Don’t feel sorry for me! I lived a beautiful life
…wrote Milada Horáková in one of her last letters, a few days before the death verdict fell upon her. A few days before she was hanged in the courtyard of the Pankrác Prison.
I believe my presence in Prague, a place so rich in spiritual, cultural and political history, is not an accident. I feel that I have to be here.
A few days ago, as I was walking, I noticed a group of people, holding flowers, candles burning, standing in silence in front of a statue. It was 27th of June. I did not realize it immediately. That was Milada, Milada Horáková whose destiny impressed me profoundly a few weeks ago as I found out about her!
I am going to call her Milada here, for simplicity sake, but my respect and appreciation is endless.
Milada Horáková was born in Prague on the day we celebrate the birth of Christ, 25th of December, 1901 (Accident?). She studied law at the Charles University, Prague and graduated in 1926.
All along her life she was one of the restless ones.
Milada fought against the regime of that time (Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany in 1939), joined the underground resistance movement, was captured by the Gestapo and deported to Terezin- a place I (accidentally!) feel attracted to and visited a few months ago.
From Terezin she was incarcerated in different prisons in Germany. In Dresden she skipped death, being sentenced to 8 years of prison instead.
In 1945, when Czechoslovakia was liberated by the american forces, she returned to Prague and continued her work. She joined the National Socialist Party, became part of the elected National Assembly. In 1948, after the February communist coup d’état, she resigned the parliament. Not fleeing to the West to find security Milada got arrested again, in September 1949. The accusation was – plotting against the communist regime.
After a trial, started on May, 31st, 1950, Milada,and several others, was sentenced to death in June 1950,the 8th. The execution took place in June, 27th, same year- in the courtyard of the prison.
An interrogation took place on the 8th of June during which all the accused had to face directly the incriminations address to them and answer. Take a look at this video :
…this is a woman talking, defending freedom and humanity. Look at her courage and bearing, the way she does not bend or get angry. She knows that she is going to die and seems to have known all along. She is an Angel of Love and that is why she lived here on Earth.
What impressed me the most while learning about her destiny, was her keenness to free women, free their mind from deeply rooted oppressive and inhibiting thinking. She made space for women, turned the light on. For that, and not only, she gave her life away. She was aware of here destiny. In the last letter for her daughter Jana, Milada addresses her absence as a “normal” mother from her daughter’s life:
The reason was not that I loved you little; 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.
Now, my mother’s birthday was yesterday, 4th of July, the day of Independence in America. A glorious day! That morning I felt a wave of love and appreciation coming over me. I wrote her, thanking for the life force she planted in me, for the trust in God and humanity.
This appreciation came after years of feeling motherless.
I suppose that Jana, daughter of Milada, felt the same while her mother was fighting for freedom for all women and children in the world. I felt motherless while my mother was fighting for our life in an arid Moldova. The fact that we got fed and washed was a victory in of itself.
That is the price to pay for being daughters of Love Solders.
Yesterday I showed my appreciation and understanding for my mother. I have done it before but yesterday, somehow I felt it deeply. I suppose my work on opening the heart and crawling through pain (understanding the meaning), was not in vain. I even wrote another story on this, a few months ago, and sent it as an entry for the second Brno Short Story Contest. I did not win, of course, I was not expecting it. I knew that my story is too raw, too bloody, too out of the ordinary to make it a winner in a local, normal story contest. But writing it and sending it away liberated me even more. I felt like flying that day.
Just like my mother a few months ago, in a letter I keep, Milada gave her daughter some pieces of advice, in her last letter. They are impressive taking into account the dichotomy- the mother is about to die but she advises on how to dress and take care of the body, among other important facts.
Take a look:
-Learn from everybody, no matter how unimportant! Go through the world with open eyes, and listen not only to your own pains and interests, but also to the pains, interests and longings of others.
–Another value is work. I don’t know which to assign the first place and which the second. . . . Learn to love work! Any work, but one you have to know really and thoroughly.
– Don’t forget about love in your life. And don’t ever crumble love—learn to give it whole and really.
–But even if you would one day have to leave school and to work for your livelihood, don’t stop learning and studying.
–Also take care of your complexion regularly-I do not mean makeup, God forbid, but healthy daily care. And love your neck and feet as you do your face and lips.
-Don’t primp, but whenever possible, dress carefully and neatly. And don’t wear shoes until they arc run down at the heel! Are you wearing innersoles? And how is your thyroid gland?
– Just one more thing: Choose your friends carefully
–Only please don’t confuse young people’s springtime infatuation with real love. Do you understand me? If you don’t, aunt Vera will help you explain what I meant. And so, my only young daughter, little girl Jana, new life, my hope, my future forgiveness, live! Grasp life with both hands! Until my last breath I shall pray for your happiness, my dear child!
Even on the death bed, a mother is a mother! I am sure – mine would do the same. Isn’t this letter encouraging, something to hold on for life?! It is indeed.
I went to find Milada’s memorial this morning.
Prague is bustling with tourists looking for new sensations. It is a hot place attracting people all over the world. I heard all types of languages, seen all typed of colors.
Look at this beauty, surrounding the cemetery where I found the memorial, the Vyšehrad cemetery- a place where many composers, writers, sculptors and artists rest in peace.
The tomb was covered in flowers. When I got closer, a Russian couple was looking at it. The woman was surprised by the freshness of the flowers, thinking maybe that it is a recent death. The man asked her if she wanted some water. As I walked away, another woman approached the tomb. It felt as if we were taking part in a procession, a ritual .
My overall message today is: be patient with your pain, stay close to it and listen to it. It will lead you out of the darkness. I am myself working on a valuable life, an experience I could share and inspire others with.
I hope you do start as of today, if not having done so already, to open your heart and let the unknown in, open your arms and embrace the ugly you, the one your trained mind is seeing in the mirror. Embrace yourself as you are now.
Be blessed world ’cause I sure am! Thank you!
More on Milada Horáková:
The whole story of her trial (in Czech)
An interview with Jana, Milada’s daughter (in Czech)