This soulless eastern industrial town not far from the Czech border with Slovakia is the source of life for many women, who travel here to have test tube babies at private fertility clinics.
With its low costs and accommodating legislation, the Czech Republic has become one of Europe's top destinations for foreigners seeking artificial insemination treatments.
Advertisement"We get Americans, more and more Russians, Scandinavians, Germans, Austrians, and even groups of Israelis accompanied by a rabbi," said Ladislav Pilka, a pioneer of in vitro fertilisation during the communist era and head doctor at the Zlin clinic.
Just like those seeking out cheaper dental care or cosmetic surgery in eastern Europe, would-be parents find out about the fertility clinic by word of mouth or through Internet "chat" forums, blogs or specialist sites.
Some companies even propose "in vitro fertilisation" holidays, one to three-week trips according to the type of treatment, with optional visits to regional tourist sites and spa therapy.
Zlin, better know in the past as the capital of Czech shoe production, won out as a destination "above all, because of the price," explained 33-year-old Jennifer, an American who declined to give her last name. She wanted to boost her chances of having children while combining the medical treatment with "real holidays".
"I wanted to go there and have fun, to keep a light heart, to be able, whatever happened, to have a good memory of our trip," she said.
Jennifer visited Prague, "adored" Vienna and, following a successful second in vitro treatment, gave birth to twins last October.
"We figured out that for one (treatment) cycle in the United States, we could go to Zlin three times," said Elaine, a 45-year-old American, who came over from Washington state last July. Her trip cost "less than 10,000 dollars (6,800 euros) all included", and she is now in her eighth month of pregnancy and of course very enthusiastic.
This compares to the average cost of 12,400 dollars for one cycle of IVF treatment in the United States, according to the website of the non-profit American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which says more than one is often needed.
"People from abroad do not come just because we are cheaper," assured Hana Visnova, a doctor from the Center for Assisted Reproduction in the western Czech city of Pilsen, where 70 percent of clients are German, Swiss or Austrian. The success rate, based on overall medical standards and above all on the treatment techniques offered, is a key factor, she said.
With one of the most liberal legal frameworks in Europe, nearly all types of treatment can be offered in the Czech Republic: egg donation, sperm donation, embryo donation, in vitro fertilization (IVF), micro injection (ICSI), embryo cultivation, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).
Couples can even select the profile of their donors adding their own specific requirements, something unthinkable in many countries.
In Zlin, "all the donors are Caucasian (...), they are healthy and educated (...), they must be intelligent and attractive," assures the US site www.ivfvacations.com. The website was created by a "fertility challenged" Czech-American couple who "decided to try to help others with similar needs," for a commission of 1,500-2,500 dollars according to the services provided.
Czech doctors fiercely reject any suggestion that they are offering "tailor-made children", saying that they respect European ethical rules on the matter.
The Zlin clinic attempts to recruit "the best quality" donors possible by placing adverts at the local university to guarantee a certain intellectual level and draws up a "complete profile", including medical details and genetic history, for its "catalogue", said Pika.
"Some women talk about musical talent, gardening or level of education. It seems too tricky to me. I was very general, I just gave my size, my weight, hair and eye color ... but the main thing is to have a child," said Elaine.
The Czech clinics also score with foreigners for the rapidity of their procedures. "Our waiting period is two to three months, in other countries you can wait two to three years, the main problem being egg donation," stressed David Rumpik, the general manager of the Zlin clinic as well as its new subsidiary in more central Brno.
And in the Czech Republic there is no shortage of volunteers: egg donation is unpaid but encouraged by a compensation of 15,000 koruna (around 850 dollars, 570 euros) to cover transport and time spent -- a generous sum in a country where the average monthly wage is around 20,000 koruna, Pika explained.
Initial procedures for patients are via email, with the first doctor's visit a "virtual one". Once decided, the patient must make a pre-payment to reserve a donor, wait for the medical clearance and then buy the plane tickets.
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