Marek Stubley pulls the hand brake on his bike begrudgingly and smiles as he hears his daughter laugh from just up ahead. He may have lost the race, but the joy he hears from his daughter is all the prize he needs.
Stubley and his wife Tereza live in a small village near Prague where they raise their two children, Emma, 5, and Adam, 2. It’s a very different life than he had growing up.
His children get to live near nature and run through forests instead of running around the flats of the industrial city of Moravia, Stubley’s childhood home.
More importantly, his kids get to grow up in the Czech Republic, a free and democratized country that is much different than the land that Stubley grew up in.
Even though his childhood home is a mere 205 km away (roughly 127 miles) and is technically still the same country, Stubley grew up in an era where his native land was known as Czechoslovakia, a nation-state behind the Iron Curtain and the communist regime that was the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
“I was born in 1978 and have been living here my whole life. I was born in the time of communist government so I remember how it was,” said Stubley.
Stubley explains the hardships that came with the communist flag; how common practices included factories that couldn’t compete financially with capitalist-backed competitors staffed with employees who worked only a few hours each day then pretended to work until their shift was over; where inefficiencies were widely known and jobs were created for everyone simply as a means of providing people a place to collect the same measly pay check that everyone else collected.
“Nobody was unemployed, but everyone was poor and miserable,” said Stubley.
All this began to change in 1989. The Berlin Wall fell, the Iron Curtain lifted and the cracks of the Soviet Union shown through, ultimately collapsing and allowing its member states to finally achieve independent success in a free world.
“It took at least another 20 years for the country to develop to a standard and healthy community. A place to raise a family, to live here and to be happy,” said Stubley.
As his homeland commemorated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the communist regime last November, Stubley celebrated his heritage and his children and too the opportunity to introduce his two greatest loves to each other.
“I praise my country and regret at the same time that not many people are aware of it. There is no threat of wars or natural disasters and the good weather and changing seasons gives our lives diversity,” said Stubley. “I would not change it even if I can, and I know my children will be as proud to call this country home as I am.”
To this day, The Czech Republic remains a country that remains virtually unknown to the rest of the world as they question whether there is still some level of corruption that exists there.
“Sometimes when I am abroad, mainly in the United States, people ask whether there are still corruption concerns in Eastern Europe. It’s a bit ridiculous if we are talking about the Czech Republic,” said Stubely. “There was a peaceful split of Czechoslovakia in 1992. We didn’t have to go through anything like what former Yugoslavia countries went in the form of the Balkan Civil War. Nothing like this exists in our country. The work of the Czech police, justice authorities, state attorneys and investigators is very professional and extensive.”
Stubley has seen the work of the new legislative powers first hand as even he was investigated by authorities.
“The work of the Czech police, justice authorities, state attorneys and investigators is very professional and extensive. I was even under investigation one time because one of the anti-corruption Czech NGO organizations indicated there could be some suspicious transactions in a public-service company I represented as a lawyer,” explained Stubley. “Because my name also appeared in some legal documents I ended up being interrogated several times. I must admit that no mafia would have a chance to operate in our country.”
Stubley has seen a lot. He remained a native son of the newly named Czech Republic and worked his way through law school to become a lawyer at a prestigious firm in Prague, even becoming a partner in 2007. He met Tereza along the way and the two were married in 2009.
“I love my country. I travel a lot as a lawyer and my wife works was a stewardess. The more I travelled the more I liked returning back to my home, my country. This country is great and has a lot to offer to anyone,” said Stubley.
Satisfied and successful, it wasn’t until 2010 when he and Tereza welcomed their daughter, Emma, into their lives that Stubley truly recognized pride and elation.
“Work as a lawyer is tough. It is time consuming, stressful and you need to concentrate tremendously and it was impossible to stop working (in my mind) after coming home,” said Stubley. “But after my daughter was born, my family supported me with a special kind of bottomless energy. It gave me reason to live and go on.”
Stubley admits that becoming a parent, and then becoming a parent of two in 2013, was immediately rewarding and troublesome. Figuring out how to rearrange his personal life and make room for his new family while still taking time out to himself caused some growing pains.
“I am always trying to use my time as efficiently as possible. My main hobby before I had a family was cycling. Since then, I tried to reorganize activities to be more efficient so I started to cycle to work instead of going by car because it allowed me to keep my hobby alive and gives me more spare time for my children.”
That spare time is ultimately used to pass on his interests to his children. Stubley says his daughter is a highly skilled cyclist and skier, both passions of Stubley, and he intends on teaching his son Adam later this year. He values each and every moment he can spend with his children as it’s these moments that Stubley believes that makes a parent truly special.
“I love my wife and my children and I love spending time with them. It is a kind of relaxation for me,” said Stubley. “Every evening I come home from the office, no matter how tough of a day I had, it always shifts me immediately to a different world.”
To Stubley, being a dad is about loving one’s children and giving them “your all” so that they may grow up in the best possible way. He recognizes that enjoying the time he spends with them means more than the money he makes.
The Stubley family spends as much time together as possible. They make snowmen and take ski trips in the winter and bike around the neighborhood and walk along the river or explore the local forests in the summer.
“It’s not about money or time spent, but attitude and feelings. You cannot buy one’s way to being a good father. Even the poorest guy in a small village can be a good father and can more than likely be a better than one living in wealth but makes no time for his kids,” said Stubley.
While the professional hardships of living in the Czech Republic are obvious to Stubley, being a parent is universal. He admits that different parts of the world could offer better opportunities for his children or different standards of living, but he feels being a dad is a “special mission that shouldn’t be limited by a certain social standards made available by the country that you call home.”
“Being a good father is a satisfaction. It pays back. It gives you more than you can imagine,” said Stubley. “You hear about it growing up and you think you have an understanding when you find your wife or your husband, but it’s something that you simply cannot understand until you join that exclusive club of being a parent.”