Good Countryman Vladimir Mensik


With over 1,000 roles in his relatively short life, Vladimir Mensik was one of the country's most celebrated actors and entertainers. He performed on stage, in films, fairy tales, serials, sketches, and one-man shows. In fact, he was the first to introduce a form of stand-up comedy to the nation. A new book that has just hit the shelves takes a closer look at the man that Vladimir Mensik was. Through testimony from his relatives and some forty actors who worked with him, author Jolana Matejkova takes a fresh look at the man who always met people with a smile though rarely felt like laughing himself...

"I interviewed a very famous Czech psychologist and he told me that he most of the country's famous comedians were his patients and that many of them suffered from deep depression. Vladimir Mensik had very serious asthma and lived between life and death. Since he was alive, he wanted to bring laughter to the people and that was what he lived for during the sad period of Communism."

Vladimir Mensik was born in the Moravian village of Ivancice on October 9, 1929. Pressured by his father, he went to an engineering school and worked in a Brno machinery plant. But Vladimir Mensik's deepest desire was to become an actor. After one failed attempt, he was accepted into the Janacek Academy of Art, setting off a career more successful than he could have ever imagined. Actress Kveta Fialova studied with him at the academy in the 1940s:

"Vladimir Mensik's heart was filled with the sun. He was an amazing actor because he had a soul, with which he spoke to the people", Mrs Fialova remembers.

Vladimir Mensik,  photo: CTK
Vladimir Mensik had four children and was married twice. But despite the numerous people around him who loved and admired him, he took to alcohol, which not only affected his work but also his health. Jolana Matejkova:

"He also played in a very interesting film called Good Bird, which was about alcoholics. He had a very strong talent for dramatic roles and had a deep sense of truth. He once was an alcoholic himself and this film in some way served as his own therapy."

The new book is called Good Countryman Vladimir Mensik, named after the film "Vsichni Dobri Rodaci" or "All My Good Countrymen", in which he plays one of the main roles. The film tells the story of 1950s Moravia where the residents of a village suffer the impact of forced collectivisation. The film was made in 1968 but was soon to be banned by the regime. Though not a communist party member, Vladimir Mensik's career never suffered but, in January 1977, he had to sign the so-called Anti-Charter along with numerous other artists to express solidarity with socialism and condemn the dissident Charter 77 human rights petition.

Vladimir Mensik died at the age of just 59 on May 29, 1988, with alcoholism, asthma, and many years of heavy smoking contributing to his early death.