“There’s a repatriation flight for all Czech citizens from Montreal this Sunday. You should call the embassy as soon as possible. Here’s the link!” my mom messages me on Wednesday, the 25th of March, 2020. Barely awake, I scan through the article, grab my phone and call the Czech embassy in Ottawa.
“We need to know if you are interested right now,” the woman says.
“Yes, I am!” I blurt out, unsure of how I am going to get myself to Montreal before Sunday.
“Great, just send us your contact information and passport number.”
I spend the next two hours furiously booking a flight, an Airbnb, alerting my professors, landlord, roommate, family and friends in Edmonton about the change. By Friday, I find myself in a comfortable little Airbnb in Montreal. My determination to pretend I am on vacation is ruined by heavy rain and the sudden realization I have to avoid people and wash my hands constantly. On Sunday, I board a flight full of Czechs and Slovaks ready to go home, after their work holiday in British Columbia or something. I return home to see my grandmother, who is battling cancer and because I want to be with my immediate family during this pandemic. Not to mention that my classes moved online, I was laid off work and I had a challenging roommate I did not want to live with anymore.
I thought I would be back in Edmonton in July to resign my lease, find a job and prepare for another semester of university. I packed for three weeks, planning to be in Edmonton after three months, but turned out that the University of Alberta did not re-open, the pandemic worsened, and I had no reason to return to Edmonton, so, yes: I am still here. It has been exactly a year, since I repatriated back home.
Taking a repatriation flight in the midst of a global pandemic is a unique experience. Any other time, I have flown back to Prague, I felt excited, my suitcase filled with Christmas presentsor summer dresses. This time, I was recoiled in a face mask, protecting my hands with gloves and squirting hand sanitizer on myself every fifteen minutes. Most people were supportive of my journey, but some judged me and made me feel guilty for travelling at this time, but I had to go. I had to see my grandmother. (If you are wondering, she beat cancer and I might see her soon, because she just got vaccinated!)
Living back home has been a strange experience. When I first moved to Edmonton, I was homesick for Prague for months, if not a year. Living abroad was extremely difficult and repatriating allowed me to feel comfortable, safe and secure again, surrounded by my closest family and friends, and I am grateful for this time. However, I built a life in Edmonton and leaving it so abruptly, I find myself grieving my old house, my old life, and everything that came with it. So, if repatriating taught me anything, it is that home is where the heart is and I seem to have left mine in Edmonton.
Rosalind Fleischer-Brown is a fifth-year psychology and English student at the University of Alberta. She published two books for the Antarctic Institute of Canada and translated a children’s book from English to Czech. She also published a literary essay in the Glass Buffalo and published several articles in The Gateway, the University of Alberta’s magazine.
Faculty of Arts, firstname.lastname@example.org
Austin A. Mardon is a fellow(hon) of the Royal Society of Canada and a member of the Order of Canada. In his youth he was part of a NASA expedition near the South Pole recovering meteorites.
Catherine A. Mardon is a Dame Commander of the Papal Order of St Sylvester and with her husband a ten-minute audience with Pope Francis. She is a retired attorney.
John Dossitor Health Ethics Centre, Faculty of Medicine, email@example.com