Vera Bořkovec (1926-2014)

We are saddened by the death of Prof. Věra Bořkovec, a long time SVU member and SVU officer, who passed away on Thursday, September 11, 2014, after a prolonged illness.

Vera was a native of Brno, being born on August 13, 1926, but grew up in Teheran, Iran, where her father Josef Žanda was sent in 1934 as director of the ŠKODA company. The family returned to Prague in 1945 and she began her studies at Charles University, majoring in English and Persian studies. After immigrating to the US, Věra got her M.A. in French from Hollins College in 1960, M.A. in Russian from American University and her Ph.D. in Russian from Georgetown University.

After a teaching career of more than thirty years in the Department of Language and Foreign Studies at American University, where she taught Russian (sometimes Czech) language, linguistics, literature and drama, she retired as Associate Professor Emerita and since then she devoted herself to her lifelong interests and avocations: theatre, poetry, literary translation, and SVU. Having translated and published a number of stories by Arnošt Lustig, she turned to the translation of Czech and Russian plays, mainly the plays of Russia’s Aleksandr Volodin and the Czech playwright Josef Topol. She published some of her translations of poems by Nobel Prize winner Jaroslav Seifert and in 1998 her translated volume of poetry by Libuše Čačalová was published in the Czech Republic under the title Kingdom of Pebbles. She also compiled and edited The Taste of a Lost Homeland,a bilingual anthology of Czech and Slovak exile poetry written in America, which was dedicated to the memory of Frank Marlow, and published by SVU in 2002.

Věra came to the SVU limelight after the premature death of Secretary-General John G. Lexa in 1977, when she was elected to replace him as the first woman to hold the office of Secretary General in the Society’s history. She held this post three times: reelected in 1980 and once again in 1993-1994. Prior to her Secretary-General’s post, in 1982-84 she was Chairman of the Washington DC Chapter. Upon my return to SVU Presidency in 1994, she was elected one of the SVU Vice Presidents, which position she held until 2008. During the 20th Anniversary SVU World Congress she was put in charge of local arrangements. She arranged the staging of a play ‘Hour of Love‘ by Czech playwright Josef Topol, which she also translated into English, performed by the American University Department of Performing Arts. Since 2010 she has been President of the Washington DC SVU Chapter.

Věra and her late husband Sasa were involved in SVU from its early days and worked very diligently to make it the successful organization it is today. Věra’s cheerfulness and helping others will be sorely missed by her many friends.