MUDr. Milena Černá

* 1942  †︎ 2021

  • „In the turmoil after the [Velvet] revolution, the non-profit organisations which brought entirely new work methods in social services needed support. So did the idea of de-institutionalisation, in other words, moving people from residential institutions to normal life. This was serious and important, it was vital to show that not only state-run institutions and hospitals need support but so does the newly developing civic society, non-governmental non-profit organisations which started springing up. Out of nothing, there was a plenty of them, in education, in health and in social services.”

  • „It was the first half of the 1960‘s. Ivan and Václav Havel organised seminars in the Mánes [cultural centre]. At that time, I had already known Ivan and he made me aware of those seminars. I met Václav Havel in person there for the first time but we did not get close by any means. I followed the seminars – they were on literature and philosophy. The one held by Jiří Kuběna Paukert was unforgettable, he talked about his loved one who was a man; I found it extraordinary and admirable. Josef Šafařík, a philosopher from Brno, held a talk there and when I got to know Václav Havel’s work, I would assume that he influenced Václav Havel a considerable bit. Many people used to go to Mánes [for these talks], the room was always full. This room does not exist any more, Mánes was rebuilt. When I researched its history, I was surprised taht these seminars were not even mentioned, as if they had not existed, even though in the early sixties, they were a rarely seen occurrence.“

  • „On the 20th of August, I took them [the Soviet students] to St Jacob’s for an organ concert. In the middle of the concert, the electricity stopped working in an odd manner, the lights went off and the students went back to the dorms in the darkness. At eleven I already heard the Soviet airplanes landing and the invasion began. Those students were confused, they did not know what to do. Accidentally, they got to a stand-off at the Czechoslovak Radio. They ran, yelled something in Russian, people almost lynched them so at the end, they locked themselves at the dorms and they were shuddering with fear. Then they turned on the radio, found Moscow and from Moscow, they learned that the Soviet Union and the other states of the Warsaw Pact had to act against the counter-revolution in Czechoslovakia. The students naturally saw that there was no counter-revoliution going on but when Moscow said and Moscow announced that the brotherly help arrived on request from the Czechoslovak comrades, they calmed down and only were getting ready for their early departure for their homeland.”

  • „My first memory is from the time when the war was already ending. I was three years old. I remember how I was sitting on the tiles in the courtyard which was gently sloping and through the open gate, I saw lorries that carried soldiers pass by. And suddenly, an orange came rolling to me. That’s my first memory. My grandmother spoke English so the soldiers would stop by, one group spent a few days there. That’s how I got photographed with an American machine gun. I held that photograph in great esteem because when the régime changed, I still had it to remind me that I was liberated by the Americans, I was not liberated by the Red Army, I was liberated by the Americans.“

  • ‚In 1977, the Charter 77 was established and I was close to its authors and people in this circle. And naturally, I went to sign the Charter 77. However, Dana Němcová stopped me and told me: ‚Hey, where would all of our people go when they need a doc when you will be kicked out of the clinic. Do not sign anything and stay there.’ With certain regrets, I did not sign the Charter but the more I tried to help all the people from these circles when they came to be seen. And Dana Němcová would keep bringing the traitors and down-and-outs, as the contemporary Communist newspapers called them. They would sit in front of my office and it obviously did not escape the attention of my later boss, František Vosmík, who eventually ousted me from the clinic.‘

  • "Olga disliked hypocrisy, she detested sycophants, she stood for justice, she was a free soul who wished freedom to everyone. I think that these days, she would be very, very unhappy but she would not be only unhappy, she would let it be known and she would unabashedly show what she would like and what she would not."

  • „In September 1995 Olga returned from her holiday, visited me and showed me a spot on her body where something apparently malignant was going on. I knew that her life was threatened. I told her: ‘Olga, you have these choices, you can either stay at home and toe doctors and nurses will be visiting you. Or you can go for example to Switzerland to some specialised clinic and I will go with you as an interpreter. Or, you can check in to some hospital in Prague and get treated there. Olga obviously picked the General University Hospital, the most ordinary treatment for her illness and she only asked one of the members of the Goodwill Committee, Eliška Hranáčová, who was a nurse by vocation, to stay with her in hospital, to be with her as often as possible, so that she would not depen on the hospital staff’s help only. I would also visit her and it was very difficult to see Olga’s illness progressing. The doctors gave her painkillers to ease her pain but those damped her energy, her will. I remember that every time we met, she wanted to know what was going on in the foundation and what are the plans for the next year, what am I preparing. She tried to sit on her bed and then she fell… It hurt me to see that. Her death was very painful for me. It was before Christmas and Olga was planning what she would do for the Committee the following year. She had the draft of the foundations bill brought, she was very interested in it, she had some proposals for changes in the draft and she wished that I relay them to the creators of said bill. In January, her state worsened quite a bit but she was still active. The media however already started announcing that she has had a multi-organ failure. It was very, very unpleasant. I decided to ask the professor to release Olga from the hospital so that she could die at home. So that she did not have to die in hospital. He said that there is no point in it but I still called Václav and asked him to arrange her transfer home. Václav asked: ‚Pretty please, what are we going to do if some organ of hers starts failing?‘ I told him that he, of all people, doesn’t need to be explained that a human being is made not only of organs, that a person is a person and as such, they have some rights, including a right of dignified death. He arranged her transfer the very same day. They carried Olga on a stretcher and when they passed through the front door, she opened her eyes and saw that she was at home. There was Ďula, her dog, and it took three more days until she peacefully died at home.’

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 25.11.2020

    duration: 01:42:10
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Praha, 21.12.2020

    duration: 02:13:11
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Everyone can lend a hand right at the point where they are standing

Milena Černá
Milena Černá
photo: Archiv pamětnice

Milena Černá was born on the 24th of April in 1942 to Anna and Josef Škroch. Her family were practising Catholics and they never hid their anti-Communist thoughts. After Milena graduated from secondary school, she took a course for a medical laboratory technician and started a job at the Institute of Histology and Embryology of the First Faculty of Medicine of the Charles University while also studying medicine there. While studying, she got married and her child was born. In September 1968, the whole family left for Austria, Milena wanted to finish her medicine studies but the language barrier proved to be a major impediment. Their stay in Austria was difficult and after her husband decided to emigrate to the USA, she and her son returned to Prague. After graduating from the medical schoool, she worked as a researcher, later as a physician and research assistant at the Clinic of Dermatovenerology of the First Medical Faculty of the Charles University. At the same time, she taught at the faculty. In the early 1960’s, she got to know Dana and Jiří Němec and gradually she became a member of the community around the future Charter 77 and became known as the Charter signatories’ physician. Due to these activities and her continuous refusal to join the Communist party, she had to leave the clinic and the State Security repeatedly tried to involve her. During the late 1980‘s, she had a tough period during which she suffered a grave heart illness. She rejoined public activities and after the Velvet Revolution, she became active in both social and health fields. In 1994, on urging of her good friend, Olga Havlová, she became the chair of the Goodwill Committee – Olga Havel foundation, and after she left this position, she remained a member of the executive board. For over twenty years, she worked for Rozkoš bez rizika [Pleasure without Risks – provider of healthcare for sex workers and disenfranchised citizens], she is a honorary chair of the Czech branch of the European Anti Poverty Network. She always tried to help those in need. Milena Černá died on the 15th of September in 2021.