Interview with Tomáš Heller

Luděk Jirka

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Interview with Tomáš Heller



Born on November 18th 1992 in Nymburk), he studied Transcultural Communication in 2012-2015.

What made you decide to study Transcultural Communication?

At secondary school, I studied computer science in economics. But I enjoyed Czech, civics and history the most, so I was attracted by this field also for the reason that I was not satisfied with a small amount of time devoted to my favourite subjects at my secondary school. Maybe there was a little defiance in that. But I felt that studying IT or economics was not ideal for me. I saw the sense of my future work elsewhere. I wanted to learn more from the humanities and then focus on one specific field. I perceived studying of Transcultural Communication as broader foundations for my qualifications on which I would be able to build later.

What was your parents´ reaction to your decision?

I’m actually the only one in my family who has chosen the humanities field. And even though I was more or less expected to take the economic direction, I was more impressed by the wisdom of books. I have always preferred reading and writing to accounting; and the family was very understanding and actually did not get surprised by my decision.

What does Transcultural Communication mean to you?

This is a very difficult question. In my opinion, it is a philosophical foundation on which we can further build. If I compare that to a tree, it is a trunk from which branches grow. And thanks to the fact that students get to know these branches and after their graduation they are oriented in the entanglement of the humanities, they can decide about the academic and professional directions in which to go. I can also see the social sense of this foundation because when I talk to almost any graduates in the humanities or social sciences, I know what they talk about. Since my graduation, I have experienced this several times. I also perceive positively the Christian-oriented academic staff of the department, they are always interested in their students. Transcultural communication makes your eyes open, and you can see the world in a more colourful and critical way.

Is it possible to say that studying has helped you to refine information, understand the social world, understand the causes and consequences of international conflicts, etc.?

I think this is what I appreciate most about Transcultural Communication. It helps people to refine their opinions and encourages them to look for answers. It offers more answers to people, and, then, during the course of time, people find other answers by themselves. Transcultural communication also taught me how to learn something.  In the first year of university studies, almost every student has a secondary school approach – just coming to a lecture and that is all. But over time – and that time started during the first year of my studies – you start talking about things you have not talked about so much before and if you have chosen the right study field, your approach gets changed.  At first, it was a kind of a defiance taken from secondary school, but studying at university gradually opened my eyes. I got interested in the presented issues and some of my life approaches got smoother.

Which teacher has left the biggest imprint on you?

If I also consider the communication after finishing my studies, then I vote for professor Tomáš Petráček. He has always found time for me and I could and I still can ask him about things that I am interested in. This is still true up to now. He has influenced me probably most for his life values and active civic approach. This approach is what I generally appreciate most when thinking about teachers, but this always depends on the form and boundary between civic activities and activism reflected in teaching. But I never met the latter when studying Transcultural Communication. I was also influenced by Mrs. Veronika Halamová and doctor Jana Karlová, who always put such an artistic approach (it is hard to find the right wording) into her lectures and presentations at conferences, which I always liked. But I could make a longer list of the names of other teachers. When I think about it like that, it is not as important how much I learned, it is rather important what remained when I started to forget some issues.

You then went to study Political Theory and Contemporary History at Charles University and now you are in the position of the Director of the Eastern Bohemia branch of the Memory of Nations. Why have you chosen this position?

Already during my bachelor’s degree studies I was active and started working. First, I wrote articles for (a student magazine), then for Svobodné forum and for Echa24, nowadays I make articles for Přítomnost. I have always enjoyed writing. Basically, I always write when social events hit me. I also worked for Evropské hodnoty and within the framework of that work I organized a debate in the Impact Hub in Prague, to which Mikuláš Kroupa was also invited (the author’s note: Mikuláš Kroupa is the director of Post Bellum). When I listened to him, I liked the idea of working with witnesses to important events, I was convinced about fruitful aspects of that work. I liked the fact that Post Bellum, through the Memory of Nations project and its educational programs and workshops, takes care of historical memory, intergenerational dialogue and solidarity.  through educational programs and workshops. I wanted to work for Post Bellum already during my studies at Charles University, being the most interested in Czech political history and thinking. At that time, however, I came to the world of business, from which I have learnt a lot.

What do you expect from working for Post Bellum?

I like the ethos brought by the Memory of Nations and by Post Bellum, and I fully agree with the opinion that it is not possible to do everything centrally from Prague and that it is necessary to search for regional witnesses and to record their unique stories through a  regional eye. I would like everyone to realize that the witnesses we meet on streets every day used to be in their old days like us although they often had to face completely different situations. They had the same personal desires and life expectations as our generation does, although we are not affected by the totalitarian regime. Every generation wanted to have fun and wanted even more than we do to be as separated from the state as possible because this separation means freedom. And it is the mediation of the intergenerational dialogue and solidarity that I consider to be the priority and the mission of the work done by Post Bellum. This is important to me because historical memory is disappearing and our society is getting coarser. Until a few years ago, numerous things were considered to be impossible, but today just 20% or 30% of the population think about these “impossible” things and the rest just do not care. We are losing historical memory – I think this is the greatest danger of the present times. And we are also unable to share intergenerational experience, which is the basic condition for learning from the past. Therefore, I consider my work to be a mission.

And what are your life goals?

The main life goals are in my personal life, but I will keep them for myself and my loved ones. Concerning my professional career, one of my life plans is fulfilled now. My vision is to work in this position for a long run and to work well. Life will show where I will be taken, but I want to always do such work that will make sense.

Your partner, Tereza Vobořilová, also graduated in Transcultural Communication. What is her professional career like?

She works as the head of personal assistance in the Czech Abilympic Association, she coordinates dozens of personal assistants and ensures that the assistants help seniors and people with disabilities, that means people who cannot take care of themselves. I would not like to be wrong, but I think we are the longest dating “transcultural couple” – we got together during our university studies and our partnership still lasts. We have been together since the beginning of our university studies, that means for more than five years.  So, in conclusion, I would like to emphasise that transcultural communication has brought me another fundamental life change, which I prefer to all the others. You can guess which one it is…

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Interview with Tomáš Heller