Ivan Binar

* 1942  

  • “It was an interesting story but as it was on the list of required reading, we were making ourselves laugh about it. So when the boys started to write that musical based on the novel “Son of The Regiment” in spring 1968, it was a bit of a joke. At the same time, Peťka Podhrázký somehow got the chance to go to Mongolia for a summer job. He left for Mongolia in the early summer and experienced Mongolia’s occupation by foreign troops. He completed the musical based on his experiences with the occupation. It was composed of four acts and the last two acts were written in Mongolian. When he brought it back it was clear that it was directed against the occupation. So we adopted it with great pleasure. Petr Ullmann became the playwright and directed the play, which premiered on 1 April 1949 in the Theatre of Music in Ostrava. It was a major success which, of course, was because of its theme and mostly because of the time. But also important was that the play was funny.”

  • “We did a play by Adolf Hoffmeister, it was called “The Bride”. We also performed a little play by Luděk Nekuda. We played these two pieces in Liege, Belgium at a theater festival and then in Nancy, France. It was in 1967 and it was a complete failure. The biggest success story was the Leningrad ensemble that was kicking capitalism’s butt there. It was almost on the turn to 1968 but that period was completely different in France then in Czechoslovakia. The sentiment in France at that time was very much leftist and we were too far on the right for them. The Hofmeister piece we played there was an avant-garde play from the First Czechoslovak Republic and it was completely out of place in the context of that festival. Nevertheless that didn’t matter at all to me because the important thing was that we had gotten out of Czechoslovakia. It was the first time I got to the West. It was a great cultural shock for me and I never really recovered from it. It was amazing to see that there is something as the western style of living with all that goes with it. It was simply beautiful. Then we returned home into our Bolshevik misery.”

  • “There was a moment at the secret state police station when they interrogated me and told me that they had collected enough material on me to lock me up for ages. They were so persuasive that I came to believe them and I imagined how by the time I’d get out of jail my kids would be grown-ups. At that grave moment, God stood by me. I told them: ‘In that case I’d like to make a phone call to my wife and tell her that I’m not coming home tonight, so that she won’t end up running around town and looking for me like last time when you arrested me and nobody told her about my whereabouts’. After this they just told me to go home. They had been bluffing! But at that dreadful moment, God really stood by me because I could have easily given in and told them: ‘Ok, I’ll be good and cooperate with you’. Therefore I’m not judging those people who cooperated in a certain situation so strictly. It was hard to resist in certain situations, I mean when they were threatening you with long sentences and jail. They had a lot of information about most everyone and they were very good at perfidiously exploiting that information to their advantage.”

  • “I learned about the text of the “Charta” from Radio Free Europe. This was in a way funny because at that time, I worked at a power plant. I was a worker at the water treatment station and together with the other workers we bought a tiny radio to listen to Radio Free Europe broadcasts during our night shifts. In one of those broadcasts they presented the text of the Charta 77 and I remember that I was angry that I hadn’t learned about the Charta before. Although I was visiting Prague every now and then no one told me about it and it was only in January that I learned about it from the radio. I then got the document… no, actually I signed it blank, I signed that I agree with the text of the Charta. I think that Ludvík Kavín or someone went to Prague and took it then with him. He then gave it to somebody here. So I was only in the second row of those who signed the Charta.”

  • “We mostly played original pieces. Usually, the author was Pavel Veselý and Luďek Nekuda, and Pavel or Edvard Schiffauer did the music. He then chose it as his profession for life – he studied songwriting and became a professional music composer. He’s still teaching composition at the Music Academy in Ostrava. So it was a beautiful, inspiring and creative time for us. We were all more or less into fine arts and there was not much else left to do as the official artistic life and magazines were controlled by an older generation of Communist artists. They wouldn’t let us in and neither did we want to go this way. We were happy with our theater – it was our life and a great satisfaction. I’m sometimes really wondering how we managed to finish our studies.”

  • Full recordings
  • 9

    Praha, 24.05.2016

    (audio)
    duration: 01:31:22
  • 10

    Praha, 12.03.2018

    (audio)
    duration: 59:55
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
  • 11

    Praha, 19.05.2016

    (audio)
    duration: 01:58:51
  • 12

    Praha, 19.01.2010

    (audio)
    duration: 02:00:42
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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Ivan Binar_05.JPG (historic)
Ivan Binar
photo: archiv pamětníka

Ivan Binar was born on 25 June, 1942, in Boskovice. After the war, his family moved to Hradec near Opava where his father worked as a lawyer in the Branecké metal works. Ivan’s father was fired from the works after February 1948 as he was proclaimed a “bourgeois element”. The family then moved to Opava where Ivan continued his secondary studies until his graduation. In 1963 Ivan graduated from the Pedagogical Institute in Ostrava, having studied Czech linguistics, history and art. During his university studies, Ivan enjoyed stage acting in the theater “Pod okapem”. He’d known some of the members of the ensemble since his youth. After he completed his compulsory military service he worked as a teacher in the years 1963-1965. He also worked in the regional youth center in Ostrava. In 1968 he became the editor of the magazine “Tramp”. Together with his friends from the dissolved ensemble of the “Pod okapem” theater, they founded the theater “Waterloo”. It was here that they performed the play “Son of The Regiment” based on a novel by Valentin Katajev. Mr Binar was then arrested in 1971 and taken into custody. He was released in the same year but was shortly afterwards found guilty of agitation and sentenced to 12 months in jail. From August 1972 to February 1973, he was incarcerated in the Bory prison in Pilsen. After his release from prison he had to work in manual professions. He was also meeting friends from prison, writing and publishing. In January 1977, he signed the “Charta 77” whereupon he was given two options: cooperation with the secret state police or emigration. He chose the latter and emigrated with his wife and children to Austria in May 1977. He settled in Vienna where he first worked as a china restorer. He then started his collaboration with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Vienna. In the years 1980 - 1983 he also worked as an interpreter in the refugee camp Traiskirchen. Since August 1983 he worked for RFE/RL in Munich where he was responsible for press monitoring. He later became the editor of the program “Voices and Receptions”. After the Velvet revolution, he moved to Prague in 1994 to work for the Czech edition of RFE/RL until it was shut down in 2002. In November 2002, he became the president of the Writers’ community. He didn’t run for the post for a second time. He lives with his wife in Prague and writes books.