Czech Television: Debt-Free Kristina Can Finally Breath FreelyPublished: May 23, 2022 Reading time: 4 minutes
After seven and a half years, 29-year-old Kristina Režná is finally debt-free and the mother of a 6-year-old girl can finally breathe a bit more easily now. She has landed a job, found a partner and has even opened a bank account. Her story was presented on Czech Television's show, 168 Hours, last September, right before the extraordinary debt-relief campaign SOS Milostivé léto (SOS Year of Remission). And while the story had a happy ending, the journey was by no means easy. By the end, Kristina had a total of nine distraint orders totaling CZK 155,000 (€ 6,267).
Kristina wasn’t even 18-years-old when a ticket inspector caught her travelling without a ticket. She was fined CZK 1,500 (€ 61), however, she didn’t pay it on the spot and she eventually forgot about it. The fine soon increased to CZK 60,000 (€ 2,400). She was then fined again for forgetting to turn off the electricity when she moved on out an apartment. An amount of CZK 600 (€ 24) which soon grew to CZK 25,000 (€ 1000). Kristina had grown up living with debts, so debts weren’t anything new for her. Nevertheless, she did try to repay CZK 500 (€ 20) a month as this is all she could afford. Then the coronavirus pandemic began, and things soon went from bad to worse.
A kind donor and a fundraising campaign
SOS Milostivé léto (SOS Year of Remission) was a fundraising campaign led by People in Need that collected funds to support deeply indebted individuals. With the help of an informative website and access to financial advisors, individuals were able learn more about the process and understand if they were eligible for assistance.
Thanks to the additional assistance, Kristina only had to pay her original debt amount (without interest), plus a small fee for financial assistance. In total, less than CZK 4,000 (€ 162). Kristina paid the amount in two installments.
Jan Staněk, an ordinary Czech citizen, had seen Kristina’s story in Czech Television and wanted to help. Thanks to his actions, he motivated other kind donors that ultimately led to People in Need’s SOS campaign. From the money raised, People in Need managed to help 245 individuals and entire families who couldn’t repay their original debts. By paying CZK 14 million (€ 567,000) in capital, nearly CZK 90 million (€ 3,645) were cut in fees and penalties. Assistance in the amount of CZK 31,000 (€ 1,256) also helped to cover Kristina’s remaining debts.
Mr. Staněk not only helped Kristina with the financial process, but also sent letters to court enforcement officers on her behalf. “I didn’t expect it to be such a demanding process. It takes up to half a year for a person to become debt-free, and we were actively trying to deal with it. For a person inexperienced in this area, who does not have money or somebody like me to step in and take care of it, it must be really hard,” comments Staněk.
Thanks to his help, Kristina soon started to received letters stating that one debt after another had been forgiven. “Reading letters like this, compared to letters saying that something needed to be paid somewhere, made me want to cry with relief,” Kristina recalls, not bothering to hide her joy.
It is very important to receive a formal confirmation waving the distraint so that the debts are no longer deduced from the individual’s salary. “When applying for a job or looking for a rental, employers or landlords usually look in the central register for mentions of foreclosures. And if they see any sort of record there, they won't rent out the property,” points out Daniel Hůle, an expert on debt issues at People in Need.
Kristina’s last record in the central registry was in the system until April, three months after she paid her final debt. However, a court enforcement officer made a mistake and recalculated Kristina’s debt so that it was CZK 2 (€ 0.08) higher than the original amount; a difference the automated registry system simply couldn’t handle. Jan Staněk had to, once again, arrange for the order to the deleted.
During the SOS fundraising campaign, lasting from October 2021 until January 2022, tens of thousands of people became debt-free. Last week, the government decided to repeat the campaign as a combination of the coronavirus pandemic and the record high inflation rates are pulling more and more people into debt traps.
The rest of this report can be found here in Czech
cover photo :168 Hours, Czech Television