Time spent in isolation at home has increased to the maximum in the past few weeks. How can one work from home and use their creative potential? What new hobbies can you take on? We asked five people from Košice to give us tips on how to spend the time effectively and their thoughts on the current events in Slovakia and the world. In this first edition you will find suggestions by the choirmaster at the Cathedral of St. Elizabeth Viliam Gurbaľ, innovator Mária Virčíková, artist Helmut Bistika, History PhD student Danka Kušnírová and civil engineer Štefan Tkáč.
Viliam Gurbaľ / conductor and choirmaster at St Elizabeth’s Cathedral
I have noticed that this period has slowed us all down and suddenly, the most important thing to us, is to take care of our health and our loved ones. Despite the excessive amount of time I spend at home these days, it is still difficult for me to pursue all my activities. I am a teacher at a primary art school, a student at Catholic University and also at the Košice Conservatory. My most beloved activity is transcribing old manuscripts, music notes, which can only be found in archives. Yet today, it is possible to access various digital libraries online and I spend countless hours searching for old music. It makes me very happy to find unknown, beautiful music that was written 250 years ago and can be reborn again thanks to transcription. Some of the composers I found were Zeiler, Jacob, Oehlschlägel, Colonna, Canniciari and Lorenzani.
The current situation has helped me realize how important it is to be more responsible towards one another and considerate to the elderly. I also think that our society got too accustomed to certain habits that have made us more efficient and now we need to adjust. We learned to act and shop frequently and quickly – many things were given to us right away, we could click and order within a few minutes. Today we need to focus more on what we need and how much of it is really needed.
Mária Virčíková / tech innovator in Matsuko
As for my job, I am very pleased that we can work from home at the moment. Companies that develop digital products have a big advantage. At Matsuko, we are radically innovating the way in which people can communicate from afar – this is the reason why we see the current situation as an opportunity of a lifetime. We are speeding up the product development, hiring new members to the team, also from abroad. On the other hand, I sympathize with other entrepreneurs whose opportunities have been significantly reduced.
In my free time, I spend more time with my little daughter, family and I finally have some time for myself. For example, we have reconstructed our house, built a new library, done some gardening. I am doing everything I’ve always wanted to, but couldn’t find the time for it. I read a lot, work on our website, sort out my stuff, play games and educate myself further through online courses. As for safety measures, our family remains strictly at home. We order basic groceries through e-shops and we have already planted some vegetables ourselves. I also try to help others from Košice – I support several artists, I joined the challenge Who Will Help Slovakia and I plan to buy tickets to Kino Úsmev for future movie screenings.
Helmut Bistika / artist and teacher at a special centre for the deaf-blind
After the initial shock and the fear of losing our freedom to work and freedom of movement, I gradually began to appreciate the time and peace during my solitary work at the studio. In my line of work, I am in constant contact with other people, so I had to limit these meetings and concentrate on myself, which will hopefully bring new knowledge, inspiration and energy in the future. In my opinion, the best remedy for getting through this period is to find a new interest – it can be anything that gives us a pleasant feeling, encourages our enthusiasm and a desire to create and discover. Now it’s also time for coming up with innovations and creative solutions. In my case, this crisis caught me unprepared in terms of purchased art material. However, I discovered plain paper from which I began to create small statuettes.
Danka Kušnírová / published author and doctoral student at Faculty of Arts, UPJŠ
Since I came back from abroad and had to stay at home in quarantine, I spend more time reading books that are not directly related to my work. Finally, I have time to focus on literature that interests me. For example, I became fascinated by autobiographical books. I also enjoy the Google Arts and Culture initiative which features impressive articles, digital tours of museums, photo collections, and much more.
Thanks to this digital era, I can work relatively easily from home even though I will definitely need to visit the library and archive at some point. I hope that until then the situation will be at least more stable. I have also recently started learning Spanish online, and I must admit I was always bad at attending similar courses before. Nowadays, it is a daily matter for me, I finally can focus on it. Last but not least, while this may not seem like a groundbreaking idea, I really try to concentrate on positive thinking. Although the pandemic has disrupted my travel plans and other activities, I try not to get too hung up on it. I also maintain a positive attitude towards the quarantine measures. I think these rules will help me to stay healthy, as well as all the people around me.
Štefan Tkáč / civil engineer and TUKE International Relations Officer in Asia
As time has slowed down, and at some places, it almost stopped, people began to realize the real values. Suddenly, they have more time for each other, communication on real and non-abstract things has re-emerged. I also think that the Slovaks will finally realize the cost of their time and that most of the work can be done comfortably from their homes. This could later lead to a general reform of the requirements and access to jobs in Slovakia.
I work as an International Relations Officer of the Technical University of Košice for Southeast and East Asia and I am also Associate Professor and Head of Architecture and Civil Engineering at the American University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia. Due to the fact that our entire campus is based on the so-called flipped classrooms with the help of Canvas and D2L digital platforms in cooperation with the University of Arizona and Fort Hays State University, I can do my job from the living room practically anywhere in the world. This is one of the reasons why the switching of the classes to an online platform, which we went through literally from day to day in Cambodia, was not such a shock. I am currently giving lectures to my students in Cambodia from an office in Taiwan, where the only problem so far has been switching from 220V to 110V and a different time zone. Not having to travel to work also untied my hands in another way – instead, I use that time to work for research and publications that I had postponed for a long time.
The best remedy for overcoming the current pandemic is, in my opinion, the time spent with the loved ones. In my case, these are the days with my wife as we see each other only sporadically since I work in several countries. Notably, the quarantine life in Taiwan is not very different to the regular one thanks to the SARS epidemic of 2003 and the flexible response of Taiwan to the evolving situation in China since early December 2019. This is supported by figures from the last week – out of 339 cases reported, 50 recovered and 5 died for a total population of 23.6 million. This really is a significant difference compared to other countries, including Slovakia. The fact remains, however, that most of the cases consist of the undisciplined and selfish people who do not go into the 14-day quarantine, unnecessary air travel, and the concealment of the travellers’ medical history.
Are you interested in the thoughts of people from Košice about the coronavirus period in Slovakia? Stay tuned for new responses by other popular personalities from Košice’s cultural, scientific or sports sphere.