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09. 12. 09. - 14:00

Zilk to have forest named after him

By David Rogers

Former Vienna SP Mayor Helmut Zilk, who died last year, is to have a city forest named after him in Vienna-Liesing.

The only problem is that the 1.5 hectares of land in question is not forested. City authorities have therefore invited residents to help plant trees and bushes there this coming Sunday.

The idea of a Zilk forest came from foresters working in city office MA 49 under city Social Democratic (SP) environmental councillor Ulli Sima.

There will be a ceremony at the site during which Vienna SP Mayor Michael Hupl and Zilks widow Dagmar Koller will dedicate the future forest and unveil a memorial to the former mayor.

The planting will take place as part of MA 49s "Forest of Young Viennese" initiative that has been greening different city areas annually for the past 25 years.

Hupl had previously announced that he would have a city square named after Zilk, who died on 24 October 2008 at the age of 81.

The square in question has not yet been decided upon. Koller has said she wants it to be the Albertinaplatz in front of the citys Albertina Museum.

The well-known actress, singer and dancer Koller turned 70 last August. She has appeared in a number of musicals, operettas and films and has hosted the TV show "Hallo wie gehts?" (Hi, hows it going?) since 1989.

Koller, who married Zilk in 1978, said recently his death from cardiac failure had been a crushing psychological blow. "We had a great love," she declared, adding that she was a sad widow but would become a merry widow after her year of mourning ended on 24 October.

Zilk was one of Austrias most-influential politicians and regarded as one of the opinion leaders in the SP.

He was posthumously accused last spring of having worked as a spy or informer for the secret service of the former Czechoslovakia.

Documents revealed by the magazine Profil seemed to confirm speculation that Zilk had earned the equivalent of a few thousand Euros by informing the Communist country about what was going on in Austrian politics and the media in the 1960s.

Zilks only son then spoke out for the first time in a long interview to defend his father's tarnished reputation.

Thomas Zilk said: "It isnt the first time I have heard such accusations. I can remember very well how disappointed my father was (ten years ago) when those rumours surfaced for the first time. I find it very disappointing they have come up again at a time when my father is unable to defend himself. I think those allegations were a bigger blow to my father than the letter-bomb attack."

In December 1993, Zilks left hand was severely injured when he opened a letter bomb sent to his home in Viennas city centre by infamous letter-bomber Franz Fuchs.

The Austrian Interior Ministry announced it had found documents regarding Zilks activities as well. However, it was later learned that parts of them, possibly those containing incriminating evidence, had been destroyed or lost at some point.

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