Human Interest

Caskets for life’s end in Czech town called ‘Beginnings’

Pocatky, Czech Republic, Feb 12 (epa-efe).- The town of Pocatky (Czech for ‘Beginnings’) is, perhaps ironically, home to the country’s largest manufacturer of coffins, Setora, which in 1991 took over Lisek, a former cooperative that had been building wooden caskets since 1949.

Last year, death rates in the central European country jumped by 14 percent compared to the previous five years, as the Covid pandemic hit Czechia hard. The most significant increase in deaths was in the 75-84 age group.

The country has the world’s second highest mortality rate per 100,000 people, behind only the United Kingdom, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Despite the increase in deaths over the past year, the team is well accustomed to handling fluctuations in mortality.

“The Covid epidemic has hit us, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary because if there is a good team and commitment, then everything can be managed without any problems,” Michal Tresnak, executive director of Setora, tells epa-efe.

“At first, the customers got scared (by the pandemic), they didn’t know what was coming. So the first wave at the end of March meant an increase of 25 percent.

“We produced 10-12 percent more in 2020 than in 2019, so that corresponds to the Covid mortality curve,” the company director adds.

The company specializes in two main types of coffin – more luxurious items, intended for export to neighboring Germany and Austria, which are made to order for wholesale partners in those countries – and a second kind, so-called “serial production” for the domestic market, Tresnak says, which are supplied directly to Czech funeral homes.

Setora produces about 5,000 units per month, with over 30 percent exported to Germany, Tresnak says.

With an ever-evolving catalog that sees a handful of models introduced each year and others being phased out, there is a wide array of options, ranging from simpler, functional caskets that are intended as a vessel to transport or cremate the body and will not be used as part of a burial ritual, to grander coffins that will be displayed at a ceremony.

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