Věra Nováková

* 1928  

  • “I think everyone needs an antipodean. An opponent who would ensure that you don’t go nuts or bore yourself to death. We had eventually never been bored. Me and my husband lead an often harsh but reviving dialogue. Dialogue is a mild name for a struggle of opinion. In retrospect, I see it as a positive thing. Because it prevented me from going nuts in the sense of sticking to something without having a critical distance from it and thinking things through. From saying: ‘This is how things are.’”

  • “What was rather stupid was that we had only received minimal reflection and feedback. At first me and Ivan Sobotka would go public quite a bit, talk about it all. So did the late Jitka Stibralová-Kolínská, a well-known painter, so did Richard Fremund – but not a whole lot. Anyway, painting without publishing was rather unhealthy. We always hoped that it would change one day. I for instance got used to it so much that to go public with it in the 1990s… When Viktor and Tereza organized this exhibition of ours, held in Ženské domovy, for me it was like creeping out from a dark cellar, from the catacombs, to full sunlight.”

  • “Then there was a certain moment… I don’t know how long it was after the power takeover but probably not long. It was in February 1949. They came up with student vetting commissions at universities, probably at all of them. The individual students would then be invited into a university office to be interrogated. When I entered, I found Gandl sitting there with another Slovak communist called Kren, and two girls. They were innocent, silly and were installed there. In essence, they were nice, obedient girls who unfortunately believed that crap. It was set up in advance who would pass and who would be expelled. So they asked us some formal questions and the other day announced orally that we do not meet the requirements of a newly-built socialist state and that we unfortunately have to leave the university.”

  • “I suddenly realized that this really was a certain path. For me, that was a novelty because I had previously lived in a certain illusion. Ivan Sobotka was from a Moravian village, he was a catholic from a traditional Moravian-catholic family which had annoyed him. He would always say: ‘Those crones get out from the church and gossip.’ So he parted with it for a while but eventually began to drift back. It had a great influence on me as well, that I have to say, because I felt that there was a positive solution in it. This brought me to engaging with it closely. This is why I say that communist comrades brought me towards Christianity. Because they showed me the fake path of the illusion about creating a heaven on earth through somebody giving orders and persecuting the inconvenient people, even murdering them. This all lead to me seeing Christianity as a possible way out.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, Hroznová ulice, 23.03.2015

    (audio)
    duration: 01:42:58
  • 2

    Praha, Hroznová ulice, 25.03.2015

    (audio)
    duration: 01:42:58
  • 3

    byt pamětnice Praha 3, 09.11.2016

    (audio)
    duration: 01:11:19
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
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Forty years out of order

Věra Nováková, in Bráník- Prague, 50th
Věra Nováková, in Bráník- Prague, 50th
photo: Archiv Věry Novákové

Věra Nováková was born on 17 January 1928 in Prague into the family of the lawyer Bohumil Novák. She was one of seven children and has a twin sister. Following her graduation from a grammar school in Resslova street, in 1947 she was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, into the atelier of monumental painting lead by professor Vladimír Sychra. In February 1949 she was among the five students expelled from the school for political reasons. Moreover, the student vetting commission prevented her from studying any other university. She became close with her former classmate Pavel Brázda who was also expelled from the Academy, and in 1950 the couple got married. They then lived at Pavel Brázda’s grandparents’ Helena Čapková-Palivcová (1886-1961) and her husband Josef Palivec (1886-1975). Thanks to Josef Palivec’s friend, rector of a higher school of decorative arts, who concealed the findings of their vetting, both her and her husband were able to continue their studies there, eventually graduating in 1952. She worked as a freelance designer and at times did book illustrations. However, she was prevented from publicly exhibiting her works. In 1959 she gave birth to a daughter Kateřina. In 1967 she and her husband went for a three-week journey visiting Italy’s ancient art. Following the 1968 occupation, Věra Nováková and Pavel Brázda considered emigration. During the so-call normalization, they were in touch with the Czech dissidents. Ever since their expulsion from the Academy up until 1989 the couple had only a single exhibition (Divadlo v Nerudovce, 1976). Only in 1992 did she and Pavel Brázda have their first common large exhibition of paintings in the Ženské domovy building. Věra Nováková lives and works in Prague.