Zdeněk Bárta

* 1949

  • During the court with Prague Ten in 1979, I sent a policeman to hell once. They put me in custody for 48 hours and beat me up there. They just tried to intimidate me. And there I had such an uncontrollable fear, which lasted for two days. My hands were sweating. They managed to scare me deeply. I knew they had to let me go, but they knew how to make it tough for me. One man helped me a lot. There was a guard at that time, we called him Fous. He was a weird guy who helped us. He had a big mustache, saying he was a boxer. When we were driven to Ruzyně - both to scare us and to keep us, he talked to us on the way, although it was not allowed. He said he was a boxer, that he was no longer practising, so he joined the cops. And as the first boy went to get a haircut, he tapped his shoulder and said, 'Don't worry, it'll grow back. It's just the police bitches proving they had power over you.'

  • “When we started with my wife in the rectory, I said, 'Look, girl, get ready for us not staying long. I do not want to change my opinions, I give you three or four years here, and then I go to work manually. It lasted longer, until 1979, but as if I was counting on the fact that… of course I couldn't count on the parish being as brave as it had been. Thanks to the circumstances: it was the Volhynian Czechs who knew far worse repression from that Russia or the Soviet Union than the state security could have shown. So they laughed at their provocations. While elsewhere it was a destructive for those pastors. For example, they stood in front of the church, and every worshiper had to stand up. If this was going to happen in Prague or elsewhere, the faithful would tell me: ' Mr. priest, you know, well, yeah, it was nice, but we have children. You have to understand that you have to leave. Which happened to many of my colleagues, something alike. Well, the Volyns made fun of the cops. There was a man saying, 'You are shooting about the thirteenth part of the series of Major Zeman here, right?' The sister curator, a very noble old lady said, 'I don't wear an identity card to hear the word of God. I guess you will arrest me, don't you? ' They just mocked them in the face, yeah, which is an atmosphere that wouldn't be anywhere else.”

  • “Well, it was strange that some of my spiritual fathers like Freda Kocab and Jakub Trojan and Honza Šimsa attended. And they put on their gowns. I know that from today's point of view it may be ridiculous, but the point was that when the state power withdrew that person's permission to pursue spiritual activity - whether it remained spiritual in that sense of the church or not. And we are all - following their example, when they also took the consent from me - we seem to want to confirm this by dressing in those gowns. I don't hang much on it, I'd rather do worship without wearing it, but then it was such a matter of course, honor and prestige. So they came in - it was too much for the poor Synod senior Kejra. I remember exactly how poor a man was ... suddenly getting nervous about being a mess. He expected it. And now Freda Kocab - there is one picture, as he says, 'I will of course say a greeting.' So Fred Kocab had a greeting. Well, it was a mess. There was the State Security… surely someone was listening there because these people came there. And so it was clear: he has these friends, so we will probably be interested.”

  • “I read the water meters, that meant: I was wearing quite dirty overalls because I climbed into the sewers. And just that day I walked around Litomerice Square, where the big houses mostly had water meters in the shafts. So: lift the heavy hatch, climb into the shaft, climb up, write in the book, close the hatch, walk next door. And this is what I do, and in the middle of the square was a large gathering of angry Czech people protesting against American missiles. Of course out those people were there of obligation. So they stood there. And now many of them knew me. You wouldn't say how terribly shy they were! How they just did they were not there at all. Because they were stupid... paradoxically, I was in that submissive position, I was handicapped, I was the dull one, who climbed through the sewers. But they were ashamed of the men with ties. They were rightly ashamed of course, for at that moment they were serving as a facade to the regime.”

  • When they fired Jan Tydlitát from the faculty because he prayed for Svatopluk Karásek in the church in Martin in the Wall we took it rather emotionally. That was the trial case with the Plastics, Sváťa was in custody, and he had an intercessory prayer. Well, he was punished for that. Which is disgraceful because praying for imprisoned is the direct command of Jesus. The very fact that the faculty was forced to interrupt his studies for a year was shameful. We were writing petitions back then.

  • On May 1, we formed a five-member group, the Association for the Defense of Democracy during Majáles festivities. We decided that it was necessary to demonstrate it somehow. So sometime around May 17 we organized a demonstration in the Old Town Square. We were so cautious that we put it first in the newspapers, because at that time the newspapers were competing more democratic. So, in every possible newspaper it was published that there would be a demonstration. Then we went to the National Committee and there we said we were going to get a permit, but let them be careful, because it was published in all the newspapers. Strangely enough they allowed us the demonstration. So we went there and thought it would be a mess, I was just 19 years old. To be sure, I took an article by Karel Čapek called Why I am not a Communist. And as we came to the Old Town Square we found out that someone had sounded the whole area, built a grandstand, and there was a television present. And now I climbed up on the podium in horror, I read Why I am not a Communist, and then it went by gravity, because people who were locked in the 1950s climbed on the podium, and it was a terrible mess, we even received a note from the Soviet embassy.

  • Although someone had cut our cables with an ax. It was still a bit wild. It was a revolution in something, because we came to the District National Committee and said: ‘Guys, you quit, and if not, there will be a strike. We'll have Mr. Kolbaba here to show everyone where the toilet is and how he acts. '

  • Full recordings
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    Praha, 22.08.2016

    duration: 02:14:37
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha, 15.02.2017

    duration: 01:40:07
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 3

    Praha, 16.02.2017

    duration: 02:04:25
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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I advocate a thick line. I consider forgiveness to be a fundamental Christian idea and the most important message of Christ. The way of reconciliation is more rational than the way of revenge.

Demonstration in Litomerice, The Velvet revolution
Demonstration in Litomerice, The Velvet revolution

Zdeněk Bárta was born on 22 March 1949 in Prague’s Smichov. In his childhood, he was influenced by his grandfather - a patriot, a Protestant and a Masaryk-like Democrat. In the church of St. Martin in the Wall he met Svatopluk Karásek, who later inspired him to study at Comenius Evangelical Theological Faculty. He began as a pastor in 1974 in Chotineves in the Czech Central Mountains, where his parishioners were mainly Vollynian Czechs, resettled here after the war from Boratin in Ukraine. Barta organized seminars where he invited important figures of the dissent. Worship and meetings were also attended by people from the underground community in nearby Řepčice. After signing Charter 77 in 1979, he lost state approval to pursue spiritual activities. He stayed in Chotineves and devoted himself to religious life. At the same time, he worked for eight years as a meter reader before his consent was returned. In November 1989, he founded the Civic Forum in Litoměřice, worked in the Czech National Council for two years and in 2004 - 2010 he was a senator for KDU-ČSL. In 2014 he became a member of the Council of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. He co-founded the Diakonie branch in Litoměřice, where he is now Deputy Director. He is a priest in Litoměřice. He is married and has four children.