Brno and Prague. There is an age-old, inexplicable rivalry between these cities. However, when meeting the mayor of the largest Moravian city, Markéta Vaňková, even an ardent Praguer has to admit that the city is in the right hands. If only because it's led by a woman. A beautiful woman full of vigour and energy at that! Markéta Vaňková is the mother of two boys, a politician and a lawyer. She’s been in charge of Brno since 2018 and the locals have only positive things to say about her leadership. In an interview for LP-Life.com, the mayor talked not only about the management of the city in the current coronavirus period, but also about her hobbies. Because life isn't just about work.
Madam Mayor, if you don’t mind, I’ll start with covid. How is Brno currently standing in terms of the number of the infected, hospital beds, medical staff, vaccination, how much of this is the mayor’s responsibility, to what extent do you engage in it, what have you succeeded and failed in, what are your plans for the future. How do the people of Brno react to the pandemic, do you, for example, often see non-compliance with government measures?
I am proud that the pandemic didn’t bring Brno to its knees, despite the government's confusion and non-conceptual steps. It paid off that we’d made sure to get advice from experts since the beginning, thanks to which we had a head start not only with testing in nursing homes, which we were the first to start in our country, or with building and using a backup hospital, which we also flexibly transformed into a vaccination centre later.
Although there have been some problems with "anti maskers", I am also proud of the people of Brno, because they show admirable understanding and discipline. My gratitude and recognition go to everyone in the front line, rescue workers, police officers, patrols, firefighters…
Is it difficult to keep up in politics in such a high function? I mean keep up with politics and family at the same time. After all, having twins is no walk in the park...
I believe I can keep up, and I hope I’m handling it well. However, it wouldn’t be possible without the help of my family, especially my husband. On the other hand, I would have undoubtedly given you the same answer if I were a man, only I’d have thanked my wife for her help…
With the exception of washing and ironing, my husband can substitute for me in everything that’s necessary for the running of the household. Fortunately, he can plan his working time to be with our children whenever they need it. I’m very grateful to him for that.
Of course, I had to resign from having my own practice, but legal matters are actually often part of my current position. And those are my favourite moments; I also assume that I will return to advocacy in some form. It's a job that I enjoy and find fulfilling. The decision to run for mayor came at a time when the ODS was in opposition and I felt that I’d like for Brno to move in a different direction. It wasn’t some kind of sudden revelation, but a logical outcome. I had been interested in communal politics for a long time, first theoretically as part of my studies at the Faculty of Law, then also practically. Since 2002, I have worked as a representative of the Brno - střed district.
Children have been in distance learning for quite some time now, how are you managing it? For example, what subjects do you have a problem with?
The boys are handling it quite well. I like to repeat Czech with them and practice English and German, but when it comes to anything of a technical nature, dad has to step in.
Anyhow, what’s life like with twins? Are the boys very alike, or completely different? Who takes after whom? I know they're still small, but are they following your work? Do they realize that their mom is a city leader and decides on important matters?
Life with twins is great, only their first year is shrouded in a haze for me. Each of the boys is a little different, both physically and character-wise, but since they are the same age, they’ve always played together a lot. Both are a combination of the two of us, though physically Martin takes after me and Vojtěch after my husband. They are already 12 I think that compared to other kids their age, they follow not just my work, but also public events and politics on the whole quite closely.
I am a passionate reader, I favour strong novel stories. Recently, I was completely taken by the Leaning Church by Karin Lednická, for example. I’m just about to finish the second part. And if possible, I spend time in nature, whether on a walk, cycling, skating or skiing.
Like most women, I have always been interested in fashion, and as a mayor, I try to represent even with my visage. I am happy to get advice from experts on choosing clothes for more official occasions. All the rejuvenating and beautifying procedures from a visit to the hairdresser through cosmetic treatments or massages to getting a manicure are relaxing to me and I enjoy them. But I'll never get used to photoshoots.
Is it impossible not to notice that you are much prettier than our mayor Hřib - is it hard to be a woman in politics, and a beautiful one at that? Haven't you, for example, encountered the prejudice that you should have gone into modelling instead of trying your luck in politics?
I have not encountered any prejudices, nor do I let them get to me. And I hope that men treat me decently not because I am a mayor, but because I am a woman.
Above all, I believe that we will be fighting the pandemic in Brno for as long as necessary and, if possible, as successfully as before. But covid has obviously thrown a wrench in many of our plans and it won’t be easy to deal with the economic impact and limited budget. However, we are doing everything within our power to ensure that we don’t have to stop any of our strategic projects. So it still holds true that this year, we will start building a multifunctional hall, in which the hockey championship should take place in 2024. And that next year we will start the construction of the Janáček Cultural Center with a concert hall, whose great acoustics will be appreciated by both musicians and listeners not only from Brno.
As a satisfied mother of no less satisfied adult children, who still lives in her beloved Brno and has time for her profession, family and hobbies. And, if she puts modesty to rest, she can say that she helped make the town the best place to live in our country. In Europe… Or in the world?