Interview with Jakub Crcha – our History teacher

Jakub Crcha is an anthropologist, sociologist, and history teacher at LEAF Academy. How did he get to know about our school, where did he study, what is his relationship with theater and how was it growing up in Kremnica? All of these topics and much more are what you can look forward to in this interview that was published in Folium – our school magazine.

Just like most of us, Jakub left his hometown when he was about 16 years old. He went to study in an International Baccalaureate (IB) program in Norway. Jakub enjoyed the international community, describing it as “being with people who are not in the school because they have to but who are in school because they want to. And I think that’s one of the things that also make LEAF Academy so special.” I agree with Jakub. Being surrounded by like-minded people makes you much more motivated and driven. And since people all around the world join the program, it broadens the knowledge of different cultures. I consider this very important, especially when one is growing up. 

After his four years of high school, he went to the United States to do his undergraduate degree. His master’s degree was done in Vienna, a little closer to home. Studying abroad made him realize that “there is the idea that when you are young you want to get out of this country because everyone keeps telling you that it’s bad. So you grow up thinking it’s bad. I had the same mindset, went abroad to live a normal life in a different place, and realized that there are things in every country that don’t work.” But we do have a lot of things to be proud of. “Our transportation system is good as is our healthcare system and we are relatively safe.” It was very interesting for me to see someone who I can relate to but older and with more experience. It was honestly refreshing to see someone appreciate our country and someone willing to return back to live here. 

The funny thing is, Jakub actually didn’t study history, he studied anthropology and sociology. Anthropology comes from the Greek word Anthropos (human) and logos (study). “A lot of anthropology relies on fieldwork where you go as an anthropologist to certain societies and spend a long time there. You observe, you can interact with people to sort of try to get an idea of how certain things are organized. For example, in early anthropology, it was very common for anthropologists to go to different countries and just study how things are done somewhere else. It’s a study of human societies. Not historically but contemporarily and through the people.” I have never met someone who studied in this field before and Jakub talked about it with such interest it made me reconsider my career choices! 

I asked Jakub what was the coolest place he visited in his career and what does he specify in. “I work a lot with the environment. When I was in the U.S. I worked with environmental anthropology like oil and pollution and now when I moved to Europe my work is in borders and migration. I don’t really travel anywhere cool to do my research. I also did most of it during COVID so I was mostly sitting at home researching online and calling people and working like that. So I haven’t traveled anywhere cool for work yet.” Even though Jakub didn’t think I’d find borders and migration cool, I really did. 

Moving on from studying and career choices, as mentioned, one of Jakub’s passions is theater. “I used to do a lot of theater when I was a teenager. I went to a drama school and for my undergrad, I studied playwriting, but I’m more interested in the writing part than the acting part. I still work at the theater. For the past six years, every summer I travel to Norway to work for a theater company for about a month.” I also asked Jakub if he talks with people that work there in English, and his answer surprised me. He actually speaks some Norwegian, since it was the mandatory foreign language at his high school. 

When I asked about music, there was not much to say. Literature is Jakub’s cup of tea, though. “I have to admit that I am not really a music person. I listen to any old rubbish. I’m more of a literature person so I’ll tell you that I’m reading a lot of contemporary Japanese literature and contemporary literature from West Africa. So for example there is a very good Japanese author called Banana Yoshimoto. I really recommend it if you’re into literature. She writes very short books, one of them is a short novel called Kitchen. I think it was one of the most interesting and enjoyable books I’ve read. And from West African literature, there’s a really good book called My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. It was really funny.” All of these books are going on my reading lists, thank you, Jakub! 

But what about his home? Jakub enjoyed growing up in a small town, Kremnica, in the hills. The kind of town where you know everyone and it’s quiet. “Of course, it was a little bit boring for me as a teenager, since there is not much to do, but now I love to come back as a visitor.” I didn’t grow up in a small town, but sometimes I think of how peaceful it must be. Does Dúbravka count? 

Jakub has certainly experienced the charm of the small town as well as the excitement of a large city. Right after university, he decided to move to Berlin. “It’s a great city that has a very good cultural scene and as far as European cities go it’s very cosmopolitan. I liked it but I’m happy to be moving back to Bratislava.” I am envying Jakub a lot since it is my dream to go to Berlin one day. 

Since Jakub has traveled quite a lot in his life, I also asked him about his food preferences. “I’m 90% vegetarian. I love Indian food and I like Japanese food. I don’t like Slovak food very much, that’s one of the things that I didn’t miss about Slovakia and it’s very hard to get back to. I like baking, I prefer baked food. I drink a lot of tea. I’m the boring kind of person. I drink like 6 cups of tea every day and I come to class with a cup of tea and just drink it throughout.” As a Slovak food hater, I can relate. Pirohy don’t count. 

So, how did a person with an anthropology degree become a LEAF Academy teacher? “I was looking to move back to Slovakia for a bit so I was looking for some jobs. I wanted to work in education of sorts and I preferably wanted to work in English. I’ve heard about LEAF Academy before, I have known people who were in the first year of LEAF Academy students so I heard many good things about it, and then the position was open right at the time when I was looking for jobs and it all worked out.” And we are very grateful it did! 

Overall, I enjoyed every part of the interview and I am glad I got to get to know such a cool person as Jakub Crcha. He was very willing to answer my questions and the energy was relaxed the whole time, even though it was probably the second time we ever spoke. So if you ever want to talk to him, or to anyone else here at LEAF Academy but are always too shy or unsure, just know that under every face is an interesting story worth hearing. And Jakub is really excited to get to know the students of LEAF Academy as well. 

Karin Pavlovičová – interview + text
Eliška Pastieriková – photos

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