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Jitka Volavka Illner was awarded by the Society of Foreign Consuls in New York

. 22 March, 2012 - 6:30 PM


The Society of Foreign Consuls on Thursday, March 22, 2012 celebrated the Women´s Day. The Society uses this occassion to celebrate the commitment of women throughout the many immigrant communities in New York that help to give this city its vibrancy and contribute to its diversity. With pride we inform you that Mrs. Jitka Volavka Illner was among them.

Jitka with CG Eliska Žigová

Jitka left Czechoslovakia during the Russian invasion in 1968. She is a graduate of Charles University in Prague, School of Philosophy, majoring in English and Russian language and literature.

She was a three-time Czechoslovak tennis champion in singles, doubles and mixed doubles and a gold medalist at the World University Games in Bulgaria and Brazil. She played at Wimbledon seven times having reached a round of 16 several times. For five years she was ranked among the world’s top twenty players. She was inducted into the Czechoslovak Tennis Hall of Fame in 1990.


She came to the USA in 1969. She became an interpreter for the UN in New York. To get in touch with the Czechoslovak émigré community she joined the Society of Arts and Sciences and became an active member. She taught tennis at prestigious Manhattan and Long Island clubs where her students included Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Dreyfuss, Walter Cronkite, Frank Stella, Barbra Streisand and others. These contacts proved to be extremely useful later in organizing fundraisers for Czechoslovak charities.

Among her tennis students were also Milos Forman and Ivan Passer. Jitka worked also as an interpreter for M. Forman's cameraman Miroslav Ondricek on eight films. These friendships led to meeting Czechoslovak artists trying to establish themselves on the American market. These were painters, glass artists and musicians. The venue for these artists’ exhibitions and performances were a beautiful clubhouse Tennisport in Long Island City and Jitka’s house on Long Island. At her house she accommodated many Czech students and tennis players coming to play at the US open, among them, early on, Martina Navratilova.

In the early nineties, she worked for the Charter 77 Foundation in New York led by Wendy Luers. There she arranged for scholarships for many Czech students at prestigious US schools. She organized a fundraiser for the Olga Havel Foundation for handicapped children at the Plaza Hotel. Due to the above-mentioned contacts the event was very successful. She supported the foundation not only with her work but also with generous contributions.

Jitka is currently the President of the SVU New York Chapter and organizes lectures, art exhibitions, film screenings and book publishing at the Bohemian National Hall in Manhattan.

She is married to Pavel Illner, MD; they have six grandchildren.


Bohemian Benevolent & Literary AssociationHospodaThe National Czech and Slovak MuseumAmerican Friends of the Czech RepublicCzech CenterConsulate General