As the fieldwork grows closer in our date books, our meeting on March 31 focused more on the practical aspects of oral history research. Contrary to what may be expected, oral history is not a chase after “The Truth” with a little help of narrator's memories. What matters most is the narrator himself: his individual story, his personal experiences, his motivations and his emotions - all are pieces for the picture we're trying to create.
According to our project, each student is supposed to record memories of six Greeks or Slav Macedonians. But how to do that best? For the introduction to oral history methodology, we invited Doc. Paedr. et Mgr. Miroslav Vaněk Ph.D., the director of the Oral History Center at the Institute of Contemporary History, Czech Academy of Sciences, and his colleague PhDr. Pavel Mücke PhD, who is the secretary of Czech Oral History Association. We couldn't hope for more competent speakers. With many projects and methodic books behind them, they prepared us for situations we could expect (being interrupt every ten minutes by narrator’s nosey relatives carrying coffee and new bunch cookies to offer), but they also explained how crucial is a "special bond" for a research like ours.
The BOND with our narrators could be done naturally: We are women – we understand each other or You're a guy, you know what I'm talking about. Nevertheless, sometimes it needs a stronger connection with the narrator and then the interviewer would gladly do whatever it takes to create that bond. Speaking from experience that our lecturers faced themselves, this can become a trial by fire: eating home-cooked mushrooms with the disturbing thought of being poisoned (even by mistake) or making friends with narrator's pets (such as a huge snake around your ankle). Sounds cool, right?