Shelby Versteeg: Nitra has become our home
Son of hockey player Mitch Versteeg asked when they will go home after returning to Canada.
What is your first memorie to Nitra?
My first memory to Nitra was when I first drove into the city and seen the castle sitting at the top of the hill. In Canada we don’t have castles so this was something that I have always enjoyed.
Did you know something about Slovakia, when Mitch told you, he is going to play in Nitra? Did you try to find some facts, information about the city, country?
When Mitch told me that he was going to sign in Nitra, I had to google where Slovakia was in Europe. Before we came to Nitra I had only visited Vienna and never went further East. I found a lot of information about Bratislava, and that Nitra has a similar population to Lethbridge (where Mitch and I live in Canada). I seen that the weather is also much hotter in summers and very little snow in winters.
Mitch spent here 4 seasons, how long did you live here?
I spent the entire 4 seasons here as well. Year after year it was easy to come back. We fell in love with the city and made some really good friends.
I think Nitra will be forever very special to you, because your son Sem was born here (I mean in Slovakia). Am I right? How you remember on your pregnancy? Did not you want to go back to Canada and give birth there?
Yes, Nitra will always be very special to us. Over the last four years we have been in Nitra more then Canada- it really has become home for us. Our son was born in Topolcany. I spent the beginning and end of my pregnancy in Nitra. The end was during the summer months which i did not enjoy the heat and humidity as i did the previous year haha. I really did not want to have our baby without Mitch so we decided early on that we would have him in Nitra. We felt comfortable and had a lot of help through the team with finding us a doctor that spoke english.
Besides your mommy duties you worked in Nitra at the language school. Were you teacher already in Canada or it was new experience?
I initially went to university for teaching and had taught English in Japan during one of Mitch’s hockey seasons.
What kind of students are Slovakians?
The Canadian, Japanese, and Slovakian students I have taught seem to all be similar- wild, crazy, and fun! I am still teaching my Slovakian students online via Skype!
You taught Slovakians English, but what did you learn from slovak language?
To be honest, after four years in Slovakia I still don’t know many Slovak words. I was amazed at how many people here know English and they always want to practice their English so I was never practicing my Slovak. However, since Sem has been to a pre-kindergarten I have learned more Slovak words from him then I have the previous 3 years haha he is my teacher.
If somebody in Canada ask you about Nitra, what is your answer? Could you describe this city by three words?
The three words I would use to describe Nitra would be: Home, Hockey, and Cafes.
Cafes because we spend so much time having coffees and lunches. We love the outdoor patio in the park where we can bring our dog Henry and let Sem play at the playground.
Hockey because I have personally never experienced such great fans and atmosphere then in Nitra. It is such a great experience and makes hockey so much fun.
Lastly, home. Nitra has become our home. When we first arrived back in Canada this summer, our son Sem was asking to go back “home” and I think that really just sums up how we feel about our life there. 3 words isn’t enough to describe Nitra. We truly love it there.
Photo: Archive Shelby Versteeg