Small town hairdresser wins over town hall
Marketa Regecova, the best known small town hairdresser in the Czech Republic is making the headlines once more - for the last time, she hopes. Ms Regecova has become famous not for the hair-dos she creates but as the owner of a small plot of land no larger than a few acres. Olga Szantova has the story.
That plot of land lies near the East Moravian town of Hranice, in a place where Philips decided to build a factory producing television screens. The project has been broadly welcomed, because the area has a high unemployment rate and the Philips factory will create 3,500 new jobs. The town hall promised that it would buy the site for the factory from the numerous small owners and prepare it for the building work. But in trying to hasten that process, for reasons nobody seems able to explain, it offered individual land owners various prices. Among those who were to receive the smallest sum per square meter was Marketa Regecova and while all the others sold out without any protests, she refused to agree with the lower price and did not hesitate to go to court. Meanwhile Philips started construction work on the factory, which increased the value of the plot in the middle of the site. Ms Regecova made the best of the situation and increased the price she was asking for her piece of land. And that's where her fame started. She was widely criticized for being selfish, for disregarding public interest and the needs of the whole area. Now, that's an argument very deeply rooted in Czech mentality after all those years of communism, where we were repeatedly told that the individual's rights had to give way to the needs of society. Anonymous letters, threats and accusations kept pouring down on the Hranice hairdresser from all parts of the country. Even Prime Minister Zeman publicly criticized her stand. But Marketa Regecova stood her ground - and won. Philips is buying her piece of land directly, for the unprecedented price she is demanding, and will ask the town hall to reimburse it. The result has not made Miss Regecova any more popular in the eyes of the public. But are we witnessing something rare and new in this country - the victory of the individual's rights against the perceived public interest? I asked Erazim Kohak, professor of philosophy at Prague's Charles University, how he sees it.