Auction in aid of the Jinonice Wild Animal Rescue Centre

Singer Ilona Csakova admires a ferret at Tuesday's auction in aid of the Jinonice Wild Animal Rescue Centre, foto: Petr Novotny (MF Dnes)

Dagmar Simkova is an artist whose paintings, sculptures and puppets have sold in England, France, Germany, Sweden and even far-away Thailand. Her work, which was "too surreal" for the communist regime, now graces many a private collection both at home and abroad.

Over the past decade Dagmar Simkova has been making up for lost time. She's exhibiting and selling paintings all over the world and a few years ago she was even asked to decorate the altar of the St. Vavrinec's Church in Prague 5. Currently her work is on show at Galerie Hermanova -and she has linked her passion for art with her love for wild animals - organizing an auction of her work and the work of several other artists in aid of the Jinonice Wild Animal Rescue Centre where she spends a lot of her free time.

"After the fall of communism wild animal rescue centres were set up in various Prague districts. This is important because although there are cat and dog shelters in Prague there was no place to take an injured wild animal or an exotic animal whose owner had died, for instance. Around 2,000 of them pass through the Jinonice Rescue Centre every year. Some of them find a permanent home with us but about 50 % of them are healed or "reared" -in the case of baby animals -and returned to Nature. "

Photo: Archives of ČRo7
Dagmar Simkova has co-operated closely with the Jinonice centre for the past eight years. First she rallied her friends from the arts world, organizing auctions which would help supplement the centre's meagre income from the state. Then she pitched in as a volunteer - responding to calls from the public to come and save a wild animal in trouble - either injured or left homeless. Today she has a lot of funny stories to tell about her work:

"My husband and son act as drivers and I'm the rescue worker. I do it for free and much of our time is spent "on call" waiting for the next rescue mission. And you'd be surprised at the variety of animals we've been called on to save. Of course, there are all kinds of birds, bunnies, hedgehogs and deer which live in the wild on the outskirts of the city - but we also take in animals whose owners are unable to look after them or who have grown and become a threat to their owners. We were once called on to come and get a wolf from someone's flat, and there was a time we had to bring a goat down from the third floor of a block of flats because the neighbours were complaining it made a lot of noise. And one of the craziest stories is that of a man who was sent to prison for murder -he insisted on coming over and seeing where his hamster would live while he was in prison. So we took the hamster and looked after it until its death."

Dagmar Simkova is writing a collection of stories from her volunteer work and that - together with a series of animal postcards she's working on - should also help the Jinonice Wild Animal Rescue Centre.

Bank account of the Jinonice Wild Animal Rescue Centre: 1923704369/080

Help line: 602 20 50 70