Tereza Svášková, Director of the Czech Centre in Cairo, Studied and Worked at the UWB
From Liberec via Brandýs and Pilsen to Cairo. That could be a very brief biography of Tereza Svášková, graduate and former employee of the University of West Bohemia, but in this case, brevity hides much that is important. Her story is a very inspiring one, and an excellent fit for this section.
The network of Czech Centres which represent our country abroad and form a key part of Czech foreign policy, was expanded on 1 July 2022 with a new branch in Cairo. The very first Czech Centre in Africa is led by Tereza Svášková. Those who know that she is a graduate of Arab Studies and former head of the organising team of ARABFEST, a festival of Arab culture, do not doubt that she is an excellent choice.
Tereza Svášková was born in Liberec, but spent her childhood in the Central Bohemian towns of Lázně Toušeň and Brandýs nad Labem, where she attended primary and secondary school. Then she left for the University of West Bohemia. Her love of the Arab world was ignited by Charif Bahbouh, the Syrian professor of Arabic, translator and promoter of Arab culture in Czechia. “Charif was an amazing teacher. He kept giving me new ideas and new study materials. He was also very demanding and meticulous. When he was preparing me for university, he tested me on the required literature. He also was my mentor during my further studies,” she recalled last year in her interview for the local Brandýs newspaper, which proudly boasted about the relationship of the new Director of the Cairo Czech Centre to the town.
Tereza Svášková studied in the Middle Eastern Studies programme at the Faculty of Arts, UWB in 2008–2011; she obtained her Master’s degree after two more years of studying Cultural Anthropology of the Near East. She gained further education for example during her six-week research stay related to her Master’s thesis at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon as well as in Lisbon during her Erasmus focused on international relationships at The Institute of Social and Political Sciences at the Technical University. Language courses took her to Germany, Portugal, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Oman and Malta.
From 2016, Tereza Svášková worked at the Information and Advisory Centre at the University of West Bohemia. Here she was mainly in charge of the Kulturka co-working centre, but was also responsible for project activities and consultancy for international as well as domestic students. As coordinator who communicated with foreign guests, she took part in the Finále Pilsen film festival, in which she utilised her experience as the former coordinator of the OPEN A.i.R. artist in residence programme in the Pilsen – European Capital of Culture 2015 project. She was also involved in the activities of the Dar Ibn Rushd publishing house as the editor of two books, co-author of four more and translator from Arabic to Czech.
Tereza Svášková was the director of ARABFEST for twelve years. In this time, the formerly small-scale event organised by the Department of Middle Eastern Studies grew to a traditional part of the culture life of not just Pilsen, but also Prague and Olomouc. The festival connects the Czech and Arab worlds by bringing together people and sharing their culture – through lectures, music, poetry, film screenings and food.
Tereza Svášková’s mission in the Czech Centre in Cairo is essentially the same: the only difference is that she is now presenting Czech culture in Egypt. One of the first events of the centre was an exhibition introducing the history of Czech Egyptology to the people of Cairo. The Czech Centre installed the exhibition on the concrete wall that surrounds the Czech Embassy in Cairo, which turned out to be an excellent choice – the exhibition enjoyed great interest not only from the guests invited on guided tours, but also random passers-by. Other successful events of the Centre include the November Night of Literature during which Egyptian writers read excerpts from contemporary Czech literature in the Doqqi district, or the Havel Dialogues in December.
We wish Tereza Svášková many more successes!
| Pavel KORELUS
21. 04. 2023