Eva Novakova - daughter of Radio Prague's much-missed Olga Szantova

Eva Novakova

The late Olga Szantova was for many listeners, for many years, THE voice of Radio Prague. Sunday was the first anniversary of Olga's death, and to mark the occasion I spoke to her daughter, Eva Novakova, who is an MP for the Social Democratic Party. We did get around to discussing Eva's own career, but I first asked her if she ever used to visit Olga here at the station as a young girl.

"Yes, of course, I was there as a little child, I can remember. But I remember more the people around my mother working with her, and the other children. And sometimes we had parties for all these people, so I can remember this more than the Radio.

"Somehow I remember the restaurant, which is quite funny, and the office. It was a very interesting place for me. Sometimes we did things like saying hello to the listeners, for example at Christmas. And sometimes some of us now grown-up children meet and talk about it; it was a nice time I think, an interesting time."

Was it something you could understand at a young age, that your mother was broadcasting on the radio, but outside Czechoslovakia?

"Well, it was quite easy for me because we went to Africa when I was a little child, when I was six years old. So I could understand that there are other countries, and my mother speaks English very well, so people here in the Czech Republic wouldn't understand her. So it was quite easy for me, I must say, because of this stay in Africa for four years."

You would have been 13 or 14 years old in 1968 when Olga had to leave the Radio for political reasons. What do you remember of those times?

"I can remember really the Russians coming, all the tanks, and that we were really afraid. But fortunately I was with my grandmother at the time. My mother was with my father, they were broadcasting all the time. And I was very proud of her.

"Of course it was very, very difficult for her to leave the Radio, because I think she really enjoyed her work, and it was her life. But I think she realised this was the only way how to behave. And I think it was a very good example for me, for future life. And I am proud that my mother was so brave at that time, really.

"It was a really difficult time, because we were worried out my mother, what was going on here in Prague. My grandmother was really very afraid. But it was a good time, full of emotions. After all it was a very...nice time, when you think about it, because everything changed 20 years after that. So I think it was a good time, after all."

Going forward to 20 years afterwards, Olga went back to Radio Prague in 1990, and as far as I know she often used you to talk about any kind of issue, simply because you were an English speaker - is that the case?

"(laughs) Yes, yes, yes, I can remember this, it was really very funny. She would find some topic and she would talk about it with me. I realised that life is very colourful and of course you can speak about many topics and everything is interesting. I was really surprised how many topics my mother could mention and give to the listeners. I can remember that she didn't use only me but also my younger son; I think he enjoyed it as well."

What kind of topics did she have you talk about?

"For example mushroom picking, telephones - how it's difficult to get one, about cooking...about life I would say. But this mushroom picking was the greatest fun because we met in the street near Radio Prague, and she was just asking me as a normal woman going by...it was great fun to do this interview in the street. People were looking and they were very surprised that we were talking in English in the street."

You're an MP for the Social Democrats. Is it a case that there's a history of politics in your family?

"Oh yes, there is. My grandfather, my mother's father, was a Social Democrat. I joined the party in November 1989; it was my duty, because my grandfather and his whole family were really saved because they left Czechoslovakia as Social Democrats, and they saved their lives, because the whole family was in concentration camps and they died there..."

Was it the case though that your grandfather was somehow persecuted by the Communists after 1948?

"Oh yes, they came back from America, from New York, in 1946, and in the early 50s my grandfather was imprisoned because he had been, let's say, in America. He was there in prison for I think three years. And my mother was kicked out of the university; it was a very, very difficult time for her.

"But it was a good time for me, because mother married at that time and I was born (laughs), so maybe for me it was good, but I think for the rest of the family it was a very, very difficult time. And I the most difficult time was for my grandmother, because she was really very, very alone, and I think that it was really more difficult than we can imagine. But then my grandfather came out of prison...unfortunately he died very soon, in his 50s."

Getting back to the present, the first time I spoke to you I think was two years ago, just before you got elected. Since you've been an MP for the Social Democrats - have you enjoyed the last two years as an MP?

"I wouldn't say enjoyed. The first six months were very difficult for me. It's not a normal job so nobody really tells you what to do. But after this first six months I realised what to do, and now I enjoy myself. The most boring time, to be honest, is really to sit and to vote - it's really very boring! But it's part of the job so we have to do it.

"The most interesting thing is to talk to people, to help them, to change the laws, and to go to foreign countries to talk to other MPs - this co-operation is very interesting. So now I really enjoy my work."