“Contact lenses themselves are not a new thing. Wichterle’s contribution consisted in the material from which they were produced. It was a hydrophilic material, it means a material which absorbs water. The previous materials were hydrophobic, and they were either rigid, or… obviously, this is a long history and of course I had studied everything that had been before... and this wonderful advantage that the lens contains water makes it much more physiological to the enormously sensitive tissue of the cornea. That was the great novelty about that.”
“And my auntie told me this wonderful sentence. She said: ‘But dear Blanka, don’t you worry about it. So you will not be a doctor, but you will be a Mrs. doctor’s.’ She could not have told me anything better. I got so angry and I decided: ‘No way! I will become a doctor!’ We arrived home and that very evening I sat down and I wrote an appeal to the ministry and of course, we were looking for some intercession at the ministry, because that was almost indispensable at that time. Fortunately one good man from the friends in Chrudim interceded on my behalf. People were afraid to stand for somebody, because it could have a negative impact on them. It was a horrible time.”
“We were in the town and there was a great crowd of people in the town square and they were saying that some horrible fascists and criminals had been captured. Suddenly I saw a crowd of people walking out of the town, and an officer covered in blood was walking at the front and next to him there was his wife and they were holding hands. An elegant German woman in torn clothes. Something emanated from them, making it clear that they were not some rogues. She was bloodied, too, it was terrible. They led them uphill toward the church. I remember that I felt terrible anxiety which lasted for a long time. I thought that they could not treat people like that, publicly, so that everybody could spit on them. Then they shot this couple to death by the church wall. I did not see this. I was so scared by it that I did not even want to see it. But I know that they shot them to death.”
When I did not get admitted to the faculty of medicine for allegedly not having sufficient work morale during the work brigade in the mines, my world collapsed
Blanka Brůnová was born March 14, 1931 in Litomyšl into the family of teacher Jan Brůna. Her mother Anna, née Miškovská, came from a wealthy homestead in the Mladá Boleslav region. Blanka had sister Věra who was two years younger. She grew up in Chrudim where she also experienced the Second World War. In 1939 the Nazis made Jan Brůna retire when he was forty-four years old. On the contrary, Blanka’s mother had to go to work to a factory which produced hats and she was supplementing her food ration stamps by working at a neighbouring farm and thus helping to provide for the family. The most shocking experience for Blanka was when she witnessed the execution of a German couple at the church in Chrudim after the war. She graduated from grammar school in 1950s. After she had successfully passed the entrance examinations to the faculty of medicine, she was not admitted due to her allegedly low work morale during a workers’ brigade in the mines. Following her appeal, she was eventually allowed to enroll at the faculty of medicine in Olomouc, from which she graduated in 1956. In the early 1960s she met professor Otto Wichterle for the first time and he sparked her passion for research of contact lenses. Blanka was founding the first contact lenses application centres, for example in Mostecká Street in Prague. She established the B.A. study of optics and optometry at the 2nd Medical Faculty in the Motol Hospital and she was present during the establishment of the Contactology Society. In 1986-1998 she worked as the head of the clinic in Motol and until her advanced age she taught ophthalmology at the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering of the Czech Technical University.