They call him Mirvajs. He has been a Czech citizen for 16 years now but was born near Kabul. Soldiers don’t take their eyes off him because he is their key to the Afghanis, their interpreter from Czech to Pashto. But he does not want to stay in his native country. When his contract expires, he is going to return to the Czech Republic to enjoy good beer and picking mushrooms in the forest.
Thirty-seven-year-old Mirek, a nickname he got from the soldiers, works for the Czech army. Although a civilian, he wears a desert camouflage uniform with a small Czech flag on his shoulder. He keeps his name secret because of his job. People like him are scarce, and the Taliban knows that killing them means big success, because soldiers do not speak the local language.
Mirek came to study in Czechoslovakia in 1988. “I did law in Kabul and was supposed to go to Charles University. But when I arrived there, they were full. So I ended up at the technical university in Košice [east Slovakia],” he says. He was able to go to central Europe because he did well in school, but the fact that he was a communist probably helped him too.
He settled in then Czechoslovakia. After the Velvet Revolution, he started a business. At present, his mobile phone store operates smoothly even without his supervision.
‘We always spoke Czech at home’
He also found a wife here. Now his ex, she and their two daughters still live in the Czech Republic.
“We always spoke Czech at home, but the girls are asking me about Afghanistan,” Mirek says. “I would like to bring them here when it calms down.”
And what about returning to his war-damaged native region? No way, says Mirek, adding that he likes the forests and mushrooming in Vysočina. “I don’t even think of coming back to Afghanistan and living here,” he says. “I already miss well-chilled Pilsner.”
Life in his native country is tough for Afghans cooperating with coalition units, however. Interpreters are especially targeted by the Taliban. “An American is not the principal enemy,” Mirek says. “They want to get the interpreters because they are, as they say here, the key to the Afghan door.” And the head of the Czech contingent, Lieutenant Colonel Procházka, confirms this: “Interpreters are civilians, and they are an easier target than soldiers. The enemy can also exert pressure on their families and intimidate them. Their job is difficult and each unit watches them very closely.”