What happens when a young independent Northern Territory country girl decides to follow her dreams and go off in search of adventures abroad? An honest, often funny, bittersweet memoir of love, loss and belonging; of the hard-won understanding around where home lies.
'I loved it! I laughed and cried and it was very hard to put down.' Fleur McDonald, bestselling author of Where the River Runs
'A story of love for country, for home.' Toni Tapp Coutts, author of A Sunburnt Childhood
In 1994, with a battered copy of Let's Go Europe stuffed in her backpack, Tanya Heaslip left her safe life as a lawyer in outback Australia and travelled to the post-communist Czech Republic.
Tanya had seen the Berlin Wall fall in November 1989, and after receiving a piece of Wall hacked out by an East German guard in hobnailed boots with nowhere to go and no job to do, she decided she would do anything to get over that wall and see what was on the other side.
Dismissing concerns from family and friends that her safety and career were at risk, she arrived with no teaching experience whatsoever, to work at a high school in a town she'd never heard of, where the winters were frigid and plunged to sub-zero temperatures. Oh yes, and where there were just one too many serves of pork, cabbage and dumplings.
During her childhood on an isolated cattle station in Central Australia, Tanya had devoured story books from the School of the Air library, and dreamed of adventure and romance in Europe. But the Czech Republic was not the stuff of her dreams.
On arrival in this town, she fell ill, and through high fever and terror of not being able to communicate properly anyone (she spoke no Czech and very few there spoke any kind of English) she believed she would end up in a Siberian gulag, never to be seen or heard again.
But as she started to heal, and spring brought flowers and beauty to the countryside, she fell headlong into misadventures that would change her life forever.
This land of castles, history and culture opened up to her and she to it. In love with Prague and her people, particularly with the charismatic, blue-eyed Karel, who took her into his home, his family and as far as he could into his heart, Tanya learnt about lives very different to hers.
She found ground-breaking work teaching English to the Minister of Justice and Judges of the High Court, assisting them as they emerged out of communist control into a new world of democratic law and human rights (and also used School of the Air songs I'd learnt to play by guitar to showcase outback Australia wherever possible!)
Alice to Prague is a bittersweet story of a search for identity, belonging and love, set in a time, a place and with a man that fill Tanya's life with contradictions.
'Vivid and detailed . . . questions what it is to belong.' Kathryn Heyman, author of Storm and Grace
'A brave, open-hearted and emotionally intense journey.' Liz Harfull, author of Women of the Land
About The Author
Raised on an isolated cattle station north of Alice Springs during the 1960s and 70s, Tanya learnt about the outside world through the Correspondence School and School of the Air. She spent many hours dreaming of the overseas lands depicted in her childhood storybooks.
When she was twelve years old, she was sent sixteen hundred kilometres away from her outback home to a boarding school, a traumatic and life changing experience. Ultimately, she became the first student from School of the Air to go on to graduate from Law School.
She built a career in law – focusing as much as possible around outback issues because of her passion and interest in the land. Highlights included working on the Lindy Chamberlain Inquiry, and litigation involving mining magnates in multi-million dollar disputes.
Tanya never stopped dreaming, though, which led her to the foot of the Berlin Wall as it fell in November 1989. Later she found herself in a tiny Eastern Bloc town where no one spoke English, and then onto fairytale Prague, a city of spires and castles and cobblestones. There she used her law to teach English to lawyers and judges, and discovered – to her joy - how truly connected our world really is.
Tanya has since published Alice to Prague (AU 2019), An Alice Girl (AU 2020) and Beyond Alice (AU 2021).
Tanya still works in law and lives back in Alice Springs with her husband. Tanya is President of the NT Writer's Centre.