Burning Bush


Burning Bush is the story of the political intrigue and fight for freedom in communist Czechoslovakia following the self-sacrifice by Jan Palach, the young student who set fire to himself in Prague in January 1969, and the legal efforts of his family to clear his name in the face of the oppressive communist propaganda machine.

BURNING BUSH is a three-part film created for HBO by world-renowned Polish director Agnieszka Holland.

Based on actual events and characters, this drama focuses on the self-sacrifice of a student, Jan Palach, who set himself on fire in a protest against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1969. Young female lawyer Dagmar Burešová led the legal fight brought by his family against the communist politician who slandered Palach’s name and his sacrifice for freedom.

This emotional story of the actions of a student and the bravery of a young lawyer is, at its heart, a story of basic human values such as truth, honor, justice and courage. Their fight for freedom and moral principles, in a time of censorship and oppression, eventually led to the unification of an oppressed nation, a struggle which defeated the totalitarian regime twenty years later.

The 20th anniversary of Palach’s death in 1969 inspired a new generation of students to start protests that led to the eventual fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, alongside the fall of the Iron Curtain in Europe. The Palach family’s lawyer, Dagmar Burešová, who spent her early career defending persecuted opposition leaders, became the first Minister of Justice in a freed Czechoslovakia.

Dagmar Burešová Dagmar Burešová
(Tatiana Pauhofová)

Libuše Palachová (Jaroslava Pokorná) Libuše Palachová
(Jaroslava Pokorná)
Jan’s mother

Jiří Palach (Petr Stach) Jiří Palach
(Petr Stach)
Jan’s brother

Police major Jireš (Ivan Trojan) Police major Jireš
(Ivan Trojan)

Ondřej Trávníček (Vojtěch Kotek) Ondřej Trávníček
(Vojtěch Kotek)
student leader

Radim Bureš (Jan Budař) Radim Bureš
(Jan Budař)
Dagmar Burešová’s husband

Pavel Janda (Patrik Děrgel) Pavel Janda
(Patrik Děrgel)
Burešová’s clerk

Vladimír Charouz (Adrian Jastraban) Vladimír Charouz
(Adrian Jastraban)
Attorney, Burešová’s colleague

Vilém Nový (Martin Huba) Vilém Nový
(Martin Huba)

Dagmar Burešová

Dagmar Burešová

Tatiana Pauhofová

Dagmar Burešová graduated from the Law Faculty of Charles University in Prague. From 1952, she worked as an attorney, specializing in civil and labor law. She took various positions in pro- fessional organizations (from 1963 she was a member of the committee of the Prague Bar Association and from 1968, for two years, a member of the committee of the Czechoslovak Bar Association). She lectured on labor law at the Law Faculty of Charles University in Prague. She published widely in specialized journals, especially in the Bulletin of the Czecho- slovak Bar.

The talented lawyer was never a member of any political party. She often represented those persecuted by the regime. At the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s, she represented the brother and mother of Jan Palach in a dispute with Vilém Nový. After 1968, she repre- sented, in labor-law disputes, those who criticised the regime (for exam- ple Karel Kyncl, Milan Kundera and Ivan Medek.) The secret police spied on the fearless lawyer for a number of years in an operation with the code name „Dáma“ (“Lady”). In December 1989, she was named Minister of Justice in the Czech government. In June 1990 she was elected deputy to the Czech National Council, which she was the speaker of for two years. She then ran a law firm in Prague. In 1996 she unsuccessfully ran for
the Christian Democratic Party in senate elections. From 1998, she was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Czech-German Future Fund. She also took part in the renewal of the scout movement. Between 1990 and 1992, she was the chairman of the Czech scout organization Junák and was subsequently elected honorary chairman. In 2002, Czech president Václav Havel awarded JUDr. Dagmar Burešová a Class IV Order of Tomáš Gar- rigue Masaryk. In 2007, on the occasion of the Lawyer of the Year awards annually hosted by the Czech Bar Association, she was inducted into the Judicial Hall of Fame.

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Burning Bush