Milena Jelinek

* 1935  

  • “And then the big attacks on the movie began. (Easy Life, 1957, screenplay by Milena Jelinek). Student organizations thought they had to protest against this film, because it is a film that doesn't show students in the best light. It showed them dancing rock n’ roll, not dilligently studying all the time, slacking for worker’s money. There was a delegation of CKD workers at that meeting, they invited me, it was at The Faculyt of Philosophy, and they said that I had betrayed them that it wasn't like that and that they were studying hard all the time. And I told them, please, I was sitting here with you two years ago, I won’t lie about what I’ve seen. And there was Ludvík Vaculík there and I said, I wrote a short story and someone made a movie. I can only account for my short story. And he wrote a defense in Evening Prague, of me as an author.”

  • “In 1958, Rudé právo came out in Košice, where there was a conference, and there President Novotný named me as a person harmful to the state. And I had already asked for eviction/displacement, since I intended to marry, and I have the right to marry whom I wanted, and I have the right to follow him. Of course, they accepted my request, but they didn’t answer and I was kindly asked not to appear at the university anymore and I couldn’t work, so I didn’t do anything, just waited for the decision about my permission to leave. And that went on until 1960, when my husband in America managed to ask his dean from MIT to speak to Kennedy, who was then a presidential candidate. And there were about five people in Prague who were led by a family reunification program and the like, I was one of them and they gave me permission, and I went to the United States in 1961, in January. ”

  • “We lived in a hut on the Elbe, where we hid at the end of the war to survive, and those huts were all occupied by the Russians. My mother and my aunts were forced to wash their clothes in the Elbe because there was no running water. Their camp was there on the banks and I was harassed by a Russian soldier. I was about ten years old. But I had reason enough to leave that I separated in some way, so my father the next day, although I think I said nothing to anyone, because that was the world back then, he loaded us on a truck and took us out of there away. Because, I think people knew they were in danger. “

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    New York, USA, 12.06.2019

    duration: 01:06:36
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th century
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It was worth it- to show the communist party that they are not right

Milena Jelinek in her youth, approximately 1959
Milena Jelinek in her youth, approximately 1959
photo: archiv Mileny Jelinek

Milena Jelinek was born on August 19, 1935, in Prestice next to Pilsen. Her maiden name was Tobolova, her father was of Austrian-Polish origin, her mother’s ancestors were Czech nationalists. They had an enterprise in Prestice in the First Czechoslovak Republic- pila, it was later znarodnena. MIlena started to study languages at the Faculty of Arts at Charles University, but in 1955 she switched to FAMU, where she studies screenwriting. In 1957 a movie based on her script “Easy life” was shot at Barrandov. It received mixed reviews, notably due to the fact that the depiction of student’s life was deemed to decadent for contemporary norms. On the premiere of the film, Milena met her future husband Frederick Jelinek, a Czech-Jewish emigrant, who was on a short visit in Prague. Between 1956-1960 Milena participated in various student activities, that criticized the regime and and requested abolition of totalitarian government of the one party. She could not finish FAMU because of it, nor find work, and she was labelled as a person harmful for the state in an article by the president Novotny. In 1961, after acquiring permission of travel to USA, she emigrated into the USA, she married Frederick Jelinek and had two children with him- William and Sarah Jelinek. In 1970-80, she created short films as part of underground cinema, that were screened on independent film festivals. She wrote script based on a book by Jakub Deml- Forgotten light which was shot in 1996 in Czech Republic. In 1991 she received “The Fulbright Scholarship” and spent a year in Czechoslovakia researching older Czechoslovak film. She wrote a play about Adina Mandlova.Currently, she lives in Manhattan in New York,where she for almost forty years teaches at the film department of the University of Columbia.