Petra Bolfikova (born Petra Bolfiková), 1985
Petra Bolfikova was born in Havířov in eastern Moravia in 1985 and moved to Děčín in northern Bohemia with her parents when she was three years old. Petra’s mother Renata is a dentist and her father Michal teaches computer science classes at a university. Petra says that shortly after the Velvet Revolution, her father (who at that time was a high school teacher) took advantage of private enterprise and joined a partnership that provided social service programs. Before returning to teaching, he was the head of social services in Děčín. Petra began learning English before she started school, as her parents put her into private lessons. After fifth grade, she attended gymnázium, where she continued learning English and also studied German.
Petra attended VŠE (the University of Economics, Prague) and studied international business. She spent one semester abroad at York University in Toronto and visited New York City while on a school break there. After receiving her master’s degree from VŠE, Petra began studying for her MBA at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. She says that the prestige of an international degree, her desire to study in the United States, and a partnership between the two schools led her to this decision. She graduated from this program in May 2012 and began working as a marketing specialist for the Robert Bosch Tool Corporation. While studying at Bradley, Petra enjoyed making Czech food and celebrating Czech holiday traditions like St. Nicholas Day. Recently, Petra returned to the Czech Republic and settled in Prague.
Petra grew up close to the German border
“Right after the Revolution, we used to go shopping in Germany, because some stuff like pudding or peanuts, some articles were really cheap, compared to the Czech Republic, in Germany. So we went shopping there for specific things, but nowadays, it’s not worth it. After [the Revolution] we also went to Dresden because there were shops that we didn’t have in the Czech Republic, but now it’s more to see the Christmas markets and it’s closer than Prague, actually. Still, a lot of Germans come to the Czech Republic now to shop. They come, they fill up their cars, they go to the hairdressers, eat at the restaurants, shop a little at Tesco, and then they go home.”
Learning multiple languages was an important part of Petra’s studies
“I was an international business major, so I had English and German as the two main languages, but no one really taught you how to speak. You were supposed to speak; that was the entry exams to the university, and we were taught three semesters of business English, so basically micro/macro terms and the business phrases, and then the other three semesters of the undergrad was business English too, but we call it in Czech obchodní korespondence. So more formal, like how to write a claim, how to write a resume, how to write stuff related to business, and then also more specific terms. For example, in the international business with international logistics, different types of boxes and cases and the paperwork you need for that. I even got to [learn] the captain of the boat. I don’t even remember any of those words because you don’t get to use them, but we had to know them.”
Growing up, Petra enjoyed spending the Christmas holidays in the mountains
“My dad was a teacher, so the school had a partner cabin in the mountains where they used to go for ski trips with the students, so most of the faculty went there over Christmas, over winter with their families, so that’s kind of unique for me, I think. I used to have two Christmases when I was growing up because we would celebrate on the 19th or 20th, kind of like a premature Christmas Eve, because we didn’t want to take all the Christmas presents with us there, and then the next day we would go early so we could ski before all the people came to the mountains, and then we would have a second Christmas Day on the 24th with all the teachers and their kids. So most of my friends from childhood were teachers’ kids, basically. And it was the same school that I went to afterwards – it was the gymnázium. So when I went there, some of the teachers – we have this habit of calling friends of my parents ‘uncle’ and ‘auntie’ – so they were there, walking around and teaching me, and I had to call them ‘Mrs.’ and ‘Mr.’ That was kind of weird.”
Petra believes that travel is an essential part of life
“One thing that is kind of typical for me is that I travel a lot, and I think everybody should do it eventually, because that really makes you think about what other people…There is so much hatred towards Americans in Europe, but being here I get to see their [the Americans’] point. I don’t necessarily agree with what they’re doing or saying, but I now know why they’re doing it or why they’re saying it, because they have this cultural and historical background because of this and this. And sometimes it’s just this one public figure and no one in the country actually agrees with the public figure, but the public figure represents the country for the foreigners. And it’s all over – like I said, I’ve been to Mexico, Australia, Canada, so getting to know more cultures broadens your horizons and makes you more tolerant and receptive to other cultures and opinions and stuff like that. So I think that everybody should do that. Maybe we’d have more peace in the world.”
Category: Chicago, Oral History