Professor, colonel Jože Sivaček
“And now for a Czech story… The necessity of reorganising our educational system became apparent in the late 1990s and early 21st century. We were looking for a new model corresponding to the social changes. They offered me steering the reform of the military educational system. First, I was pleasantly surprised to receive such an offer at my age, and second, it was my mission. I realised that the very Military Academy was founded by a Czech – General František Zach – back in 1850 and that, 150 years later, there was another Czech entrusted with reforming military education. It was a unique opportunity, one that few people get in their life. When searching for models we needed the support from certain similar institutions abroad. Why, I turned to none other than the Czech Republic, so the model of our system is based on the model that the Czech Republic has to this day. The institutions are similar. Yes, ours resembles the Czech model.”
“The Czech community was always a minority. You often hear that Austria-Hungary was one state and that all Czechs lived in one country and so on, which I believe, is not true at all. Czechs in the Austrian part of the empire, in the lands of Bohemia, lived a completely different life from Czechs in the Hungarian part. According to the ancient stories of Czechs in those areas, the arrival of the Hungarian government brought about hard times for Slavic minorities. When I asked my grandpa why he used two names – you know, some called him Ludvik and some Lajoš – he told me that he had to change his name because Hungarians ordered him to use a Hungarian name. This is just one detail illustrating that the Czech community was always a minority. We have been living in the region for 200 years, we have always been a minority but we obviously have been successful in organising ourselves and surviving. I wanted to stress this because preserving the identity is difficult during certain historic periods. When Vojvodina joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes there was a change in the pressure and tension towards minority communities. The Hungarian pressure subsided and living in such a Slavic state was completely different.”
“Then we have the language problem. We were not lucky enough to receive teaching in Czech. For me, the beginning and the end of Czech was what I learned from my grandmother. Thanks to her, I have responsibility for and a love of the language that I have not forgotten to this day. Then again, I got to travel to the Czech Republic often as part of the educational reform; I was fifty and I visited the country of my ancestors for the first time. I had no opportunity to go to the Czech Republic before that and I thought that, like my father and my grandfather, I would never get to see the Czech Republic. While on a visit, I proudly said at one moment: ‘I am a Czech!’ I am saying this because we tend to live with certain misconceptions. People looked at me strangely and my colleague, the Rector of this University, said: ‘Jožka, you are not a Czech; you are a Serb of Czech heritage’.”
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Never retreat, always think positively and success is sure to come.
Jože Sivaček was born on 13 March 1954 in the community of Bela Crkva in former Yugoslavia in a mixed Czech-Serbian family. They spoke Czech at home. As a child, Jože spent most of his time with his grandma who would read him stories from a Czech book every night. He graduated from the Military Academy in Belgrade and had a successful career: he attained the colonel rank and became a professor and then the Dean of the Military Academy. He was involved in a reform of the military educational system after 2000. He has been an active member of the Czech community in the Banat region and the current Chairman of the Czech National Council. He is married and has two daughters.