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The heroine of the week: Olga Havlová

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 dissident and the first wife of President Václav Havel Olga Havlová,

Olga Havlová

Olga Havlová, born Šplíchalová, was the first wife of Václav Havel, the last President of Czechoslovakia and first President of the Czech Republic.

She was born in Žižkov, a quarter of Prague, in a working-class family. Her parents split up when she was six years old. In a large family, also including Olga's older sister Jaroslava's family (a single mother of five children), any free hand was useful. Therefore, it was obvious that Olga cared for her young nieces and nephews since her childhood. 

Olga first met Václav Havel in the early 1950s and married him in 1964. During the 1960s, her husband became a respected author both at home and in Europe. In the second half of the 1960s, he - as a writer and a contributor to the cultural magazines - was involved in a democratization process, particularly in the field of culture. 

Following the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 until the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Olga Havlová acted as the organizer of a number of dissident meetings, distributed manuscripts and participated in the Charter 77 activities. She was the addressee of the intellectually deep, philosophically and existentially toned letters sent by Václav Havel during the years 1979-1983 from prison. Letters to Olga, a selection of these letters, was first published in 1983.

When Václav Havel became president after the fall of the communist regime, she became a model of what a woman should be in such a position.

From her position as first lady, she began working for charity. In 1990, the Committee of Good Will was established, which was one of the first projects of its kind in the Czech Republic. Two years later, Olga Havel Foundation was created, whose main goal was and is to help people with disabilities, abandoned and discriminated against with their integration into society. The projects have gained international fame and have their own foreign branches.

Olga Havlová died on January 27, 1996. Her death affected the entire nation.


© Lukáš Jirsa


About the project

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.

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