Pavel Gertler, former AEGEE-Bratislava President: “I met my wife Lubka through AEGEE”

When did you join AEGEE-Bratislava? And when did you leave?
I have joined AEGEE-Bratislava before a conference of AEGEE-Passau. I believe, it was in autumn 1995. I stopped to be active soon after I finished university, so it must have been in 2000.

How did you hear about AEGEE?
This was the medieval times of notice boards. So, I got across a flier, where I read an appealing information about opportunity to travel to conferences and Summer Universities, so I gave it a try. First, I organised a group of my friends and we travelled for an unforgettable event in Passau.

Why did you join, what did you like about AEGEE?
In the mid-1990’s, generally, the atmosphere in Central and Eastern Europe was hugely enthusiastic about the European Union, all the new possibilities to travel and learn, to find friends across borders and party days and nights. Definitely, the AEGEE spirit was the reason of my addiction and for the amount of time I was willing to spend either travelling to events or working for the antenna.

You visited and organised many events. Which ones do you remember best?
Of course, the first event is usually the most memorable. But, of course the most intensive are those that you organise yourself. So, I have very vivid memories mainly from the two Summer Universities with the topics of horse-riding and travelling and the two conferences in Bratislava I was involved in.

Do you have a nice or adventurous story connected with your many AEGEE trips?
Oh yes. Lots of memories actually relate to get us somewhere for as little money as possible. So, in order to get to a conference in the Netherlands, I organised a group of 10 friends to be able to use the Schönes-Wochenende ticket to travel across Germany – five people for 35 Deutsche Mark. We had to change 12 times since no express trains could be used – and keep in mind that this was a pre-Internet time. Of course, we missed one of the trains and had to reshuffle the schedule several times. We had to spend a night somewhere on the road in a small Eastern German town, which was locking up its train station for the night. Luckily, there was a branch of the Salvation Army that sheltered us to sleep a little…

You were President of AEGEE-Bratislava from 1997 to 1999. Why did you take over the responsibility – and what were the highlights of this time?
This was the time when the group, which established the antenna, was leaving the organisation to kick-start their real life. Just a few youngsters remained. So, I had no other chance than to take the responsibility. The top challenge was to attract new students to join. Therefore, we had to organise as many events both locally and internationally as possible. So, in fact, everybody who turned up in the office could get some task to do, to feel part of the responsibility for an event. I am not sure this was perfectly successful, but at least we managed to bridge the generation gap and our association survived.

What was the best impact that AEGEE had on you? Did you learn or improve some skills in AEGEE, did it change you, did it help your career?
Having helped to organise events, fundraise for money, do the PR, and literally learning how things work on the fly in real life was a huge experience itself. Travelling, speaking other languages and experiencing the richness of other cultures and understanding different perceptions in student times was also very helpful for keeping my mind open. I would say this was a very helpful resource for me, perhaps not in my professional life, but for me as a person for sure. Needless to say, I met my wife Lubka through AEGEE, which makes the impact of AEGEE on my further life absolutely essential…

What did you study and what do you work now?
I have studied Operations Research and Econometrics, which is basically math and statistics in economics. For the past 17 years I have been working in central banking. Currently I am heading the Research Section in the National Bank of Slovakia.