When the Czech Wilderness Calls
A House Project near Karlovy Vary
Have you ever dreamed of living in a real place far from civilisation? Then
listen to this story of six individuals who wanted to establish an open house
in the wilderness near Karlovy Vary. Imagine a bumpy road turning into a path,
passing three-house-villages with children playing on it and chickens frightened
of your vehicle. After seven hills and a valley your car soon becomes useless.
That’s where the grounds of the deserted village Skoky/Mariastock begin, a mystical
place. Be warned: no electricity, no running water, no TV.
On the foot of a little hill lies a windowless house beside the copper green
tower of St. Marie church, silently greeting your arrival.
It is this former country-inn which the students Sandra, Matthias, Jan, Eva
and Michi — from two Czech and German youth-organisations — and the young
St. Ursuline’s Sister Andrea want to transform into an open home, inspired by
the example of the Christian Thesee-community in France. Initiator Sister Andrea
explains their motivations: "We all had this idea at the same time during a
workcamp at Skoky. It is difficult to explain rationally why we feel so connected
to this place. For me, something spiritual lies in the air."
Actually, the magic atmosphere of the hidden village in the hills seems to have
always encouraged people to do things they usually would not do. For example,
in the 17th century Skoky farmers attempted to build their first common church,
but their efforts failed since they were too poor. Then, one of them sold his
horse and pilgrims soon began to arrive.
The lone standing house painted in faded blue and green colours has its own
special story too, as old people from the region like to tell. After the expulsion
of the German inhabitants of Skoky in 1946, the newly settled people from Moravia,
Slovakia and Hungary had to leave due to the building of the nearby reservoir.
When bulldozers came to demolish the whole village, only the aged Pani Polomska
resisted. Refusing to leave her beloved house next to the church, Pani Polomska
closed the door and did not leave her village until her death in the Eighties.
Thereafter, trees, birds and flowers reconquered the place. The loneliness of
Skoky was then disturbed only twice a year, as pilgrims found their way there
through the herds of cows.
Sister Andrea and the Czech-German students fell in love with the village in
1996 when, during an intercultural workcamp, they reclaimed the overgrown cemetery
on the back of the hill and cleared out the church cellar. Ever since, the group
has been trying to realize their common dream of an open home, which Sister
Andrea explains: "Two main pillars of our work will be our intercultural seminars,
and the organisation of social work projects in the region, where many kids
are unemployed and just hang around".
Buying the house with its old stable — the only one left in Skoky — seemed
to become possible when the political and religious community of the nearby
city Zludice agreed to become a supporting institution for the project. But
then the first difficulties arose during the negotiations with the property’s
owners. The Czech construction enterprise Nevdek collapsed and was bought by
a big company from Vienna, who delayed making the sale. "The Austrians seemed
to be pursuing a strategy of increasing the price, again and again, and so we
had to give up", says Sister Andrea, who wrote the manifesto for the house project.
So, the group of initiators chose another property up on the hill as an alternative.
Eventually, if the group succeeds in buying this site, the next step will be
to find permanent volunteers for Skoky. As Sister Andrea puts it: "We all are
prisoners of circumstances. I qualified as a teacher in the Convent School in
Wuerzburg, and the other five study in Prague or elsewhere." Another difficulty
for the Skoky-group consists in transmitting the emotional magic of the lost
village to their pragmatic counterparts in society. Practically, this means:
"How do we advertise our project to a supporter like the Czech-German Funds
for Future when there are so many deserted villages in the region?"
As you must know from your own life, virtual visitor of Skoky, having a dream
and realising it are two very different things. The house project in Skoky has
not actually failed, but it remains an open project. Have you ever dreamed of
doing your own thing in the wilderness?