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The heroine of the week: Marie Schmolková

The Czech Centres, in cooperation with Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art of the University of Western Bohemia in Pilsen and Radio Prague International, present important women of the Czech history and the present. Every week we bring you one portrait of a heroine. The heroine of this week is Marie Schmolková (1893-1940), who was born into an assimilated Jewish family and saved thousands of Jews and other refugees. Nicholas Winton also came to Prague thanks to her unceasing activities.

Marie Schmolková was born on June 23, 1893 in Prague. When her father died, she and her mother took over the family textile shop. In 1923, she married lawyer Leopold Schmolka, widower and father of three adult children. After five years of marriage, her husband passed away prematurely. At that time, Marie Schmolková left Czechoslovakia for Palestine and became a Zionist. Later, she chaired the National Refugee Coordination Committee.

A key event in her life was a meeting with Doreen Warriner, British professor of economics and representative of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia. Thanks to her, she met also Nicolas Winton and, together with him and other collaborators, formed a network that in 1939 organized the transport of people threatened by the Nazi regime to Britain. In a dramatic situation shortly before the outbreak of World War II, she saved thousands of Jews and other refugees.

After the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, she was arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo. According to historian Anna Hájková, she was released thanks to protests by protectorate ministers and her friend Františka Plamínková, later executed by the Nazis.

After her release, she escaped to London and died there of a a heart attack at the age of just 46 and almost forgotten. Jan Masaryk, Foreign Minister of the Czechoslovak government in exile, was one of the persons who spoke at her funeral.

The public began to learn about her fate only in recent years.

© Radio Prague International

© Adéla Ťopková

 

About the project Czech Heroines

An illustrated mosaic of the stories of prominent Czech women - rulers, politicians, artists, scientists, and athletes – who left an important mark on history and the present day in the Czech lands and internationally. The project is inspired by the 100th anniversary of the ratification of women’s suffrage in Czechoslovakia in 1920 and the 200th birthday of author Božena Němcová. It offers portraits of fifty distinguished female personalities as seen through the eyes of the contemporary wave of young illustrators, students of the Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art at the University of West Bohemia under the guidance of their mentor and teacher Renáta Fučíková. The profiles of the selected hereoines were written by the historian Lenka Křížová and the writer Kateřina Tučková. The exhibition project will be complemented by a book of the same name, which is going to be published in autumn 2020.

 

Czech Heroines in Pilsen

You can currently see the exhibition České hrdinky / Czech Heroines at Ladislav Sutnar Gallery in Pilsen. The exhibition is open until August 1, 2020.

© Kamran Julfayev

© Kamran Julfayev

© Kamran Julfayev

© Kamran Julfayev

 

 


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