In this week's edition of Mailbox we answer questions on: coal mining and the use of coal in Karvina, the adoption of Roma children, and Prague during the Ice Hockey World Championships. Listeners quoted: James Holmes, Mary Fidler, Patrick Canca, Ashik Eqbal Tokon.
We start with a question from James Holmes who listens to us on short-wave in North America and often visits our website. He writes:
"You reported in your news that seven miners, five men from Poland and two from the Czech Republic were killed in an accident at a mine in a region called Karvina. I thought you only have Czech news; is Karvina not in Poland? Did you choose to report on the accident because two of the victims were Czech? I have always been very much against coal mining in today's day and age. It is hard for me to understand how residents of a coal mining town can still choose to use coal for energy when they are witnessing all the negative aspects of it!"
The problem with the Karvina region is that unemployment is extremely high and many depend on the coal mines to be able to make a living. Latest figures show that there are 80 job seekers for every vacancy. The simple reason why people still use coal for energy is because it is cheap and people cannot afford to rebuild their homes to use more environment friendly heating. But in the town of Karvina, the town council has set up an Environment Fund and offers all residents of the town who decide to heat their houses and flats in a more ecological way, financial help.
The Karvina town council hopes to reduce air pollution with this project. The amount of money released from the Environment Fund always depends on expenses but never exceeds 12,700 Czech crowns or some 460 US dollars. However, those who choose to use a more ecological heating system only get the financial support if they agree to permanently shut down the old one using solid fuel and detach it from the chimney and brick up or wall up the opening.
And to answer your first question, Karvina is in the Czech Republic but because it is so close to the Polish border, many Poles work in the coal mines. It was only a part of Poland from 1938-1939.
Mary Fidler lives in California, USA, but has Czech roots and listens to both the Czech and English language services of Radio Prague to keep up with Czech current affairs. She writes:
A large number of our listeners are in Africa and Asia and in places where it is still difficult to access the Internet. So, almost half the mail we get was sent by regular post. However, not many letters include questions and when they do, they are not on topics that suit the Mailbox programme.
With regards to adoption, it is true that most Czech couples who want to adopt a child ask for it to be young, healthy and "white" - the kind of child that they would expect to be born to them. According to the latest statistics, every tenth couple cannot have children and for most of them, the only solution is to adopt. Hundreds of children around the country are waiting for new parents. However, many of them do not find a new home because they have a disability or come from a different, mostly Roma, ethnic background.
Most children with disabilities or from the Roma minority end up in the care of foster parents - couples who most of the time already have children but have room in their hearts to care for more. Unfortunately, many foster homes with Roma children here in the Czech Republic have reported that they have to take abuse from xenophobic and sometimes even racist behaviour around them, so they think twice before opting to take in a child from another ethnicity. The good news is that the majority of couples from other countries who come to the Czech Republic to adopt a child, do not mind adopting one of a different ethnic background.
Patrick Canca sent us an e-mail from West Africa and asked:
Well, unfortunately you do not specify what country you are from, so I can't compare the prices here to where you live. Some countries in West Africa are actually much more expensive than the Czech Republic. Most tourists say that Czech food is relatively cheap. As far as the hotels are concerned, it always depends on whether you want to stay in the city centre or do not mind commuting for half an hour to get to the tourist attractions. But since you're planning to come during the Ice Hockey World Championships, you should expect prices to be higher than usual. They are expecting up to 60,000 ice hockey fans and many hotels, beside the fact that most are already full, have said they will raise prices during the championships.
Some restaurants will also be more expensive because they are buying televisions and stocking up. So, in general Prague is not a very expensive place to visit except for the days in which the Ice Hockey Championships will be held.
And we've come to our monthly listeners' competition. Mr Ashik Eqbal Tokon from Bangladesh sent us a quick e-mail, which he asked us to read on the Mailbox programme. He wrote: "with this mail I would like to congratulate my beloved friend Mr Swopan Chakroborty, the DX Prince of Kolkata, for winning the February quiz." And there were at least six other listeners from both India and Bangladesh who were happy to hear that Mr Chakroborty had won.
But moving on to this month's question: "How many anniversaries will the Year of Czech Music be celebrating in the month of March? Nine, eleven, or thirteen?"
So far, all answers except for one, are correct!
Those of you who plan to enter the competition should send the answers to the Radio Prague English Section, 120 99 Prague 2, the Czech Republic or by e-mail to email@example.com They should get to us by March 31.