Rudolf Bereza

* 1942  †︎ 2014

  • “´Word to the Citizens´ was issued on the tenth anniversary of Charter 77. It was a call from Havel and the other organizers, urging us to start some activity. We embraced the call and we wrote a letter to President Husák, titled ´A letter by five workers from Moravia, ´ in which we asked him to step down from the office, because he was responsible for the current situation in our country. That was one activity. Another thing we did was displaying that banner in Olomouc on May Day. It was our reaction to all this and we managed to keep the banner spread for some twenty-five or thirty minutes in front of the parade which was marching by. It was facing the tribune and it was obviously visible from there. Naturally, we ended up in prison immediately after. Before that, we, with Tomáš Hradilek, wrote a letter to Milouš Jakeš. We criticized him, and we wrote that we had protested, we were protesting and we would continue our protest against the regime. We included our return address in that letter. We were arrested and in the afternoon during the interrogation, we were also questioned regarding the banner. They ordered us: ´Take everything out of your pockets to make a list of your belongings for the prison.´ When we were arrested, I had managed to talk to Tomáš, and I had told him: ´Tomáš, I have that letter in my pocket here. What should I do? Should I destroy it?´ He said: ´Leave it. We’ll see what happens.´ And so I left it there. I had it in my pocket and now I pulled it out. The StB policemen looked at it and chaos started. They sprang into action. They didn’t know what to do first. The interrogation was prolonged and we eventually arrived to the prison late in the evening.”

  • “I arrived to the airport in Olomouc, and I was probably lucky that our soldiers stopped me and warned me: ´Don’t go there, please.´ The reason was that there were Russians on the road leading to the airport and they were stopping cars and stealing petrol, photo cameras, sweaters and food from the people. They took everything from the cars. As I stood there for a while I saw some drivers coming back, families returning from there in their cars. The women were crying, because everything was stolen from them. The Russians left a bit of petrol in the cars, but they took everything else. They stole things. Such was the situation two or three days after the occupation. I saw this in Opava, in Olomouc, in Šumperk and in Brno. I saw the genuine reactions of the public. Whenever bad times come, the nation unites and resists.”

  • “When Pavel Wonka died, I wrote this letter to Gustáv Husák. After Wonka’s death Husák awarded the Order of Labor by the Minister of Justice Kašpar. When Šavrda, for instance, was in prison, and the prison doctor confirmed that he was suffering from six diseases which threatened his life, he was still made to serve his sentence to the end. In the letter I reminded Husák that when he had been in prison, he had written about how he saw the design on the carpet moving through blood, which means that he was tortured and everything in front of his eyes was blurred. I wrote to him: ´You were not tortured by the Nazis, but by the Communists.´ That’s what I wrote in the final part of my letter. I sent this letter to him. Naturally, its content was broadcast on Radio Free Europe and Voice of America the day after. All of it, including my address. And so the next morning when I came to work, my colleagues greeted me: ´We’ve already heard it.´ Those were the activities which we did.”

  • “We hadn't known that the Poles had it organized so well, ensuring that nobody would be watching the area. I went there by car with Tomáš Hradilek. With difficulties I drove from Lipník to Samotišky under Svatý Kopeček. I picked Hradilek up there, and we rode together. We arrived at the railway station in Javorník, which was the meeting point for all. Havel arrived there, then Dienstbier, Vohryzek, who was the Charter’s spokesman at the time, and others: Battěk, Petr Uhl. We drove to the mountain and from there we walked uphill. I had a beautiful colorful jacket, but I decided not to wear it that day. Also, I didn't take anything to drink with me, because I was afraid the bottles would be rattling as I walked. I thought that we would have to crawl somewhere between the boundary stones, and I had the idea that I needed to be as inconspicuous as possible. Therefore I wore a green jacket. We climbed up to the top, and there was Anna Šabatová with Jacek Kuroň, and she announced: ´Rudolf Bereza is coming.´ Jacek Kuroň, a bottle in his hand, began shouting: ´Heeeey, Rudolf, helloooo there!´ I said: ´You’re all shouting here as if you were in a football stadium.´ He told me: ´There are no cops within a hundred kilometers from here.´ He offered me a drink. I said: ´I can't drink, I’m driving.´ He seemed surprised: ´What? We were driven here.´ They had it really organized so well. That was our meeting at the Borůvková hora (Blueberry Mountain).”

  • “After the arrival of the Soviet army I began to be involved very actively. I wrote protest signs on fences, roads, everywhere. We pulled pranks like releasing water from their water storage tanks and such. In November, when they celebrated the October revolution in Jeseník, and they walked downhill to the market square – there were back alleys there, and we – I don’t want to boast about it, because it was rather nasty – we had persuaded one guy, who was willing to remove the chain from his bike and ride downhill at full speed into that bunch of Russians. He knocked down several of them. He was speeding from the hill and shouting: ´Watch out! Watch out!´ They had no clue what was going on. Nobody stepped aside. He simply ran into them on his bike. We had promised him something in return if he really did it. That was one of the things we organized.”

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    Hlubočky-Mariánské Údolí a Olomouc, 27.09.2011

    duration: 04:07:50
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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What we were preparing was a little snowball, which then starts rolling down from the hill and gathers more and more snow, and eventually crushes the regime

Rudolf Bereza speaking at a demonstration of HSD-SMS for the renewal of Moravian administration in 1991 in Olomouc
Rudolf Bereza speaking at a demonstration of HSD-SMS for the renewal of Moravian administration in 1991 in Olomouc
photo: archiv pamětníka

Rudolf Bereza, former dissident and signatory of Charter 77, was born in 1942 in Tovačov. His mother Evženie Popovičová came from the town of Poltava in Ukraine, his father Rudolf Bereza Sr. came from Moravia. Rudolf Jr. didn’t actively oppose the communist regime until 1968. After the invasion of the Warsaw Pact armies he was travelling to Moravian towns and actively participating in demonstrations. After he had signed Charter 77 he became fully committed to the resistance against the situation in the country. At first he served as a messenger for sending information and samizdat documents. Later, together with Tomáš Hradilek they carried out several bold actions against the political regime in power. They wrote an open letter to President Gustáv Husák, titled “A letter by five workers,” in which they requested his abdication. On May 1, 1987, they displayed a banner in Olomouc in front of the tribunes, reading “Charter 77 calls for civic courage”. Both also filed a complaint against Vasil Biľak, one of the leaders of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia. Rudolf Bereza wrote another open letter to Gustáv Husák, urging him to release political prisoners. Its text was broadcast by Radio Free Europe. For these activities, he was arrested several times and detained for 48 hours, and his house was monitored by the Secret Police. After the student demonstration on November 17, 1989 on the Národní Street in Prague he became involved in the transition from communism to democracy. In 1990 he became a deputy in the Czech National Council for the Civic Forum. After this he worked as a municipal police chief for a short time, and later as a bus driver.