Inspiring Stories
2-Vera Michalski-Hoffmann

Vera Michalski-Hoffmann

Class of 1978
Goodwill Ambassador, UNESCO (since 2016)
President and Founder, Libella Group (since 2000)

Born in Basel into a family with Swiss, Russian and Austrian origins, Vera Michalski-Hoffmann spent her childhood in Camargue,France and studied at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1987, she and her husband, Jan Michalski (of Polish origin), founded Éditions Noir sur Blanc in Montricher. Their ambition at the time was to build bridges between the cultures and peoples of Europe on both sides of the Iron Curtain by publishing fiction and non-fiction texts intended to last. 

In Paris, they bought the historic Polish bookstore “Librairie polonaise”, and years later, they developed the Libella Group, which now includes a dozen publishing houses, active in Switzerland, France and Poland. The Group publishes in French, Polish and English, in the fields of fiction, non-fiction and illustrated books. 

In 2004, Michalski-Hoffmann established the Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing and Literature in Montricher, Switzerland. The Foundation is dedicated to her husband’s memory, in order to perpetuate their common commitment to the written word, to support literary creation and to encourage the practice of reading.

The Foundation achieves these means by hosting exhibitions and cultural events that have a connection with writing and literature, making a large multilingual library available to the public (over 75,000 books), awarding an annual prize in world literature (The Jan Michalski Prize for Literature), granting financial support to literary projects worldwide, and hosting a writer-in-residence programme.

Michalski-Hoffmann tries to develop literature and art through the diverse foundations in which she is involved. For instance, she is part of several boards in Switzerland and France, such as the Fondation pour l'Écrit in Geneva, and the Fondation pour l’Art dramatique (Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne), but also in France at the Fondation des Alliances Françaises, and the Syndicat National de l'Édition en France (SNE) in Paris. 

Due to her multiple contributions, actions toward art and literature, and the multiculturalism that Michalski-Hoffmann represents, she has been distinguished with several Swiss, French and Polish prizes and awards. She has also been an active UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador since 2016. In this context, Michalski-Hoffmann is engaged in many events organised by UNESCO to promote reading and literature around the world, including the annual "World Book Capital'', which rewards cities for promoting books and encouraging reading for one year, beginning 23 April (cities such as Accra, Guadalajara, Tbilissi, etc.).

This dedication to giving back to the world is a family tradition: her maternal ancestor Count Razumovsky, commissioned quartets from Beethoven, and her father and ornithologist Lukas Hoffmann, co-founded the WWF (World Wildlife Fund).

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Vera Michalski-Hoffmann