Karel Havlicek-Borovsky (1821-1856)
...was a gifted, famous and beloved Czech journalist of the 19th century. In his short life he achieved enormous popularity by his witty and courageous newspaper articles and short poems called “epigrams” that criticized all that was outworn and harmful in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was born in a little town Borova in the Czech-Moravian Highlands. His father was a small businessman. Young Karel showed high intelligence early and a love of books and writing.. He studied at an academic gymnasium in Jihlava and Nemecky Brod. He wanted to become a professor or a writer so that he could influence his people to regain their national pride and to fight for more freedom under the Austro-Hungarian rulers. He was not alone in these efforts. He became acquainted with the linguist Pavel Josef Safarik and later with the historian Frantisek Palacky. Havlicek spent some time in Russia as a tutor to a nobleman’s son but life there was disappointing and he returned home to Nemecky Brod. After finishing his philosophical studies he entered a seminary but soon realized that this was not the road to take. Eventually he decided to teach, inspire and encourage his nation by becoming a journalist. He contributed to several newspapers including the Ceska Vcela, Prazske Noviny (where he became an editor) and Narodni Listy. . His timely and witty articles soon became very popular and the newspaper subscriptions rose dramatically. He fought against Germanisation and promoted more Czech speaking, thinking and acting.
His tremendous success did not escape the Austrian authorities. The censorship in those days was very powerful and he soon attracted their attention. He was often questioned, reprimanded, and persecuted. In 1850 he was forbidden to publish his paper Narodni Noviny.
This was a great blow and Havlicek therefore moved to Kutna Hora and there started to publish a journal entitled Slovan, but the harassment continued until the journal’s publishing was forbidden a year later. Soon he had financial problems. Even his friends and acquaintances were questioned and harassed by the police and began to avoid him. He published a book (Epistoly Kutnohorske) and sold the first edition. The second one was confiscated. He was forbidden to even travel to Prague. His closest friends advised him to leave the country but he refused. Eventually he gave up his journalistic career and concentrated on his family and writing books. Even though a jury found him innocent after a trial, he was arrested in his home in the middle of the night on December 16, 1851 and taken into exile to a little town called Brixen in Tyrol, Austria. There he was kept under house arrest in seclusion far from any human contact. He was constantly under police supervision, all his mail was censored. He was not allowed to visit his family, nor have any visitors, no books or newspapers. He did some writing of stories and poetry to pass the time until his release 3.5 years later. Shortly before his release he learned that his wife had died. He himself became ill during his imprisonment and came home a broken man to his mother and his little daughter. He died shortly thereafter in 1856 at age 35.Dagmar Stetinova
Translated by Marie Dolansky
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