Chata is a traditional Czech weekend house, built by hand by Czech families dating back to the 1920’s and of which had special significance during communist era rule within the country. The tradition of fleeing city life to find refuge in nature and the privacy of one’s own sanctuary is still very prominent in today’s society yet during communist rule it held a special importance for average people who were not able to travel and vacation outside of the country and who were constantly under the watchful eyes of the government secret police. It was a way for people to express their creativity, creativity which remained stifled under communist rule. It was a place to let go and be one’s self, have privacy and liberty. Each house is unique, some more elaborate than others, made from found materials like large wooden beer barrels, painted with characters, and often hosting collections of the past, such as miniature figurines, cameras, rifles, etc. Within the chatas culture was born a specific practice called “tramping”.
Tramping derived from the ideology of scouting and still is alive and well in the Czech republic. Tramping was an extreme response to the communist era rule, in that it focused on living completely within the nature, without electricity, or running water.
“Trampers” as they are known have a special fixation with American Western and American Indian culture, underlining the desire for democracy and liberty, of which during the communist era, was a far off dream. Although Chata culture was extremely popular during communist rule, it is still alive and thriving, and holds the same principals on which it was built. The focus of this story is on a small village named Kytlice in Northern Bohemia, Czech Republic which lies on the border with Germany and was a very pivotal area for communist rule both before and after World War II. It was home to many Germans who after the war were removed from their homes and sent back to Germany, as well as to many Czech that were in opposition to the communist party and also lost their property. Many Czech’s have unique and fascinating stories about their families, their experience during communist rule, and the chata that their families have built by hand. Although communist rule in the Czech republic has ended, the memories are bittersweet and the country remains a young democracy with many traditions rooted in the past. Chatas is a story realized under the LAF project (http://www.lafproject.org) which aims to document daily life changes in cultural lifestyles occurring in totalitarian and (post) totalitarian countries through the medium of photography and related media.