This weekend I had the pleasure of representing INTO at the official opening of the first property of the Czech National Trust.
INTO has been involved with the CNT for the past five years – from early discussions about whether a National Trust might work, through Oliver’s attendance at meetings in the Czech Republic to build support and momentum, various conversations and events in London, adding the CNT’s working holidays to our programme, the attendance of Irena Edwards (Chair), Eva Žallmannová (Director) and Martin Krcma (member of the Board) at ICNT 16 in Cambridge, an INTO small grant for the pilot project – all leading up to the momentous event yesterday.
The driving force behind the Czech National Trust is undoubtedly Irena Edwards, who left Communist Czechoslovakia in the 1980s to make her home in London, and is now the modern-day Octavia Hill of the CNT – complete with soapbox!!! (There is a feature about Irena in the latest edition of the NTEWNI magazine and indeed the then INTO Chairman, Simon Molesworth, spotted what a dynamic and persuasive operator Irena is and she joined our Board as Secretary last year.)
What has been achieved at the chapel of Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach in the small Moravian village of Zdislavice near the world heritage town of Kroměříž has however been a magnificent team effort: Irena working at a high level to secure seed money; tracking down the Brazilian owner of the land; gaining the support of the wider Czech heritage sector; etc. The Kroměříž team bringing together local stakeholders; organising working parties of volunteers (including themselves and their families!) to clear the undergrowth (revealing an interesting glasshouse with potential to become a small visitor centre); promoting the project and preparing for opening to the public (signage, information panels), etc. The CNTA team raising awareness and funds abroad.
The event on Saturday brought together many of the individuals involved thus far to hear words of thanks, support and congratulations from HRH The Prince of Wales and speeches in person from Irena Edwards, Daniel Herman (Minister of Culture), Alexander Grubmayer (Austrian Ambassador – Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach is a truly European writer who unites the Czech, Austrian and German nations), Ladislav Kryštof (Mayor of Zlín Municipality who gave the building to the Trust) and José Hlavnicka, the wonderful donor from Brazil who owns the neighbouring chateau, where the writer was born, and kindly gave the two hectares surrounding the chapel, along with other generous donations) to the Trust.
Justin Albert (on behalf of the NTEWNI) and I also spoke, as did the local mayor. She also shared some of her homemade plum brandy which gave the afternoon added zing! Justin drew parallels with the history of the National Trust when, 120 years ago a generous and far-sighted donor gave an extraordinary lady a small piece of land to hold forever for the benefit of the nation (sound familiar…?) – and look where it is now!
I briefly described the role of INTO, our delight at being involved and desire to continue working alongside the CNT, ending “Just as the Czech National Trust has become a role model and success story for INTO and the global NT movement, I hope and believe that the Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach project will inspire similar endeavours across the whole country and be the beginning of a truly nationwide Czech National Trust.”
The opening marks the end of the first phase of the project. Stage Two, the restoration of the building and reinstatement of the English garden lies ahead and whilst none of us pretend it’s going to be easy to raise the necessary funds, yesterday brought together so much goodwill and passion that I know the CNT will achieve their objective and we here at INTO will continue to walk beside them!
How you can get involved:
Thanks for reading!
(Photos from Czech National Trust facebook page)