The letter from Baraka, Apr. 2020 

Our dearest friends and supporters!

The fifth week is almost at its end since we have decided to stay in voluntary quarantine. We made this decision in the tense days of the first arrangements, when the management of Bilgym decided to cancel attendance-based education. For us in Baraka it meant a deep breath before a jump into the unknown because we hadn’t yet experienced such an intensive time together.

Since the first week, we arranged a fixed everyday regime. Jano Jarina describes it this way: “The common routine stays unchanged – we have breakfast together at 7:15 and dinner followed with a program two times per week. Instead of school we stare into computer monitors. Some of us spend their morning and afternoon study/work blocks in the privacy of their rooms, others prefer the quiet ambience of the study room interrupted by occasional jokes or by warm cooperation. We spend our free time as we want. We often play volleyball together. We go grocery shopping once a week. We study “vagošov” (slang for youngsters that gather at one place during the day and night, their fundamental sign is loud music played through a speaker ). We are experiencing a mild version of what C.S. Lewis described as the meaning of education during war time (the book Learning in the Wartime), as well as the meaning in suffering and the humor in sadness. We are thinking of how we can help the weaker.”

After our dinner on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we discuss what we’re experiencing during the week (from cleaning to mutual conflicts) or we have seminars from the Great Works Academy – in March we discussed a Slovak documentary: Obrazy starého sveta (Dušan Hanák, 1973), about the paintings of Kazimir Malevichand this week we are reading an essay from T.Aquinas about finding happiness.

We are glad that we have a forest park near the school where we can relax from the enclosed spaces and sometimes even from human voices. Even though the quarantine brings a lot of restrictions, it creates a lot of spontaneous moments as well: we invented a tradition of Saturday brunches which prepared by our American friend Jessie who lives in the flat below Baraka. For these few weeks we welcomed two new members of our community- a student named Paula and our friend Lucia. Saturday nights are dedicated to having fun and relaxing – we already had a karaoke night, a small dance party, and we ́re going to have a night of Scottish dances. Humor and hindsight are brought to us also by current Príbehy z trolejbusu by Tomáš Komrska or good advice from Marek Orka Vácha about “shared cabin fever” which we read during our breakfasts. (Vácha on the subject of his experiences from his expedition to Antarctica says, that in order to prevent “cabin fever,” a person in the presence of other people shouldn’t sing or whistle and should communicate only in the case of life-threatening situations. Feel free to be inspired, for us this advice has unmeasurable worth.

Eva Bročková sums up our experience this way:

„ I would call our quarantine in Baraka a blessing in unfavorable circumstances. We view the situation with respect and reason, we limit our encounters with other people and therefore spend more time with each other. In times when we expected that we would become more distant from one another because of the upcoming exams and admission tests for universities, we unexpectedly became closer. We ́re goofing around more than ever, a positive mood prevails, of course except for when we have occasional conflicts. I ́m doing well in being productive and studying thanks to our structured regime which we came up with during the week. I ́m grateful for our free time which we spend going for walks into the forest, exercising, reading, playing games on the X-box and filming our own reality show. It ́s a good feeling knowing that I ́m not alone in this but that we ́re in it together.”

We wish you and your loved ones mainly health, but also peace, patience and blessings in these strange times as we await Easter. We are thinking of you, think of us as well…

On behalf of Baraka,

Dávid and Zuzka

PS1: As Baraka we decided to join the initiative to help the (homeless) sellers of Nota Bene, who lost their salary. We will be preparing food packs in the area of the school. We would also like to encourage you if you have the time and energy to help those who need it.

PS2: In this article, you can read how we spent our time in Baraka during the winter months.