PETRA JUNGMANOVA

Hi my name is Petra Jungmanova.  I am a 38 year old self employed single mum of a wonderful 10 year old son and we live with our two amazing black German Shepherds Hata and Leo in Australia.  As you have arrived at my site I believe you are interested in how I might be of assistance to you.  From my perspective before we get to that I believe it is important for you to get to know more about me, my background and what I have been through.  Simply I am not someone who is a theorist or regurgitates the words or thoughts of someone else.  I draw upon my genuine and unusual life experiences as well as my training - old and ongoing.   Forgive me if I provide too much detail, but as the events I have experienced and resolved are becoming more prevalent in our society, I feel it is important, even in this introduction, to show how positivity and determination can help overcome extreme adversity.  So I welcome you to my world - past to present.  

 

When I reflect, it seems I have led many lives but all with the common theme of living life fully while longing to learn - a constant education, and using my inner strength and independent spirit to overcome adversity, not always immediately though, as I have retained much of the gentleness and sensitivity I had as a child born with an artistic inquisitive in the former Czechoslovakia, a not very friendly and fertile place for someone like me.  As my family has always been very sports and outdoors oriented, the majority of my younger life was immersed in a very healthy balanced environment like helping my mum run the athletics and gymnastics programs at the local sports club as well as annual two week summer camps themed around adventure and survival which she ran.  She taught my sister and me how to ice skate and ski at tender ages of 2 and 3.  I still have vivid memories and the sensation of skying downhill and mum pretending to be the lift pulling us up the hills where our block of flats was nestled in a place called Kraluv Dvur (Kings Court) about 30 minutes outside Prague.   We lived in a typical small 2 bedroom flat which we basically just used for sleep (I shared a bedroom with my sister), spending most weekends at our grand parents places - one a gypsy villa 10 minutes by bike; the other a traditional village house with a large garden and workshop within walking distance from everywhere in the village - including the pub, where it was our job to go and get the beer for lunch, but instead of returning home immediately my sister and I would sit under the tree near the church and eat the beer froth before returning with flat beer!  When we were younger our parents would take us there and leave us for the weekend.  As we got older, me around ten, we would make the one hour trip by two buses ourselves.  I used to make the same trip during the week for athletic training.

 

I was very close to my grandmother - self esteem

 

We were surrounded by castles with their magical web of fairytales, legends, and mysticism which built in me a deep connection to the place and land - things I still cherish and nurture inside me today.  This was our playground - the rocks, trees, my grandmother’s gypsy villa.  We would get lost with our local gypsy friends exploring the trees, the lake, being like a little indians.  I still have vivid images of growing our own food, flowers and nuts in grandma’s garden.  I cannot forget her raspberry bush - always full ready to pick.  All this provided a sense of freedom and independence, creating our own fun, unusual in this otherwise politically repressive environment where we would also have to contribute to the work around the house, picking up produce and helping to cook and store for winter.  I always loved the grocery bus visiting weekly with milk packed in plastic bags, salami’s dangling from the roof and the smell of freshly ground coffee - although only one brand was available nationwide.  

 

My parents were employed like the majority of our neighbours and friends in the local steelworks, working form 6 am - 3 pm.  Luckily for us they also had other passions.  Our dad was musical, starting to play in a band firstly with his father when he was 16 years old, both played the saxophone and clarinet.  Dad was also part of the choir, conducting Christmas mass with local volunteers in the little church on the top of the hill opposite our block of flats.  Dad would also play at weddings, funerals, markets and village dance balls.  My personal favourite when I was young was the kid’s dress up carnival, where we got to help dad setting up for the gig and would get to hang around playing backstage.  As I got older, we would go to help set up in the pub dance hall.  The smell of the empty dance hall the day after remains one of my favourite and vivid memories.  Also at such events, I would be welcomed when I entered by my favourite saxophone tune performed by dad and grand-dad.  It was one of the most beautiful things about that time - only we knew the song was meant for me and I still tear up when it comes up on the radio.  Mum remains a mix of contrasts - a life enthusiast who would dances on tables yet possess a gentle sweet soul under a thick skin.  She made sure we got exposed to all possible sports and alternative cultures - even as taking us to Paris after the Velvet Revolution in 1989 (the fall of Communism) when I was 10.  She always thought big and raised us in a truly Spartan spirit, where only the strong survive.  I realise now it’s because of these foundations that I have been able to handle the adversities I have subsequently faced in a positive manner.  My mum remains my hero.  

 

After the fall of Communism life changed for us in the most fortunate way with our brave mum establishing a major and still successful business and our dad getting out of the steel factory, where mum’s father spent most of his life, to work as an engineer in Prague.  As for me, I continued to enjoy my formal education locally particularly Russian and German, art, craft and music including the piano which dad arranged for us to learn. However we didn’t like the teacher and when she passed away we refused to go back to classical training.  Motivated to help people, especially the gypsy kids I continued to train in gymnastics (my black gazelles as I called them), when like all children in Czech at 14, I had to make the decision about my future career path, I chose Nursing School in the regional town of Beroun - planning to become a doctor in the future.  This may sound strange given the education systems in most Western Countries, but for me it was normal.  So for the next three years I loved having to study Latin, learning about the human body and engaging with patients, everything associated with nursing.  During my weekly work experience in hospitals after my first year of study I had to rise at 6.30 to get the train to the hospital in another regional town to be ready for work at 7.30.  I had the privilege of working with the newborn, children, maternity, post surgery, palliative care, and gynaecology.  For my final hospital experience of three months full-time before graduation my friends and I rented rooms in an old house from a cranky old lady.  I didn’t care that we had no television, I had my very first own room with charming old furniture, a beautiful but uncomfortable bed and blossoming jasmine under my window. I loved it.  My hospital experiences started alerting me to the unchanging nature of care in the hospitals and private practice along with the lack of interest, compassion and humanity extended to the relatives.  I started becoming disillusioned with the health system and re-appraised my desire to become a doctor.  I’m now so grateful for this lesson so in an early life, not just the experiences in the hospital which helped me with the later traumas I would face with the problematic birth and development of my son in Australia, but also my life philosophy - to cherish life itself and stay healthy for life. 

 

Fortunately while I was studying nursing in my spare time I continued to nurture my other creative needs and given my disillusionment with the health system they were ready to explode.  I would draw literally everything, especially people - their shapes, expressions and body language fascinated me and still does.  I loved sculpture and pottery.  I taught myself the guitar and flute, I explored philosophy.  In this I was being mentored by a local sculptor and potter and met a local girl who studied ceramics at the Art School in heritage listed Cesky Krumlov (the Czech Republic being a UNESCO ‘superpower’ with 12 Heritage Listed towns), two hours away by train.  I remember the moment sitting in her bedroom with pictures of bowls and cups around on the walls and dreamt of the possibility of doing this myself.  Although this was a year before graduation at Nursing School, my mum and I drove down to Krumlov with all my sketches for a talent assessment.  We got a room in a tiny little B&B under the castle, walked the old streets of the once celebrated Alchemist city still decorated with many charming medieval taverns on every corner.  The entire city was enlightened, we marvelled at the castle, churches and tiny little houses like from a Disney fairytale with a river decorating the city like a ribbon - a perfectly preserved time capsule. That place just oozed magic, ghost stories, culture and ridiculous architectural and natural beauty, I remember how I wanted to immerse in its culture so badly but as a local. I was beyond nervous at the talent assessment, comparing myself to others in the room, not thinking I was likely to be chosen.  

 

A few weeks after I received a letter inviting me to study and I could not believe my luck.  But I still had my graduation from Nursing School at the ripe old age of 17!  For my graduation ball at the nursing school I had a tailored made black velvet dress by our scary majestic taylor lady friend whose daughter was a model and she compared everyone to her.  I felt so fat and clumsy looking at enlarged portraits of her daughter around the salon!  Notwithstanding my athleticism, I felt unattractive and had low self esteem as I was always taller than my peers, male and female and was photographed with boys at for the class portraits. I was not into make up, looking pretty and despite oongoing offers for modelling turned it dow as a shallow existence.  All this tended to exaggerate my rebellious spirit.  So as a protest I made myself a gorgeous hand dyed bright white and orange maxi dress for the after midnight informal party/ disco.    I graduated and left home for the first time to study at the Art School in Krumlov.  Life for me was ecstatic, fun and full of promise.

 

I became the best in my class, living in a convent under the Castle. I had long blue black hair, a German Shepherd, yellow bike and a bunch of gypsy kids always around me.  I’d help them with their schooling, often cook for them and dry their clothes in winter. I loved their street smart attitude and their survival skills. Afterinfusions of Government funding the convent got renovated like rest of the city and lost the genus loci for me since. I loved the old patina on the houses, streets with a real character, still filled with an interesting art and tasty craft.  I often re-visit my incredible life movie here and those incredible places.  

 

Throughout this time I also had a very unconventional boyfriend who played in a band, composing songs and poems for me and living an alternative lifestyle.  In the still conservative and insular Czech environment he was fascinating, believing he was a Shaman, a man of nature, part of the underground movement that was gaining momentum in Czech.  He had developed a following locally for his alternate views and lifestyle.  I was curious and adventurous, yet still naive and impressionable and full of low self esteem.  I fell under his spell.  We would spend weekends either alone or in a group exploring Czech by foot.  I learnt survival, how to defend myself, be independent, read people and situations as we would stay in the open in forests, by the rivers, in caves, etc. often without sleeping bags, as everything was spontaneous and raw.  If there were no suitable places we would ask someone if we could stay in there barn.  Simply we were more interested in life than the usual Czech alternative of just binge drinking in the pub.  Interestingly this heightened my alienation from the other females as I was not the usual submissive trophy female - I had my knife which I could use, my dog, and my strength.  Sometimes we would also stay in my beloved Kutna Hora - another magical, stunning heritage UNESCO listed city with the most magnificent Gothic cathedral - St Barbara, affectionately called by everyone Barborka, the exception where almost every church was named after a male.   There was something innocent and fun about it.  I became immersed in this Bohemian lifestyle.  

 

After the fall of Communism backpackers from all over the world started to discover the Krumlov magic with some staying up to 6 months living in hostels off their savings as everything was so cheap. It became like a cultural Mecca with many concerts, performance nights and I met people from all corners of the world.  Their open-mindedness and tolerance fascinated me as I really grew up in a Czech bubble - full of Czechs, with one language and no migration.  As my study progressed and with the break-up of my parents marriage I again re-appraised my future.  I broke-up with musician boyfriend as he had no ambition, no real plan for the future - just to continue with his unconventional and what I now saw aimless and increasingly drug and alcohol fuelled life.  I realised also with my parents break-up that while they were together, they were really apart and that my sister and I had not grown up seeing what a true relationship should be.  I had learned the hard way at the tender age of 18.  Simply there seemed more to life than just partying, drinking beer and having shallow conversations (there is only as much you can talk about after a few Czech size beers and shots), I simply had enough of that life which I lived to the fullest and there seemed nothing positive to experience and grow on this path.  So I went on a full detox of my life - no alcohol, swimming every day, riding my bike everywhere and being the last year at the art school - thinking of possibilities for the future.  My friends were planning to study at Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, or to stay and buy a run down farm house outside Krumlov, open their own ceramics studio, get a macho boyfriend with long hair and settle for that.  

 

I could not see my future life in the Cesky Krumlov, which I had outgrown, nor in Czech, which I still found constrictive and myopic.  I desperately wanted to learn English so I could read any book I wanted from all over the world, access all the knowledge.  I was very restless and frustrated.  As destiny had it I met an Australian man on holiday who was running a local hostel.  After dating for about 6 months using an English dictionary for communication, I fell in love with him as he said he did with me.  So I moved in with him in the hostel, then after my school year finished and I accepted his invitation to come to Sydney, Australia, without commitment at that stage for six months to travel around and then return to Czech and graduate.  Soon after that he left and I joined him a few weeks later.  By then, I had very limited English, but no knowledge of Australia, its culture and geography.  So when I arrived by myself, I was in an unknown foreign land where I did not have the ability to have even short meaningful conversations.  However, I found the whole place fascinating and exotic, almost beyond belief and unlike any other country I had visited.  I was transformed, I didn’t care that we settled in a room with a balcony in a shared house in Coogee.  My boyfriend got an office job in the city having been away from Australia for three years.  Then the reality started to hit home.  Unexpectedly the majority of time I was alone, I did not expect such a cultural shock, isolation and loss of identity.  Most people knew Czech as the former Czechoslovakia and little else about its rich cultural heritage.  I felt pitied like I was so lucky to be in Australia.  I understood very clearly the need to learn English fluently and study the culture to be able to survive here and build a meaningful future life.  I realised it was up to me to make the most of this change so I started studying English five days a week with refugees in a Government run Adult Migrant English program at Blacktown a one hour train trip away.  I knew my overseas qualifications would not be accepted here, so I had to take further steps to upgrade my English skills to get into university to study conservation and restoration at the Canberra University, a course I found while in Czech, so I also enrolled to study English at the TAFE in Sydney, and then Sydney University.  Our plan evolved into me staying in Australia and moving to Canberra to study, while he stayed in Sydney for a year to finish his study and then come to Canberra for his work experience.

 

So during my stay in Sydney I worked tirelessly full time on my English during the day and in a leading fine dining Italian restaurant at night where I managed to get a job as a waitress.  Through a dear female Czech friend I was lucky to meet in Sydney I got the opportunity to work at the Royal Easter show in her coffee shop.  After this I was offered a full-time position at the leading coffee shop in which she worked.  When I finished my English studies a few months later I took up the position and left the night job.  learning about coffee and becoming the head barista pouring over 1000 cups a day and helping with management.  It was a fantastic learning experience and I’m still friends with them. It was a fast paced but tiring life not getting to explore Australia as planned, just me focussed on my learning; my boyfriend focussed on his studies and hip hop band which soon became famous so he started travelling the country with his friends - a dream for them, more loneliness for me.  I began to realise he was not the person I met in Czech where he was really in ‘holiday mode’ and had converted back to the real him of his real life.  His complex emotional problems became apparent and we ended up with little in common.  I was alone most of the time, including social events, weekends and celebrations.   So for company I ended up spending time with his very kind parents at the Central Coast.  I would catch a train from Sydney Central Station travelling along the magnificent Hawkesbury River to Gosford.  I remain grateful to them for really laying the foundations for my future life here, giving me a true appreciation of my new home, Australia and all that goes with it - culture, sentiment, love of land, and the sea and surf - oh, the sea and surf, I now can’t live without them.

 

After over a year of preparation I got entry into the course at the University of Canberra and so moved to Canberra without my boyfriend.  He remained in Sydney studyingfor his Masters and continuing his music career.  I rented a little garage granny flat in a green leafy suburb and commenced full time study. I worked at three different fine dining jobs at night, riding my bike everywhere like in Sydney, except for when it got very cold - Canberra being at altitude in a basin surrounded by mountains.  My loneliness continued despite the move and I realised things were unlikely to change.  So I finally found the courage to leave my boyfriend, my only real bridge to Australia.  It was a terrifying, sad decision to make, leaving someone I still loved.  Again I was really alone and so immersed myself in my studies, took up Spanish, started to volunteer in the National Library sorting the endless bird catalogues in a serene restoration room.  However unfortunately due to Government changes my university fees had to be paid upfront - something I could not afford.  So I took a semester break and found a job at the Embassy of Czech Republic as a receptionist.  As Canberra got cold, so did my humble garage with no insulation or heating and it was tough.  Fate intervened again, unbeknown to me at the time, in the worst possible way.  One night my hospitality friends organised a cheese party and there I met the man who would later become the father of my child.  I now realise after my last break-up, being so sad and lonely and in a new city with low self esteem, I was being drawn to people who would show me warmth and affection.  This meeting developed into an unexpected romance with promises of marriage and a life of compatibility together, travelling and enjoying what I believed were our similar interests.  After I moved in with him I soon found myself pregnant and in a relationship that was becoming increasingly unhealthy and full of false promises and commitments.  Simply my new partner was someone I now recognise as a control obsessed narcissist.  He very quickly isolated my from my Sydney friends and former life, sport and anything that wasn’t about him.  He was trying to control my very existence.

 

After I got pregnant I felt hell was unleashed in a pattern of ongoing psychological abuse, bullying and control was to continue for the next 11 years.  Being in a vulnerable situation with no family, stable work, my own friends and only his detached family and friends made everyday became an effort just to survive.  I gave up the idea of returning to study and ended up during the pregnancy and after having to be supported by my mother to meet my personal expenses.  Leading up to the actual birth, my partner even insisted I get an interpreter for the birth - me being by then tri-lingual!  The birth seemed uncomplicated until we found out a day before the due date that something was wrong with my baby and the doctors were concerned also for my life.  I basically had to choose to go ahead and risk my life and have a son with special needs, or terminate and effectively save myself.  I chose the former and ended up next morning having an emergency caesarian section.  As no one believed that my son had any chance of surviving his birth and with my life also in danger it was a gloomy scene, hardly what any mother would imagine.  I was also effectively alone facing this ordeal.  I was overjoyed when my son was born and crying.  It was the happiest moment of my life.  Because of the complications we were flown to Sydney’s Westmead Hospital so my baby could have brain surgery, and life as I knew it stopped.  My existence had shrunk to a few square metres in an intensive care unit waiting for his surgery.  I used to call it my room of broken dreams, with babies sadly dying around us.  I was unable to walk and bound to a wheelchair for a week.  Holding to life itself I started to pray for first time in my life, making a commitment that I would devote myself solely to my son for at ten years.  Luckily he flourished and recovered well and after two weeks we were send home with nothing but hope for his future development.  No one was able to speak or give us an example from an experience.  Worse for us was the fact that we were returning to the unsupportive hostile environment.  

 

Our first year was to be full of emergency trips and learning how to recognise a common childhood illness from a medical implant malfunction.  A few weeks after my son’s initial surgery there were technical problems and we had to return for another agonising brain surgery.  During this stay in the hospital this time I saw many chronically ill children with no mobility and being mentally compromised.  I could not believe in my heart this could be my baby’s life.  After getting back home I contacted all possible organisations and people who could help with my son’s development.  I found that there was little real understanding of his condition or support.  So what followed was an intense five years of therapy, the majority of which I arranged, attended and undertook as necessary.  I studied new techniques, researched diets and exercise routines, anything I thought could help. and worked every day sometimes through tears as we slowly move forward.  The next five years were focused on bringing my son up with a holistic approach to education, daily exercise, health and discipline for for as balanced and normal life he could achieve, as well as keeping informed about his condition.  Thanks to my background in Czech teaching physical education to children of all ages, my nursing experience, as well as the nature programs in my mother’s summer camps I created my own program and researched food, nutrition, gluten free diet and the best possible way to nurture and nourish his body.  I explored all avenues of medical assistance both alternative and conventional, sometimes challenging the conventional with my alternatives.  I had to be strong for myself and my baby, as his father told me after the birth.  

 

We continued to live in the toxic, isolated abusive environment with his father until when my son was three and life became so unbearable, we saved our selves by leaving - with just a few hundred dollars, and an old washing machine and fridge from his father.  Once again I had to start all over again.  Without support of my mother the only option would have been a woman’s refuge.  However with her help I was able to buy a car and rent a renovated house in Canberra which became our sanctuary.   For a few days I was even on such a high that we actually escaped the tyranny!  However, the world did not seem like a really friendly place after that experience wore off as I was 100% devoted to my child, essentially becoming his full-time everyday therapist while working part-time to help make ends meet.  Making sure his needs were met first was a must and for a while it felt like the essence of me had gone.  I drew on all my past experiences and the core richness of our life to fuel me during those uncertain early years - waiting to see if my son will talk, walk, think, understand love, mix socially, be able to go to kindergarten and school by himself and integrate with his peers. I never stopped believing in his potential, lost hope or belief in myself and results of everyday hard work.  I never doubted my role and commitment to him.

 

 

I slowed my life to his abilities and speed and matched my activities with his for a sense of normality, balance and belonging.  Watching my son blossom, grow withconfidence and creativity, have fun and adventure and creating the childhood he deserved has been the most rewarding journey.  I forged our life from nothing into one filled with joy, laughter, friends, adventures, creativity and opportunities. I went from cleaning jobs which allowed me to drop everything when needed and be there for my son anytime he had a nose bleed or headache at school, to waiting tables, making coffee and finally starting five businesses around him as he and his needs developed.  It was a huge entrepreneurial journey for me with mistakes and valuable lessons. 

 

 

 

So where are we now!  Happy, joyous, full of life and anticipating a great, happy and successful future.  Since my son was born I’ve been encouraged by family and close friends knowing our story to share it with others in the hope that they might benefit from our journey.  I am now liberated, ready to continue a mission to inspire people to see that life can be different and can be changed right now - whatever your age, gender, status into a more fun, loving, joyful, fulfilled and connected authentic experience. In my past I had to search and follow my dreams, my creativity, knowing there is more to life.  I cleared all toxic people and negativity from my life, limiting beliefs, digging deep and creating a daily healthy habits for life that kept me balanced despite the noise and circumstances around me.  I’ve been teaching my son daily mindfulness, gratitude and living with joy from his heart.  I’ve raised him to be a beautiful, young, conscious, aware person who at age 10 knows who he is, stands up for himself and his values and believes his creativity, dreams big, and practices daily gratitude.  I’ve gone from blaming and undervaluing myself my entire life to love myself fiercely; see myself beautiful; respect myself for all I have achieved, most importantly fulfilling the promises I made to my son at birth; celebrating my creativity and incredible life journey; and being grateful for life as it is.  I learned to pull myself up by my own hair from a swamp.  I’ve learned to be my best friend. I’ve learned that integrity and truth does shine so brightly that any lies have no chance and people can read it, sense it.  I’ve learned the power of loving everyone in my life for what they are despite our differences.  And I’ve a complete trust in my abilities.  I went through hell, found the light and now want to share it to guide others from fears, darkness, isolation.

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