Otmar Kowar

* 1968

  • "A message for new generations? In any case, when speaking of it, I would like to see cross-border contacts become ordinary in the future, to make such friendships habitual, not an exceptional phenomenon. So that no projects would have to be organized, but simply we would live like this. Events that take place in our country should be commonly attended from the other side of the border, and vice versa. We should be able to go to see each other, as we used to, so that one common cultural space would exist again, in spite of national borders and different local governments, so that the cultural space which had been there for hundreds of years would come into existence again. To bring everything back into balance, to live like that. That is what I wish for."

  • "Yes, the Iron Curtain was part of our life. When you went somewhere to see relatives, for example, or when you met someone somewhere, or when you arrived somewhere and you were asked where you came from, the answer was: 'We come from the Iron Curtain, that's over there by the Iron Curtain.' I used to hear it a lot as a young boy, but actually, I didn't know what it meant until I asked about it. But it was the reality, it wasn't questioned in any way, it was a fixed part of everyday life for us, that a few kilometres behind our village there was a border with barbed wire. And one felt, or it was often said, that we lived at the end of the world. I also remember from childhood that it was often said that we had no background. When it came to road diversions, regulations or jobs, that phrase was often used. We have no background. I didn't understand that as a child, why? So it was. It was only later that one recognized what had been meant

  • "In 1990, when you first came to the Czech Republic, what differences did you see between the Czech Republic and Austria?" - "The most obvious difference was simply the way the villages looked. I would say that in our country villages were blooming at that time. Everything looked nice, the houses were nicely painted, they were tidy, there were flowers in front of them. When you crossed the border in those days, you suddenly felt like being in another world. For me personally it all looked so dreary, without bright colours."

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    Freistadt, 04.09.2020

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We lived at the end of the world

Otmar Kowar as a mayor of Unsferau-Altweitra town (around 2018)
Otmar Kowar as a mayor of Unsferau-Altweitra town (around 2018)
photo: https://www.unserfrau-altweitra.at/

Otmar Kowar was born on November 27, 1968 in Gmünd, Austria. He grew up in the Upper Austrian village of Heinrichs bei Weitra near the border with Czechoslovakia. After graduating from the agricultural school in Edelhof in 1987, he worked on his parents’ farm. He regarded the Iron Curtain, situated just two kilometres away from his home, as a natural part of his surroundings. He had not expected its collapse and was pleasantly surprised by the opening of the border in 1989. After his father’s death in 2000, he took over farming on his family’s land and switched to organic production. In 2011 the witness was elected mayor of Unsferau-Altweitra for the first time. In order to be able to hold the post, he had to limit his business activities and he stopped making dairy products on his farm. In 2020, Otmar Kowar was living in village of Heinrichs, farming on his farm and serving as mayor.