As an expectant mother, one of my dreams for my unborn child is to take him/her to see places of the world I have loved. Prague would be one of those places. I would take my little one into the beautiful Old Town square dripping with Christmas lights and beating with the pulse of a chalet market, and tell how I first came here for my 27th birthday and how magical it was.
On Christmas Day in Prague many years ago, in 1901 to be exact, a woman was born there. Milada Horáková who went on to have a little child, a girl, of her own of whom who said, “I love you just as purely and fervently as other mothers love their children. But I understood that my task here in the world was to do you good by seeing to it that life becomes better, and that all children can live well.” It wasn’t just about showing the fairy lights to her daughter, Jana, but showing the light to all children who needed it.
Milada was a politician who strongly and actively opposed the Nazis after their occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939. She was sentenced to death twice, sent to a concentration camp and several prisons in Germany and endured physical and psychological warfare. Over these five years, she never backed down. Her daughter – “the greatest gift I received from fate” – probably didn’t see enough of her mother or cuddle up to her every night to hear a bedtime story, rushing to her every day after school with her girlish dreams and worries. But Milada hoped that even though Jana would “wonder, why your mother who loved you and whose greatest gift you were, managed her life so strangely” that one day, she would understand.
Because when Jana was 16 years old, her mother was put to death by the State on 27th June 1950.
This is the story of a resolute woman who was passionate about the freedom of her country and its people. A woman who fearlessly (or perhaps, in spite of her fears) fought the good fight to bring a voice to the many who had suffered would suffer under an unfair regime. But also of a mother whose heart must have ached that she could not be there every moment of every day for her little girl, and also with the realisation that she would not be around at all to see the teenager turn into a woman. But Milada understood that “man doesn’t live in the world alone; in that there is great happiness, but also a tremendous responsibility.” It was the responsibility she chose above all.
Milada wrote a letter to her daughter hours before she died in which she said, “death is not bad. Just avoid gradual dying which is what happens when one suddenly finds oneself apart from the real life of the others.”
More: read Milada’s letter to Jana here