Dana Huňátová: Madeleine Albright was the first person I lived for work

Huňátová has since served as Czech ambassador in many countries. The now retired diplomat has recently written two autobiographical books and just published a biography of the aristocrat Diana Phipps Sternbergová.

You joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on December 11, 1989. This is the day after Izzy Dean Stovia became Foreign Minister less than four weeks after the Velvet Revolution began. Why did he invite you to become the head of his office?

“We knew each other for a while.

“I certainly knew his name since 1968, but we probably met in the mid-1980s and we’ve been friends ever since.

“Maybe you have my husband [Čestmír Huňát] Was very active in [music organisation harassed by the Communist authorities] The Jazz Section, Jazz Section and Charter 77 were close friends.

“We have met in different places and on different occasions before.

“During the communist government, we followed all the instructions from Moscow, so we can’t say that there was a foreign policy at all.”

“I first worked as a teacher in the Faculty of Economics and then as an economist in the Jan Hus Theology Department in Prague.

“And perhaps Dientsbier thought I was a kind of disciplined bureaucracy. [laughs], This was probably not common in this wide group of people. “

How was the situation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? There have been 40 years of communism, and you enter this apparently very important institution.

“Yes, it was very interesting from various perspectives.

“First of all, ministry officials were probably more shocked by the changes than we were. [laughs]..

“Some people believed that it wouldn’t last long and that everything would return to the old order.

“Few people were afraid. They knew why it should be.

“And probably few people welcomed the change and the new leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“That’s the practical part.

“But on the other hand, because there was no foreign policy in the past, it was also very important to have Dienzvia as the head of Czechoslovak diplomacy.

<!–[if IE 9]><![endif]–>

Izzy Dean Stovia | Photo: Jan Fišera, Czech Radio<!–

“During the Communist Party’s administration, we followed all the instructions from Moscow and went through the Communist Party’s Bureau of International Affairs, so we can’t say that there was a foreign policy at all.

“So there were some major jobs to get into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“First of all, create such a foreign policy.

“We did not have sovereignty from the beginning of the war, so establish a sovereign state.

“And establish personnel to work on it.”

You went to something like 80 overseas trips with Minister Dean Stovia in a short period of time. How do you look back on that era today?

“It was great because I wasn’t allowed to travel, and suddenly I had a great opportunity to travel around.

“I liked it. I was very busy. It was pretty tough, but I think the first few years were very energetic and enthusiastic.

“And maybe a little adrenaline played that role, because I was able to work 16 hours and make a long trip, like from South America. When I arrived, I just returned to the office. [laughs]..

“We were able to make a long trip like from South America, and on our arrival we just returned to the office.”

“Yes, I enjoyed every second.”

Who actually formulated the foreign policy? Was it a large part of Dientsbier himself or was it alone? Or did Havel have an opinion on Czech foreign policy?

“It was basically Dean Stovia. He was very well prepared for this kind of work-I didn’t expect him to get it.

“But he has always been involved in foreign policy, learning a lot from working as an international correspondent and having a lot of contact.

“So he was well prepared and knew exactly what he needed to do from the very beginning and how he would reach his goal.

“And they were very good friends with President Havel.

“There were some cases where they weren’t talking to each other, and they acted in exactly the same way.

“So Dean Stovia received a lot of support not only from the president himself, but also from the MPs looking back at this time, so it certainly helped … I took it for granted. [laughs]But in retrospect, it was a very unique situation.

“And without so much consensus among politicians and the general public, we wouldn’t have been able to do as much as we could.”

You say Madeleine Albright has had a huge impact on your career. How did she affect you?

<!–[if IE 9]><![endif]–>
Madeleine Albright | Photo: Tomáš Adamec, Czech Radio
Madeleine Albright | Photo: Tomáš Adamec, Czech Radio<!–

“Yes, she was great.

“I was very impressed from the first minute.

“She arrived in January 1990 and remembers her actions and ways of speaking.

“She was serious about everything she was doing.

“As you may know in the past, in the communist regime, there was a law that everyone had to work, so I had never seen such a person before.

“So everyone did the job, but no one could choose what kind of job.

“So we were working, but it wasn’t. [laughs] Let’s say you have fully invested in doing this kind of work.

“And this was quite different from Madeleine’s case. She lived in her job.

“This was the first time I saw someone deeply involved in the job and enjoying it.

“And this affected me.

“Because I was invited to stay at her house for 6 weeks in February and March 1990, I had very good luck, or a way to call it. I was very impressed.

“She woke up so early every morning that she read all the papers and went to work around 6:30 or 7:00.

“Madeleine was very serious about everything she was doing.”

“At that time, she was teaching at Georgetown University.

“Then she went home late at night and worked again. I’ve never seen her watch a movie.

“She was just working, she loved it, and that was the point.”

There were some posts [as a diplomat], Finland, Egypt, Malaysia, Chicago. Which one was the most fun?

“This is a very difficult question, because these countries are on different continents, so they are very different or very different from each other.

“In Finland, I loved their work system. Everything worked smoothly and the political situation was stable.

“There is no corruption, the highest quality education system, very high standard medical system.

“The state is only working for the people and I loved it.

“In Egypt, it’s a beautiful country and very nice people.

“But that’s completely the opposite. The state is full of corrupt people and doesn’t care about the poor, but the people were really kind and kind.

“Asia is visually beautiful at first glance. Everything blooms and every flower and fruit, and every one has a beautiful scent.

<!–[if IE 9]><![endif]–>
'Meeting with Diana Phipps Sternbergová' | Photo: Kniha Zlín
'Meeting Diana Phipps Sternbergová' | Photo: Kniha Zlín<!–

“So it’s rich in nature. People are very kind and I love Malaysia too.

“And, of course, the United States-Chicago, where the land of dreams comes true. [laughs].. “

I would like to ask you about Chicago. Was it different from the other places you posted? I think there was a Czech community in Chicago that I couldn’t find anywhere else.

“Yes, no, because in other posts I happened to be in charge of the mission. I was working as an ambassador, but Chicago was a consul general because it was a consul general, but that’s not the case. It’s my job.

“Every country has a very small Czech community, including Finland, Egypt and Malaysia.

“No Czechs live in Malaysia.

“So this was different, but the Czechs living in Chicago and the Midwest are also very different from each other.

“There are specific groups, depending on when they were in the United States.”

For example, are people who left in 1948 different from those who left in 1968?

“Yes. And there is a large group of Czechs who arrived in the early 1990s, probably as tourists and students.

“So it’s really different, and each group has different views and different needs. For example, a different kind of cooperation with a consulate.”

A new book is out: Encounter with Diana Phipps Sternbergová. Who is she for those who don’t know her name?

“Diana Phipps Sternbergová has created a circle back from Chastrovice to Chastrovice.”

“She is a very interesting person.

“She is the Countess of Sternberg and the head of the Chastrovice branch of the Sternberg family.

“She apparently left the country with her parents in 48 years after the Communists robbed them of all their property. They confiscated it.

“They had to leave, they went to France for a short time, then to the United States, and then they settled in Jamaica.

“Then, Diana herself moved to London in the early 1960s after getting married and returned from London.

“So it’s a kind of circle she made back from Chastrovice to Chastrovice.

“And she herself is very interesting. She had a career as an interior designer in London and published a very successful book.”

Currently she is in her mid-80s. Is she totally bitter about having to leave the country as a child? While she missed her life in her homeland for decades, she had a great career in the West. And she was able to avoid her life under communism.

“Yes, exactly.

“When they left, she was 11 years old, and she said she wasn’t unhappy about it.

“She saw it through her child’s eyes and saw it as an adventure.

“She was looking forward to being in Paris. She was looking forward to going to America by boat.

“So she wasn’t thinking about losing her fortune or political situation. What were they doing in their castle now?

“And she said that even her parents never mentioned what had happened in the past.

“It was pretty difficult, but they didn’t complain about their situation.”

Your son Marek, well known as Maldosha, is one of the main members of the very popular Czech band Tataboy. Did you pay attention to his career? Or were you too busy doing your own thing?

<!–[if IE 9]><![endif]–>
Tata Bojs (Mardoša on the left) | Photo: Hana Máslová, Picasa Web Albums, CC BY-SA 3.0
Tata Bojs (Mardoša on the left) | Photo: Hana Máslová, Picasa Web Albums, CC BY-SA 3.0<!–

“Well, I hope I followed his career.

“In fact, there was a big concert last night and I did go there.

“It was done at O2 Universal and I loved it.

“They did a really great job and I think people loved it too.

“So I was happy with his career and tried to watch their concerts whenever I was in Prague.

“We supported him when he started learning the guitar from an early age. He was probably seven years old.”

He is also a great DJ. I’ve been to events where he was a DJ, but as they say, he really starts a party.

“I, they [Mardoša and his sister] When I saw her take her job seriously in Madeleine, I also found that I was taking my job seriously. [laughs]..

“So maybe this is the way they saw me, I hope.

“I wish they saw this [laughs].. “ Dana Huňátová: Madeleine Albright was the first person I lived for work

Show More
Back to top button