Karen’s Corner: Kindness of Strangers

Another month, another unconstrained stream of word vomit from Just Karen a.k.a. Karel Vladyka a.k.a. Karen Dragshaw a.k.a. Prague’s most fabulous shitshow.

by Karolina Jirova


Once upon a time, I found myself falling asleep in a pool of my own vomit in front of a McDonald’s in the middle of Stockholm. It was a fun night out, but 2017 was a hard time for all of us. I had been living in Sweden for a few months and it felt like home, but finding yourself in such situation can feel particularly unsafe and unnerving even when you’re in your home country, let alone a foreign one.

Two strangers came up to me. A boy and a girl, both as angelically beautiful as they make them in Sweden. They crouched next to me and asked if I was okay, and if I knew how to get home. I said something along the lines of “KAHGHGBLHOGH“ and probably threw up a bit more, and they went inside the McDonald’s.

Here I am, I thought, stranded again, a RoXXXy Andrews all alone in this world, God save my broken soul. But they returned some minutes later, with a bottle of water and a cheeseburger. I started weeping and tried to thank them in my forgotten ancient language, but I don’t think they were familiar with it. So they just sat next to me and hugged me.

I woke up the next morning on their couch in Södermalm, and the boy, Jonas, brought me a coffee.

I believe in the person I want to become
I believe in the freedom of the open road
And my motto is the same as ever
“I believe in the kindness of strangers”
Lana del Rey

For a very long time, I struggled to even grasp this monumental kindness. Mostly because I can’t, with clear conscience, say that I would have done the same. Coming from the Czech Republic, I would say we are not raised to help strangers. You love and help your friends and family, but the dominant attitude towards The Others is apathy.

At the height of the migrant crisis in 2015, Sweden opened its doors to thousands of asylum seekers, while in my home country, the vast majority of the public and politicians were pushing against the quota system, reluctant to accept even a few dozen. It’s not cute. But we all have the capacity to learn and unlearn, and as Anne Frank once optimistically wrote of humanity, we all have hearts that can be good.

Shouldn’t we try and learn to be a little bit more Swedish? They just make it seem so effortless.

I’m just saying, next time you see somebody falling asleep in their vomit, remember that it could be you. It’s probably me, but it could be you.


Text by Just Karen aka Karel Vladyka
Cover photo: Karolína Jirova

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