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Anna Sabatova 1951

champion of human rights and dissenter against the Czechoslovakian communist regime

Anna Sabatova

Anna Sabatova

Anna Sabatova was born in Brno. Her father, Jaroslav Sabatov, was a left-wing opposition leader and in 1978 a spokesman for Charter ’77. After completing high school in 1969, Anna started a degree in Philosophy at Brno University. Before the 1971 elections she was arrested along with her father and brothers for distributing leaflets against the Government’s methods of forcing people to vote; the leaflets stated that the vote is a right, not an obligation. Sentenced to three years for “subversive activities”, her sentence was suspended in December 1973. The following year she married the journalist Petr Uhl, co-founder of Charter ’77 and of VONS, and she moved to Prague. From 1977 to 1979 she worked with the left-wing parties of West Berlin, arranged for numerous Czech samizdat papers to be distributed in the West and introduced foreign writings into Czechoslovakia. She signed the Charter ’77 declaration and took an active part in the movement. In 1978 she was among the founders of the Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Persecuted (VONS). After her husband’s arrest and up until his release, from 1979 to 1984, Anna continued to publish the newsletter “Information about Charter ‘77” that he had founded. Her flat became a privileged venue for meetings between dissidents and was repeatedly searched by the secret police. Thanks to her work for Charter ’77 and the VONS, Anna Sabatova soon became one of the most admired figures in the Czechoslovak Human Rights movement; she frequently attended trials against dissidents and was consequently stopped and interrogated on several occasions. In 1984, after almost ten years’ bringing up her children, she got a job, first as a stoker in a hotel and then washing dishes. From 1986 to 1987 she was a spokesperson for Charter ’77 along with Martin Paolus and Jan Stern. In 1987 she was a founder member of the Polish-Czechoslovak Solidarnosc and a year later became its spokesperson, along with Jan Carnogursky and Petr Pospichal. In 1988, with Pospichal, Uhl and Jan Urban, she founded the East Europe Information Agency, which aimed to create links between the opposition movements in Central East Europe and provide information to foreign media. In November 1989 she was head of the Velvet Revolution’s press office. In 1990 she resumed her studies at Prague’s Charles University, where she graduated in Czech Philology in 1996. From 1990 to 2002 she acted as a consultant for the Ministry of Labour, and dealt actively with social issues. In 1988 she received the UN Human Rights award, set up on the occasion of the United Nations’ 50th anniversary. From 2001 to 2006 she was the spokesperson for Citizens’ Rights in the Czech Republic.

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Dissidents of totalitarianism

in Central Europe's communist regimes

The so called "dissent" in the communist regimes of Eastern Europe cannot be just reduced to the simple notion of an "opposition" as its definition would suggest, but it should be above all considered as an attempt to build a "parallel polis" based on the responsibility of every citizen and aimed at occupying the spaces where cultural, social and human freedom are allowed, as wrenched from the totalitarian rule over the social fabric. Members of Charter 77 and Solidarnosc, such as Vaclav Havel, Radim Palous, Jacek Kuron and Adam Michnik, have always underlined that “the power of the powerless” consists in winning over fear through the empowerment made possible through a collective assumption of responsibility, witnessed by the exhortation to "live the truth" within a society based on lie. Ver often their "dissent" consisted in a way to claim the enforcement of laws, such as the ones about freedom of conscience, or the international agreements subscribed by their countries, such as the Helsinki Accords. This was the origin of a broad movement that was able to condition the behaviour and mentality of the public opinion, up to the point in which, letting aside Romania, the totalitarian rule was overthrown in a peaceful way, without shedding blood, with the rise of a new leading class recognized by the majority of the population and ready to take on government responsibilities.