Hannes Richter

Roswitha Novak (1958-2005)

Hannes Richter
by Teresa Indjein

In the morning hours of September 17, 2005, a beloved friend and colleague, Roswitha Novak, passed away in Vienna. She had been diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2004.  Rose of Life being the meaning of her name, it was almost as if destiny had made a mistake in claiming Roswitha at the early age of 47. In search of a cure, she explored various roads and walked all of them with great courage. She bravely coped with the frailty and the suffering of the body, and her hope did not falter until the end.

Roswitha Novak (1958-2005)

Born in the Eastern Austrian Province of Burgenland, in a village called Stinatz, where people speak an old version of Croatian, Roswitha was a very gifted girl, supported by her loving mother and her uncle. She completed her studies of Slavic languages and literatures and sports in Graz, Styria.

She then met the love of her life, Prof. Slobodan Novak, married, and lived with him in Rome and Croatia, also through the difficult years of the Yugoslav war. Austria  s former Ambassador to Croatia, Mr. Berlakovits said that at that time Roswitha was the angel of the embassy in Zagreb helping many people and doing excellent work.

Coming to America with her family then brought completely new aspects to her life. We first met at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., early in 1995. We were to work together and run the cultural affairs department of the Austrian Embassy. It soon became apparent that Roswitha had a great gift for design and a flair for creating the right atmosphere for the cultural programs we were planning. It seemed that the wide American sky had inspired her and brought forth new talents. She would not rest until she had found the right image or idea to create an attractive, visual message for our literary and musical programs as well as the many exhibits. Guests of the Embassy regarded her personally designed invitation cards and announcements as collector’s items.

Invitation designed by Roswitha Novak

Roswitha was the steady, driving force behind several hundred cultural events we realized together in the years between 1995 and 2001, events which attracted approximately 30,000 visitors to the Embassy every year. It was then that I found out about Roswitha’s  law of energy which was very much a part of her way of life. She always said:  “You see, it’s quite obvious, if you want to achieve success, it simply depends on the love and good energy you put into the endeavour. The more care and dedication given to a project, the more positive the results would be ... energy equals success.” This was her guiding principle at work and at home. Roswitha raised two extraordinary boys, Prosper (22) and Gregor (20), who are both studying law at the University of Vienna.

For diplomats finding our place, finding our home is a lifelong quest. We are drawn by our desire to know other cultures, to explore the unknown, and by the need to find situations which provide enough support to continue the quest. A friend once said to Roswitha don't be afraid to live the gypsy part of your soul.She did this and combined it with her amazing sense of duty and responsibility to her work and to the people she cared for.

Teresa Indjein was Director of the Cultural Forum at the Austrian Embassy in Washington D.C. from 1995-2000 and currently heads the Cultural Forum at the Austrian Embassy in Berlin, Germany