Jiří-Jakub Zévl traveled around the world when the coronavirus hit, he was stranded on Sumatra and created a documentary about the local Batak community.
By Hana Grohová
Jiří-Jakub is a social geographer and traveler and he was in the midst of his journey around the world when the World Health Organization declared a coronavirus pandemic in March. Countries closed their borders and most of the flights were canceled. Jiří-Jakub realized he would not be able to continue his journey.
However, he did not consider trying to come back to his home country, the Czech Republic, at first. “I thought about how lucky I was to be in Asia. The panic was spreading in the Czech Republic. On the contrary, in Asian countries everything seemed to be okay, even though the risk of getting coronavirus appeared much earlier. Also, my journey became a bigger adventure,” Jiří-Jakub described.
On March 17, Jiří-Jakub found out that Malaysia’s borders would be closed from the following day. But he did not have enough time to catch the last flight from Sumatra to Kuala Lumpur, therefore at that point, he could no longer get a ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Prague.
Native communities will be affected the most
“With my French friend, we were trying to figure out what should we do. We still had time to fly to another country in Asia and we were basically choosing in which country we would be stranded. In the end, we decided that Sumatra was our best option,” Jiří-Jakub said.
Whilst exploring the Indonesian island of Sumatra, Jiří-Jakub and his friend decided to film a documentary about the native Batak community and the impact of coronavirus on their tribe. “I think the coronavirus pandemic will gravely affect Bataks. Much more than us. They make their living by tourism, so their income suddenly dropped to a zero. And they have no other way to earn money,” Jiří-Jakub described.
Eventually, Jiří-Jakub was able to find a flight ticket to Prague. He could not continue his journey, however, he was at least able to return home. “I had to fly almost directly, they would not allow me to exit the international area. There was chaos in the systems selling tickets, but I was lucky to find a rather cheap ticket to Prague.”