This week, my blog is two years old. But having written two posts last month, about all the reasons why I like living here in Prague, balanced by one dealing with my small number of dislikes, my experience earlier this week has forced me to return to a subject that I thought I had overcome and dealt with.
Back in March 2009, I wrote a post entitled ‘Dealing with Czech bureaucracy’. In it, I described our battle to obtain residency permits from the Czech Foreign Police to prove where we live, together with what I referred to as a social security number – rodné císlo – family number, both of which are essential if you want to do anything more than eat and sleep in the Czech Republic.
In May 2009, I wrote about how we had finally managed to achieve this goal even though threatened with ‘A 21st Century defenestration of Prague’! In this second post, I did point out the absurdity of the wording on the stamp put into both our passports. We have been granted Povolení k prechodnému pobytu v CR – Temporary residence in the Czech Republic. But it is neomezený – unlimited or forever. Of course it has to be unlimited because we are both EU citizens and can stay here until we die, should we choose to do so.
As I wrote then, I took this granting of ‘unlimited temporary residence’ as being part of the ongoing Czech mentality that believes that no one would ever want to actually live here permanently. Earlier this week when eating in U Topolu, we shared a table with a young Czech couple because there was no where else where we could sit. Latterly, the young lady spoke and asked where we were from. I did the usual explanation saying that I’m English, my wife is German but that we live and work here in Prague. In return, I received an expression of shock and amazement as to why on earth we should ever want to do so!
Armed with this stamp in my passport, together with my little green folded paper Potvrzení o prechodném pobytu na území - Proof of temporary residence, inside of which is my full name, date and place of birth and, most importantly, my registered address, I have been able to register my car. Also, aided by Bishop Dušan of the Old Catholic Church in the Czech Republic, a notarized copy of these documents has enabled me to be registered with the Ministry of Culture, as the person who can officially sign on behalf of my congregation. Whenever there has been a request for ID, just producing my passport and residency permit has satisfied the enquirer. That was until Monday this week.
Sybille has been on for quite some time that she would like to once more have a dog. She grew up with dogs and always had her own until her last one died, just before she went to live in Spain in 1999. Over the past two years, we have regularly walked past the stray dog and re-homing centre run by the city police, located on the other side of the Vltava River from where we live.
Recently, Sybille has been researching the website of the re-homing centre, aided by Google translate, to discover what is involved in adopting an unclaimed stray dog and giving it a new home. One thing was quite clear; you must produce ID to prove who you are and where you live. So last Monday on my day off, armed with Sybille’s German passport and Czech Residency document, we went off to the shelter for an exploratory visit.
Upon arrival, we did are usual explanation of having very little Czech but of being able to speak English, German, Spanish or French. We managed to communicate what we wanted and, upon being asked for ID, produced Sybille’s passport and residency document. The reaction was immediate. No – you can’t adopt a dog from the shelter – you only have temporary residence. Despite pointing out that it was unlimited and that we were EU citizens, the lady and her colleagues remained totally adamant. We had to have permanent, not temporary residence.
Despite being illegal under European law, the whole situation is also utterly absurd. I know of several non-EU citizens in my congregation who have been granted ‘Permanent residency,’ but for a set number of years, which is also a contradiction in terms! And the Foreign Police are not even consistent in their dealing with EU citizens. A fellow British blogger and her husband, who have recently moved to Prague and work together for the same firm, have also been to the Foreign Police to register. The husband was granted ‘Permanent residence’ – the blogging wife has been granted like us, ‘Temporary unlimited residence’.
I and several others have described this whole situation as Kafka-esque. I’ve recently bought myself a copy of ‘The Trial’ by Franz Kafka, to read and see if I can get my head around this utterly absurd mentality that I am experiencing. And rest assured, I am not going to stop until I have asserted my rights to be treated in exactly the same way as a Czech citizen, even if I leave a few strangled Czech bureaucrats along the way. Watch this space!