Will history repeat itself for Vrany?
August 16, 2006
Lada Vrany is prepared to abandon his home on principle, just like he did right after World War II.Vrany, an 87-year-old Czech native, said Wednesday he doesn’t want to stay on the ranch where he has lived since 1958 under the conditions Pitkin County government proposed.The county is his landlord at the Airport Ranch. County officials offered him a new lease this summer and gave him until July 27 to sign it. Vrany declined, so the county filed legal proceedings to evict him.A court hearing Wednesday was continued until Aug. 23 to give the two sides another week to try to negotiate a settlement. Pitkin County Assistant Attorney Chris Seldin didn’t comment because he didn’t want to jeopardize a deal or negotiate via newspaper stories.Lynn Vrany, Lada’s former wife, said Lada cannot accept the county’s terms.”They are giving him two options – stay or take a buyout that is pretty puny,” Lynn said.One of the sticking points is his ability to make a living off the ranch. The county doesn’t want Lada to irrigate the land or rent out pasture or old trailer homes that he subleased as affordable housing.The county declared there was a health hazard on the property May 2 after it found the residences that Vrany was illegally renting had inadequate septic systems or, in some cases, no sewage systems at all. It evicted about a dozen people living there.Lynn Vrany labeled her former husband “an irrigating fool” and said he couldn’t stand living on the ranch if he couldn’t ply his skills operating the ditches. Lada concurred: “What’s a farmer without water?” he asked.He rented the ranch from Elizabeth and Walter Paepcke starting in 1958. Their estate sold the ranch to Pitkin County in 1988.A small core of friends who surround Vrany said he needs the ability to work the land as a purpose in life as well as for income. He wants to continue renting pasture to cattle ranchers.Pitkin County has offered to let him stay on the ranch rent-free and to pay him an undisclosed amount to be a watchdog, according to the lease proposal.But Lynn said that wouldn’t be enough for Lada to live from. “He has Social Security, but try to live on that in Aspen,” she said.Lada’s attorney, Mara Kleinschmidt, said she will try to negotiate terms favorable to her client or fight the eviction attempt next week in court. If those efforts fail, Vrany said he would be able to leave the place he has called home for nearly 50 years.He’s done it before. He left his native land right after World War II ended to avoid a communist takeover, and he never returned. He fled to what was then West Germany and lived in a camp for displaced people before immigrating to Norway in 1948. He eventually went to Canada and landed in Aspen, where he operated a construction company for years to support his love of ranching.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.