15 years



Puppets that heal.

Children's pictures hang on the bulletin boards, the walls are full of colors. You can trip over stuffed animals or table hockey in the common areas. Employees of children's departments of Czech hospitals try to create the most pleasant environment for hospitalized children for treatment. However, the typical "sterile" atmosphere of the hospital seeps in here as well. Most of the time, no one plays with the toys, the parents of the children who are here fighting a serious illness or waiting for an operation are serious, there is no laughter coming from the rooms. And it is laughter that is trying to bring the civic association Loutky v šóvila, which this year as part of the charity project "B. Braun for Life" is supported by the B. Braun Group.

"Do you want to sing something?" asks four-year-old Vojtíšek in the children's common room of the oncology department, musician Jiří Holub, and pulls out his violin. But Vojtíšek is tired. He doesn't want to sing, he prefers to play with toy cars by himself. "He's not very well today," his father explains. Despite this, Jiří Holub continues to play and sings folk songs together with his colleague Kateřina Tschornová. The sound of the violin is already attracting other parents who bring their children here. Carefully by the hand, on the wheelchair and in the stroller. The presentation of the volunteers of the civic association Loutky in the hospital can begin.

Laugh heartily again

180,000 children are hospitalized in the Czech Republic every year. You endure long-term separation from home and demanding treatment very hard. At the same time, the psychological state is the basis for their successful recovery. Members of the Puppets in the Hospital – theater actors and musicians act as therapists for the patients at the same time. They visit hospitalized children in hospitals and treatment centers throughout the Czech Republic and bring them joy through puppets, songs and theater performances. "Thanks to the puppets, children can at least for a while forget about their troubles and pains and laugh heartily again," explains Marika Míková, who founded the Puppets Association at the hospital ten years ago.

Almost three-year-old Filípek Harbich, hospitalized in the oncology department of Prague's Motol Hospital, enjoys his visit to the Puppets one hundred percent. He sings for life and demands more and more songs. “It's only been three weeks since he spoke. Now he has regained his speech, otherwise he just lay there, we alternated between the intensive care unit and the anesthesiology-resuscitation department and ended up in oncology," explains his mother, while Filípek looks for a blood pressure monitor and wants to play doctor. He has been in the hospital for over half a year. "It always looked worse with Filip, but suddenly it picked up and he's almost good now, don't you see? So we enjoy it, we missed that, see?” he adds, turning to his son. "Puppets are amazing, it lifts the children up a lot. They don't have the same stereotype. In addition, Filip really likes puppets and now that he can perceive, he can really enjoy it."

The doctors reacted with surprise

At first, the small association occasionally visited several children's wards at the Prague University Hospital in Motola. The founder, director, dramaturg and writer Marika Míková was then inspired in Germany. She contacted a few of her friends from the theater and they asked in the hospitals if they could play. "From the beginning, even the doctors reacted to us with surprise. You come to the hospital with a guitar and the doctor says: What are you doing here? Do you know where you are? This is a hospital. [A1] Then they themselves were surprised at how the children had changed and how the overall atmosphere in the ward had changed. They found that it really has a good effect," notes Hana Grančičová, actress and member of Loutek. After ten years, they are already playing in twenty-one hospitals throughout the Czech Republic, and within one year they will perform more than a thousand theater performances and sing thousands of songs within the framework of 280 visits.

The puppet has almost magical powers

"When we pull out the puppet and there is a small child with his parents, the parents are also having fun with the children. I think the puppet is a magical item. Everyone opens up through the puppet," explains Hana Grančičová.

It is no coincidence that puppet shows are coming to hospitals. The so-called drama therapy helps to grasp and alleviate the problems that children face. It is a tool of symbolic expression. Children confide much more easily in a puppet than in an adult.

The child feels more trust in the puppet, communicates with it. Theater actors with a puppet also have much greater expressive possibilities. They jump on the bed with her, put her on his head, the puppet can spit and say whatever he wants with impunity. Only with the puppet does the child manage to talk or get him to react, a smile is enough.

"For example, we visited children who did not communicate at all because they could not. Because they were so terribly sick that they just lay there and waited for things to start working inside that sick box. And that puppet can do it. This is not our fault. There is something in the puppet in which the child feels the communication. He lies down, unable to do anything at all, and suddenly only moves the corner of his mouth. This is the maximum win for us," describes puppeteer Kateřina Tschornová.

However, the child's stay in the hospital is not only difficult for the child. His parents, who spend most of their time with him, also get busy. Often one of the parents moves in with their child for several weeks. "The treatment hurts the children, they are tired. Parents are tired of them," points out Jiří Hodina. That is why drama therapy is successful not only with children, but parents also perceive it positively. As a distraction, a visual and auditory experience, something other than the hospital stereotype. Like the time they have to themselves when the child is occupied by someone else. Like a lighthearted gaming world. But most of all, he sees his children laughing after a long time. "Seeing your seriously ill child react, or just watching the theater and having fun, seeing your child laugh, that's a huge happiness for parents," adds Tschornová.

Teenagers and seniors sing

"We won't let you in here today, we have a serious case," calls the nurse, closing the door behind her. Visits, while otherwise welcome, are often inappropriate in life-threatening wards. The same is true in Olomouc. Actress Lenka Volfová and musician Jaromír František Palme, known as Fumas, are moving on.

Time has stopped at the geriatric department of the Olomouc University Hospital. The walls are high, the plaster is falling off, the corridors are empty. It looks more like a factory here than a hospital. As if the old people were forgotten. The puppets seem like a revelation here. "Seniors like to sing with us. We sing them our songs, they sing theirs to us," adds Fumas. They go to the patients' rooms and sing. Their inhabitants sing with them and tell each other stories from their youth. "Thank you for remembering us," calls the elderly lady.  


Puppets don't just play for children. They also visit other departments, stopping wherever they can make you happy. However, the work is more complicated with older children. "You often see that moodiness in 14-year-old kids who have laptops, watch movies. But then someone from the room says they want to play. And eventually others join in and want more and more songs and suddenly a great atmosphere starts. Something changes in that room, something happens, and if you compare the mood before and after, it's something beautiful," describes Hana Grančičová, who is about to play with older children at the Pilsen University Hospital. It is up to the specific actor how he approaches the patients. Paths to the elderly are sought differently.

"The age gap is bridged by music. It amuses young children, adults and seniors. We break the ice through songs," explains Lenka Volfová. "When it comes down to it, we'll play punk," adds Fumas with a laugh. "Puppets also work for older children, but you have to be dignified," notes Kateřina Tschornová and gives an example: "She was already a big lady, fifteen or sixteen years old, I think she fell off a cliff. She was so broken, so crippled that she couldn't move for months. She had a stuffed lion with her and I tried it. I talked to her with the puppet and she took the lion and started talking to me through the lion. It was the first time in months that she had responded. At that moment I had to do something to hold back the tears.'

Wishing everything goes well

Currently, the association of Puppets in the hospital has thirteen members. Each of them has a permanent job, they play in hospitals in their spare time. "This is no ordinary job, you have to want to do it. He needs to know why he's doing it and it needs to be worth it. We have crises too. Colleagues too. We are tired, it is too much. But we come to the hospital and see that it is terribly important. Our ordinary worries will fall away. We see that there is something more than our pettiness," thinks Kateřina Tschornová as she packs the puppet theater into her suitcase. Working with seriously ill children requires a high degree of empathy and at the same time a little distance. "Of course, there have been many times when I've come home, sat down, stared into space and gone to sleep. But one learns to absorb those impressions. The only way we can help that child is to make him happy. And to wish that everything turns out well.'

[A1] This belongs to single quotes, I don't have a sign for them here, but it can be copied from the wiki or better from www.prirucka.ujc.cas.cz in the chapter "diacritics" (I don't have internet)

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