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Physician and Activist Vjosa Dobruna.

Dr. Vjosa Dobruna (“Vee-YO-sa Doe-BRU-na”) is one of this year’s recipients of the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. She’s being recognized for her work as founder of the Pristina Center for the Protection of Women and Children, which treats those victimized by rape, torture, or psychological trauma. Dobruna is a pediatrician neurologist. During the war, she fled to Macedonia and set up work in a Macedonian refugee camp. Dobruna narrowly escaped arrest last year. Her colleague, Dr. Flora Brovina, is the other recipient of the award. But Brovina is in a Serb prison, convicted of terrorism for providing medicine and knitting wool to women who were allegedly aiding members of the Kosovo Liberation Arm


Other segments from the episode on June 20, 2000

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, June 20, 2000: Interview with Vjosa Bobruna; Interview with Nils Daulaire; Obituary for Nancy Marchand.


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Dr. Vjosa Dobruna, one of this year's recipients of the
Jonathan Mann Award, discusses her ongoing work with human rights
violations in Kosovo

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

As an Albanian doctor in Kosovo, our guest Vjosa Dobruna has been dealing
the problems of poor and human rights violations, such as rape, torture and
post-traumatic stress syndrome. Last week she arrived in the US to accept
Jonathan Mann Award for the promotion of health and human rights. It's
co-sponsored by the Global Health Council, Doctors of the World and the
association Francois-Xavier Bagnoud.

Dr. Dobruna was forced to flee from Kosovo to Macedonia last year during the
Serbs' ethnic cleansing of Albanians. Now back in Kosovo, she's the head of
the New Department for Democratic Governance and Civil Society(ph), which is
trying to create a new democracy. She also started a center to stop the
trafficking of women in Kosovo, and she serves as the president of the
Pristina Center for the Protection of Women and Children, which she
co-founded. The center has been treating rape victims who are suffering
sexually transmitted diseases, medical problems resulting from forced
abortions and trauma.

I asked Dr. Dobruna if rape victims are often stigmatized by their own
families and neighbors.

Dr. VJOSA DOBRUNA (Recipient of Jonathan Mann Award): Mentally they are
punished because it's very patriarchal society, and rape was done really
systematically in Kosovo, and not only during the war, it lasted 10 years
during besieging of villages and different areas. Women were sexually
harassed all the time in front of their families. So women were used and
raped, and sexual harassment was used as a tool for and tool of repression
so many years. And, of course, society, being as patriarchal as it is in
Kosovo, is in a way punishing women for being raped. And there were not
enough work that is being done to address these issues because, according to
our society, it's not one of our priorities. So women practically are being
double victimized.

GROSS: You're trying to change what the priorities are to make rape victims
priority, to make women who are abused by their husbands a priority.

Dr. DOBRUNA: Yes, that's what we're trying to do.

GROSS: Do you have the medicines you need? For instance, in treating
sexually transmitted diseases, do you have the medicine now?

Dr. DOBRUNA: No, there are no available medicine, and at least not
sufficient. And it's not only that; that is no laboratory that is working.
And it's one of the most difficult cases. We are trying now with the health
house in Pristina to open a small laboratory and to have 24 hours
and specialists on sexually transmitted diseases. And some of them, by the
way, are being trained for nine months here in New York. And we're bringing
them back and they're going to work there and to have this clinic open 24
hours so people can go there. But I don't think it's enough. This is only
one clinic in Kosovo. We need much more to work on sexual transmitted

GROSS: Are a lot of women coming to the center wondering whether they--or I
suppose I should put this in the past tense: Did a lot of women come to the

Dr. DOBRUNA: Oh, yes.

GROSS: ...unsure about whether they wanted to keep the baby they were
carrying who was the result of a rape?

Dr. DOBRUNA: Our center does not perform abortions. But a lot of women
checked. And then if they wanted to have an abortion, they were advised
to go. And they were supported to go and to have an abortion. I'm not
of any woman that kept the child, but at least it's not in mind. I don't
that information. Most of them, when they got pregnant, they had aborted.

GROSS: From the patients who you've seen and that your colleagues have seen
at various health centers, what are some of the illnesses that have been on
the rise or the types of infections that have been on the rise in the
aftermath of the bombing and the ethnic cleansing?

Dr. DOBRUNA: Oh, all kinds of infectious diseases, but what is worrying
mostly, it's these two issues: sexually transmitted diseases and TB. That
going very fast. And now with the social situation in our communities with
most of the country destroyed, you know, and people living in poverty for so
long, and after the war, living in very close spaces without sufficient
we have about 60 new cases of TB identified weekly. And there is
no--absolutely sufficient amount of medicine that is reaching Kosovo to
administer to citizens of Kosovo.

But other diseases like infectious diseases which are diarrheas and others
the most common causes of death of children in Kosovo. And with the
infrastructure that is not properly being rebuilt in Kosovo and with most of
the population being displaced now in towns after returning back from
this situation is not going to be improved very fast.

GROSS: Tuberculosis is highly contagious. Do you and do the other doctors
have ways of protecting yourselves?

Dr. DOBRUNA: Yeah. Most of the doctors, we are vaccinated, so vaccination
is ongoing in Kosovo. But when people are not properly nourished, even the
vaccine among children is not effective. And when they live in the
environment, for example, 20 people in same room during the winter--last
winter, for example, without water, without any kind of sanitation and
the electricity on, minus 30 degrees Celsius, of course the spread of TB is
going to be very fast.

GROSS: What's the sanitation like now in Kosovo? Have all the pipes and
rest of the infrastructure that was bombed been repaired?

Dr. DOBRUNA: No, it hasn't been repaired yet. And in most of the country,
it hasn't been because, you know, just winter was too rough, and there was
possibility with half a meter of snow to do any repairing. And since the
spring started, there are attempts to repair, but in some 30 percent of
territories, there are still large amount of landmines, so it's going to be
difficult to do repairing without having that in mind taken off. But it's
only problem.

Even before the war, Kosovo was most undeveloped part of former Yugoslavia.
So only 32 percent of the population of Kosovo had access to running water
only 28 percent had sewage system. So it was not only a problem of war; it
was a problem how Kosovo was treated during Tito's time and former
So it's a problem that dates way before.

GROSS: My guest is Vjosa Dobruna and she's the president of the Pristina
Center for the Protection of Women and Children in Kosovo. She also is the
co-head of the Department for Democratic Governance and Civil Society.
just won the Jonathan Mann Award for combining medicine and human rights

Let's talk a little bit about your experiences during the bombing. You
some of that time in a refugee camp in Macedonia. Were you forced out of

Dr. DOBRUNA: Yes, I was forced out 29th of March.

GROSS: What happened? How were you forced?

Dr. DOBRUNA: I was in hiding for six days, and...

GROSS: Were you targeted? Is that why you went into hiding?

Dr. DOBRUNA: Yes, I was target. The special police force with masks came
arrest me 24th or 25th of March and...

GROSS: And why were you a target?

Dr. DOBRUNA: I mean, I think they had the list of prominent Kosovo-Albanian
activists and political leaders. Some already two hours earlier, a friend
mine who was a member of the Council for Defensive Human Rights and
Freedom(ph), was executed with two of his children. And they were just
searching around and just arresting people. And many other in Srebrenica
other men was executed in Jakova, so, you know, they came at 3:00 in the
morning to arrest me and I managed to escape through terrace door. And then
went in hiding, but after almost a week, I went out in the street and that
there was a mass cleansing of Pristina town, so I happened to be in the
and I was deported. That day there were 80,000 Pristina citizens that were
deported towards Albania and Macedonia. I was deported to Blace makeshift
camp. The day when most of the people were deported by trains, I was
by car.

GROSS: Your sister, your brother-in-law and your nephew were with you. How
old was your nephew?

Dr. DOBRUNA: At that time, he was 11 months old.

GROSS: Now I've heard that you hid your passport and your cell phone...

Dr. DOBRUNA: Yes, I did.

GROSS: your nephew's diaper.

Dr. DOBRUNA: Yes, I hid that...

GROSS: What made you think it would be safe there?

Dr. DOBRUNA: Because I thought--I mean, they were rude. And yet as you
probably know now, they're testifying that they have killed during three
months 800 children. But I still couldn't believe that they are going to
touch an 11-month-child. And, you know, there was no other place. I saw
they were searching people and destroying documents, so I was supposed to go
day before to France at a human rights conference. So I had my ticket, my
passport and some money. And that money practically saved our lives when
started beating us before deportations and they're taking our jewelries and
they're asking for money, so we had that money. So we saved our head.

And then, you know, I put the cell phone and the passport in his diaper and
that's how we stayed some 56, 57 hours at the border because Macedonians had
blocked the border that time. So it was the best way and anyhow we didn't
have another diaper to change for him, so he was 56 hours with the same

GROSS: Well, excuse me for asking this, but your cell phone and passport
have been a little messy in the same diaper for that long.

Dr. DOBRUNA: No, they were not.

GROSS: They were not. You protected them, OK.


GROSS: And did you worry about it chafing the baby to have so much stuffed
his diaper?

Dr. DOBRUNA: Of course I was. But, you know, at that moment, you don't
about those things.

GROSS: Right. Right.

Dr. DOBRUNA: Afterwards you think about things and sometimes we were just
lucky. You know, I was lucky to be deported; otherwise, I would be arrested
like my friend Flora Brovina who's being sent 12 years in jail.

GROSS: And she is the person who won with you the Jonathan Mann Award for

Dr. DOBRUNA: Yes. Yes.

GROSS: work and human rights work.

Dr. DOBRUNA: Yes, she's a recipient, too.

GROSS: You must be worried about her. She's sentenced to how long in jail?

Dr. DOBRUNA: Twelve years.

GROSS: And she was hurt, too, wasn't she?

Dr. DOBRUNA: Yeah, of course, everybody during the interrogations, they
people and they torture people. So, of course, Flora's hurt and she has
hemiparalysis on...

GROSS: Excuse me. She has paralysis?

Dr. DOBRUNA: Yes, on her left side. And she is not in very good health.

GROSS: Have you been able to communicate with her?

Dr. DOBRUNA: Oh, no, no. Nobody's able to communicate with over 2,000 who
are prisoners and who are being kept as hostages in Serbia. Only sometimes
closest members of the family. Flora's being visited every two weeks by her
husband. And that's how I get information, through him.

GROSS: So it sounds like instead of being respected for being a doctor,
doctors were being punished even more, especially if the doctor's work has
some kind of political overtones to it, like yours did and your colleagues
you were just talking about.

Dr. DOBRUNA: Yes, many doctors were abused during these 10 years. I mean,
and one of the reasons this always happened in Kosovo, it was very
systematically planned. And so then doctors were one of the first targeted
group in Kosovo. And then our activity was controlled and then finally we
were abused on several occasions. I mean, if you look at how many were
arrested, interrogated and if you just compare, usually journalists are
who are targeted. If you look at the Kosovo case, you have more doctors
are being arrested and abused and beaten and interrogated than journalists
Kosovo. So it just shows you what was happening in Kosovo.

GROSS: Explain a little bit more about why doctors were such a priority to
targeted and punished.

Dr. DOBRUNA: We offered comfort and we offered services and we offered
psychological support for the population, and we are really in touch with
of the population, so we could influence and we did influence and we became
very prominent members of civil disobedient movement in Kosovo. So the
was afraid of our influence, first thing. Second thing, doctors were very
outspoken in denunciating human rights violations in Kosovo. So they just
tried to go after us and to arrest us and to interrogate and to torture us.

GROSS: My guest is Dr. Vjosa Dobruna, an Albanian doctor from Kosovo.
talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Vjosa Dobruna. And she is a
pediatrician, a neurologist. She's the president of the Pristina Center for
the Protection of Women and Children. She's also the co-head of the New
Department for Democratic Governance and Civil Society in Kosovo.

Let's get back to the period when you were in a Macedonian refugee camp
the bombing and ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. Were you able to practice
medicine there?

Dr. DOBRUNA: No, I was at the camp only for some 22 hours. And then
Macedonian police entered the makeshift camp and started beating people.
then I was forced to leave that camp, and since my parents had already fled
earlier, so I joined them in Tetovo and then I started there a new women's
center after nine days of my deportation. And I worked at the center.

GROSS: And what kind of work were you doing there?

Dr. DOBRUNA: We were doing the same thing: reproductive health, child
child health. We were doing reporting and we sent a form for women to
for members of their families that were missing or they were separated
the deportation.

GROSS: When you returned to Pristina, what kind of condition was the
center in?

Dr. DOBRUNA: Center was plundered and almost all documentation was taken
some equipment but not all. The windows were broken. But it was not that
bad. I mean, it was what we expected we were going to find. It was even
than we thought we were going to find, so that's why we could start and
was a willingness. Seven of the women who previously worked at the center
Pristina worked during all time for three months at the center in Macedonia.
So we just continued with the same work in Kosovo, but now more with women
were victim of sexual abuse. So right away we continued in Kosovo in the
beginning of July.

GROSS: I'm sure that part of the work that you and your fellow workers are
doing with women who were the victims of sexual abuse is talking with them,
talking with them about what it means and how not to be ashamed. Can you
us a little bit about what kind of counseling you and your colleagues are
doing with the women who have been raped?

Dr. DOBRUNA: First thing, it's just raising awareness among population that
rape as a war crime is not something that women wanted to happen to them and
they are not guilty for that. So just to have more awareness among
and to support these women psychologically. Second thing is talking and
giving them psychology support with a trained psychologist and other women
activists that were trained for this work. And third thing is providing in
some cases safe spaces for these women who are not able to go back to their
families or some that are not even able to live in Kosovo anymore. So we
to facilitate their stay outside to provide safe spaces for them to have
psychologic counseling and even thinking how to find jobs for them, to give
them some training and to find jobs for them because these are mostly women
from rural areas and they don't have special skills for work.

GROSS: Tell us a little bit about the arguments that people make who don't
want women who have been raped to return home. What do they say about why
they're unacceptable now?

Dr. DOBRUNA: When I talk to other members of the main members of the
they're really, you know--and they use a very nice vocabulary. But in
practice it's not so. And basically they force them to isolate because they
don't want them out and they don't want the community to see these raped
outside 'cause it reminds them that they were raped. They were raped on
purpose to humiliate Albanian men there. They just even don't respect them
that much to say that they were raped for themselves. But they were raped
just to punish men around.

So it's kind of double punishment for women and for men. It's much harder
they're just, you know, in trauma. What even men of Kosovo went
know, they just can't take it. And for them, it's much more difficult
living and being brought up in patriarchal society where they're educated to
be the one who protect the family, and they were not able to do that, not

their spouses, sisters, daughters were raped in front of them, but in the
they were being forced to leave their home. So it's going to be very, very,
very difficult to overcome this trauma, for men, too. So, you know, you
get the reasonable argument. It's just this. And it's just pain and they
didn't start the process of grieving.

GROSS: But it's funny, by men allowing that humiliation to continue and by
punishing their own women who have been raped, they're playing the Serbs'
game. They're allowing the Serbs to make the Albanians more miserable.

Dr. DOBRUNA: This is man's game. Of course. Yes, but that's why we need
support and we're trying to break this vicious circle, you know, and by kind
of trying to empower women, especially raped women.

GROSS: Dr. Vjosa Dobruna is the founder of the Center for Women and
in Kosovo. She just received the Jonathan Mann Award for health and human
rights. She'll be back in a second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music; credits)

GROSS: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, we continue our conversation with Dr. Vjosa Dobruna about
her work in Kosovo after the war. And we'll remember actress Nancy Marchand
who died Sunday at the age of 71. She's best known now for her role as Tony
Soprano's mother on "The Sopranos."

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with Dr. Vjosa Dobruna, founder of the Pristina Center for the
Protection of Women and Children in Kosovo. She just received the Jonathan
Mann Award for health and human rights. She is of Albanian descent and was
forced to flee Kosovo last year during the Serbs' ethnic cleansing of

I'm wondering, after what you've been through and after what the people who
work with have been through, if you feel that it's possible for you to
with Serbs or if you feel that the whole--that--in other words, do you feel
like it's possible for you, who is very educated, to differentiate between
Serbs who participated in the ethnic cleansing and those who didn't?

Dr. DOBRUNA: Personally, I don't have a problem with that. I mean, I can
differentiate. What I have a problem with is denial of all Serbs--I'm
about all Serbs' denial about what's happened in Kosovo. I have a problem
with that. I don't have a problem to differentiate that there are criminals
in our society. Of course, Serbs were the ones who launched four wars and
they participated. And I just--I don't respect the right of Serbs to be in
denial because it's not the first war and it's every war--all four war had
the same pattern. And so, this is what I'm concerned more about. I'm not
concerned about that we have to coexist. And it's not only for sake of
it's for sake of every other inhabitant of Kosovo. We just need to live in
the environment with no violence.

GROSS: The newspapers are reporting now that the NATO countries are
considering cutting some kind of deal with Milosevic in which he would be
allowed to leave office with his safety and his savings guaranteed; and this
would be a way of getting him out of the presidency of Serbia. What would
think of such a deal? How would that effect your work?

Dr. DOBRUNA: I hope this is a joke from some newspaper journalist. I just
can't believe that somebody can make a deal with indicted war criminal after
genocide. And I think this is the worst message that could be sent, not
to Kosovo Albanians, Slovenians, Croats and Bosniacs(ph), but even to
population because they will feel that the war and genocide are a war that
he's amnestied from his responsibilities and from what he did to several
million people on former Yugoslavia, of course, with the support of other
Serbians, but not all of them, then I don't think it's even worth discussing
about this. I don't think they are going to do that.

GROSS: But wouldn't you like to see him out of office?

Dr. DOBRUNA: Of course I would like to see him out of office. But I would
like to see him in The Hague Tribunal, front of court, not to be amnestied.

GROSS: When you became a doctor, did you ever expect that this was the kind
of work that you would be doing? That you would be dealing with victims of
spousal abuse and rape as a result of war and ethnic cleansing and bombing?

Dr. DOBRUNA: I don't think, though, I ever thought about that, you know,
because it was not something that I was aware that exist in my community. I
was pretty protected in my family. And--but, you know, I always had a
human right approach because I had problems--I mean--problems--I had members
of family who up till now spent some 35 years in jail for political activity
during Tito's time. And so, I used to visit jails at least once a month
I was six years old till I was 36 years old.

GROSS: Visiting relatives?

Dr. DOBRUNA: Visiting my uncles, my closest relatives. So I was aware of
violation of rights of opinions--of political rights of opinions in former
Yugoslavia and, you know, basically I lived with that experience. So--but I
was not aware of other problem that existed in my community.

GROSS: You were not aware of other problems that existed?

Dr. DOBRUNA: No, I was not. I really didn't have any experience with
domestic violence or--and I didn't see it around the neighborhood, not
involved in those things just until after--practically--after 1985, I start
being more active in advocating women's rights.

GROSS: Do you have any time for a family life or a personal life of your
with the work that you're doing?

Dr. DOBRUNA: Not lately.

GROSS: And does that upset you?

Dr. DOBRUNA: When I have time to highlight my life, yes, it does.

GROSS: But you don't often have time to think about it probably, huh?

Dr. DOBRUNA: Correct.

GROSS: OK. What's on the agenda when you return to Pristina?

Dr. DOBRUNA: My agenda, to hire more staff for my department. I'm supposed
to have 15 other people to work for my department. I already have 10
international staff there, seconded by OSCE and by different Western
government and to develop programs that are in ...(unintelligible) mandate
to do our best to facilitate next elections.

GROSS: When do you think the elections might be?

Dr. DOBRUNA: Probably ...(unintelligible) the election are going to be
in--next October.

GROSS: Well, I want to thank you very much for talking with us and I wish
good luck.

Dr. DOBRUNA: Thank you.

GROSS: Dr. Vjosa Dobruna just received the Jonathan Mann Award for health
and human rights. Her co-winner is in prison. We'll hear more after a
This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

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Interview: Dr. Nils Daulaire, president of the Global Health Council
talks about Flora Brovina, recent winner of the Jonathan Mann Award,
who is in prison in Serbia

The Jonathan Mann Award for health and human rights is administered by three
non-governmental associations, including the Global Health Council. We just
met one of the winners. The other winner, Flora Brovina, is a doctor of
Albanian descent who was imprisoned by the Serbs during the ethnic cleansing
of Kosovo last year. She was sentenced to 12 years. We called Dr. Nils
Daulaire, president of the Global Health Council and asked why she was
for the award.

Dr. NILS DAULAIRE (President, Global Health Council): Ever since Jonathan's
death, we've been looking around the world for nominees--for people who've
carried out acts of real courage in defense of human rights as well as the
health of people that they care for and both Dr. Brovina and Dr. Dobruna
were clearly the outstanding choices this year.

GROSS: Specifically what are some of Dr. Brovina's accomplishments?

Dr. DAULAIRE: Well, she put her life on the line for the sake of the women
and children that she cared for. When you look at what happened with her
the last several years, she acted in conscience to care for people who were
displaced as a result of the war in Kosovo, she established a clinic that
cared for women and children, she helped to open an orphanage for children
whose parents had been killed during the entire war period. And then she
the ultimate price herself in terms of staying in Pristina during the height
of the NATO bombing, even though she knew that this was a very dangerous
for her. The Serbian authorities and Serbian paramilitary were picking up
human rights and civilian leaders among the Albanians and arresting them.
ultimately she too was arrested.

GROSS: She's in prison now. What are the official reasons for her arrest

Dr. DAULAIRE: Well, according to the Serbian authorities, she was charged
with acts of treason. The truth of the matter is that her treason consisted
of leading a movement of Kosovar women who called for peace and who called
recognition of the rights of Kosovars, and also of continuing to operate a
clinic. She had been hired from her position in the main Pristina hospital
because--simply of the fact that she was an ethnic Albanian. But she
continued to practice medicine and to care for people.

GROSS: How is her health?

Dr. DAULAIRE: Her health is reported to be not good. She has had high
pressure for quite some time and obviously, being first arrested, then
transported from Kosovo into Serbia and kept in prison for the last 14
has not been to her benefit. She said herself that she sees herself not so
much as a prisoner, as much as a pawn in a game that is being played by the
Serbian authorities.

GROSS: Now I've heard that she is partially paralyzed.

Dr. DAULAIRE: Well, we don't have firsthand information on that, but we
heard that the results of her untreated high blood pressure have been rather

GROSS: Do you think that she knows that she won the Jonathan Mann Award?

Dr. DAULAIRE: We've been told that word has been gotten through to her
that. Her brother was on hand on Friday to receive the award on her behalf.
And he told me that they had been able to get word to her.

GROSS: But you have been unable to communicate with her directly.

Dr. DAULAIRE: Yes. We've been totally blocked from any direct

GROSS: Dr. Dobruna says that in Kosovo doctors had become targets of the
Serb military and the Serb police because they were also human rights
activists. I wonder if this is becoming more common around the world that
authoritarian governments are making doctors their targets?

Dr. DAULAIRE: I think it is true because increasingly--in large part
of the moral leadership that Jonathan Mann provided in showing all of us in
the health care field that we needed to care as much about human rights as
did about the individual biological health of our patient. Doctors are
getting increasingly engaged in working across the board in human rights.
there's nobody who is an easier target than a doctor because they can't go
to hiding or else they can't provide the service to their patients.

GROSS: That's an interesting point. Do you have any hopes that the award
you've given Dr. Brovina, who's now in prison, will help her case and help
her get out of prison?

Dr. DAULAIRE: Dr. Brovina was awarded the Mann Award because of her courage
and because of what she's done, but it is very definitely a part of our
intentions--the three organizations that came together to initiate this
that by highlighting the individuals that we would draw international
attention to what they've been working for. And in this case, we've called
for Dr. Brovina to be released by the Serbian authorities.

GROSS: And who have you had contact with?

Dr. DAULAIRE: We have communicated directly with President Milosevic. And
we've called on thousands of members of the Global Health Council, many of
whom were at the conference at which the award was given, to communicate
directly as well. Public pressure really does make a difference,
when the charges against the person, such as Dr. Brovina, really have no
substance. This is somebody who's been jailed because they're a convenient
person to hold for public relations reasons. If the public relations are
poor, then it's perhaps gonna be easier to release her than to hold her.

GROSS: I want to thank you very much.

Dr. DAULAIRE: I appreciate it.

GROSS: Dr. Nils Daulaire is the president of the Global Health Council, one
of the three NGOs that administers the Jonathan Mann Award, named after the
late doctor who was a pioneer in the international fight against AIDS and in
connecting global health with human rights.

(Soundbite of music)

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Profile: Actress Nancy Marchand's life in movies and on TV

Actress Nancy Marchand died Sunday night at the age of 71, just one day
her 72nd birthday. She had cancer and pulmonary disease. At the end of her
more than 50-year acting career, she was perhaps more famous than ever as a
result of her starring role in HBO's "The Sopranos," as Tony Soprano's
We're going to remember her with an interview recorded last year with our TV
critic David Bianculli.

Nancy Marchand arrived in New York just in time to take part in what's been
called the golden age of television, doing live TV dramas in the '50s,
including the famous Patty Chayefsky play, "Marty." To realize how against
type she was cast in "The Sopranos," all you have to do is listen to her old
roles. Here she is as Rod Steiger's mousy girlfriend in the 1953 live
telecast of "Marty."

(Excerpt from "Marty")

Unidentified Man: What am I? Am I a leopard or something?

Ms. NANCY MARCHAND: I just didn't feel like it, that's all.

Unidentified Man: It's the story of my life. I'm just a fat, little ugly
guy, you know. Every time there's a New Year's Eve party, I'm the guy they
have to get a date for. I'm old enough to know better. I'll get you a pack
of cigarettes.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. MARCHAND: Marty, I'd like to see you again very much. The reason that
didn't let you kiss me was because I just didn't know how to handle the
situation. I think you're the kindest man I ever met. And the reason I
you this is because I'd like to see you again very much. Maybe I'm just too
desperate to fall in love, I'm trying too hard. But I know that when you
me home, I'm just gonna lie on my bed and I'm going to think about you.

(End of excerpt)

GROSS: In the '70s, Marchand took part in another TV classic, co-starring
newspaper publisher Mrs. Pynchon in the CBS series, "Lou Grant." Here's
Nancy Marchand as Mrs. Pynchon in a scene with Ed Asner, another contrast to
her role on "The Sopranos."

(Excerpt from "Lou Grant")

Ms. MARCHAND (As Mrs. Pynchon): Mr. Grant, I have enough pressures from
politicians and labor unions and churches and schools and Italian-Americans
and Polish-Americans and Mexican-Americans, all incensed that one time or
another because of something we printed or didn't print. When we moved the
bridge column and the day that we kissed off Little Orphan Annie, do you
realize how many threats I received against my life?

Mr. ED ASNER (As Lou Grant): Mrs. Pynchon, there's a...

Ms. MARCHAND (As Mrs. Pynchon): No, Mr. Grant, I don't need you to
generate any heat. I get enough of that from my family, for the one of the
more descriptive words. I have two nephews, each more disgusting than the
other, each masking his aberrance in solicitous murmurings and constant
pressures and little whisperings to sell this building, sell this paper that
love and invest in something more sensitive, more lucrative like taco
stands--a whole greasy chain of them stretching like the Great Wall of China
from San Usidro(ph) all the way to the Oregon border. I mean, who knows?
Maybe beyond. Taco stands, Mr. Grant, and a few shares of majority stock I
hold is my only shield between this once great paper and 1,000-mile ribbon
inedible enchiladas.

(End of excerpt)

GROSS: Now here's Marchand in a scene from "The Sopranos" as Livia Soprano.
She's being visited in the nursing home by her daughter-in-law, played by

(Excerpt from "The Sopranos")

Ms. EDIE FALCO: You know, ma, your son loves you very much. He worries all
the time. He felt bad that you didn't come to the open house. And I don't
care if you think it's disrespectful, but I want you to cut the drama. It's
killing Tony.

Ms. MARCHAND (As Livia Soprano): What are you talking about?

Ms. FALCO: I'm talking about this, this `poor mother, nobody loves me,'
victim crap. It is text-book manipulation. And I hate seeing Tony so upset
over it.

Ms. MARCHAND (As Livia Soprano): I know how to talk to people.

Ms. FALCO: Well, I am a mother too, don't forget. And you know the power
that you have and you use it like a pro.

Ms. MARCHAND (As Livia Soprano): Power? What power? I don't have power.
I'm a shut-in.

Ms. FALCO: You are bigger than life. You are his mother. And I don't
for one second that you don't know what you're doing to him.

Ms. MARCHAND (Livia Soprano): Who me? Me? What did I do?

Ms. FALCO: Look, I didn't come by to argue. I came by to check on you and
bring you the regards.

(End of excerpt)

GROSS: Finally, let's hear an excerpt of Nancy Marchand's 1999 interview
our TV critic David Bianculli.

(Excerpt from 1999 interview)

DAVID BIANCULLI (Film Critic): I love this role so much, it is so unlike
Pynchon or most of the things with which I associate you. I can't even
believe it. Can you tell me how you do this and how you got to it in the

Ms. MARCHAND: Well, I was so thrilled that somebody asked me to read for a
part like this after playing so many tasteful ladies that I just jumped at
because this was a marriage that I shall always be grateful for. And that
between me playing a part like this and working with David Chase, who is so
wise, so intellectually astute, and there you have it. I mean, there we

BIANCULLI: Well, he's the writer/producer of "The Sopranos" and...

Ms. MARCHAND: He is, yeah.

BIANCULLI: ...with the script that you auditioned with originally or the
scene, how much of that was on the page? I mean, so much of the grunts and
the groans and the snarls and the sounds and the chewing with the mouth
I mean, that's got to be as much you as it is the writer.

Ms. MARCHAND: Well, I just came upon some of them. I just--some things I
just came upon when it happened, like the chewing with my mouth open. I
thought, `Oh, that's great. This woman is an animal. She's an animal.'
that's what she is and that's what she does. She carries on a conversation
and she's stuffing her mouth all the time. That was something that happened
as we played it. And then I incorporated it into the performance.

BIANCULLI: Going all the way back to your golden age stuff. I mean, I
your big breakthrough role on television was as Jo in "Little Women" in
One. And...

Ms. MARCHAND: Right. Hey, you know that.

BIANCULLI: Yeah. Well, I mean...

Ms. MARCHAND: Hey, good for you.

BIANCULLI: And it goes to even better ones that we'll get to in a minute.
But if I've got this right, your--you graduate from Carnegie...


BIANCULLI: ...and you decide as a young woman that you're just going to be
actress and head off to New York and land there, I guess in--Was in 1949?


BIANCULLI: Now how old were you then? And how gutsy were you then to do
something like that in such a male-dominated town and such a young industry
television? How'd you do that? How were you allowed to do that?

Ms. MARCHAND: Oh, listen, it wasn't gutsy, it was dumb. I was so dumb.
Nothing stopped me, I just went ahead and did it.

BIANCULLI: What kind of place was New York like to live as a single woman
the late '40s?

Ms. MARCHAND: Well, I wasn't single. I had a roommate and she was my
roommate from college. And we were a real couple, we were such a funny
twosome and just did anything we wanted to do. We just had a ball. Went to
the movies in the middle of the night and, you know, I mean, we just had a

BIANCULLI: A lot of people in early television didn't want to get involved
first because they didn't trust the medium and others dove in purely because
it was new. Where did you stand?

Ms. MARCHAND: Oh, I just dove in because it was work. I loved the work.
And I say to this day, I don't think there is a job I've ever done that I
haven't learned something from doing it, you know?


Ms. MARCHAND: And--so it was all new. It was all new.

(End of excerpt)

GROSS: We're listening to David Bianculli's 1999 interview with actress
Marchand who died Sunday. We'll hear more after a break. This is FRESH

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Let's get back to TV critic David Bianculli's 1999 interview with
actress Nancy Marchand. She died Sunday at the age of 71. She's now
appearing as Tony Soprano's mother in the reruns of the HBO series "The

(Excerpt from 1999 interview)

BIANCULLI: Let's talk about your most famous role from the '50s, which was
playing Clara to Rod Steiger's butcher Marty in the 1953 piece which has got
to be, along with "Requiem for a Heavyweight" and a couple others, one of
most important pieces of television--early television ever done. Can you
us how that came together and what is was like to rehearse it and to mount

Ms. MARCHAND: Well, I don't know how it came together, but--'cause I was
unaware of things like that. But anyway, what I did want to talk about was
how fabulous Patty Chayefsky as a writer was. You know, you would rehearse
and then you'd--he'd say to you, `Things going OK?' He was at every
rehearsal. He was always at every rehearsal, and he'd say, `Things going
And I'd say, `Well, you know, in the X scene, if you just took out those
and put them at the beginning of the scene and then when you get to the end
the scene, you could understand it better.' He'd say, `Oh, isn't that
interesting. Yeah, let me look around, let me fool around with it.'

BIANCULLI: Did he do it?

Ms. MARCHAND: Then he'd go into the corner with his typewriter and there he
was. And there, you know, he'd have this scene written. And as you were
rehearsing, he would kind of saddle up to you and he'd pass you this scene
you'd look at it and it was perfect. It was perfect.

BIANCULLI: "Lou Grant," certainly one of your most famous roles. You won
four Emmys for that one. And in the beginning, the people who--James L.
Brooks, who was one of the co-creators, was talking about how hard it was to
try to come up with a series that was not all drama and was not all comedy,
but was a mix.


BIANCULLI: And now we have things like "Northern Exposure," which led to
"Ally McBeal," so we're more familiar with it. But that was really the
hour-long dramedy. Was it hard to hit that tone on the set when you were
starting out?

Ms. MARCHAND: Well, you know, those guys as writers were no slouches. And
they knew what they were doing. And it wasn't a struggle, it was just
learning the new material and learning the new approach that--and that made

BIANCULLI: Now do you see what you're doing on--do you see "The Sopranos"
overall as being a dramedy like "Lou Grant"?

Ms. MARCHAND: But it's more sophisticated, I think.


Ms. MARCHAND: Much more sophisticated. Maybe I shouldn't say that.

BIANCULLI: But I guess what I'm asking is, in terms of your scenes, so many
of them at times you want to laugh at this woman and at other times you are
angry with her...


BIANCULLI: ...and then it seems tragic and then it seems howlingly funny
again all in the space of a couple of minutes. And...

Ms. MARCHAND: Yeah, but that's what makes it interesting, honey.

BIANCULLI: Does that--it that what makes it interesting to play too?


(End of excerpt)

GROSS: Nancy Marchand recorded last year with our TV critic David
She died Sunday at the age of 71. I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of music)


GROSS: This is NPR, National Public Radio.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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