The international service of Czech Radio 
14-11-2019, 07:15 UTC
Living Czech

You're in the army now ...

Hello and welcome to Living Czech. I'm Nick Carey, and I am joined in the studio today by Olga Szantova. I am afraid that I still do not have the programme ready on double entendres, but will let you know when I do. Instead, this week we will take a look at the armed forces in Czech.

This is a very interesting theme in Czech, because the Czech Republic, unlike Great Britain or the other English-speaking nations in the world, still has military service, much like the French do. This used to last for two years, but has been reduced recently to one year, and is referred to as vojna, which is related to the word vojsko, which literally means the armed forces. You can be valid for military service up to the age of thirty, and so you can go to university for many years, and then still be legally obliged to serve in the army. If you are currently undergoing military service, then you are na vojnì, or on military service. If you are lucky, then instead of military service you can do civilní slu¾ba, or civil service, which can be anything from working in a hospital to working in a state office or institution for a year and half.

For those who do not wish to go na vojnu, or on military service, then there is another option, called the modrá kní¾ka, or the blue book. This is given to all men deemed unfit for active duty, such as those with health problems or disabilities. There are those, of course, who will do anything to avoid the vojna, as funnily enough, not many men wish to spend a year of their lives carrying out the menial tasks that are usually assigned to the young vojáci, soldiers on military service. These men use family connections or even spend large sums of money to bribe their way into receiving a modrá kní¾ka. I have been told that all of the Czech Republic's hockey players have a blue book claiming that they are unfit for military service, and I myself used to play football with a Czech, who received his modrá kní¾ka because of a supposed weak heart. Apparently anywhere up to fifty percent of Czech men eligible for military service have blue books. Interestingly enough, young boys fresh to military service are often referred to as ba¾anti, or pheasants. Don't ask me why.

Apart from the boys na vojnì, there is the professional army, manned by profesionální vojáci, professional soldiers. They are for some reason referred to as gumy. Guma is rubber, and is a term used when referring to anything made of rubber, including tyres and condoms. Perhaps not surprisingly, the term gumy is not flattering, and basically means dumb when applied to soldiers.

There are the dùstojníci, or the officers in charge, of the vojáci, as is the case for the rest of the armed forces. There is the letectvo, or air force, with its letouny, aeroplanes and stíhaèky, fighter planes. Stíhaèka is basically related to the verb stíhat, to pursue, so the connection there is obvious. The officers and all the different ranks are generally the same as in the infantry, and unfortunately there is not enough time to list them all.

As it is, we just have time for a quick mention of the námoønictvo, of the navy. Yes, the Czech Republic, despite being a landlocked country, officially has a navy, albeit a very small one. The Czech for sailor is ironically námoøník, which can be literally translated as man on the sea. I am sure that if you close your eyes on a rowboat on the Vltava that you can almost hear the sea.

Well, that's all we have time for this week. Next week we will take a look at growing up and growing old in Czech. Until then, mìjte se fajn, or take care.

In order to properly view letters from the Czech alphabet it is necessary to set your browser to Central European languages (ISO 8859-2).