Radio Prague remembers a good friend

02-04-2006

Radio Prague has lost a good friend. A renaissance woman with hugely diverse talents, Jaroslava Moserova was not just a doctor - one of the country's top burns specialists - but also a highly respected literary translator and writer, and an accomplished diplomat and politician. Since the fall of communism she had been ambassador to Australia, a prominent member of the Czech Senate and president of the UNESCO General Conference. Her translations of English literature, most famously the novels of Dick Francis, are highly acclaimed. Last week she lost her battle against cancer.

In recent years Jaroslava Moserova often helped us out at Radio Prague, whether as a Senator, lobbying to remind fellow politicians of our existence, or in giving us references when we applied for grants. The support of someone with her authority was worth its weight in gold.

Her love for radio was genuine. Working for UNESCO in the struggle to make education more accessible, she campaigned to set up radio stations in parts of Africa where for many education was nothing but a dream. As she put it, not everyone can read or even interpret a visual image, but the spoken word can reach each and every one of us.

I last interviewed Dr Moserova just a few days before she died. As I had often done before, I went to see her at her comfortably lived-in flat overlooking Letna Park. She was already very ill, her weight down to 35 kilos, but in recent weeks she had positively encouraged me and other radio colleagues to visit her. 'I hate being stuck at home,' she explained, 'I hate the lack of stimulus.' At a time when many people would give up, she was a lively and engaging interview partner. We talked about a little-known aspect of her work for UNESCO, on a committee working for the release of political prisoners. It was a fascinating insight into delicate behind-the-scenes diplomatic work that never hits the headlines.

A few weeks earlier I had interviewed Dr Moserova about her memories as a doctor of treating Jan Palach in January 1969. The 20-year-old student was dying in hospital after setting himself alight on Prague's Wenceslas Square in a desperate protest against the apathy that followed the Soviet invasion five months before. She told me that he had been clearly reconciled to the fact that he was going to die, and she could feel his inner strength and conviction that he had not betrayed his conscience. Visiting Jaroslava Moserova herself just before she died, I had a very similar feeling.

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