, we used to sleep in a bunk bed. When she got angry she used to hit me with a book called "Fish and Fishing". I was older and had longer hands though, so I was able to keep her at a safe distance.

And yes, we did our homework because we thought the next day was coming. We had no idea that we were almost burned alive that day.

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