Tribute to Aja Zanova
Organized by: Vera Czerny
Please help me celebrate the life of a very special woman. The book I am working on is based on her real life story.
Ice Queen on Fire
How One Girl Escaped Communism to Become an International Figure Skating Icon
What, you never heard of Aja Zanova? That's exactly why it's so important to share her legacy! She came to the U.S.A., already a 2x World Champion and an European Champion, escaping the communist regime at just 18 years of age. Her professional career inspired generations of ice skaters all over the world and her personal story is quite electric.
Would you consider helping me make this dream a reality? America needs to learn about Aja's personal bravery, determination to be the best and achieving the unimaginable. The American dream is real and alive no matter what your background may be. I believe with all my heart that we need this inspiration now more than ever!
We all need heroes, and I prefer a real person with big dreams who overcame everything to make them happen.
Please read on for more details:
On the last day of July I've received a phone call that my dear friend, Aja Zanova-Steindler, suddenly passed away. This news struck me like a lightening from the clear sky. Aja (please pronounce Aa-yah) was full of life, had many plans and her days were always fully scheduled.
Although in her 80’s, she had more energy than some 20 year olds. When we sat down to have lunch together in Miami last year, I finally convinced her that America needs to hear her life story. She had 2 best sellers biographies published in her home country, the Czech Republic, but her story was never known by the larger American public.
We planned to start her biography upon her return from Prague this fall. However, that all changed with that phone call. As shocking as it was to let that sad news sink in, I suddenly felt the urge to write the book about Aja anyway (only now as my tribute to her amazing life, as an inspiration to us all, instead of biography).
When I first interviewed Aja back in 1995 for a Czech magazine, she told me that the most important thing she learned was “to never sit down, feeling sorry for herself”. Aja had many reasons to do so during her lifetime. She experienced many moments in the spotlight as well as dark times.
Here are some highlights of her story:
- Trained by her mom, a young child starts to skate during World War II in Czechoslovakia. Aja achieves the unimaginable, becoming a 4x Czech Champion, an European Champion and a 2x World Champion in figure skating before the age of 18! Upon defending the World champion title follows her dramatic escape from communism and she stars a new life in America without her family.
- Aja skates professionally, becomes a star of the Ice Follies and the Ice Capades, spending 10 months of each year, for the next 18 seasons, on the road with the show. That's longer than legendary Sonja Henie! Aja's incredible personal strength, determination to be the best, to jump the highest, to work the hardest, to overcome any obstacle, makes her a true superstar.
- When she retires from ice skating at top of her game, Aja partners with her restaurateur husband and runs several famous Manhattan restaurants. Befriending stars like Frank Sinatra, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Ivana and Donald Trump, among several other famous personalities from show business, sport and politics, Aja calls this time her second career.
- She never imagined, when leaving Czechoslovakia, that it would take another 40 years before she would be allowed to visit her home country again. In the meantime, the communist government erased her from the country's sport history, confiscated her family’s property, her awards, and nearly destroyed her family.
- The triumphant welcome she receives in 1990, when she finally returns to Prague, makes up for all those years. Her fans didn't forget! Over fifty thousand people welcome her at the famous Wenceslas Square in Prague, alongside President Vaclav Havel.
After that, she returns to Prague at least 3-4 times a year, spending her time in US between her residences in Manhattan and Miami. Aja loves America with all her heart, but never forgets she was born Czech.
- When Aja was inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2005, she said, "This is my greatest honor. This is my Oscar!"
What I need the money for?
My intention is to visit and interview some of the people who knew Aja and who would agree to talk to me. Such as the legendary Dick Button, who was friend with Aja since 1947 (!), Richard Dwyer, her celebrity friends from the time of her second career in New York, such as #1 tennis player in the world Martina Navratilova, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Ivana Trump, as well as current figure skating stars who admired Aja Zanova from judging ice skating competitions, like Johnny Weir.
The money I'll raise with your help will cover:
- other travel expenses necessary to visit those I will interview for my book
- proofreading and editing
- graphic design of the book cover
- marketing of the book
- possibly follow up promo tour
- If you decide to support my project, I will be forever grateful. Your name will be mentioned on the thank you page of my book, no matter how small or large your donation.
- If you decide to fund my project with a donation grater than $100 you will also receive a signed copy of the book when it's published.
- If you decide to support my project with donation $250 and grater, I would also like to offer you a "behind the scene" sneak peek into the creation of the project. Your exclusive VIP membership will let you follow unedited interviews with VIPs, photos and newest chapters of the book, long before they will be published.
- You'll also have access to full journal of the creative process of Aja's tribute. I would like to donate 10% of the proceeds of the book sales to an organization supporting figure ice skating for the youngest generation, in Aja's memory. I have yet to determine who the recipient will be (hopefully some of the ice skating stars can help recommend someone trustworthy.
- I will keep you posted about the progress. With your generous help, I would love to accomplish this task before May 16th, 2016, when Aja Zanova would have celebrated her 85th birthday. Although she left us so unexpectedly, her light will shine on through the story of her life.
Even though skating was a major part of her professional life, it's not all that Aja was, and what we admired about her. My novel Ice Queen on Fire is based on her true life story, the way she lived her live to the fullest even after she lost all of her loved ones.
I had the honor to spend time in Aja's company during the years we were friends, and I am quite familiar with the details of her life. Let me put together the puzzle of this inspirational story with the help of people who knew her the best during different periods of her life.
Aja was always enthusiastically cheering on my own projects, supporting every little success I had when starting in U.S.A., just like she once did. I am sure she would be humbled with the outpour of love her fans shared when they heard of her passing.
Thank you for considering helping me to achieve my dream and build a tribute worthy to this amazing lady. Thank you in advance for any support you may offer. I will appreciate it very much if you spread a word around about this project.