Colonel (ret.) Václav Bednář

* 1938

  • „I guess that I can brag a bit. I was the first officer in the Martin unit who was kicked out of the army. It was pretty ridiculous because I was studying at the Faculty of Social Sciences. I had already finished my fourth year and I need to add, I had very good grades, and on the !st of September of 1969, I was to start the fifth year. And on the same day, they kicked me out of the army and instead of the last year of the school, I started working in the East Slovak Iron Works.”

  • „Once, we were washing our hands and he looked out of the window and saw the Martinské hole mountains and something was glistening there. So he told me: ‚Vašek, what‘s blinking out there?’ Obviously, I can’t repeat it word for word because it happened fifty yearsa go. I said: ‘Comrade President, I reallyhave no idea, it’s some sort of mystery.’ Back, then, in June and July of 1968, there was large Warsav Pact armies exercise going on. I said: ‘That’s a local mystery. The Šumava exercise has officially left but there’s a group of Soviet soldiers which stayed behind, they have a tent and a TZK telescope.’ That was a telescope used to observe airplanes, I have ussed it myself. ‘And day and night, they’re observing what’s going on and I have no idea why.’ Now I added something like: ‘Andthe neighbours keep asking me what they’re dong here because the Western radio is speculating that the armies did not leave for their garrisons but that they are stationed by our borders in the GDR, Poland, Ukraine and Hungary. And he got mad at me. Until then, we had a sort of halfway friendly relationship, he had been very friendly to me. I don’t know how to relay it exactly but the content was along these lines: ‘And that’s where we’ve got so far. An officer of the Czechoslovak People’s Army believes the Western propaganda.’ When the Russians stormed in here two weeks later, I wondered, what if I could talk to him again… Did he not know about it? I can’t explain it even today. Did he not know about the upcoming occupation or did he not believe that it may happen?”

  • „As the students of the army school, we stood in the first rows. So we saw him closely. The other thing was the way he spoke. It went like this, first, Khrushchev was welcomed by some district Party officials from the district Party office here in Olomouc. Then, a Soviet ambassador had a talk and they wanted to go away. And Khrushchev stood there and smiled because he had no speech arranged. When they were about to finish, the crow started to chant: ’Let Khrushchev talk, let Khrushchev talk!’ And it was quite something because he had not prepared that speech. At first, he just blabbered something but then he got the gist of it and it was like flood. I won’t forget how he threatened the enemies of imperialism [sic], that they [the Soviets] will never give up.”

  • „The girls stayed on a bus and the chief of the Soviet expedition and I went to visit an officer of the Soviet consulate in Bratislava, and he told me not to bother, that those are friendly armies, so we can continue traveling across Slovakia. I said something wrong, he threw me out and kept him inside. I have to say also how we went from Trenčín to Bratislava, we had a transistor radio still on, those days the Prague radio was broadcasting the new on event, and most girls were sitting close to me and I was translating for them. Then their boss came and told me to shut it immediately as it was apparently a counterrevolutionary radio. I told the chauffeur: ‚Stop!‘ He stopped the engine and I opened the doors and said: ‚You get off! You can walk the rest on foot. I am here on the Czechoslovak territory and you give me no orders! You can go to Bratislava on foot...‘ so I risked it then, because had he done that, I´d likely have problems. But in all that anger! It ended up so that the excursion was divided into two groups, the orthodox ones sat with him and the smaller part and most girls with me.“

  • „Zátopek came there... as was the habit those days, we were fifty percent polite, as I called him comrade lieutenant and he called me by my first name, Vašek. He came there and needed a large pot for his wife... I got it for him and we went to pick it up... and there was a kind of regulation in the army those days regarding what you can carry as a soldier, and the pot was not on the list... even that big... Zátopek took it in both his hands... I took the other handle. So we went out with the pot and Zátopek said we would not go that slow, so let´s run a bit... so we ran all through Martin and the comedy eclipsed near the barracks... he saw the soldiers lined up and said: ‚Let´s show them how Zátopek can sprint...‘ So in front of all lined up lieutenants he began sprinting... of course I had to run along with him... for the first time in my life I was famous – no one else before me had ever sprinted with a pot and a quadruple Olympic winner.“

  • „My friend was then a member of the communist party so when the communists learnt about the Chruščov´s report in 1956, when he marked Stalin and named him a personality cult, so I was the first one he told about it. I was very much touched then, because at that time Stalin was a kind of God substitute for me and mummy gave me a catholic education and daddy was the opposite way, so for me he was a kind of a mythical personality. He let me read some of the materials just around holidays. So when I came back home for holidays, instantly I tuned to the Free Europe. We lived in Znojmo and there was a relatively good audibility, as the jammers didn’t function very well yet...“

  • „The circumstances at the army collage were shocking... when we came there, we were not allowed to let our parents know, where we were, they just didn’t know, where we were going. We set off on a train from Brno, where there was a kind of a yard, we said goodbye to our parents and they were promised to get informed on our whereabouts. Then we were not allowed to inform them, which is unthinkable from today’s perspective, we had no free time for half a year, we were just locked inside the barracks and all info we were sending to our parents had to be handed over to the commander in an open envelope. So actually until the first holidays in December 1953 my parents didn’t know, where we were so that they would not visit us. The overall circumstances were terrible from today´s perspective.“

  • „In 1968 Izvestije and Ogoňk were writing very differently than us. For a short time I was a member of the communist party, I joined in 1962 or 1963, and really, today it seems like an excuse, truly I believed even before 1968, when I read the Plamen or Literary papers, there were completely new opinions. I took it a part of an improvement of socialism. Then the reviews came and everything counted against me. A letter reported about me, that apparently I wanted to take the Soviet students´ excursion to Austria on 22 August, 1968, amongst other things I was very active in all meetings that took place then and when the time came to sign I agree with the entrance of the Soviet army I replied I cannot do that, otherwise I´d feel like a fool. Because the whole time I was explaining it to my students, of course I didn’t tell them about occupation and I took it a tragedy they came here because the socialism will be harmed.“

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Hranice na Moravě, 16.07.2015

    duration: 03:51:55
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Olomouc, 17.09.2018

    duration: 02:30:30
    media recorded in project Stories of the region - Central Moravia
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Accept everything with humility and joy

Contemporary photo
Contemporary photo
photo: witness archive

Václav Bednář was born in a working class family in 1938 in Třebíč. His dad, Josef Bednář, belonged to the founding members of the social democratic party in Třebíč. The whole family was left-wing oriented; two brothers were members of the communist party already before the war. After 1945 the father was a functionary of the local national committee and a party organisation in Nesachleby. In 1953 Václav Bednář started in the School of Lieutenant Youth in Olomouc and a year later he came to Kremnice. After graduation in 1956 he was accepted to the Colleges Air Defense in Kosice. Since 1959 he worked as a lieutenant at the anti-aircraft units in Mladá. In 1962 he joined the communist party and since 1966 he studied the social science at the Military Academy. In August 1968 he took care of a group of Soviet students, but his reckless commentaries of contemporary events changed his life completely. He got expelled from the communist party, from the high school as well as the army and until 1990 he had to work in the East Slovakian Steelworks in Kosice. Following his rehabilitation he returned to the army as a lieutenant colonel and in 2000 he was promoted to colonel. In 1995 - 2005 he worked at the company Pozemní stavby and at the company Skanska. During the last fifteen years he devoted himself to amateur history and wrote a number of publications in the field. He lives in Hranice na Moravě.