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  • Penny Lover

Jitka and Mark

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

#ColdWar #EiffelTower #Romance #EasternEurope #WeFoundLoveInThe80s

Jitka and Mark met purely by chance, it was serendipity. They were both students visiting Prague and from different countries. Jitka was sitting on a bench, reading a map. Mark asked Jitka if she could speak English and she could, a little. They ended up spending 3 days together, exploring the beautiful city of Prague. Their story could be the making of a Hollywood rom-com movie, but it is far from fiction.

Jitka and Mark found love in 1982, in the Old Town Square, Prague.

Jitka & Mark, September 2020. Photo Credit: Outroslide Photography

Jitka tells us their love story

I was kind of fed up didn't want to have anything to do with men. I just thought, I’ll go to Prague on my own, and have a nice time. So that's what I did. When I arrived, I headed to the Old Town Square and sat down on a bench looking at a map. A stranger approached me and asked me if I spoke English, and I did, a little. Mark (English) and I (Czech) met by chance in Prague in 1982 in the Old Town Square.

I probably understood every third word of English that Mark spoke, but we managed to communicate with each other. The evening had arrived and the sky was a beautiful deep blue colour. At about six or seven o'clock, I took him to Prague castle and we walked across Charles Bridge, which is the most famous bridge in Prague. Nowadays it’s packed but in those days, but that night it was empty and we were totally alone. It was all very romantic and magical.

We decided to meet again the next day and we carried on exploring the sights of Prague together. Mark was studying architecture and so he was very interested in the beautiful buildings of Prague. After 3 wonderful days together, we parted ways and went back to our respective countries. So it turned out that our first date lasted 3 days!

At that time we couldn't see a sensible way forward to be together because it was unsafe for me to be in any kind of communication or relationship with a Westerner. I was in danger of being approached by the secret police to become a spy. This made me feel a bit cautious about continuing with Mark but I just couldn't forget him.

We were both students and Europe was divided by the ‘iron curtain’. After a year without any contact, I managed to get a travel permit to visit France and England with my sister. I wrote a letter to Mark and suggested we meet on a specific date and time at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I didn't know if he would receive my letter or turn up. I remember going there and it was a misty day and when I looked, there he was, standing underneath the Eiffel Tower! It was so romantic, we jumped into each others arms. I had no way of knowing he would turn up but he did and I was so happy.

My sister was with us, so I think it was a bit awkward for her, but we spent two lovely weeks travelling and spending time in France and London. It was my first time in Western Europe.

Jitka and Mark reunited in France

After spending more time together, we were determined to carry on, and spent another year communicating by letter. Once we had both finished our university studies, we thought we should spend time together for few weeks, to see how we’d get along in person. Then we would have to make a decision about the future - either to have to part or get married.

At those days of the Cold War it was far from straightforward. I did not want leave Czechoslovakia illegally and discovered that if we got married in Czechoslovakia, I would be granted legal emigration from my home land and also, later, the chance to gain British Citizenship. It was a lengthy and tedious process with lots of paperwork, but we did it.

Mark and Jitka after their wedding ceremony in Old Town Square, Prague, 1985

In 1985 we got married on the same square that we had met on. Starting my new "English" life was challenging. I had to improve my English and find my way and place in the huge city of London. We lived in Hackney at first, and that was an eye opening experience. London was full of people from all over the world, and I felt very welcome.

Jitka and Mark on Charles Bridge in Prague, 1985

I gave up my medical career and became a ceramic artist, both with Mark's great support. My work has always been inspired by my dual identity and life.

I guess I always liked the very Englishness of Mark, his particular sense of humour. I felt his friendship and respect and the fact that he accepted me as I was, with my background. I always say, a cat is a cat and Mark is Mark – he doesn’t change himself for anyone.

"A cat is a cat and Mark is Mark" - Jitka

What is love?

Love is a journey from sparks to steady light. It is freedom, not obsession or possession. There should always be time for laughter and kindness. The most memorable moment was probably when we met for a second time, and after that when our three sons were born. My story is full of all the makings of a Hollywood romantic comedy, so many twists and turns, but fate ultimately led us to our path of love which started in the 1980s.

Meeting each other like that was either fate or chance. I went to Prague with no expectations except to enjoy myself and accidentally I met Mark. We’ve been an amazing adventure together ever since.

Their favourite song from the 1980s is Red Red Wine by UB40

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