WHERE ARE THEY
Michael Žantovský : Success is no measure
Written by: Monika Mudranincová
Photo: Týden - Jan Zátorský
The public remembers Michael Žantovský
(55) as President Havel's first spokesman, senator, and chairman
of the ODA. He left politics and these days is only rarely in
the Czech Republic, as he's the Czech ambassador to Israel.
A GRADUATE in psychology and Reuters correspondent, he enjoyed
an outstanding career in the beginning of the nineties. In 1990
this founding Civic Forum member became the press secretary and
spokesman of President Havel, with whom he traveled the world and
established ties with leading statesmen. After two years his dream
came true: an authority on Anglo-American literature, he left for
the US, where from 1992 to 1997 he served as the Czech ambassador.
In 1996 he was elected to the senate, where for six years he was
chairman of the foreign affairs, defense, and security committee.
He also led the ODA in 1997 and from 2001 to 2002. Many saw this
as a fatal mistake, but he calls it an "unforgettable experience",
although he says he'd prefer more pleasant activity. Fortunately,
he seems to have resolved this dilemma - he's been the Czech ambassador
to Israel for a year. "It's a fascinating environment and
immensely interesting work," he says. "I solve a hundred
and one matters, from summit meetings with Israeli politicians
to haggling about parking spaces near the embassy."
As ambassador he must tend to the maintenance of good relations
between the two countries, establishing contacts and providing
information. On the day of Czech accession to the EU this intellectual
even played in a promotional soccer tournament. "Badly," he
laughs. As of January 2005 he'll have another area of involvement,
when the Czech embassy becomes the contact embassy for NATO in
Israel. True, this constitutes recognition for the Czechs, but
it will involve many responsibilities, including informing the
Israeli public on alliance activities. Žantovský doesn't yet know
how long his assignment in Israel will last, but he's glad to be
doing what he enjoys and to have his family with him: his wife
Jana, son David (3), and daughter Rebeka (1).
Between politics and family, which period in his life does he consider
the most successful? "I've learned that success is no yardstick.
The meaning of life lies elsewhere," Žantovský opines, adding
that Israel's contrasts and problems have been eye-openers for
him. "This country forces people to think not only about the
world around them, but also about themselves," he says.