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Diplomat's wife promotes cultural exchange through children's books

2018/12/31 16:59:10

Chen Liang Podstavek (梁晨)

Taipei, Dec. 31 (CNA) After accompanying her Slovakian husband to Taiwan following his posting to Taipei as a diplomat, Chen Liang Podstavek (梁晨) has been actively working to promote cultural exchange between Taiwan and Slovakia by translating children's picture books from the two countries.

Podstavek, born in Beijing in 1984, goes by her Slovakian name Lidka and only came into contact with Taiwan after her husband Martin Podstavek became representative of the Slovak Economic and Cultural Office Taipei.

Following her graduation from Beijing Foreign Studies University where she majored in Slovakian language and cultures, Lidka traveled to Slovakia in 2007 for further studies, eventually receiving a doctoral degree in linguistics and literature.

Although Lidka originally dreamed of becoming a diplomat, it was her marriage to a Slovakian diplomat that brought her to Taiwan, where she has since found an opportunity to promote diplomacy through cultural exchange, said the 34-year-old mother of two in a recent interview with CNA.

After arriving in Taiwan in late 2017, Lidka was impressed by the quality of Chinese language children's books which she read to her young children, who currently attend Xihu Elementary School in Taipei's Neihu District, the literature lover recalled.

The school provides an incentive to students to read more, whereby they accumulate points for each book read that can be exchanged for gifts, Lidka said, adding that she has been very impressed by the diversity of themes and drawing styles in Taiwan's children's picture books.

At first Lidka and her children borrowed books from local libraries and then bought editions on their own, quickly amassing a collection of more than 400 children's picture books at their Taipei home. Of these, Lidka has translated several into Slovakian, with detailed introductions about their authors and topics.

Those include a book, titled "The Memory Forest of Grandma" written and illustrated by Tsui Yung-yen (崔永嬿), which depicts how a child interacts with a grandmother suffering from dementia.

"I was deeply touched (by the book)," Lidka said, and very much wanting to introduce Slovakian children to such good literature from Taiwan, she began translating them.

However, Lidka also wants to introduce Slovakian children's books to Taiwan too because she believes reading is the best way for children to broaden their horizons and enrich the map of their mind, she said.

Lidka revealed that with assistance of Taiwan's Ministry of Culture and the Slovakia Information and Culture Center, she plans to publish in the first half of 2019 a Chinese language picture book of an old Slovakian fairy tale she translated.

At the same time she will also publish in Slovakia a translation of a picture book from Taiwan detailing the story of Joyce Meredith McMillan, a late American missionary who founded a children's home in central Taiwan in the mid-1990s.

In addition to translation, Lidka, who also works at the Slovak Economic and Cultural Office Taipei, is planning to invite Taiwanese authors and illustrators of children's books to visit Slovakia in the near future. Slovakian illustrators will also hold exhibitions in Taiwan in 2019.

Looking to the future, Lidka is keen to introduce Taiwan's books to other European countries, including the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany and Austria, Lidka said.

The Chinese-Slovakian also shared that her great grandfather on her mother's side, Jin Wen (金雯), was a Republic of China Air Force pilot who died at the age 34, during the third Battle of Changsha against Imperial Japanese forces in 1942.

Jin was posthumously made a colonel and is remembered at the National Revolutionary Martyrs' Shrine in Taipei.

Early this year Lidka's parents came from China and together they visited the shrine to place a wreath at the name plate of their ancestor.

While China chooses to forget, Taiwan "remembers (him) forever and that moves us very deeply," she said.

(By Elaine Hou and Elizabeth Hsu)