Ego Off Lead
'The sea is only water. Billions and billions of cubic metres of greenish-blue water pregnant with tons of salt', this is how this portrait of a Czech migrant begins.
About the Author
The year is 1968. Zbynek Stuchl who has come to the land Downunder, freely conveys his first impressions and gives an account of the differences between the land of the 'Anglo Saxons' and his ancient Prague.
He is as candid in his concepts of the political scene as of the social one, and while he is trying to adjust and not always succeeding, the most amazing things are happening to this outspoken, much loved, often hated, but mostly misunderstood man from Prague.
Intellectual Zbynek, full of warmth and love, especially towards animals and nature can be very critical of conditions, and of man who has created them. He strongly believes in himself and his own destiny; truly an ego off lead.
'Such a book I have not seen since reading They're a Weird Mob', writes Helene Brophy, writer, feminist, journalist, and former lecturer of Women's Studies, Psychology and Sociology, in her review in the Australian Multicultural Book , Review (AMBR).
Hynek Stehlik was born in 1937. In 1968 he came to Australia, having managed to 'find a whole' in the iron curtain through which he could escape, to Austria, first. Stehlik has worked in a variety of jobs, from being a journalist for a Czech newspaper to factory worker and dog trainer. He died on April 2, 1995.
- Znynek's description of this new land and its inhabitants is pretty critical and to the point. Can you detect a certain homesickness and personal rejection between the lines?
- Reading how Zbynek fixed the broken wing of the yellow crested cockatoo, who did you feel for, Zbynek, the young boy or the bird?
- Do you think Zbynek Stuchl had any morals behind that iron mask of being the 'centre of the universe'?
- Can you feel how lost Zbynek is in this strange land, with all its contrasting physical conditions andas he describes it'human stupidities'?
- Do you think the deep seated hurts in Zbynek have their origin in his early years, and why?
- His brilliant way of describing Australian life and scenery shows that he is beginning to adjust to them, do you agree?
- Are you touched by the misfortunes that befall the man?
- What changes his attitude and makes Zbynek feel happier and more secure?
- Why do you think Zbynek never managed financially?
- How did the Dingo story touch you?
- Zbynek's love for animals was the driving force in his life, do you agree?
- The struggle of this 'New Australian', did it touch you and made you understand the amount of struggle and adjustment people have to go through, when they leave their homes?
I connected each fibre sticking out from the loom with each fibre of the giant roll of material. A young Italian trained me. (Again, all labourers on the floor were female wogs.) I had to do a two month apprenticeship, but four weeks after I started, I got the job of a truck driver.
'Sir, I am sorry. My eyes are getting sick as hell. I cannot continue', I'd said to the manager of Byfass. You see, I'd learned from the Anglo-Saxons. They imported us for hard labour, for jobs in factories where Anglo-Saxons didn't want to work. Too smelly, too dirty, socially unacceptable or simply too hard. So they kept importing new Australians. Mostly Mediterraneans.
Not me. I did not care that they paid me forty dollars per week for training. I was not worried that I screwed up the manager of Byfass. I hit under the belt. I am no wog. I'm a Czech from Prague. Stuchl Zbynek. I am the centre of the universe!
For the first time in Australia I am sitting behind the wheel of a ten-tonne Bedford. The driver's seat is on the right side. I have to remind myself constantly: 'Drive on the left side! Left! you idiot!'
The Bedford is so new, it shines. It is fully loaded with cartons containing spaghetti and canned foods. What canned food exactly? I don't know. Am I supposed to know everything?
Like any other Anglo-Saxon driver, I signed for the cartons and smoked a couple of Camel cigarettes while wog labourers loaded the truck. I behaved just like all the other drivers on similar trucks. They were Anglo-Saxons. There were no wogs amongst them.
Do I look like a wog? No, I don't, I am absolutely sure of that.
(You nasty hypocrite, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Don't you remember? You were jealous of black haired boys from the age of five until the age of thirty-one when you illegally left, because most of the sheilas in the Czech country had been greedily going for them? Don't you remember, you idiot, you wanted to have blue-black shining hair, and the many times you spat with anger when you were looking at your own brownish-blonde curly hair? The hair of Stuchl Zbynek!) I look more like an Anglo-Saxon. Hey! Wait! Much better than an Anglo-Saxon.
Too often they are redheads, with overshot, rodent-like canine teeth that stick out from non-sexy narrow, sickly looking lips. Unaesthetically, their ears protrude from their heads, and their white speckled skin, covered generously with freckles, can't be sunburned, can never be of the oily-brown complexion like that of a Kentucky fried chicken. More likely their skin takes the pinkish red colour of a yabby or crayfish that has just been pulled out of boiling water. Theirs is a skinlet's describe it this waythat blushes with shame when stripped of protective clothes under the burning sun.
Too many Anglo-Saxons have convict breeding in them. Too many of them like beer and other alcohol. Too many of them would rather avoid working hard, or studying hard.
C'mon Stuchl Zbynek, put on the brakes! What have they done to you? Why are you so critical? They gave you a driver's licence. And today you are driving this ten-tonne Bedford for the first time. Its load is signed for a factory in Moorabbin, which is about ten kilometres away from the Collingwood store, where they were loading the truck.