Jirina does not like socialism
Jirina Klevstigh, chairperson of the right wing Moderate Party in Norkkoping, Sweden, comes from Czechoslovakia. She is a postal worker with two children. Her daughter, who lives in Prague with her grandmother and is studying Czech, maintains that despite all its difficulties, the Czech Republic is developing and that, in comparison to Sweden, progress can be seen every day.
You experienced the socialist experiment in Czechoslovakia. Now you are attempting to make sure that it doesn't flourish in Sweden, because you say that the Swedes are bad at right wing politics. How did you become involved in political activity?
I left Czechoslovakia with my parents in 1968. When we were occupied by the Russians, I and my friends distributed protest posters that my mother had printed at her workplace. I had grown up in the spirit of the Prague Spring, in that liberated atmosphere filled with optimism, when we were able to say exactly what we thought. We had been free and all of a sudden it all came to an end. I could never keep quiet and so it was obvious that I may end up in prison. We escaped to Sweden on the recommendation of a friend of my mother. The first 6 years there were spent learning Swedish. I started work at the Post Office, met my future husband and slowly started to look round me. I realised with horror that Sweden was just camouflaged socialism. They keep tabs on everyone and control just about everything.
In the 70s the right wing parties came back into power for the first time since WWII. However, soon after I joined the Moderates, I realised that they too were affected by this approach. The Moderates can be compared to ODS. I was first a rank and file member, then in 1991 I became more involved. In Sweden local politics is done alongside a normal job. In Norkköping there are only 5 ,professional` politicians for 120 000 inhabitants. I went to courses and became familiar with political science. I discovered that the Moderates confused their polities with that of the Social Democrats. The old proletarian city of Norkkoping with its paper, textile and rubber factories had never really accepted right wing Moderates.
To the Czechs, Sweden seems to be a socially developed country that is accepting of foreigners. Is that true?
If you look for racism of the daily kind, you will find it among Social Democrats and especially among the proletariat. They may not paint swastikas on walls, but they won't invite you for a coffee, they see you as something strange. The unions won't allow foreigners to work. It's actually quite a closed society. It's not hard to cross the state border, but it's harder to overcome the so called inner barriers. It was difficult to break the employed-unemployed cycle. It also took some time before the party that is the most liberal towards migrants actually accepted me. Last year I was voted chairperson and the media made a big thing of the fact that I was a migrant as well as a woman. I now sit on the town council of Norkkoping, having been voted in by people who live here, and I am proud of that. What I do, I mainly do for my voters.
What do you want to achieve in political office?
My main aim is to fight for the freedom of the individual. The welfare system must work, but not in the way it is organised in Sweden, where the taxes are so high that people who earn less are forced to ask for assistance. They then become dependent on this welfare. Instead of the taxes going down, they have to be paid from this welfare assistance. The problem of the Swedish political parties, including the centre parties, is their lack of trust in individuals organising their own lives.
How do you explain that Swedes don't wish to see the results of the socialist experiment in the Czech Republic, Poland or Hungary?
By 60 years of the Social Democrat mentality. People here are not used to state their dissatisfaction. They don't act jointly, they don't protest, they accept everything in silence. I have probably got to where I am by not being afraid to speak up or to act. Those around me are satisfied because they don't have to solve anything. But I enjoy politics and I'm not afraid of opinion clashes whether they be with men or women. If I stopped enjoying politics, I wouldn't be doing a good job. Politics must be fun. If I started to get bored, I may as well get out.
Marina Hužvárová, Eva Střížovská
Translated by Alena Jirásek
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