Columbia Valley Origins: Daniela Krtickova

·6 min read

Daniela Krtickova spent a year in New Zealand when she was twenty-four. “It changed my perspective,” she said. Before New Zealand, her approach to travel was rooted in adherence to detailed plans and itineraries. Yogi Berra said if you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else. Yet despite all of her planning, Daniella still ended up someplace else among the spectacular glaciers, picturesque fiords, rugged mountains, vast plains, rolling hillsides, subtropical forests and volcanic plateaus of New Zealand’s north and south islands.

New Zealand was freeing and liberating. She travelled by van, rent free. There certainly was no cell phone on her hip, and access to the internet involved finding a coffee shop that would sell it to you. There was nowhere to go, but everywhere, so Daniela kept rolling under the stars.

Remiss would be to not think somewhere deep in her lineage are traces of that ancient Bohème spirit. Though for the sake of accuracy, Bohemianism, or the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, should not be thought of as a cultural export of Bohemia (present day western Czech Republic). Blame the French: In the early 19th century, Parisians mistakenly thought of the city’s Romani people as immigrants from Bohemia dating as far back as the 16th century.

Hometown: Sezemice, Czech Republic

Age: 37

Occupation: Cross-country ski instructor

Columbia Valley arrival: June 2020

Hobbies: Graphic design, mountain-biking

Still, Daniela evidently wears this figurative Bohème hat in the best sense. She’s sporty, creative, presently works at a gallery selling fine art, and enjoys listening to podcasts concerning Czech politics and current events. She doesn’t want to lose touch with her home country. Daniela was born in Sezemice – a town with two factories and a cute town plaza with 800-year-old buildings. It’s about the size of Invermere and is a short drive away from Pardubice, a university town of 90,000. From a Pardubice college that no longer exists, she later graduated with a degree in hospitality management.

For the first six years of Daniela’s life, her country was still under Russian Occupation. Russian communism in the Czech Republic lasted from 1968 to 1990. “We had nothing, only our cabin,” Daniela says of her childhood. She’s referring to the difference between a communist’s childhood and the modern iPhone toting generation. The cabin, built by her grandfather, was where she and her older sister Hana would go with her parents on weekends. The same grandfather who, before the Russian’s arrived, worked as an accounting economist at a large company. Because he refused to vote for the communist party, he was reassigned without consent to a new occupation: garbage collector. Many people fled the country during the 22 year Russian Occupation. There was a culture of fear around fleeing the economically desolate country. Those caught were sent to prison.

But Daniela recalls the freedom she had as a kid on those weekends at the ?enkovice cabin – located midway up a small ski resort the size of Fairmont and near the Polish border. “My grandmother would have a cigar dangling from her mouth while cooking. She would say to us: I don’t want to see you until dinner!” At which point, off Daniela, Hana and their cousins would go running in the woods. “We had complete freedom. There was no technology, and we spent our time entirely outside.” Daniela is certain she never wants communism to re-enter her life, but still, there were upsides.

After her glorious, transformative year abroad in New Zealand, she returned home. She worked at a golf course, saved her money and quickly began planning her next foreign adventure to Canada. By November of 2009, there she was, standing alone in the Calgary International Airport’s arrivals terminal. She arrived on a one-way ticket into Canada with nothing much more than the clothes on her back, a working holiday visa, and a terminal case of wanderlust. She was supposed to have one of her best friends join her, but her friend’s boyfriend got in the way. They laugh about it today.

In her hotel room that night, only then did she start thinking about where to next go in Canada. She made no decisions until the next morning. As the sun rose, for the first time, she saw the Rocky Mountains. For the next three weeks, Daniela visited Banff. She befriended Katarina, a Czech girl who let her stay in her apartment after the first couple of nights in a hostel. Soon she discovered with greater familiarity Canmore and much preferred its quieter lifestyle. Her first job (she had yet to learn to speak conversational English) was as a housekeeper in a Canmore hotel.

For the next eleven years, Daniela remained in Canmore. An enlightened result, more predictable perhaps as a natural byproduct to an adventure strictly devoted to relentless spontaneity. Though at the time of her arrival, she was thinking one-year tops living in Canada. But then that year ended, a new one began, and there she was still happily in Canada. Rinse repeat times twelve. In 2019, after a Sisyphean affair of bureaucratic paper shuffling, she became a full Canadian citizen.

In Canmore, she enjoyed snowboarding, hiking, seeing, doing, exploring. Eventually, she learned to cross-country ski. In no time, she became proficient at it to the point of being awarded a Level 2 instructing certification from the Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors. Her teacher was John Gallagher at Nipika Mountain Resort. At Canmore’s world-class nordic centre, Daniela began instructing. She met her partner Jesse, himself a certified ski, snowboard and telemark instructor.

When the pandemic hit, the nordic centre closed. For many, employment went away while Canmore’s sky-high cost of living remained the same. “We’d been thinking of moving to B.C. for a while, and we decided it was the perfect time to go,” she said. For the past few springs, she and Jesse would come to explore the valley’s many mountain-biking trials. They arrived in the Columbia Valley in June after finding a place to rent, thanks to Green Door Property Management. “There was definitely a feeling of relief when we got here,” she said of making the permanent move.

One of the first things Daniela did to mark her arrival to the Columbia Valley was design the banner art for the Shuswap Indian Band and District of Invermere’s landmark Friendship Agreement. A very chic Bohème design. “As an immigrant, I did not know much about Canada’s indigenous history,” she said.

Daniela recalls how shockingly little Canada’s First Peoples were covered in her citizenship test and application. “There was maybe one page in an entire book. When I was creating the [banner] art, I started googling things about indigenous people. I took the free Indigenous Canada course through the University of Alberta, which was suggested to me by our friend Ryan Watmough. I knew there was a historical issue in this topic, but I never knew the details. The course was definitely eye-opening. Now I know why things are how they are.”

James Rose, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer

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