Sunday, April 1, 2012

In Memoriam: Ilse Laszlo Blaine

In Memoriam
Ilse Laszlo Blaine (1917-2013)
Humanitarian and Czech Revolutionary Hero


In Prague, December 21, 2013, Ilse Laszlo Blaine, born Ilse Lund, age 96. Born in Oslo, Norway, in 1917, Mrs. Laszlo Blaine was caught up early in life in the cause of freedom when, in early 1938, she secretly married the well known Czech publisher and statesman Victor Laszlo in then-Nazi-occupied Prague. There, they both worked to organize the anti-Nazi resistance through maintenance of a secret underground press. After her husband's arrest by the Gestapo and his shipment to a concentration camp in 1939, she fled to Paris, where she desperately worked to receive word of his whereabouts. After Victor escaped from Dachau, they were reunited in German-occupied Paris. They fled Europe and arrived in the US in January, 1942, where they took refuge.

Returning to Prague at the end of the war, Mrs. Laszlo helped her husband return to Czech politics, where he rose to deputy prime minister under the last democratic government there. He was arrested and executed in 1948, shortly after the imposition of Communism by occupying Soviet forces.

In the years afterwards, Mrs. Laszlo took a job as a university librarian in Brno, where she lived quietly until the Prague Spring. When the first liberalization took place in late 1967, her status as the widow of a Czech patriot and hero made her a local center of the student movement. This placed her in great danger when the Soviet army invaded to crush the movement in 1968. She fled in the confusion to France, where she was granted political asylum; while there, she continued to work for human rights behind the Iron Curtain. She was a signatory, with Vlacav Havel, of the Declaration of 1977, which called for human rights monitoring in Communist countries.

Shortly after her arrival in Paris, she met Richard Blaine, an American expatriate and restauranteur whom she had known in her youth. They married shortly thereafter, in 1969, and lived together happily until Blaine's death of lung cancer in 1978.

Shortly before the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989, she once more returned to Prague, where she worked with the leaders of the democratic opposition to bring about the peaceful overthrow of the Communist regime. She was feted at a state dinner by Czech president Vlacav Havel in 1998.

She is survived by a nephew, Toth Laszlo, and three grand-nieces. No, really.

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Keep it clean for gene.