Professor MUDr., DrSc. Vladimír Beneš

* 1921  †︎ 2021

  • “Once they brought into hospital fifteen or twenty injured persons. They were all grey. I had some experience already so I came to the conclusion that they all had suffered a post-traumatic shock accompanied by a pressure decrease. The consultant was of the same opinion but then we came closer and realised that they were just covered in ashes and plaster from the explosion of a bomb that had fallen into the cellar.”

  • “I entered the Party out of sheer idealism. We were a very poor family, I had a very strong social feeling and was convinced that the poor must get what they deserve. I was also strongly influenced by people returning from the concentration camps and the conviction that it was the Russians who won the war. I am still of that opinion. But soon after entering the Party I started to have problems. I found out that in reality the Party was a bunch of cheats.”

  • “Zdeněk Kunc kept just the smallest part of the surgery department and turned it into an independent neurosurgery department. I was the only one to go with him, so we had to borrow colleagues from the surgery department. They were not happy as they hated neurosurgery but they were decent guys and helped us nevertheless. Gradually we took on more colleagues and in 1956, thanks to the efforts of Mr Králíček, it became a neurosurgery clinic of the general hospital. It was the only institution of its kind and Kunc was its first consultant, which made him the founder of neurosurgery in Prague.”

  • “Of course, we did have illegal Sokol groups in Pilsen, but we haven’t done anything at all during the entire war. We have not done anything, we did not meet, and when the uprising finally broke out, our leaders were somewhere in the countryside. All my brother and I could do was therefore to go to the city centre, which was in the town hall at that time. Pilsen actually liberated itself on May 6th without a single shot fired, and there were no fatalities at all. We thus gathered in the town hall, there was total chaos – and suddenly there was a phone call and the commander, colonel Krejčík, picked up the phone and he was informed that a convoy of tanks was approaching Pilsen from the direction of Cheb. How could they know at that time that they were indeed Americans? Perhaps they thought that they were Germans, I don’t know. To put it simply: brothers, someone has to go there to meet them and then report to us who it is. My friend Pepouš Kunt, a well-known world champion in épée, and the best fencer in Pilsen, a fine guy, said: ‘I got a ČZ motorcycle hidden in a straw stack in Roudná.’ He went for the motorcycle, I sat behind him and I tied a white rag to a stick, and off we went. But we met the convoy with white stars already at the place where the exhibition grounds used to be, close to the road that leads to Kalikovský Mill. I stopped the convoy and some gentleman got out, I don’t know who he was, and I introduced myself in the military style and I announced to him that Pilsen was free and that the city had liberated itself and that the commander of Pilsen invited him to come to the town hall. I thus led the convoy there but he said that he did not want to go to the town hall, but that at first he wanted to see the army command. That was on Klatovská Street over Prace at that time, where the station is now. I led this officer there, I didn’t know his name, and he was accompanied by two black men with ribbons, and he went to the army command and all the doors were open and there was nobody there. They have all run away. Then I led them to the town hall and I introduced them there, and then I served as their interpreter for the following two days.”

  • “Only then I led them to the town hall and I introduced them there, and then I served as their interpreter for the following two days. Well, it served for nothing. And when Zdena and I were leaving the town hall, suddenly somebody opened fire. The crazy German fanatics started shooting at people from the church. You can imagine that there were many people at the town square and they started shooting at them from up there from the church. People ran away, they all began running, and Zdena and I ran away, too, up the Klatovská Avenue, and when we came to the synagogue, they began shooting at us. Germans were up there in the synagogue and they were shooting at us. I don’t know what they wanted to accomplish by that… Well, Zdena and I lay down, there were large trees and we were lying there in fear, but the shooting did not last long. Americans suddenly arrived, two Negroes were riding in a jeep with submachine guns, and they lazily raised them and fired at the windows and they left. They did not care at all, and there was not a single shot fired anymore. We walked all the way up there and there was shooting from the redemptorist church on Chodské Square as well. So they were shooting from several churches in Pilsen, including the one on Mikuláš Square.”

  • “I had to be there with those people during the war. The air raids. When I worked in the surgery ward I remember that one day they brought a great number of wounded people from ‘Kontík’ (hotel Continental). People were hiding in the basement of the Kontík building and a bomb fell through. Of course, there were many dead, and they brought the wounded to us. All the people were kind of greyish. Naturally we thought that it was because they were in shock, and we presumed the paleness was due to the loss of blood, and we were rushing around them until we realized that it was plastering from the walls. When we washed them, they regained their regular skin colour.”

  • “I was in the labour office and my task was sending people to some labour camps. I didn’t have a clue about it. Since I was a hospital orderly, they told me to work with a doctor, an army doctor, whose education absolutely did not even match my medical education as an orderly. I invented some methods thanks to which I managed to save tens of people. But the Czech deputy of the director then suddenly ordered me to quit. He did not tell me anything, and only later I understood that he was actually trying to save me. It was because he saw that there was trouble, and so he sent me away from that department. But it was even worse. I was erasing and rewriting the records, I even cut out some pages with a razor, and it simply got even worse.”

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    Praha Střešovice; byt pamětníka, 05.03.2015

    duration: 02:33:58
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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I think that I don’t have to be ashamed that I have lived a wonderful life in the crazy 20th century

dobové foto.JPG (historic)
Professor MUDr., DrSc. Vladimír Beneš
photo: Magdaléna Sadravetzová

Vladimír Beneš was born January 27, 1921 in Pilsen; his brother Zbyslav was born a year later. They lived with his parents in the Pilsen neighbourhood Lobzy-Letná, and in 1926 they moved to Vrútky in Slovakia for two years. Vladimír attended the elementary school in Lobzy and in 1932-1940 he studied at Masaryk’s Czechoslovak State Grammar School in Klatovská Avenue in Pilsen. When the Sokol sports organization became disbanded, he and his brother joined the sports club VPK Radbuza where Vladimír played the first volleyball league. During the war at first he worked for two years as an assistant editor in the largest Pilsen daily Nová Doba (‘New Era’), and then for two years as an orderly in the hospital in Pilsen, where he gradually went through all departments and where he often treated people who were wounded in air raids. During the liberation of Pilsen he and his friend Josef Kunt went to welcome the American convoy and Vladimír brought them to the town hall and he served as their interpreter for two days. In 1945-1949 he studied medicine, at first in Prague and then in Pilsen. On September 1, 1949 he started working in the Central Military Hospital in Prague-Střešovice, and he remained working there until 1978. In 1969 he left the Communist Party, and he thus became barred from career and academic advancement as a result. In 1971 he organized the European Congress of Neurosurgery in Prague, during which the European Association of Neurological Sciences (EANS) was established. In 1978-1992 he worked as a head physician in the hospital in Prague-Motol, where he established the paediatric neurosurgery ward. In 1992 he organised a worldwide congress of children’s neurosurgery in Prague, and this event became the pinnacle of his career. With his wife Zdeňka, whom he married in 1948, they have son Vladimír (*1953), who is likewise a brain surgeon respected all over the world.