Professor Frantisek Janouch - a cherished memory of a miracle

Professor Frantisek Janouch

For this week's Witness, the last before Christmas, we bring you the story of a dream come true. Professor Frantisek Janouch is one of Europe's foremost nuclear physicists. After the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 he lost his job and five years later was driven into exile. In Sweden he founded the Charter 77 foundation, which played a huge role in helping dissidents back home in Czechoslovakia. Since the fall of communism the foundation has continued its work, now focusing on charity and cultural projects. Here Frantisek Janouch remembers one of the foundation's first post-Velvet Revolution campaigns: to pay for the introduction of gamma radiation equipment at Prague's Homolka Hospital.

"When I'm thinking about the events which I've lived through, I think that the one which was the most unexpected and most known now in the country was the collection of money for the "Misha Account". In 1990 a boy, ten or eleven years old, Misha, from Slovakia, needed an operation which was around 20 000 dollars and the operation could have been done only in Sweden. After some thinking we collected money for this operation. The boy was operated. He is now OK and is now twenty years old or twenty-one. But we then got new applications for such an operation and we couldn't raise 20 000 dollars each month or each week for a Slovak or Czech kid. And then I got a crazy idea. What if we buy this instrument for Prague. It was a miracle. I asked the minister of health. He said - yes, we would be very pleased but it costs three million dollars and I have only a couple of thousand dollars. And we raised a campaign which became the largest collection of money in this country perhaps even succeeding the collection of money for the National Theatre almost one-and-a-half centuries ago when it was burnt down. We got contributions from several million people and within twelve or fourteen months, we collected this sum of money and we bought this instrument. It is installed at the hospital at Homolka, and it became now one of the leading clinics in this field. There are only 160 such instruments worldwide, and it was a miracle, you know, that we succeeded, and it is really now one of the leading clinics. And we have not forgotten the way how it came into being. We are now offering poor kids from Ukraine free of charge operations, even transporting them with the Czech Airlines free of charge to Prague, and providing them with this operation. So I think this was one of the most unexpected curios, and it was a memory which I cherish."