Vera Michalski

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Vera Michalski-Hoffmann (born 5 November 1954, in Basel) is a Swiss publisher. She is the president of several publishing houses in Switzerland, France and Poland, grouped together in a holding company, Libella SA, based in Lausanne.[1][2][3] Dedicated philanthropist, she also spearheaded the Jan Michalski Foundation in Montricher.[2][4]


Until the age of 16, Vera Hoffmann (of Swiss and Austrian origines)[5] lived in Camargue, at the Tour du Valat research facility, 28 km from Arles. At that time, the centre’s activities included an agricultural dimension and its electricity was supplied by a generator.[6] Her father, Luc Hoffmann (1923–2016), founded the centre. Equipped with a PhD in zoology, he dedicated much of his time, thoughts and funds to preserving and protecting nature.[7] In 1961, he and Peter Scott, son of the famous South Pole explorer, founded the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Now supported by the family’s MAVA Foundation, this research centre has become an important international hub for the conservation and study of Mediterranean wetlands. The Foundation, which owns nearly 2,500 hectares of wetlands in the Camargue region, is responsible for protecting the area.[8]

During her childhood, Vera Hoffmann attended a school created by her parents and accredited by the French authorities. Approximately 14 children, including Vera’s two sisters and one brother, were schooled there. Most of them were children of people who worked at the ornithological facility, along with a few neighbours.

Vera’s mother, Daria Razumovsky, was the descendant of Russian immigrants who fled their homeland during the Russian Revolution. The story of her grandmother’s childhood (from 1914 to 1919) was published and translated in 1990. In 2004, the diary kept by Vera’s mother and two aunts was also published.

Vera studied at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva where she began working on her thesis entitled “Le phénomène des compagnons de route du communisme en France, de 1928 à 1939” (The phenomenon of Communism’s road companions in France from 1928 to 1939”).[9] However, she decided to interrupt her doctorate studies to focus on publishing.[10]

In 1983, she married a Polish man named Jan Michalski (1953-2002), whom she met when they were both students at the University of Geneva.[11]


In 1986, Vera Michalski created Les Éditions Noir sur Blanc in Montricher with her husband, Jan Michalski. The idea was to publish writers –essentially of Slavic origins– and to offer fiction (novels, short stories, plays and poetry) as well as non-fiction (essays, documents, eye-witness accounts, personal journal and memoires) bearing witness to critical periods in the history of countries such as Poland and Russia.[12]

Subsequently, the couple acquired several publishing houses that were later brought together under the holding group Libella, based in Lausanne. The holding now includes Noir sur Blanc, Les Éditions Phébus, BuchetChastel (fr) and Le Temps Apprivoisé among others.[13]

In Poland, Vera Michalski owns Oficyna Literacka (Noir sur Blanc) in Warsaw and Wydawnictwo Literackie Krakow.[13][14]

In 1991, she also bought The Polish Bookshop in Paris.[15]

Although Vera Michalski is heiress to an impressive family fortune, she says she is careful to keep her publishing business, which focuses on profitability, separate from her philanthropic initiatives, notably the Maison de l'écriture (writing house) in Montricher, Switzerland.[9] She does, however, admit that she can take certain risks which other,less financially secure publishers might not, and she can also publish niche-target works. Still, all her editorial projects are intended to be profitable, even if some are more long-term buoys.[16]

Through her publishing business, Vera Michalski aims to provide a bridge between Eastern and Western cultures. She and her husband started working in this area back in 1986, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, when cultural exchanges were rather difficult. She speaks five languages fluently (French, German, English, Spanish and Polish). And she claims to have a pretty good handle on Russian.

Honours and awards[edit]

In 2010, she received the Lilas de l'éditrice award. Vera Michalski was awarded prestigious awards during her career, including the Officer of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (1995), the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters of the French Republic, the Meritorious for Polish Culture (2011) and the Polish "Bene Merito" honorary distinction (2012).[17]

Cultural philanthropy[edit]

In the autumn of 2007, Vera Michalski announced the creation of the Jan Michalski Foundation in Montricher, Switzerland. This foundation acquired a former summer camp and converted it into a centre welcoming writers. Several of them can stay simultaneously and for different lengths of time, never to exceed one year, however. Plans are underway to add “an exhibit space, an auditorium for concerts, symposiums, lectures or screenings, and a library”. The foundation awards certain writers with grants and from time to time underwrites certain publishing projects.[18]

Vera Michalski also created the Jan Michalski International Prize for Literature, designed to recognize great work, regardless of the genre (novels, short stories, essays, books on art, etc.). The prize is worth 50,000 Swiss francs.[19]


  1. ^ "Extract from the Register of Commerce Switzerland". Registre du Commerce du Canton de Vaud.
  2. ^ a b "Vera Michalski by Christian Caujolle". Le journal de la photographie.
  3. ^ "Interview: Vera Michalski On Why She Acquired Delpire Editions". American Illustration - American Photography.
  4. ^ "Council of the Foundation".
  5. ^ "New Faces, New Ventures in a changing French Scene". 3 September 2001. External link in |journal= (help)
  6. ^ "Portrait de Vera Michalski". Le Nouvel Economiste.
  7. ^ "Governance of Mava Foundation". Mava.
  8. ^ "Mava Foundation". Mava.
  9. ^ a b "Vera Michalski-Hoffmann".
  10. ^ "L'été? La lecture à l'ombre (fr)". Hebdo.
  11. ^ "Vera Michalski PhD 1980 (fr)". Graduate Institute. Archived from the original on 2013-02-19.
  12. ^ "Historique des Editions Noir sur Blanc". Les Editions Noir sur Blanc.
  13. ^ a b "Libella". Editions Libella.
  14. ^ "Vera Michalski". L'Expension.
  15. ^ "Noir sur blanc (fr)". Biblomonde.
  16. ^ "Des cabanes d'Ecriture suspendues (fr)". L'Extension.
  17. ^ "LES LILAS DU LIVRE 2010 (fr)". Le blog du prix de la Closerie des Lilas.
  18. ^ "Launching of the Foundation". Fondation Jan Michalski.
  19. ^ "Dr Lovell awarded the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature 2012". University of London.

External links[edit]