"I go with my head held high. One also has to know how to lose."
May 17, 2013 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Milada Horáková, a member of a Czech resistance movement, was arrested by the Gestapo in 1940 and imprisoned until the U.S. Army liberated her in May of 1945. Elected as a member of the Czechoslovak postwar parliament, she resigned after the communist coup in 1948. She remained politically active with groups opposed to the communist regime and was arrested again, this time by the communists, on September 27, 1949. After a televised show trial (she was tried with 12 others), she was executed on June 27, 1950. Translations of Horáková's poignant final letters to her mother-in-law, husband, and daughter are available here. A brief excerpt from her show trial, with english subtitles that can be turned on, is available here. The prosecutor's closing argument is here. Pages from an english-language comic book released in 1950 in the United States about Horáková can be seen here. In addition to being an opponent of both the Nazi and Communist regimes, Horáková was a feminist involved in the Czechoslovakian and International womens' movement. Biographical information is available here and here.
posted by Area Man (9 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
When I read things like this I grow weirdly hopeful: people suffer terrible injustice at the hands of others, but sometimes the final injustice - silencing them and wiping their pain from memory - is challenged and they still get to speak.

(though I am tragically sure that any final letters I wrote would not have the dignity of these.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 7:40 AM on May 17, 2013

She's so strong, but what I found heartbreaking was her advice even on small things to her daughter - about love, medicine, complexion, and ethics. "Have your gang, little girl, but of good and clean young people."
posted by corb at 8:45 AM on May 17, 2013

Excellent post, thank you.
The prosecutor's closing argument clip is truly frightening. I just made this comment over there:
I have only read about this kind of Stalinist propaganda before and have never actually seen it. This is truly nightmare inducing.
As a student of history and a life long socialist I say, I hope there is s special place in Hell for each and every of these Stalinist apparatchiks and all who apologize for them.
posted by dougzilla at 10:09 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another prominent female Czech anti-Communist was one of the greatest Olympic gymnasts of all time, Věra Čáslavská. She silently protested against Communism, and the curious scoring of the Soviet gymnast Larisa Petrik, at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics by turning her head away (at 2:30) during the playing of the Soviet national anthem. Subtle, but powerful.

While she was celebrated by her countrymen, she was shunned by the Czech government and purged from gymnastics upon her return home as punishment. Only in the mid-80s was she able to return to gymnastics, and had to wait until the fall of Communism to return to prominence as a coach and representative of the sport and her country.
posted by lstanley at 10:28 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

God damn, what a brave person. Great post.
posted by dazed_one at 11:54 AM on May 17, 2013

corb, I was struck by some of the same stuff. She's trying to get all her advice for her daughter, on so many topics, into one last letter. Clothes, sports, school, everything.

Radio Prague interviewed the daughter, Jana, in 2007.
posted by Area Man at 2:30 PM on May 17, 2013

That prosecutor's closing argument is insane. "While our workers were meeting the 5 year plan, the accused were turning over state secrets to spies!". She actually says that, paraphrased. I thought crap like that was only in parodies of Stalinism.
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:10 PM on May 17, 2013

I thought crap like that was only in parodies of Stalinism.

A sufficiently advanced parody will be indistinguishable from a genuine kook.
posted by localroger at 4:48 PM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

The courage of someone who stays in a place like that, twice, knowing that terrible things are about to happen, to her personally, is beyond expression.

If you know someone, or love someone, older than 70 that is from somewhere in Eastern Europe, don't lose sight of the fact that they have known fear and hardship.

posted by dry white toast at 9:24 PM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

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