Libor Bálek

* 1966

  • “It happened this way. I worked in a grocery for a time. The shop manager was a horrible commie. Really disgraceful one; he rubbed it in my face all the time. He couldn't forgive me that I managed to get to Munich. I went there to visit my granny. It was in 1988 or 1987, I had been there in 1985, before going to the army. It was one of the worst times in my life. It was after my high school graduation, and I was going back there. Tears were running down my face. I did not want to stay, for the sake of my parents, I knew what would happen to them. And the army service was ahead. Quite terrible. So I got there again in eighty-seven. I then came back to the workshop and the manager said: 'You had visitors here, you will see.' He laughed secretively. We had flexible workplace, we went to different groceries to fix whatever needed to be repaired so I was hard to catch. I did not go to my main workplace, I was doing maintenance in various shops. So he said then: 'They were here again.' I asked: 'Who?' He said: 'You will see.' So I saw. They invited me, on a street, on the 30th April. So I was there to be interrogated. Sure I knew who were the secret police. They described every my step in Munich.”

  • „The place was in Vratimov, on the river bank. I do not know whether it was the first place where the fair took place but along the river, there were stands with all goods which were not regularly available. There was cosmetics, clothes, we called it money exchange jeans [see note]. We did not set the trends, we had our own fashion. Skinny jeans, boots or sneakers. The other tribe were discophiles, those wore tapered jeans, colourful hoodies, with wild designs, pink ones. They had to have brand name sneakers, usually Adidas. One could buy it at the fair for unreasonable prices but it was not available in regular shops. Those who got hold of such goods would sell them at the fair with 50 or 100 % margin at the fair. There was a music corner. It was mostly us who used to go there. There were various records, CDs were gaining traction just at that time. There were people who sold blank casettes. That was big business. Those people had 20 or 30 casettes, one cost about a hundred crowns. I earned about 900 crowns per month so it was really expensive. We earned some money by selling some things, buying records, copying them on casettes which we sold then. All our money was stored in music.” Note: there was, Tuzex, a chain of stores which were selling imported goods either for foreign currencies or for vouchers which were paid to people working abroad in exchange for the foreign currencies they earned. It was extremely difficult for a Czechoslovak to get foreign currency. Foreign currencies or these vouchers could be bought, with rather disadvantageous exchange rates compared to banks, from illicit money changers. These earned considerable money and were able to buy foreign goods and trendy clothes by which they could be distinguished.

  • “It was in 1989, I worked in Delta then. It was sometime between the 17th of November and around the 15th of December and we got a request from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. The seat of their district branch was here in Marianske Hory. It was a mad house, an aggregating place for all the bolsheviks. One of them came to Delta, they wanted us to do sound for some conference. And Milan came to me and said: 'You, Libor, I have a special task for you.' And I said, 'I'm not going there.' He, then: 'No, really, go there.' So I say: ' Well then, but I'm going to wear what I want.' So I went. Jeans, jeans jacket, black cross on my chest, chains around my neck. I came with the gadgets and the doormen almost fell off their chairs. 'What do you want here?' they asked. I said: 'I gotta do sound for some sort of conference.' I was not too confident, it was about three weeks after the things started to shift. And the place was soaked by that Stalinism. The atmosphere was tight. It was awful there, I felt terrible. But the worse I felt, the more I dared. They were totally crazy that there's a sound tech like this. For them, I was a total outcast. A hippie wearing jeans, they hated this sort of stuff, I was the foremost enemy in the class struggle. And suddenly, one such materialised in that nest of theirs. So that was such an interesting experience for me then.”

  • Full recordings
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    Ostrava, 12.02.2020

    duration: 01:45:16
    media recorded in project Stories of the region - Central Moravia
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After the Revolution, I found out how many secret police agents were around me

Libor Bálek was born on the 26th May in 1966 in Ostrava. Since his youth, he was interested in music from abroad, mostly in hard core and punk. Recordings of these music styles were not legally available in Czechoslovakia. He and his friends started making bootleg copies and they sold or exchanged them them on the local fair. After he trained as an electrician, he worked in the chemical plant in Hrušov. His gradmother had emigrated and settled in Munich. Because Libor Bálek visited her a few times, he was interrogated by the Secret police. He got a job in the Delta club in Ostrava. It was administered by the Socialist Youth Union but even during the communism, interesting music was presented there. Libor participated in organising these events and he became the programme manager, sound technician and a deputy of the club. He worked as a sound tech during the anti-Communist protests in Ostrava in 1989. After the revolution, he found out that his superior in the Delta Club, as well as several other colleagues and friends were collaborators of the Secret Police. He thinks this is the reason why the Secret Police tolerated that the club played music which was not officially supported by the Communist regime. In 1990, Libor helped to establish the Rock Hill music club in Ostrava; it was one of the first private music clubs in Czechoslovakia. Later on, he organised many succesful concerts and festivals.