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I live here and now

Fast Confession - Vlastina Kounická Svátková: About domestic violence and family

Karolína Lišková
29.Jan 2020
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9 minutes

We interview actress Vlastina Kounická Svátková every year, because this woman still has things left to say. Her latest movie Můj příběh, which brings attention to domestic violence, came to cinemas at the start of January. Even though she used to go through something similar in her life, in the end the actress admits that she didn't see herself in the movie. What still remains true though is that this problem affects many women. Svátková is unique because no topic is taboo for her. She speaks about all the hardships that life brings readily and openly. In her interview with she talks not only about those, but also about the happy side of life that she's living through.

Are you all over the place after the premiere?

I'm always all over the place, and I thought I could finally have some rest. I slept for about three days after the premiere, because I went to sleep with the roosters and woke up last. But it still kinda works and I haven't stopped yet.

Do you consider it a success?

Yes, I consider it a success. I've already learned not to hate on myself and not to criticize myself for everything, but realistically see that I've made it somewhere. It's nice that I can be proud of myself.

The film was shown in Slovakia and here. Where was it more successful?

I haven't even thought about that, but it doesn't matter at all. The problem of a wrong choice of partner and lack of self-love can relate to both Czech and Slovak women. Whoever has seen it and liked it would write me a direct message. I'm really surprised.

Prodej exkluzivního domu, Praha-východ
Prodej exkluzivního domu, Praha-východ, Okolí Prahy

People wrote to you even after you'd published the book Prostor pro duši. I know that you are very active with women, you try to help them. What kind of movement arose after the screening of the movie? This problem relates to many women and it's not talked about too much.

The reaction was similar to the one after the book. People who came to see the movie had usually also read the book, so they keep up with me and like that I put my heart into everything I do. And they're right about that. I don't do things superficially because I don't enjoy it that way. When I get into something, it has to have meaning for me and more depth, that's why I pick and choose my roles and don't go for just anything.

How much of yourself is in that film?

There's definitely a part of myself, but at the same time, when I saw the movie on the screen, for the very first time in my life I felt like I wasn't seeing myself. I saw some other lady and she really moved me to tears, I haven't ever felt that before.

You have been through a lot yourself...

I've been through some hard relationships and psycho relationships.

But nobody beat you.

I've been through a relationship like that, where it escalated to physical violence. But today I have a greater outlook and I have to say that some men can be irritated by women asking them pushy questions like "do you love me, are you in love with me?" Men who aren't emotionally mature yet, don't have the life experience and don't work on themselves then resort to aggression. Which doesn't mean that I am excusing them, quite the opposite. But there can be an action and a reaction. Every one of us should work on ourselves so that we don't put pressure on somebody and manipulate them. And the others have to work on themselves in order to manage their feelings of anger.

Do men contact you?

They do.

Have they ever messaged you saying stuff like they'll never do it again?

Not that, these types of men do not write to me. But I do get contacted by men who have seen the movie and say that they'll go again, that they cried. I love it so much when a man can own up to his tears.

Now I'm seriously scared to go see it...

They are tears from being so touched, though, not crying because somebody's dying and you feel sorry for them. There's this support, when you're rooting for the story and the woman, and then it moves you to tears when something works out for her, for example. It's not just depressing. The first half is hard, but after that it gets really light-hearted, so the audience can take it. There's humor, fun and light-heartedness.

But I was contacted by a paramedic who has encountered abused women several times, and told them to report it. And they told him, no, that they're afraid. He said that the movie is really important from this standpoint, to make women realize how far it can go and how dangerous it is to stay in such a relationship and not leave.

Has Bílý kruh bezpečí or any other organization reach out to you requesting some kind of collaboration?

Those haven't contacted me, but I think that the producer Pavla Krečmerová is keeping tabs on that, she communicates with such organisations. At the same time we're collaborating with the burn victim charity Popálky, because the man in the movie burns the main character. They were at the premiere, too, there's this connection not only to the abuse, but to how people who have burns on their face feel. Especially women, who lose everything after that, their face and beauty, and people on the streets are scared of them.

I got a taste of it when I'd go for lunch in the city in that make-up. I felt how people looked at me, forgetting to close their mouths. How it's actually really uncomfortable to be the center of attention, which is unfortunately of the negative kind.

Has anyone initiated conversation with you?

No, people are scared to do that. They just stare and are totally clueless as to what that is. It looked so convincing, they really thought I had been burned. When I was at the restaurant and wanted to sit down somewhere, the waiter said "I'll be right back" and actually totally absconded and I had to find a seat myself. People are scared to talk to such a person.

And in the current times...

When you have some kind of defect, a scar or something similar, people are very curious. They wonder what happened to you, but they also want to keep you at an arms-length. They're afraid to touch you or ask you about it, and that's why I think that raising awareness is really important. Talking about real stories and about how the people feel, what's going on inside their heads.

Luxusní vila na prodej v okolí Prahy - 320m
Luxusní vila na prodej v okolí Prahy - 320m,

Somebody from your past awful relationships must have seen the movie. Has any of them contacted you?

No. Luckily the story is completely different from mine, so nobody could say that it was about Vlastina. It's a real story about a woman who used to be a ballerina and had her friends. In my life it's a little different, I actually didn't identify with the story all that much, because hanging out with ladies doesn't help me with my problems, I don't meet up with five girlfriends to drink coffee and gossip about guys, it's not my style. That's why I had to keep going behind the camera while shooting such scenes, and said that this isn't realistic, this doesn't happen. The crew told me that it does happen, it just doesn't happen to me.

What did your husband and family say? Does your husband know what you've been through?

Even though I essentially told him everything from the start, I didn't give him a detailed summary of my life, because I wouldn't even be able to remember certain things. It wasn't even important to me. He's been living next to me for four years now and still keeps discovering new and unseen things, he's always surprised by what I've been through or what's hidden inside me.

I look at it in a positive light, he'd often be glad if it was the end of things already, if I didn't keep pulling aces out of my sleeve. At the premiere he was telling me he's proud of me and that I have nothing to be ashamed of.

When he's such a practical person, right?

Yes, that was the most genuine emotion I could get out of him. I didn't expect that, such beautiful words of praise.

Does he keep surprising you too? Everything went down rather quick in your relationship, love, wedding, kid. Can he still surprise you?

He's completely different and it doesn't surprise me at all anymore. I've come to accept it. And as I had this tendency to check him with these questions like "are you sure, what if it doesn't work out, are you ready for plan B?", I realized that there's no point to that and that I'll only piss him off with such parental talk.

I leave him alone as a free person, hopefully he knows what he's doing. I always do what I think is best for me too. When he starts telling me off for it, I reply that it's my own business. We've agreed to give each other space, to let each other do what we think is best and we don't interfere with it.

At the start we would attempt it, he'd give me advice on contracts, who to work with and who not to work with. We'd always just argue and I was really stressed out, because I felt like his demands on me were extreme, that I would be completely out of jobs. He thinks I'm a Hollywood star which is sweet on the one hand, on the other it's impossible to pull off in the Czech Republic, those notions of his about pay and conditions. So we said goodbye to that real quick and I do that myself now.

What about jewelry, is it still doing well? Do you still sell it or just wear it?

Fortunately both. It's this hobby of mine, I make exactly what I'd like to wear, keep adding and don't mind being covered in my own jewelry at all. At the same time, they sell really well enough so that we can still keep up in the personal realm, meet up with the people and help them with designs and maintain a personalized approach. When somebody offers us a sponsorship or an ad, we decline, because we don't need it.

Do you have a nice story related to selling jewelry? Maybe a man choosing a gift for a woman for a special occasion?

We have a lot of such men who contact us in secret and say they want jewelry made for a wife, daughter, to celebrate a baby or propose. Usually they have this common trait of doing it last minute. They're leaving in a week, they want to propose to their girlfriend and would like a ring really fast. We had this gentleman who was choosing an engagement ring. We were suggesting stones for him at a personal meeting, which go well together and he said he would like to come up with everything on his own, to have it be just his, which is nice.

Do you do anything else?

We've been doing talks at schools, it's called "Vzdělání života" (Life Education) and it's for elementary and high school kids. We do it in a cinema. My husband came up with it, I have one talk there. There's one by Bára Broučková who overcame bulimia, then there's Míša Jindruchová who's suffered from anorexia for thirty years and is still working on it. It's this prevention of sorts.

What's in store for you in 2020?

I'd like to know what's in store for me too. (laugh)

Do you not have it planned yet?

I live here and now, I don't even have any dreams that I'd like to chase because it would stress me out unnecessarily that I'm not there yet or I'm too far. I live off the offers that come, I rather decide whether I do or do not want to do it. That's this life philosophy of mine I guess. Do things that I enjoy and find fulfilling, not whatever I don't find enjoyable.

And do offers come?

They do.

Are there more after the premiere?

There's a steady influx of ones I'd have never thought about getting, and now I'm wondering whether this is even my journey or not.

In what sense?

In the sense that I'd probably become more famous, but I'm not sure I want to be more famous. Neither am I the type to need to be everywhere. I feel like it's sometimes better to turn down a tempting offer, just because it may not be a part of your journey.

How did you acclimate to rural living?

Very quickly, now I can't get used to living in the center actually, when I come here. There's nowhere to park and I can't get used to the hustle and bustle, the stress. I'm experiencing this uncomfortable tension and I'm looking forward to getting back home where I don't have to deal with anything.

And the kids?

The kids are doing great, they're happy. Their school is just outside the village.

But the boys are already quite big, aren't they being insufferable teenagers?

The oldest one is, he's twelve. But at the same time, it's still well balanced, he knows how to be a gentleman and carry my bag, hold the door for me, hug me and tell me that he loves me, he knows how to make me potato soup. So, puberty, yes, in a certain phase, but at the same time there's still the nice side and this manly side, that he's growing into a gentleman.

But this is all your great work, after all you've been through...

I try not to spoil them, to teach them independence. I always joke that once they're 18 they'll be out of the house, so they'd better be ready to do their own laundry and cook for themselves. I really want them to then bring their girlfriends over so that they can thank me for raising such great men that they won't let go for anyone else. (laughs) I'll be this friendly mother-in-law.

Thank you for the interview, Vlastinka.

Fast confession:

Where does your soul belong?

Wherever I want to go and wherever I let myself go in order to move a bit further along again.

What got to you the most about the movie Můj příběh when you saw the whole thing for the first time?

That for the first time I am not just seeing myself, but some other lady whose acting isn't half bad.

What are Czech and Slovak women missing?


What is a woman's greatest adornment?

A heartfelt, honest smile.

What is a man's greatest adornment?

So: a smile, kind eyes, a strong embrace, and I could continue on.

How do you think the Meghan and Harry affair will turn out - love beyond the grave or an early end?

I think it will end the way it's supposed to. Honestly, I don't really keep up with these tabloid affairs.

What would you wish to the citizens of Australia?

The balance of nature and national safety. I donated myself.

What do you think today's children are lacking?

Freely running around outside, scraped knees, climbing trees, and most of all, not having a cellphone in their pocket.

Would you be willing to gain twenty kilos for a role?

If it was a really beautiful script and a director who already has a successful movie under their belt, definitely.

You made the resolution to stop drinking alcohol, why?

Because I want to try whether I can make it and how I'll feel about it.

The last disaster that's happened to you?

That's probably a strong word, unless we count the time I was running around Prague with my ass out, because I'd torn my pants.

Your 2020 goal?

Getting through it with a smile and no booze.

The best exercise to achieve a body such as yours?

Living in a three-story house, continuously running up and down because I forget something here or there, and having three children I have to take care of.

The last hate message that really stung.

I'm lucky that I don't really register hate, I'm surrounded by decent and intelligent people.
Question by the interviewee to the editor:

When will you dance for me... (laugh)

Never! (laugh)
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