Eva Lehotská

Eva Lehotská is saving the village of Bedřiška

Eva Lehotská has transformed a marginalized Ostrava village of Bedřiška into a calm neighborhood, despite the village’s troubled history and conflicts with local authorities. She used to live in one of the original “Finnish houses” [i.e. wooden homes built for workers] and in recent years she has dedicated herself to saving Bedřiška from demolition and building a strong, cohesive community there. Via Foundation gave Eva Lehotská a Via Bona Philanthropy Award in 2019 for her efforts.

The former workers’ colony of Bedřiška means a lot to Eva. There are now 26 families living in the village, which is a total of about 100 residents. Thanks to Eva’s long-standing work the community is becoming something seldom seen: a place where Roma and non-Roma live together in peace. But that wasn’t always the case. “In 2010 disputes between local residents escalated and a non-Roma threw a burning bottle into the home of his Roma neighbors. Yet something positive always comes out of the bad things. This incident was the impetus, the moment when everybody in Bedřiška realized that something had to change,” says Eva. She began engaging and she hasn’t let up since. She initiated a big community clean-up day in 2010 and got all of the residents to take part.

Eva serves, essentially, as a sort of natural community worker. She goes door to door, talking to each neighbor, listening, explaining, helping. She also regularly attends district and city council meetings and voices objections to the plan to demolish the village and resettle its residents. Bedřiška has become a calm, clean place to live. Eva adds: The thing that pleases me most is when I see how people in Bedřiška have changed since 2010. When I see clean streets and tidy houses which tenants have fixed up at their own expense. When a child stops me on the street and asks: Auntie, when are we going to have another clean-up day? When one of the Roma mothers proudly tells me that her son had straight As on his report card except for one C. When an old man, who has lived in Bedřiška for more than 60 years, thanks me because he can keep on living there. When other neighbors tell me they have decided to stay in Bedřiška as long as they can, because they trust me. I will continue trying to save Bedřiška as long as necessary and as long as my strength holds out.”