Dagmar Burešová: Life-long optimist
Written by: Monika Mudranincová
Born under the sign of the scales of justice, she has devoted her entire life to the law. This defender of dissidents, post-November minister of justice, and chairwoman of the Czech National Council hasn’t slacked off in her retirement. She still practices law, and takes part in the Czech-German Fund for the Future.
SHE LOOKS better than ever, radiating smiles and an infectious energy, and no one would guess that she’s 73. She herself admits that she doesn’t know how to take it easy, and she enjoys every kind of work. She started working as a law clerk way back in 1952. “I’d probably even like washing stairways if I couldn’t do anything else,” she says with a laugh.
There have been several turning points in her life. Following the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968, she defended about 65 people who were thrown out of work or otherwise persecuted by the regime. She represented Ivan Medek, Milan Kundera, and Libuše Palachová, Jan Palach’s mother – for which she was presented with the T. G. Masaryk award for courage on 28 October 2002. After the revolution of 1989, she served for six months as the Czech Republic justice minister, and from 1990 to 1992 she chaired the Czech National Council. Although that era of legal, economic, and social transformation also brought rapidly passed laws that often proved to be flawed, Burešová sees the partition of the federation as the greatest failure. “Although the Czechs wanted to maintain a common state, when Vladimír Mečiar won the election in Slovakia, partition was the sole alternative,” she recalls with resignation, but adds, “maybe it was necessary to split up in order to get back together. Czech-Slovak relations are currently better than ever before.”
When Burešová left the world of politics she continued with her law practice. First she represented firms to make some money, since she hadn’t been able to save anything on her CZK 13,000 monthly salary as the head of the Czech National Council. She gradually returned to her bailiwick – restitutions and compensation for damages. In 1996 she ran for the senate as an independent for KDU-ČSL, unsuccessfully. “I don’t regret it – young people should be in politics, as they are more effective and more professional than we used to be,” she comments. But she hasn’t withdrawn from public life. She chairs the Czech-German Fund for the Future, which pays settlements to Czech victims of Nazism and helps enhance understanding between Czechs and Germans.