Ruda and a well-known Czech journalist discuss city celebrations.
By Quincey Taylor
The Czech Republic might be one of the last places you would expect to be adorned in American flags. However, annually the streets are covered in these flags during a nationwide celebration. Each year in the Czech Republic, the citizens, as well as national leaders, commemorate the anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
This year, on May 8, 2019, celebrations broke out remembering the 74th anniversary. American flags hang on street corners, and a parade of recreated war vehicles roll down the main street. Participants have the chance to travel back in time, having the opportunity to climb inside a tank or old fashioned jeep.
There are only a handful of veterans from that time period that are still alive, but these days their sons and grandsons and granddaughters dress the part and participate in the parade. They represent the American, Belgian, and French military that liberated that particular area.
For years during the communist reign of the Czech Republic, citizens were not permitted to know that Americans helped liberate a portion of the country. That changed, however, after the Velvet Revolution in 1989, which was a non-violent transition of power ending the one party rule in Czechoslovakia. Now the country celebrates those brave individuals that freed them from oppression.
In the middle of these festivities, a small group of American students, members of the Czech Republic section of the clinical practicum for the public and global health nursing course, marvel at the sight. Nursing students from Brigham Young University watch the manifestation of this people’s love and respect for America. It was then that assistant teaching professor Petr Ruda, who was born in the Czech Republic, was approached by a reporter for the national evening news channel.
This woman came up to Ruda, intrigued by their group, and asked if she could have a short interview with him. He was nervous when he found out what a big platform she reported for. She asked him about his group, why they were in the Czech Republic, and his general thoughts on the celebration. It was a wonderful opportunity for Ruda to share information about the university and build trust with the Czech people.
When asked how it was being on national television, Ruda says, “The students were just so excited…I was getting phone calls from all my family. I got phone calls from all the clinical instructors in the hospital where we were at, not to mention we were invited to deliver newborn kits to this public hospital.”
This was not the first time BYU students have gained attention in the Czech Republic, however. Two years ago, Ruda was interviewed by a journalist for a local newspaper about the organization he worked for. He never found out what happened with the interview, until a woman told them she remembered them from the article.
In the end, the experience ended up opening doors to Ruda and his students. Their house keeper prepared them a special breakfast in honor of the occasion and everyone recognized the name Brigham Young University.
The best outcome occurred when the students were participating in a health fair in a village with little Austrian-style cottages. They were openly welcomed to participate in the health fair after the officer remembered them from TV. He said, “I saw you on TV and I read about you in a newspaper! I know quite a bit about you. We will be so honored to do the health fair with you. Tell us what you need, and I will arrange it for you.”
Ruda remarks, “Everything fell into place. We were super blessed.”