Vera Ebels-Dolanová – In memoriam

Vera Ebels, who passed away on 15th February 2018 after a long illness, made a major contribution to the regeneration of book culture in Central & East European countries after the demise of communism.

Born in Prague in 1948, she emigrated to The Netherlands after the Warsaw Pact countries crushed the Prague Spring in 1968.

She obtained a BA in Psychology at the University of Groningen and an MA in Political and Social Sciences at the University of Amsterdam. From the late 1970s to the early 1990s she was the editor of the Dutch periodical “Info over Charta 77”, and covered Central and Eastern Europe and other topics for the Dutch press, publishing many articles under her pseudonym Jana Danielova in the weekly “De Groene Amsterdammer” and other Dutch newspapers. Between 1985 and 1988 she worked as the head of the Documentation Department at the Anne Frank Foundation. From 1992 until 2004 she taught East European Studies at the University of Amsterdam.

In 1995 she was appointed as the director of the Fund for Central & East European Book Projects.

Driven by the desire to help small and medium-sized quality publishers committed to filling the intellectual void created during decades of dictatorship, Vera Ebels had a keen eye for the need to support translation. In the course of almost a quarter of a century, the translation and publication of hundreds of seminal titles in literature and the humanities in former communist countries was made possible as a result of her determined efforts.

Acknowledging the role of cultural magazines in the field of public debate and their vital importance for young talented writers, she also coordinated a variety of support programmes for literary journals.

At the same time, she eagerly accepted requests from publishers and other book trade professionals for assistance in the development of professional skills and enhancement of book distribution, book selling and book information. Under her meticulous guidance, various well conceived and comprehensive projects were set up in cooperation with colleagues and partner organisations in a number of countries.

She hoped that these projects would plant a seed for the better and she embodied that hope by serving as an anchor for those who worked under difficult circumstances – radiating trust, understanding and solidarity. She was respected for her wide and profound experience, and admired for her ability to connect skills, knowledge and talents across national and cultural borders. Acting with prudence and imagination, she offered practical solutions, and conveyed passion.

During the last period of her life, when talking about the renewed threat to the rule of law and freedom of speech by various governments in Central & Eastern Europe, Vera often recalled those who had contributed to the freedom of publishing in their own countries. She would have liked to thank them, and to bid them farewell.

We shall miss her gentleness and intelligence, and remember her as a most gifted and determined advocate of the literary and scholarly word.