Sylvia Klánová

* 1949  

  • „In 1990 the sculptural group had to be prepared for founders. Mum had it all done, but two thirds of the sculptures were firmly attached to a pedestal. So, me and my husband – there was also my mum’s former husband – and if the founders cut off the legs from the pedestal too fast, it could happen that the monument would be that one cut shorter, because of this wooden structure with sticks leading into it. So, we were cutting it off with a string really carefully and got the sculpture out of the construction and then consolidated it inside the structure again, but only so this time it would be easy to take out. And I made a ground plan stencil of the whole sculptural group, that means that – the studio had had wood flooring – and I put an onionskin on the floor and traced the position of all the pedestals of all the sculptures. And then with a copier paper I transferred it on hardboard desks. And every time me and my husband took a sculpture out of the pedestal, I again traced the pedestal on an onionskin. And again, we put the sculptures back in, I traced the legs, and I marked the holes for spikes that would then get inserted in the pedestal right at the sculptural group in Lidice. And then me and my husband moved it – my mother had marked it all out in her stencils – we moved the complete sculptural group alongside one wall of the studio. Mum had marked it with a pencil where the sculptures would touch each other, because in the studio they were arranged along three walls, but as we were moving them along the one wall, I thought to myself: ‘Mum was a genius!’ It just worked out and the set was completed.”

  • „Mum herself said about her work, the sculptural group of Lidice children, that it was a work of heart, work of brain and work of hands. Maximum work. In short, that a person cannot possibly work more than that, that it was an altar of the greatest human work in the best sense of the word. A work so hard because she had to re-live the stories of those children again and again. My mum, when working on the sculpture, had to absorb all the pain of Lidice mothers, she had to re-live the entire tragedy of Lidice. The heartfelt wish of Lidice mothers was that she would create a piece to honor the memory of their children. Memorial to the Children Victims of the War, as she called the sculpture and which she took as her life-long peace act. And she created it with the idea of never ever forgetting the most innocent of war’s victims – kids. A so that nothing similar would ever happen again. And I can cite her own words: ‘In the name of peace, I return the eighty-two children of our nation to their home plain, as a warning symbol of the millions of dead children killed in pointless human wars.’”

  • „In 1969 came the crucial day. My mum was living in Prague-Hodkovičky at that time. She was home alone. It was the All Souls’ Day time, 1st or 2nd of November and my mum was remembering the child victims of wars. She reminded herself that she had promised them a memorial and hadn’t done it yet. And that all other graves had candles lit up, all but the graves of the thirteen million child victims of wars from 35 countries of the world. That no candles were lit up on these children’s graves, because they in fact had no graves. And if she was to light up candles for all the millions, the first one lit would be long gone at the time of lighting up the last one. And that it simply wasn’t possible to light up millions of candles. And then she remembered the happy childhood she had had, spending time with grandma and grandpa on Nicholas cemetery in Pilsen and how there was a special children section with abandoned graves. And mum and her brother and cousins had often been playing there and had put candles on those lonely graves. First it had been a small candle, then a larger one and in the end a whole bunch of candles. And at that moment mum had the idea to symbolize the thirteen million child victims with one specific war crime of the many, the one executed on the 82 children of Lidice, aged 1 to 16. And she couldn’t stay home alone with that thought. She began walking from Prague-Hodkovičky all the way to Lidice. The trip was about twenty kilometers long… It was early evening when she started the trail she had known very well, because of the student peace walks at the time. Which is why she had known all about the children of Lidice, she had been really interested in that issue. She knew they were children of the nation; she knew their numbers: eighty-two Lidice children – forty-two girls and forty boys. And on her way to Lidice she asked herself what she had been thinking, that it would be a workload for three human lives, that it would take about ten years of her life – in the end it was about twenty… And that such a sculpture on the Lidice plain would probably have to be a heroic sculpture. And when she finally reached Lidice, it was a relief.”

  • „My mother was deeply touched by the stories [of the murder of Lidice’s children] and told her parents she would spend the night with her grandma at the Nicholas cemetery in Pilsen. Her grandpa Alois Seidler was the caretaker there, he also looked after the St. Nicolas church – the Seidler family had had ancestors in Pilsen for three decades. There’s a famous grave of Josef Kajetán Tyl in the Nicholas cemetery… And in 1945, when my mother was twenty-one, she spent a balmy May night by J. K. Tyl’s tomb. She said that nightingales were singing all night long, by the morning it was thousands of them singing and my mum declared a war to war by that tomb so dear to the nation. She swore she would tell the entire world the suffering of children during war years. She had been so touched by the story, that she kept thinking how and in which way could she, an unknown girl from a small country, tell the world something like that. And then she figured that the closest to her heart is the art of sculpture. Back then she studied with the Pilsen sculptor Otakar Walter and was already fascinated with the art. And she said that even a blind man can touch a sculpture and that the art of sculpture speaks clearly in all world languages. And that exactly with through the art of sculpture she could remember the child victims of the war, be it the second world war or any other war. And with that decision she entered the next phase of her life.”

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    Plzeň, 20.03.2019

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I’m trying to make my mother’s name live in the hearts of people

Sylvia Klánová (early 1970s)
Sylvia Klánová (early 1970s)
photo: Archiv pamětnice

Sylvia Klánová was born July 31, 1949 in Pilsen. Her father František Kuča was born January 21, 1921 in Ostrava. He was a teacher of foreign languages and foreign language stenography. Her mother, the prominent academic sculptor Marie Uchytilová-Kučová, was born January 17, 1924 in Kralovice. From 1963 to 1967 Sylvia studied at Mikulášské gymnázium in Pilsen. In 1968 he completed a graduate course of French in Prague, where she also witnessed the August occupation. After that she graduated from a librarian school and later worked in the field of historical preservation. In 1970 she married Miroslav Klán. A substantial part of her life is closely connected to her mother’s lifelong work on the Lidice children sculpture. After her mother had passed away just one day prior to Velvet Revolution, Sylvia and her husband took care of the realization of the Memorial to the Children Victims of the War, Lidice. The sculptures were gradually brought together to the Lidice plain since 1995, until the sculptural group was completed in 2000. On October 28th, 2013 Sylvia received a state decoration for her mother on the Prague Castle – First Grade of the Medal of Merit in memoriam. In January 2007 she also received honorary citizenship of Lidice for her mother and honorary citizenship of the city of Pilsen in October 2018. To this day she holds lectures about her mother’s work and participates in all thematic events both in Lidice and elsewhere.