Česká stopa: Czech History in the TikTok Era

At the University of New York in Prague, we’ve always celebrated the innovative minds that grace our halls. Among our diverse community of students, some not only excel academically but also bring unique projects to life outside the lecture rooms. Petr Jirsa, a student from our International Relations program, embodies this blend of scholarship and passion. Balancing his academic commitments, he founded the unique project known as ‘Česká stopa’. Driven by his deep appreciation for history and the desire to engage the digital generation, his initiative seeks to spotlight the lesser-known stories of Czech heritage. Journey with us through this article to uncover the essence of ‘Česká stopa’ and witness how Petr is revolutionizing the way we perceive and share historical narratives.

Can you introduce yourself and your academic background a bit? 

Hi, my name is Petr Jirsa. I’m currently studying International Relations at the University of New York in Prague. Apart from university, I focus a lot of my time on my social media project, “Česká stopa”. 

What led you to start the project “Česká stopa”? 

I’ve always been into history. It’s fascinating and so full of inspiring stories that can resonate even centuries later. Being active on social media, I was getting confident in starting new content projects. Even though I faced criticism at first, I kept going, thinking with patience, something would eventually click. Starting university gave me a push to create videos that could educate. And with international relations as my major, it felt right to talk about politics and global history. But I saw that while many were talking about the global, not many focused on Czech stories for a younger audience. So, I jumped on TikTok, aiming to pull in a younger crowd and educate them about Czech history. In hindsight, it was the right move. 

If you were to describe “Česká stopa” to someone who doesn’t know your content, how would you do it? 

“Česká stopa” is where I share stories from Czech history and its present. I began with a focus on how Czech individuals and companies impacted the world, hence the name “Česká stopa” which means “The Czech footprint”. As it gained traction, I branched out to talk about local stories, landmarks, museums, and the charm of Czech villages. 

Why the emphasis on the influence of Czechs outside of their homeland? 

I like the idea that Czechs leave their mark wherever they go. It’s fascinating that such a relatively small nation can have such a broad presence on the global stage. I wanted to shine a light on these stories, showing that anyone, from anywhere, can have an impact globally. 

How do you pick your video topics? 

Sometimes the idea just hits me. It can be while I’m browsing the internet, reading a book, or chatting with my parents. Recollecting older memories often brings up topics that would resonate with the younger generation. 

How do you strike a balance between keeping the integrity of your research and making the content engaging? 

It’s about checking and rechecking from multiple trustworthy sources. Misinformation can be damaging, so I have to be careful. To keep it engaging, I create videos that I would personally find interesting, thinking if I’m hooked, others might be as well. 

What challenges have you encountered in making your videos? 

Getting the message across concisely is a challenge. With just around a 2-minute window, deep diving into topics can be tough. This approach of not getting too broad is something I also apply to my university essays. 

Has there been any viewer feedback that stood out for you? 

It’s always special when someone you look up to acknowledges your work. A shoutout from another content creator whose work I really appreciate was heartwarming. I deeply value the support from friends, family, professors, and my followers. 

How do you think “Česká stopa” has added to the understanding of Czech history? 

I’m no historian, but I come at history with a curious mindset. My aim is to make historical stories interesting to a wider audience, hoping to pull in even those who might not usually care about history. There are stories, like that of Ivan Jandl, the young Czechoslovakian who won an Oscar, which I believe should be reintroduced to the younger generation. 

Where do you see “Česká stopa” going in the future? 

I’m always thinking about the next step. While there’s a focus on growing on Instagram right now, I see “Česká stopa” evolving into a collaborative platform where multiple creators passionate about the Czech story come together. Ideally, it’ll transition from being a one-man show. 

What do you hope your project brings in terms of the Czech youth and their perception of their own history? 

I want the younger generation to realize they can make a big impact. The Czech Republic has a rich legacy of influencing the world, and the baton is in our hands. By highlighting the past, I hope to inspire actions that create fresh Czech footprints globally. 

Any standout moments from “Česká stopa” that you’d like to share? 

One time, during my series on visiting villages, I randomly chose Lešetice. There, I found a museum dedicated to the victims of the communist regime. Sharing a heartfelt conversation with the receptionist and later spotlighting this less-known place became one of my most viewed videos. It made me hope more people would visit. 

Any tips you’d give to upcoming content creators? 

Passion is key. If you love what you’re doing, you’ll push through the challenges. Love your creation, and it will show, pulling others in. If it’s not working, change your tactic but stick with it. With dedication and a true heart, you’ll get there. 

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