Even though actress and singer Yvette Blanarovičová only became well-known in the Czech Republic due to her role as the cute devil from the fairy-tale by Zdeněk Troška, Princezna ze Mlejna (Princess from the Mill) (1994), she is the owner of not only a prestigious Thalie theatre award, but also many other awards. Her schedule is full to bursting due to constant theatre performances, and it is thanks to this and good genes that the actress has retained her enviable figure past the fifty-year mark. She keeps fit by caring for “her children” as well as performing in the theatre. For twelve years now she has worked with her foundation, La Sophia o.p.s, which specialises in arranging education in the field of art and sports for talented children from children’s homes and socially weaker families. In an interview for Luxury Prague Life, Yvetta spoke about the demands of managing such a foundation.
From 1998 when I performed in theatres or filmed or performed at concerts, and I was literally a workaholic. I got the idea of holding a “Christmas concert full of stars” for children from children’s homes, who no one takes home at Christmas, not foster parents or anyone else. This was my first concert, which I organised basically on a shoestring, where I did the job of producer, the script-writer, director and everything else. I had no idea how many children would come....900 children came from all over the country. And it was unbelievable how many artists came to sing, we created a two-hour concert and it was lovely. I more or less said to myself that I would never do it again. But the children started writing......I have produced twelve large charity concerts over several years, one was always for the needy children and the other was for tickets and the proceeds went to children’s homes. But when you start being interested in those homes you suddenly realise where they are lacking things, what they need, so I also started to look for items such as duvets, pillows, cookware, washing machines, clothing....Then came D-day in 2005. I received an offer from director Aleš Hušák, who regularly attended each concert and so I became the first performer to produce one of the biggest charity concerts in what was the Sazka Arena at that time (now the O2 Arena). It was packed full. All the guests were children from children’s homes. I was shocked. So many young people without parents. I told myself that it was my last concert. I’m no Mother Theresa, I can’t help them all. There were so many! And this was just a tiny part of them. It’s great organising a concert, giving out gifts, but what next???
A year later I had the idea that I would focus on helping individual children. And what am I good at? Music. And because I also did sports, I have many friends in this field, so we added sports to my concept. Another impulse was also provided by the fact that Michal David and a number of well-known people from the sphere of culture and athletes such as Tomáš Ujfaluši, Marek Jankulovski, Kamil Čontofalský, Václav Černý and a number of other successful athletes all pledged their support. They were actively playing at that time and they still managed to make time for a summer academy and devote time to children. And so it started to pick up speed. I received help from artists, the Sparta and Slávie football clubs..... Janek Ledecký, David Koller, Helena Vondráčková, Felix Slováček, Vlastimil Harapes, Bára Basiková, Jaroslav Svěcený and others were all members of the music competition jury.....Hundreds of children were involved in the project and we currently have twelve at conservatories, they all study at Primary Schools of Art, or play in football clubs.
Of course! Children participating in the project must adhere to the La Sophia Code and this also includes good grades in schools, polite behaviour and attendance. Being talented is not enough. Each year they take part in selection rounds, which take place in May and June and new children register. We have the first of our boys in first-league teams. When someone asks me how many children I have I say: My son Matyáš and another 56. La Sophia has become a second home for a number of children.
It is now part of me. But every year it is harder and harder to find money for the projects. I don’t know if this is because new organisations are continuously being created and there are so many people who need help, or if it is because people are not as interested anymore. What is more, large companies have their own charitable organisations and being included in their portfolio is not easy.
But I believe that it is very important to support education. You help a child who comes to you when he is six for instance, he has talent and La Sophia helps him develop this talent. We give them the basics to achieve what they dream about and we also teach them that they have to work and deserve this care.
No. There are about 30% Romani children in the project but I admit that I am not interested in ethnicity or nationality. The social sphere is also about children from Ukraine, Slovakia, Russia or children with a disability living in the Czech Republic.
Absolutely fine. As soon as they come to the summer academy I open it with the words: “There is no bullying here, there are no differences in skin colour. You are all equal.” Don’t forget that there are children there who have experienced awful things and anger from the adult world at a young age. We have very sensitive children there. They have experienced so much that they definitely must not experience anything similar at La Sophia.
I treat them like a mother, I teach them what I taught my son. That is – don’t judge a person by the colour of his skin, but judge him by his heart. We apply this rule too and the children gladly accept it. They have strict limits. They then have great respect, but they are also very happy, because they experience those fourteen days as what is basically a paradise on earth, full of activities, training, dance and singing classes....they are instructed by professors, trainers, excellent musicians.....Sometimes it is difficult, because they have different examples from their parents, or they arrive frustrated by the surrounding world, but it is up to us to provide them with peace and confidence....When I feel that a child in the project has a problem integrating in school for example, I discuss this with his parents, foster carers or directly with the children’s home. Communication is another important aspect in a child’s development. Their lives are not easy.
Of course. We have strict control, but in the end the parents get used to it. We have to make them understand that their child’s happiness comes first.....but they don’t always get it.
We want to use this project to motivate the parents to cooperate, we have endeavoured to create opportunity for the children’s development. The model of strict control and payment of contributions is always based on invoices, school reports and school attendance. We found for instance that one mother forged an invoice, I called the club and found that the woman wanted to put a few thousand in her pocket. But these are isolated cases and they always come to light thanks to the system, which is really strict at La Sophia. We have 56 of these children every year, so I cannot afford to hand out the money donated by our partners and not have any idea where it is. We are not a foundation that invests money into objects, but into talented children and we have to have feedback.
I have no idea. For example this is the time we look for partners for La Sophia and announce requests for support of projects. We are preparing Christmas events and I usually have to start scheduling the next year and dealing with the campaign for Talent La Sophia. And also my work...it’s difficult, but I don’t think I could imagine it otherwise. Sometimes I write until 4 a.m. It’s a whirlwind.
Children need models, to see that nothing is for free. They have these models not only in us, but also in the older children who are already at the conservatory or in good football clubs. They have to work hard. I have now basically been forced to create an 18 plus category, because they don’t want to leave me..../laughter/. I have become their adviser and whenever they have a problem or need advise, I’m available.
We finance boarding schools, private teachers, clothing, schools, travel expenses, Primary Art School, football clubs, summer academy and a number of other things linked to the projects.
Their successes. The first winner, Simonka, from the Pyšely children’s home, is a doctor of law. Maruška successfully performs at concerts, Lucka performs in the Municipal Theatre in Brno, Štefan performs at concerts with Václav Hybš, Radim and Filip play for first-league clubs, everyone is studying successfully and winning competitions. That gives me pleasure.
Well what could he think when I went to summer academy every year instead of going on holiday? Or when I divided my time between him and La Sophia when he was taking his final exams at school? He never believed it would work, he thought the children would just use me and take what the needed and forget about me. But they remain, not all of them of course, but most of them. And he can see this now. He has known some of those children since they were six or seven years old and today they are eighteen-year old teenagers. Successful young people. So now he even comes to the academy and helps me during my campaign and next year he may take over the morning circle or fitness training....He grew up with them and came to each gala concert or other project. I think that it provided him with a higher education in social “awareness” and it has specifically affected his view of the world.
I don’t mind, because I could have played several roles in the theatre, several roles in film and people would only know that I am an actress, and they would be unable to remember any of my roles. So thanks for the devil.
I had no idea what I was getting into. I was surprised to be playing a male. I had already played a ghost in the fairly tale O princezně Jasněnce a létajicím ševci (About Princess Jasněnka and the Flying Cobbler). And now a hairy devil, instead of a princess...But in the end the biggest fun and jokes I could ever have experienced when filming happened during the filming of this story, so I have no regrets. Remember what I looked like, those teeth, that coat, the hairy head.....just putting the makeup on took hours and then taking it off again, and that was the worst, but thanks to that I could afford to do amazing things. I didn’t rest during the breaks, but thought up pranks, like stopping the traffic in Bavorov. No none knew who was filming there. Just that Troška was filming some fairy-tale. No one had any idea who the characters were. It worked like this: in the morning they put our makeup on, they took us to the mill, where we remained all day where it was far away from anyone and then back at night. But when the weather was poor, we had to wait in the makeup room for the sun to come out, I already had the devil on my head and was wearing just my dressing gown. I was bored so I was played tricks. I bet people that I would go to the local pub and order a beer with a drinking straw (laughter).
It was great fun in Bavorov, I will never forget it. I simply walked through the square and it was like a bomb went off. People immediately ran in all directions, screaming and then wondering what that monster with the human body in a dressing gown and hairy head was.
Particularly on set, all the improvisation I did....but Zdeněk is great motivator and he gave me excellent direction. He is also quite hairy and curly, and also extremely good-natured and playful. He gave me direction when I didn't know what to do, he had a clear concept and still gave me plenty of opportunity to improvise. He knows I am crazy and that I think up outrageous things. When he told me to jump, I jumped. Climb up there, and I immediately became a squirrel. But when he said jump in the water he forgot that my fur coat would drag me to the bottom like a stone. I was lucky that I’m a good swimmer, otherwise I would still be haunting that pond. The film is one thing, but the failed takes of my falls or me trying to say my words, that was a completely different chapter. I enjoyed entertaining the entire crew. We were a great team. Zdeněk Troška has a phenomenal trait. He casts the actors and even the crew, like the lighting engineers, cameramen, editors.....everyone is at ease. He is very good at that. That’s what makes a good film. No one watched the clock, we kept on filming while we could.
I wasn’t frightened. I climbed onto the roof for instance because I was shooting a scene with a chimney, I fell through the roof to my waist and the stuntman said no way was he climbing up after me, he didn’t want to kill himself.....and because the sun hid behind the clouds right then, I sometimes spent several hours sitting behind the chimney....Or I was supposed to film with a billy goat, or whatever it was, and he evidently did not like me, so he kept butting me so hard he threw me round like a rag and the take had to be repeated. He grew tired of that after a while and he started chasing me around the mill. Everyone was laughing and I was running round the mill like a turbo-charged mouse with the billy goat on my heels. Well we both had horns, so he wanted probably wanted to compete with me.
When we were filming Princezna ze mlejna II we had sightseers coming to the set, and because Zdeněk is so nice, he always let people watch. But they usually started to laugh and spoiled the takes, so the producer stopped that. But Czech people are nothing if not inventive, some individuals managed to get to us through the forest and were capable of sitting behind a bush from the early morning. There is a take of me peering out of the bushes and shouting “Eliška my dear”, and there is a man sitting next to me with a branch on his head as camouflage and laughing at my every word.....”You said that very nicely! Gosh, you are so hairy!”.....The sound engineer had no idea what was happening, he kept stopping filming, he requested quiet on the set, then he was shouting....I would have been able to keep a straight face, I didn’t want to give him away, but when the man said he needed to spend a penny during the take and that his legs were falling asleep, I nearly fainted from laughter and was forced to reveal the lovely man. I was still laughing two hours later.