Ing. Jiří Berounský

* 1932

  • “Apparently, I don't know if the prosecutor or the judge understood that A: we were truly not related to the others, and then the comrades probably thought that apparently, we were still somehow usable for the regime because we were young boys. We were around eighteen. Whereas the others there were all adults, I don't know, in their forties, fifties. It was, I repeat it for the third time, it was astonishing. They talked about relations with generals and money and family matters. We were not– It didn't concern us at all.”

  • “However, that was very absurd because they used the bad cop and good cop method on me. When I got there, they were very formal. And, of course, I dodged all the personnel questionnaires. That I was sentenced to probation only and that I compensated for it, and so on. So it was kind of an interrogation about why didn't I say it all at once, and he was very much a proper setsec (State Security officer). ‘Sit down here, write us your true resume.’ So I wrote everything, and he threatened me. And that was the situation. When he threatened me, he started saying, ‘And do you know how you could make up for it, Mr Engineer?’ So, of course, it was clear to me how I could make up for it. How he meant it. And I acted stupid saying I didn’t know. So that's how we chatted the whole time. ‘And you really can't think of anything?’ - ‘Well, I can't think of anything. I should be rightfully punished. I didn't state everything, so punish me.’ - ‘But it's a pity for you, comrade engineer. How about you cooperate with us in some way?’ And it was clear to me that it is something I will not do. But I was very afraid because I was still just a little boy. The cops interrogated me again. I again– What was so psychological, I was behind a barred door again. Because the door through which you entered had bars on the other side, and after you entered it, the door closed. So again behind the barred door, which was terrible. So I said, ‘Well, that's a big decision. I could come to tell you tomorrow.’ Even though it was clear to me that there was no way I was going to do that. The next day I came–I consulted with my father before–and there was a nice policeman. When I told him no - ‘But, Mr Engineer, we know you have a good relationship with the socialist establishment, and we need people like you.’ So, in a way, it was harder for me because it was easy to tell the enemy straight away, but [it was harder to tell] the one who pretended to be my friend, so it was more difficult.”

  • “We stole the file of the SSM [it was the file of the ČSM, i.e. the Czechoslovak Youth Union], where they were, of course– Rita Budínová, later Havel's co-worker, who went through a very stormy development from a completely pro-regime communist to a democratic politician. So we wanted to– we stole the ČSM file because the records there were very unfavourable for individual students. Then, for Masaryk's hundredth anniversary, we made some flyers and put them in telephone booths.”

  • Full recordings
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    Praha, 13.06.2022

    duration: 01:43:19
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Praha, 18.07.2022

    duration: 01:05:24
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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It was natural to fight against the regime because it was violating freedom

Jiří Berounský in 2022
Jiří Berounský in 2022
photo: Post Bellum

Jiří Berounský was born on 20 May 1932 to Jiřina and Jaromír Berounský. His father was a member of the Czechoslovak Legion in Russia during World War I, as was his brother Josef, who also participated in the Second Czechoslovak Resistance and was an RAF pilot. In 1946 or 1947, Jiří Berounský entered the multi-year English grammar school in Prague. After February 1948, he joined an illegal anti-regime group, which included other students: Jiří Hovorka, Petr Lander, Miloš Kočík and Czech language professor Jaroslav Slavík. The group members stole the file of the local Czechoslovak Youth Union (ČSM), which contained unofficial reports of students. They also distributed anti-regime leaflets on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. For this act, Jiří Berounský, like other members of the group, was expelled from school and accused of high treason in 1950. A year later, he was sentenced to a suspended sentence for the crime of conspiracy against the state. In 1952, he successfully passed his matriculation examination thanks to an evening course for workers. He then entered the Faculty of Civil Engineering at CTU. After a year of study, he transferred to the second year of the University of Chemical Technology, which he completed in 1957. In 1958, he was offered cooperation with State Security, which he declined. In 1988, he participated in an anti-government demonstration in Žižkov. After the Velvet Revolution, in 1990, he was rehabilitated and retired four years later. At that time, he started writing comments for Radio Free Europe, and later, he contributed to Lidové noviny (People’s News, trans.) and Czech Radio.