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DAY 54, BUS 1: OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC

17 June 2018

Yesterday, we left Bratislava, very grateful for the amazingly rich and diverse programme our Slovakian colleagues organised! We hit the road for the Czech Republic. We had a short stop at a gas station on the way, and, by a funny coincidence, we met Ivan Bartos, party leader of the Czech Pirate Party. He was very interested in our campaign and happy to sign the bus. We had a brief exchange with him on minimum income and basic income. When we asked him why he was convinced that all citizens should receive basic income (and not just the people who need it), he replied that 95% of the population in the Czech Republic need it.

With a slight delay, we arrived in Ostrava, the third largest city in the Czech Republic.  It was previously known as the country’s “steel heart” thanks to its status as a coalmining and metallurgical centre, but since the Velvet Revolution it has undergone radical and far-reaching changes to its economic base. Industries have been thoroughly restructured, and the last coal was mined in the city in 1994. However, remnants of the city’s industrial past are visible in the Lower Vitkovice area, a former coal-mining, coke production and ironworks complex in the city centre which retains its historic industrial architecture. And that’s exactly where our bus was parked, next to a Rock festival. with music from the 80s and 90s. To our surprise, 95% of the audience looks like they probably know this kind of music only because of their parent’s nostalgic musical taste. One can wonder if this says something about the range of festivals in Ostrava.

Next to the industrial architecture, we had the highest mountain of the Moravian-Silesian Beskids range in the Czech Republic, called Lysa Hora, (which apparently means ‘bald head’) in the background, in the background. Our Czech colleagues told us that the mountain is an important historical and cultural symbol.

The end of the coal era did not turn the region into a poor region without jobs. Unemployment in the Czech Republic is relatively low, albeit a bit higher in Ostrava than the national average. A lot of jobs were created in the automobile industry in this area. The people we met later in the evening confirmed this story: all of them had relatives working for the big automobile companies.

Karel, our Czech colleague told us that the two biggest problems in terms of poverty here are indebtedness and lack of affordable quality housing. With a minimum income at 60 % under the poverty threshold, this is easy to understand.