Letter from Prague

28-02-2004

From my surname, you can tell that it is not Czech. Many of you probably know already that I am half Czech and half Ghanaian. Ghana lies in West Africa and last week, a listener from the capital Accra asked how many Africans live in the Czech Republic. I must admit I do not have a clue - to my embarrassment, I can't even say whether there are several hundred or over a thousand... and there are two reasons why: the Czech government does not monitor the number of Africans coming in and out of the country and more sadly, it has proved difficult for me to become part of the African community here in Prague.

That's because I am too "European" from their point of view. Just a quick example, I was having lunch when I noticed four men at the table next to me speaking English with an African accent. I asked them where they were from and they said from Ghana. I said "me too" and since I had not talked to anyone from Ghana for a while, I started a conversation. Less than five minutes later, one of them said "you're not Ghanaian, you're white" and that is what I've been going through for the five-and-a half years I've lived here.

To the Ghanaians I've met in Prague, I do not have the right to relate to them because I have a Czech mother, don't have an African accent, and chose to live the European way of life after having spent ten years in Ghana. To Czechs, I don't have the right to relate to them either because I have a Ghanaian father, do not speak Czech fluently, and have spent ten years in my African homeland. In fact, the only two countries that have made me feel like a foreigner are the two countries that I am from! But this month, I found out that I am not the only one who goes through this.

Numerous young Africans, especially from West Africa, were given the opportunity to study in Czechoslovakia on scholarships in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Most of them were men. They learned Czech quite fast, adopted European ways, and had Czech wives and later children. But many of these relationships didn't last, leaving the majority of children in the Czech Republic with their mothers and with very little contact with their fathers, who in most cases have left the country.

This month, I met a few of the half-Czechs, half-Africans, and after exchanging experiences, we've finally become a family we can relate to!

28-02-2004

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