We are buying a pack of beers and starting the journey of few hundred meters. To visit the home of the homeless people we kept seeing from the train on our way home, almost in the center of Brno. Wait, what? Yes. Me, not really adventurous person by nature, and my crazy friend, taking me to a who-knows-what-kind-of homeless people just because.
He’s been there before, “explored” the area and convinced me I have to come as well. Okay, than. I told you I don’t consider myself fearless and ready to jump into possibly dangerous situations. But I’m easy to be talked into something. So I agreed.
“They have a big dog, by the way,” my friend informs me just ten meters in front of the “gate”, as we struggle through the overgrown grass. Perfect. We finally spot the “house”. And also a huge German shepherd running towards us. I tightly clutch the pepper spray in my hand as I prepare for the worst. Oh my god, I love dogs but you know, from a safe distance. But Mates, as we later learn his name, just sniffs us and runs back to his owners, two twin brothers in their late fifties.
“It’s him! Jesus, you look like hell!” my friend gets a lovely welcome from one of the homeless guys. “And he brought a woman!” he critically scans my appearance, and when he considers me okay, we receive invitation to “come in”.
“I will give you a cute dog, do you want? Put it to your room!” the other twin brother welcomes me with a toy dog in his hands. Petr is the younger one, although young is just a relative term. However the older brother insists on it. “I’m three minutes older!” he shows off.
Zdeněk and Petr are 59 years old and they spent most of their lives together. Well, apart from the time they spent in the jail. “I’ve been there five times,” Zdeněk specifies. “For a Christmas tree! They let my brother go and kept me in!” he explains angrily. We might have even believed him that he was convicted wrongfully but the story goes on. Zdeněk adds that he could have threatened the police with an ax. “I was just telling them to let me go,” he shrugs.
On a land, leased to them by Czech Railways for a symbolic 500 CZK a year (approximately 20 euro), small hut can be found, just enough for a mattress. So, actually, they are not really homeless, they have a roof over head. And ID, as they keep reminding us. With it, they regularly go to get social support, which is around 3000 CZK per month (circa 110 euro).
“You promised me photos, where are they!” Zdeněk shouts at my friend. He starts to nervously walk around. He probably remembered his last visit at the twins and the moment one of them took out the ax to threaten him, even they did it just for fun. “Well…. I will bring them next time, I promise!” he tries to save the situation. “I will make sure he does!” I support him.
Petr is preparing lunch on an old cooker, three year old Mates is jumping around and wants me to throw him a ball. Meanwhile Zdeněk took out from somewhere a pack of photographs. “This is when we were young, even our own mother couldn’t recognize us!” he shows me a photo with his twin brother. Curly toddlers, with surprise in their eyes. “And this is my lady. Well, she was…” Zdeněk talks about a sadder part of his life. They lived together for 17 years. “She died of heart failure, right here.” he continues. However, he doesn’t stay upset for a long time. “So I picked a new one, but she wants to fool around all the time. I am tired and she doesn’t have enough!” Zdeněk complains smilingly and points to an elderly lady, who is “living” with them.
They are both full of jokes, funny faces and dances. And both of them want to speak all the time. “Bring us some 40 year old, not this young meat!” they tell my friend. According to them, I am young and I wouldn’t be able to catch up with them. When my friend explains we didn’t come for this reason, they just nod their heads with disappointment.
“Oh, well, okay. Weird people coming here, they bring few beers, take our photos…” Petr pretends to get angry and takes the ax. I’m calm now, I know he is joking. Well, at least I hope he is.
“When is the marriage?” Petr asks my friend. When he laughs and explains we are not dating, he doesn’t give up. “You have better one? It doesn’t matter she has freckles! I have them also, look!”
“But you are ugly, look at yourself!” Zdeněk interrupts him and critically scans my friend’s appearance. “If you just could see us when we were young. Tell him, tell him about the wedding,” he turns to his brother.
“Oh, well! We were twenty eight, I had just finished the night shift. I slept maybe two hours,” Petr starts to tell the story. “And my brother woke me up, saying ‘come to the wedding’, so i did. We were like Belmondo boys, so handsome!” he brags.
Once in a while, passing trains interrupt their talking and the loud sound of radio. They have a radio? That’s not all. “We have also TV inside,” Zdeněk mentions. And many other things, among which few treasures could be found. Paintings, mirrors, clocks, religious motives, small hookah and even a mountain bike!
When we come back to visit them half a year later, we notice a couple new things added to the collection. After the first visit, I already know what am I up to, but I still squeeze the pepper spray in my hand. You never know with the big dog. And even more with the two crazy men.
They welcome us in the same style. When Petr sees us at the gate, he shakes his head.
“It’s us again,” my friend laughs. Petr calls to his brother and tells him we want to enter. “No no, prohibited!” he shouts back. But when we say we brought beer and photos, he agrees we will come in.
Zdeněk says hi and covers his eye. “I’m blind on this eye! I was stung by wasp!” he explains. He didn’t go to doctor, he doesn’t have any. “They arrested mine, he was taking bribes. I don’t want to go to another one,” he adds.
When my friend takes their photos, nothing has changed. They are making jokes, silly faces and no photo will be normal. Actually, it will. Because this is their normal behavior. Full of fun, they cannot stay serious even for a second. And they don’t need to.
“We will see each other when there will be snow,” we say goodbye. “In December, January…”
“We will make a big fire!” Petr promises.
“Two-meter high? Higher?” my friend asks.
“I don’t care, I won’t be here!” Zdeněk contemplates and covers his eye again. But we know he will. Those guys are strong, despite everything they have been through, they don’t lose their humor and optimistic view of the world. They live in a hut of a few metres, the social support is barely enough for them. However we haven’t heard even one complaint about life from them. A simple life many could be jealous of.
Photo credit: Vít Vrbka