Art Historian, Růžena Vacková, and Specialist in Roma Culture, Milena Hübschmannová

After the Communist coup in February 1948, Růžena Vacková was the only Charles University professor to join the student march to Prague Castle to show support for the President ... Milena Hübschmannová was deeply engaged in Roma culture and helped the community in its cultural emancipation and also in solving social problems.

Karolinum, Ovocný trh 560/5, 116 36 Prague 1
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Walk towards Prášná Brána (Powder Tower), walk under it and continue about 100 meters on Celetná Street. In front of the House of the Black Madonna, turn left to Ovocný Trh, stay right and after another 200 meters you will reach the Karolinum.

One day the righteous will be right. Růžena Vacková
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Here, in front of the Karolinum, the main building of the university founded by Charles IV in 1348, let’s talk about two eminent and courageous academics, Růžena Vacková and Milena Hübschmannová.

Růžena Vacková (1901–1982) (1901-1982) graduated in 1925 in classical archeology, art history, philosophy and aesthetics and became a qualified lecturer of classical archeology in 1930. She published inspired studies such as Socrates, the Educator of the Nation (1939) or her extensive theater monograph Art Expression in Drama (1948).

During the Nazi occupation, her younger brother, Dr. Vladimir Vacek, and brother-in-law Alexander Gjurič, were executed. Vacková participated in the illegal resistance of the Czech intelligentsia and in February 1945 was arrested, accused of treason and imprisoned in Pankrác prison. After her release from prison after the end of WWII, she embraced Catholicism, inspired by Father Zveřina. In 1947, Vacková was appointed professor at Charles University.

Růžena Vacková during her university studies (source: internet)

After the February coup, Růžena Vacková, was the only professor to join the students who went to Prague Castle to show support for the President, and at the meeting of the first post-February 1948 Charles University philosophy faculty, she was once again the only professor to protest against the expulsion of students who had attended the march:

I make judgements about the nature of moral order according to certain criteria. I would be interested in the criteria governing the expulsion of professors and especially of students. As a witness, as a participant in the marches, I can declare that these were true manifestations, and not just disruptive demonstrations, because the cries I heard were neither political nor economic. On the contrary, they were of a moral nature, and if the criterion for exclusion of students was their participation at the manifestation, then I want to share their fate. Růžena Vacková

She was soon expelled from the university and as part of the political trial of Mádr et al. was convicted of treason and spying and sentenced to 22 years hard labor, the confiscation of all her property, and the loss of her civil rights for ten years. During her imprisonment, she was one of the leaders of the so-called “Prison University”. She also joined 53 women who held a protest hunger strike in Pardubice prison in 1954, and in 1956 was one of twelve women who sent a protest letter to the United Nations Secretary General. Růžena Vacková refused several times to ask for amnesty and said she would not leave the prison before the innocently incarcerated priests were released. She was freed after fifteen years in 1967 and subsequently rehabilitated. In 1971, however, her rehabilitation was again revoked. Both before and after her incarceration, many young people met in her apartment. She lectured on art and Christianity and influenced their moral attitudes. In 1992, she was given the order of T. Masaryk in memoriam. Her nephew, Andrej Gjurič, quotes the inscription above her door: “Everyone is welcome on Monday from 2 a.m. until whenever. Other days of the week I do not accept uninvited guests.”

Milena Hübschmannová (1933-2005) studied Hindi, Urdu and Bengali at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University. During her studies, she was fascinated by the Roma in Czechoslovakia: they were a living connection with the Indian continent, which she had studied and which she so much admired. Gradually, she became deeply involved in Romani culture and began help the Roma in their own cultural emancipation and in solving social problems.

Milena Hübschmannová (photo: Günter Bartoš)

She assisted a number of gifted Roma literary artists to become writers (Elena Lacková, Ilona Ferková, Tera Fabiánová, Janek Horváth and others). She collected, translated and published Gypsy Songs (1960) and Romani Fairy Tales (1973), wrote the textbook The Basics of Romany (1974), and as editor of Czechoslovak Radio also promoted Roma culture. Between 1969 and 1973 she was involved in the Union of Gypsies-Roma, the first Roma organization in Czechoslovakia. Due to her disagreement with the assimilation policy directed at the Roma in Czechoslovakia, she was dismissed from the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences and she was without stable work until 1982, when she began to teach Romani courses at a language school in Prague. In 1991, she managed to establish a department of Roma Studies at Charles University, wrote a plethora of scientific articles, founded and ran the Romano džaniben Romist studies magazine, co-wrote with colleagues a Roma-Czech dictionary, organized workshops for Roma authors, published their texts and promoted Roma culture, and stood up for the Roma. She taught at Charles University Philosophy Faculty until her tragic death and received the František Kriegl Prize and many other awards.

She would surely be delighted that finally (!) in 2017 Bohuslav Sobotka’s government purchased a pig farm in Lety near Písek from the current owner to build a dignified monument to the Roma victims of the WWII era Tábor concentration camp, which had been operated by Czech citizens. On the other hand, she would certainly be dismayed by the increasing racism shown by many members of the majority culture towards Roma and other ethnic minorities and the deep crisis in today’s Roma community. But her work helped many students, and without it we would be facing an even worse crisis today.

Milena Hübschmannová (source: internet)
Vakeren for cháve romanes, mi džanen. Andre Anglija on the glowing glow of the acana lenge phares, jon akana chuden te sikhľol, phiren ko gadže te sikhľol romanes! It’s the tumble of the janen. // Speak to Roma children, let them speak. In England no one speaks Romani anymore, and how they regret it, they are even learning it again now, going to classes with Gadžo teachers to learn Romani! But you know your language, so protect your beautiful tongue. Milena Hübschmannová
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Where next?

Continue along Ovocný trh and Celetná street and walk through the Prašná Brána (Powder Gate). You will see Hybernia Palace in front of you, go to the right of it down Senovážná street, which will take you to Jindřišská Tower. From there, continue along Jerusalem street passing the Synagogue on your left, to Vrchlického Sady, which you follow to the Main Station. Climb the stairs or take the elevator to the original Wilson Station lobby and on platform one is a sculpture dedicated to Nicholas Winton.