She would have celebrated her 86th birthday today. Although it has been 23 years since Olga Havlová died, she remains in the hearts of many people and the public still speaks of her. Olga Havlová was more than just the first wife of the Czechoslovak and later Czech President Václav Havel. Luxury Prague Life was interested in how her friends and colleagues remember her.
She became the first lady practically almost overnight, and with this great title, she also chose her mission: to do good and help people. In the 1990s, she was a pioneer of charity. She founded an organization that focused on helping people with disabilities, abandoned and discriminated people. She preferred to spend her time among seniors and children with multiple disabilities.
"We wish for those who live with disabilities or mental illnesses, abandoned people and the elderly, those who have a different skin color or a different way of life, those who are in need, or who have been stricken by an insidious illness, to have the right to a dignified existence,"
Mrs. Olga said, and precisely in the spirit of these words, the Committee of Good Will - Olga Havel Foundation (OHF) fulfills her legacy to this day.
She did not succumb to the arrogance of power
Considering that she came from a working-class family living in Žižkov and spent a large part of her life in the theater, it is no wonder that, just like Václav Havel, she had many friends among famous actors.
"She never succumbed to the arrogance of power, nor was she “full of herself” as the first lady; she acted with dignity and confidence, but not ostentatiously. She never shoved the courage and fearless attitude that she had adopted already before November 1989 on me or anyone else as far as I could see. She explained her opinions firmly, stressing their importance, but then she let others arrive at the same conclusion on their own,"
actress Eva Holubová reflects.
Once a queen, always a queen
Deputy Chairman of the OHF Board of Directors and Václav Havel’s personal secretary of many years, Vladimír Hanzel, admired many things about the former first lady and he still likes to remember her:
“I was fascinated by the confidence with which Olga grasped her new function in her very own way. She remained the old Olga, sometimes cheeky and critical, sometimes friendly and empathetic. At the same time, however, she would sit beside kings, queens or presidents at state dinners at the Castle as though it was the most natural thing in the world. When I watched her in such a situation, Olga herself seemed like a queen. And I do not mean her clothes or visage, but, above all, her elegance, overall behavior, gestures, the way in which she managed to handle all the intricacies that can occur at a presidential banquet with no visible effort or slip up."
Havel counted on her sincerity
Olga loved all righthearted people. But even while helping others, she never forgot about her main role as a wife and later the first lady. This is how her longtime friend, a neighbor from Hrádeček as well as the editor of the V. Havel Library, Anna Freimannová, remembers her:
"She had her husband figured out, she knew almost everything there was to know about him and could appreciate his intelligence, courage and talent. That doesn't mean she wasn't critical of him or unable to tell him her piece of mind. Quite on the contrary - and he counted on her sincerity. For Olga, supporting Vašek's writing was one of the purposes of her life.”
After the very successful Olga Havel Year 2018, which commemorated Mrs Olga's 85th birthday, an exhibition of black-and-white photographs by Olga Havlová and the Committee of Good Will continues to travel through Czech as well as foreign cities. Visitors could already admire it in over 100 towns and municipalities in the Czech Republic and abroad.