Jana Renée Friesová was born the only child of an assimilated Czech Jewish family. She had a comfortable childhood, dividing her time between the spacious home of her parents in Josefov, and that of her grandparents in Mnichovo Hradiste. She had been baptized and was a practicing Roman Catholic and did not even consider herself a Jew until the German Occupation of her country in World War II, when she was 12. She was only 15 when she and her family were deported by the Nazis to the Theresienstadt (Terezín) concentration camp. Her father and grandmother were sent to Auschwitz, but she and her mother survived. After the war, she resumed her education, receiving a PhD degree from Charles University. She taught philosophy and aesthetics at the university until her retirement in 1979. She also translated works by Nikos Kazantzakis and Judy Blume into Czech. Her memoir Fortress of My Youth was published in 1996.