Prague Minos Guide

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19. - 20. století

Milena Jesenska

Czech journalist, writer and translator
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This Czech writer and journalist rubbed elbows with prominent Prague artists, such as Karel Capek and Franz Kafka.
Milena was the daughter of a leading Prague university professor and dental surgeon, Jan Jesensky. She lost her mother when she was 16, an event which led to her rather unrestrained youth (the first drug she tried was morphine she found in her father’s laboratory). She would organize walks through Prague and on one occasion she met with Max Brod and Franz Werfel in the “Café Arco”. She was often seen in the German-Jewish quarter, where she would associate with the cream of the artistic society. She complied with her father’s wishes and started studying medicine, but soon dropped out of school. This event, together with her marriage to the German Jew Ernst Pollak, led to a major quarrel with her father. He even had her interned in an asylum, but surmounting numerous obstacles she managed to get out of it and then cut all communication with her family.
Her marriage didn’t last too long (until 1923) and Jesenska started making a living as a journalist and translator. In 1919 she met Franz

Kafka and started translating the works of this then quite unknown writer. Their friendship lasted until Kafka’s death.
Jesenska was addicted to cocaine and in 1923 she tried to commit suicide, unsuccessfully. She eventually found salvation in her relationship with the architect Krejcar, whom she married. What followed was the happiest time of her life. She wrote for leading Czech newspapers and supported for a while the communist party, but soon resigned her membership because of her criticism against Stalin.
She eventually divorced Jaromir Krejcar and when her country became a Protectorate in 1939, she actively joined the anti-Nazi resistance. She would help Jews cross the border to Poland until the beginning of the war. In the fall of 1939 she was arrested and deported to the concentration camp in Ravensbruck, where she died in 1944.
She was a prominent Czech author, but her work wasn’t recognized until after the war. In 1995 she was awarded the title “Righteous among the Nations” by the Jad Vashem institute in Jerusalem based on testimonies from her co-prisoners in the concentration camp.


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