An ordinary conversation can turn anger into understanding

Slovak society is polarized in almost every topic. Instead of supporting each other and striving together for the common good, we throw obstacles in each other’s way and judge people we don’t even know. This negativity also happens in the world of women, when one points to another for not breastfeeding, another criticizes the other for breastfeeding too much, the other one doesn’t want to have children, and another spoils her children too much. But do we know the stories and life situations of these women?

If we started talking to them, maybe we would realize that a woman can’t breastfeed due to health problems. Or that she can’t have children. Or that the reason that mom isn’t working is because her husband is in prison and she’s taking care of small children, living in poverty.

Rozhovor zmení hnev na porozumenie

We wanted to highlight the humanity and destinies of people around us through the event “Svet žien” (Women’s World) in Veľký Krtíš and Dobšiná. Various women from different worlds gathered on one stage and through sharing their lives, they realized that they face similar problems, but the principle of femininity is the same, whether it’s a singer, a moderator, a teahouse owner, a manager, or a stay-at-home mom. Instead of searching for differences among ourselves, let’s point out similarities and recognize that if we help each other, we can overcome various difficulties and be the driving force of our families, communities, and society as a whole.

Sad Story in Veľký Krtíš

The event in Veľký Krtíš took place on May 26 , 2023, in the town’s cultural center. It was opened by a concert by Katka Koščová and Daniel Špiner, followed by a conversation among inspirational women – Katka Koščová, teahouse owner Mária Pataková, local woman Mária Darvašová, and moderator Gabriela Krestián Kuchárová.

Katka Koščová’s life struggles and joys are followed by the media and the public, and this attention is often a difficult test for well-known personalities. Katka had to deal with constant criticism of her appearance, work, and life. It took years for her to understand that she doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and doesn’t have to endure hatred on social media. Many hateful expressions are accepted because their authors invoke freedom of speech, but our profiles should not be a place where someone spreads evil and hatred. Therefore, we can delete and report such statuses immediately.

Katka also experienced difficult times after the birth of her son Adam. She felt like a failure as a mother because she didn’t give birth naturally and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t breastfeed. These feelings led to various anxieties. Katka visited a psychologist and publicly promoted awareness that it’s okay to seek help when we feel really bad and that going to a psychologist is not shameful. When her anxieties returned during COVID and she visited a specialist again, she opened up about panic attacks.

Mária Pataková presented the youth and the idea that women can do any job today. Mária drove a truck around Europe to earn money for her own teahouse. She succeeded after two years, offering not only quality teas but also handmade products in Veľký Krtíš. Her dream is to buy her own truck and create a mobile teahouse.

Mária Darvašová was the voice of invisible women. We called that way women whom society often forgets or whose voices are not taken seriously. Mária is a mother of four, born into generational poverty and struggling with poverty for years. Her husband ended up in prison when she was expecting their fifth child. Their son Mikuláš was born with a serious illness. Surgery and treatment could only be done in Germany, and Mária and her son would have to spend six months there. She couldn’t take the other four children with her, and since Mária had no help from family, the children would have to spend that time in a foster home. Mária suddenly faced an extremely difficult life question. She couldn’t send her children to a foster home. This story doesn’t have a happy ending. Nor a happy continuation, because Mária is a single mother but can’t work while she has to take care of young children. Although she really wants to. That’s why she also participated in our educational program “UPre ženy” (UPre Women). Her dream is to get a driver’s license, own a car, and have her own home so she can provide a better present and future for her children.

Inspirations in Dobšiná

The event in Dobšiná was opened on June 10 again by a concert by Katka Koščová and Daniel Špiner. People of all ages, younger and older, gathered in the local cultural center to hear stories from the women’s worlds. In addition to Katka, the manager of the diocesan charity in Rožňava Lucia Černáková shared her joys and struggles. Besides raising money for people in need, she came up with an upcycling community workshop. They make rugs, coasters, stools, crocheted bags, covers, and other recycled useful items from unusable clothing that the public donates to charity. Lucia is a very active mother and woman, coming up with various projects and involving others in activities to awaken the community she lives in. And in addition to that, she takes care of children, household, and family.

The third guest was Monika Gonová, an inspirational woman from the local Roma community. Monika gave birth to her first child at the age of 17 and didn’t finish high school because of it. Today, she tries to catch up, and despite having five children, she participates in educational activities and looks for opportunities to improve her family’s future. One thing is certain – her children must graduate. But why do women from peripheral Roma communities often fail to complete their education? “Because they have children early. They are ashamed to go to the doctor and ask for pills. Our parents didn’t talk to us about it, we were scared,” Monika explained. Monika was also born into generational poverty, therefore into an environment where basic information, important stimuli, and opportunities to take care of themselves and develop are often lacking. It’s very difficult to break free from such an environment. Monika is trying, and that’s why she overcame herself and shared her story at the event. “Talking here is the hardest thing in my life,” she said in the discussion, sending a signal to other women that they can be seen and their voices matter.

The event also featured a mini exhibition of photographs UPre Women by Petra Juhasová and Róbert Németi, health diagnostics, henna tattooing, and a space for children with animators. Children enjoyed mascots, disco and hundreds of bubbles while parents listened to how instead of breaking someone down, we should listen to their story first. We’ll only have a good time in this country when we help and support each other.

"Having women from different cultural-social-territorial areas meet on one stage and discussing together fully indicates that it is possible. And I think that as I saw it on stage, it is also in real life. Sometimes it's necessary to help, sometimes to provide support, and sometimes to subtract. And we need to learn to listen to others. And it will work. On stage, at work, in life," said Natália Príhodová, program manager of UPre Women from the Carpathian Foundation.

Photo: Dobšiná – Petra Juhásová, Veľký Krtíš – Dávid Hanko