Tschechische Republik: Vera Vohlidalova

Each one of us – like our destiny – is unique, but not exceptional.

— Vera Vohlidalova

Knowledge, human rights, and reconciliation are the decisive forces in the life of Vera Vohlidalova. She is “a product of Europe,” a witness to our recent warring and turbulent history who has decided to speak out. Even now, Vera is still active in the reconciliation project of the Euroregion Neisse-Nysa-Nisa for living in harmony across borders of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Germany. The Czech-German women's forum "Deutsch-Tschechisches Forum der Frauen," of which she is president and speaker, is part of this project.

Vera Vohlidalova's German mother and Czech father were both active anti-fascists. After the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia, her parents emigrated to London where Vera was born. After the war they returned to Liberec (formerly Reichenberg) and experienced the expulsion of the Germans. Vera became a librarian. In the summer of 1968, all hope for political change during the Prague Spring was destroyed abruptly by Warsaw Pact tanks. Vera was among the many who protested. Pregnancy and motherhood saved her from dismissal and prison. Under strict political control and for low wages, she was able to continue working in the information office of the hospital of Liberec. She updated the existing documentation and smuggled in forbidden foreign literature. Until the end of the cold war in 1989, she was a victim of discrimination and persecution because of her political views and because of her family: her half-German origin and her father who was a signatory to the dissident document Charta 77. “The library is the image and the memory of a society,” Vera says. In 1995, a library was built in Liberec on the site of the synagogue the Nazis had destroyed during the Night of Broken Glass. Vera became director and put all her energy into the construction and equipment of this “Building of Peace and Reconciliation.” It became a place of information on shared history, a place where democratic values and the reconciliation of formerly antagonistic groups are promoted. More than 2000 people, Czechs and foreigners, visit the library daily. They are interested in material such as cause-and-effect relationships and are open to cross-culture, cross-border support. There is a prayer room for the Jewish minority and a room for all on local Jewish history. Vera has been retired for two years, but she continues to speak of the library, among the most modern in Europe, as “her child.”

Research Library of Liberec, Building of Peace and Reconciliation Deutsch-Tschechisches Forum der Frauen, FrauenNetzwerk für Frieden Reconciliation Project for the Euroregion Neisse-Nysa-Nisa