I've been visiting Slovakia regularly for the last three years as my wife is from Žilina Region. We set up business here and spend our time between Dubai and Slovakia.
It's fair to say that every time I walk down the street, I'm greeted with an odd stare and glances - after all, I am dark-skinned and sport a beard. Classified as a foreigner and labelled an immigrant, I've had my share of odd encounters. Yet, every time I've been asked how I like Slovakia, my immediate response is 'I absolutely love it'. As for those who stare, I reciprocate with a smile and watch them get confused and not know how to react.
This has been and may as well remain the initial reaction I'll always be met with. However, all of that changed in a second this past week.
Hospitality in Žilina Faculty Hospital
I developed an abscess in my backside and waited too long to get it checked and treated. After over two weeks of trying to manage, I could no longer stand it; I was battling a recurring fever and was fainting from the pain. My wife called an ambulance, and from that moment on, I got to see the heart of Slovaks - not the poker face I've always encountered.
The ambulance staff (a male/ female duo from Martin) who barely spoke any English set the pace of what was to follow. They had an extremely warm and caring attitude, with such pleasant smiles. I couldn't believe it. Where were the odd stares?!
At the Žilina Faculty Hospital emergency area, I was met by a young, stylish doctor, and his ever-smiling nurse. Throughout his examination, he didn't say a word to me and only spoke to my wife in Slovak. Minutes later he looked at me and the first thing he said was, "I'm going to stick my finger up your ass" - in perfect English. I can only wonder what else he knew how to say! Moments later, I was advised I needed surgery the same day.
In the next room, while the preparations were being made, a young lady spoke up and asked me how I liked Slovakia. My standard response followed; the love I have for this country was about to be reciprocated in ways I could not imagine.
I was immediately admitted to the Surgery Department of Žilina Faculty Hospital, and over the next few days after the surgery, I met numerous hospital staff including nurses, surgeons and other support staff. The odd stares were gone; I was met with warm smiles, greetings and so much love. I was not a foreigner or an immigrant anymore; on the contrary, I was made to feel at home.
With those who could say a few words in English, we shared laughs about Borovicka and Slivovicka, and the nurses would giggle every time I tried to say a few words in my broken Slovak to ask for something. My darling wife was my standby on-call translator, and when visits were not allowed, she would stand by the window so I could see her briefly.
Moved beyond words
The love and care I received have left me feeling humbled, lost for words and in awe of all you Slovaks. With the little Slovaks have, they have filled the rest with love and made it even better. Having lived in Dubai all my life, I was used to something very different in every possible way. But here, for all Slovakia lacks, Slovaks make up for tenfold. Their kindness, love for one another and their sense of care have filled all the gaps perfectly.
Every time I said thank you to anyone at the hospital, I was met with the standard answer "this is my job" Deep down I know that isn't true. Just doing their job would mean having a poker face, performing a check-up, doing their part and leaving.
This whole experience has touched me immensely, and I am moved beyond words by the beautiful spirit Slovaks possess; by how they go out of their way to please and make up for all that isn't. I am indebted to them and promise that for the rest of my time here through our businesses, I will do my part to reciprocate the love and care they have shown me.
To the entire team at Žilina Faculty Hospital, Surgery Department, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
May God bless you all.
8. Sep 2020 at 9:00 | Oscar Mathews