She was the first woman in history to work at the Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic. She has been active in politics for several years, she is attractive, she likes her job, in which arguments are decisive for her rather than gender. We are talking about the former Minister of the Interior of the Slovak Republic and the current politician Denisa Saková. In the interview for LP-Life.com, she revealed to us not only how she got into the world dominated by men, but also a little about her private life.
In Slovak politics, it's no longer the case that important functions belong exclusively to men. You are proof of that. Do you remember your beginnings when you entered politics?
If someone had told me in the past that one day I would work in the state administration and even end up in politics, I wouldn't have believed it. In 2007, however, I took up the position of the General Director of the Informatics and Security Section at the Ministry of the Interior. Things simply change. I viewed it as me doing work that I enjoyed and that made me feel fulfilled, not as me going into politics. It came gradually - through my hard work, I convinced my then superiors that I wanted to work and knew how to go about it. In 2012, I became the head of the office of the Ministry of the Interior, and subsequently, since 2016, I worked as a state secretary, which of course meant entering politics. However, I took it as a natural development and a shift in my work.
And when the offer to lead the Ministry of the Interior came in 2018, it was not a reward. To enter in an atmosphere where crowds of tens of thousands of people were gathering in the squares after the murder of two young people, when the credibility of the work of the police force was declining. I don't know if ever in the history of Slovakia a ministerial seat was as hot as mine.
Do you think women belong in politics? Do we need women in politics?
Definitely yes - but not by a system of mandatory quotas. Everyone can decide nowadays how they want to manage their life, and if they work hard, the results usually come around. But I must honestly say that if women follow the events, behaviour and manner of expression of some of our colleagues in the parliament and in politics, I don't think that they are motivated to take part in the political struggle.
Don't you feel inferior among men in the parliament? Do you sometimes encounter male arrogance?
Whether a group consists of males or females, everything has its pros and cons. I've been working mostly with men all my life, and I have to say, even if they might get mad at me, that they are much bigger gossips than women. (laughs)
But back to your question. I don't differentiate human arrogance according to gender. If possible, I try to keep my distance from those who don't have the humility to appreciate life, work and other people. But if you can't avoid them, balance and diplomacy must come into play.
You will encounter arrogance everywhere, and it doesn't have to be because you are a woman. It's enough that a colleague or partner you meet doesn't respect you as a person. So yes - I've encountered it and it's possible that I will do so again. But I think I can handle such cases pretty effectively and quickly.
In your opinion, is the representation of women in politics sufficient?
In politics, we need especially wise and at the same time pragmatic people, skilful managers. Whether they want to be city mayors, mayors, members of parliament or even ministers, they should be able to do their job professionally and also have at least a little idea of what politics is about. That it's the art of compromise and agreement that ultimately serves the benefit of the majority, the benefit of our country.
It is said that the drive for more women in politics is a manifestation of sexism. What do you think about it?
I will not comment on such statements.
Do you think that the conditions for women to enter politics are the same as for men?
It's very individual, regardless of gender. From my own experience, I can say that it's certainly not easy. As in any other job, in any other occupation, if you want to do it honestly and well, it requires a lot of effort and a lot of energy. Often you have to expend a lot of energy, combine work with family responsibilities, and at the same time to try not to neglect anything or anyone.
Politics is said to be a dirty men's game. How do you perceive it?
It's a job, a mission. You devote a large part of your energy, your thoughts to it. Such statements sound to me like something from American movies :)
Do you remember any unpleasant event in your political career?
Inconveniences are part of every job, but the irreversible events are really sad. Events in which people lose their lives. It's unpleasant to watch the consequences of a gas explosion in an apartment building in Prešov, when desperate people are waiting on their balconies in tears for help. Or the aftermath of a bus crash that killed more than 13 people, mostly children. As Minister of the Interior, I had to be personally on-site, give interviews to the media and calm the tense atmosphere, often, after an accident, I even had to stand up for the work of my colleagues, who'd risked their lives to save the lives of others and instead of gratitude, they garnered criticism from people who act as if they knew better than the professionals while standing behind the security tape. I can only thank my former colleagues, be they firefighters, police officers or rescuers workers, for not taking their profession as a job, but as a mission. More than once, on the way to an accident, each of them wondered if they would return alive and well to their families and be able to hug and kiss their children.
Do you remember any political faux pas?
With the responsibility you have at a ministry where 50,000 people are employed, you will never even remember them. In such a demanding resort, you consider embarrassment to be complete pettiness. And if any happened, it was definitely due to physical and mental exhaustion, not intentionally. And that can always be explained and excused.
You are a charming and beautiful woman among politicians, do you receive any date offers or compliments?
A compliment will delight every woman in any job and in any position. And not just from men. When another woman compliments you as a woman, it's a real compliment. Each of us is aware of how much effort and energy is behind the charm of a well-groomed woman.
Like everyone, I like flattery and compliments - to a certain extent, of course. And offers? Fortunately, only a reasonable amount.
What does family mean to you?
Everything. With the knowledge that you live in a peaceful family environment and have the support of those closest to you, managing a work commitment is much easier.
I remember an article I read after the Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh had been brutally murdered in a shopping centre in 2003. All colleagues who had come into contact with her confirmed that she worked very responsibly. But when her son called to say that he had forgotten his keys somewhere, she calmly interrupted international negotiations and said, "I'm sorry, I have to solve this." As a mother, I can't imagine not doing the same. I think everything can wait, nothing is so hot, because we are not in a state of war here, and if I'm not dealing with a terrorist attack or something, everyone should understand it. When my children call with a problem, they need to be heard.
When is the time for a politician to leave the political scene?
That's individual. There are at least two reasons: feedback from the public, or the politicians themselves feel that they're tired and have nothing more to offer, they have nothing to contribute to make the world a better place. And, of course, also in case the public says so.
Has someone threatened you in the past?
It happened - like to almost every top politician. Unfortunately, people on social networks often write some things under the guise of anonymity and I prefer not to even think about their thought processes at all. But since then, there has been the Office for the Protection of Constitutional Officials. They dealt with it when I was a minister.
What kind of person are you when you leave the doors of the parliament?
I would like to say that I'm normal like everyone else, but during these times only very little is normal anymore. We can't even play sports now they way we'd like and were accustomed to. So in short - I try to be a good mom. Educate myself, play sports and meet up with people. So I'm really looking forward to the time when we can get back to our normal life.
Do you have time for yourself? Did you use to go to the hairdresser or for massages before the coronavirus crisis? Do you like shopping?
The two years in the ministerial chair were extremely demanding, but without a hairdresser, I would have had a really hard time. People take the groomed look of us politicians for granted. It's also inherent for me, I don't do it only because of the world, but for myself too. And no - I'm not a typical shopping maniac. I prefer to spend my free time working.
What do you think about plastic surgeries for women?
I don't condemn it. But everything in moderation.
You and healthy lifestyle?
If possible, I prefer a healthy diet, a balanced diet and the like. Of course, it depends on the current situation. But if the opportunity arises, I like to indulge in sweets, fried food and the like.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Fortunately, this is not a job interview, so - if you'd allow me - I will keep both for myself :). I hope to the strong ones are visible and that I can hide the weak ones well.
You and love?
An inseparable part of our lives.
How do you keep fit?
Physical form and especially mental balance is the most important thing any politician can wish for.
Right now, when the whole world is fighting the coronavirus, a good physical condition and good health are even more important than ever. So when all the possibilities of sports are basically closed, I try to do as much as possible - walks in nature, a balanced diet, I pay attention to what I eat.
Do you have a dream you want to fulfil?
Dreams that are voiced will not come true… so I will keep quiet about them if I may.
Meet at one large wooden table with my family, children, grandchildren, with good friends and together have a few courses of food, which I'd prepare in peace and quiet and with love. And to enjoy that we are alive and well. To enjoy life with those you like best, who are your support in good and bad times. :)