Christmas in Vysoká Pec

Jennifer Hejtmánek reports on the trip to the Vysoká Pec orphanage Staff

Written by Staff Published on 23.12.2006 20:16:35 (updated on 23.12.2006) Reading time: 5 minutes

Written by Jennifer Hejtmánek

The day finally arrived for us to deliver YOUR gifts to the orphanage in Vysoká Pec. A caravan of three cars left the offices at around 14:15 on Wednesday, December 20, for the approximately 2 hour drive up to northwestern Bohemia, between the industrial cities of Most and Chomutov – an area of the Czech Republic I’d never been to. Accompanying Martin and me were my two kids, members Laura and Corry, and Chris of Prague Airport Shuttle, who generously gave his time to drive up the load of gifts. We also took Petra, a Ministry of Education employee who has worked with the kids at Vysoká Pec through the Malý Princ organization.

We found the orphanage with little trouble, thanks to Natasha, my trusty in-car navigation system. Vysoká Pec is located at the foot of the Krušné hory. It’s a village that, with a little Austrian or German-style sprucing up, wouldn’t look out of place in either of those two countries. We arrived to find the main house in a flurry of activity as the room was being set up for the Christmas pageant, and the kids themselves were running to and fro, checking costumes and checking out the newcomers. After meeting the director of the orphanage, Mrs. Houdova, she showed us the room where the show was going to take place. A modest Christmas tree stood at the front of the room, and rows of seats had already been placed awaiting the eager audience. Some gifts were already under the tree, but imagine the kids’ reaction when we began to bring in box after box of brightly wrapped presents!

Večerníček Song

Our pile soon threatened to overtake the space at the front of the room where the show was to take place, so we had to do some judicious rearranging. 🙂 In addition, there were still a few unwrapped gifts, so we hurriedly got them wrapped up. After everything was in place, we sat down and awaited the start of the show. Running in just in the nick of time was last year’s Big Brother winner, David Šín, aka Shrek, much to the delight of the teenagers in the room!

The show was co-hosted by Veronika and Lucie, two of the older residents. They introduced act after act of very talented and un-self-conscious performers, the highlight of which was certainly Robert’s amazing piano playing (he has a gorgeous electric piano in his room), and, shockingly, a young brother and two sisters act dancing to one of the most profane-ridden rap songs I’ve ever heard in my life! A polite word with the director later revealed that they really hadn’t had any idea what they were saying in the song, but I have a feeling the older kids must have had at least a slight clue….yikes!


After the show, the children surprised us all by bringing in large baskets of homemade gifts, which were distributed to the audience members (the audience seemed to consist of friends and perhaps even some family members of the children). After we’d each received some lovely Christmas decorations, homemade greeting cards and gingerbread cookies, it was the kids’ turn to get their gifts. The scene turned rather joyously chaotic, as names were called, gifts handed over heads of others and big smiles spread across faces. The kids had been instructed beforehand, apparently, to take their gifts back to their flats and open them there, presumably to avoid a colossal mess of wrapping paper in the hall! Because of that, we didn’t really get to see the kids actually opening their gifts, but we went around to two of the four flats (in the new building) to have a look and see where the kids and their caretakers live.

Lucie and Jana

The new building, which two family groups moved into in January 2006, is a model facility for sure. It’s a duplex, with three floors. The main floor of each half consists of an entry hall, the caretaker’s bedroom, a large eat-in kitchen, and living room. The upper floor has four bedrooms, two bathrooms and two toilets. The children share a room with one other child, and each room is neat as a pin (surely under duress for the Christmas guests 🙂 ) In the basement are a laundry room and storage area. The funds for this new building came from the orphanage’s own budget, plus donations from sponsors, and it’s truly a model facility.

Martin and Emma at the disco

After having a look around, we were invited back to the main hall for munchies and the disco…after munching on a pile of chlebíčky and chips/crisps, the disco started and my 5 year old daughter dragged Martin out on the dance floor 🙂 But alas, the dancing couldn’t last long – it was another two hours’ drive back to the city, and being a school night, we had to get on our way. With many thanks to (and from) the director, we promised to get in touch after the new year to see how we could continue to work with them and to support the kids throughout the year. I look forward to learning more about the alternate care system in this country and finding other ways to help kids all over the country.

I’d like to thank again everyone who sponsored a child, as well as those who contributed financially or with very nice donations of new and gently used goods. Your generosity was truly overwhelming. Our goal in the new year is to set up a charitable organization to enable us to do things in a slightly more organized and official fashion – if you’re interested in being part of this effort, please let us know on

A very happy and peaceful holiday to all of you – count your blessings, give your children an extra hug – and spare a thought for those who can’t be with their families at this or any time of the year….

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