Tomáš Bísek

* 1939

  • “One time, the men were coming back from the meadow, we happened upon each other. There was a bit of a hill up above Telecí. And they said: Parson, they’re sitting on the ridge over there, watching you through binoculars.’ Some people had the courage to talk to me, others avoided. They got used to it to some extent, but in part they had difficulties. One time, we had a visit from the GDR, and immediately the only asphalt road leading through the village was closed off. They checked everyone. I reckoned that the boys in the tractors would be in trouble. They weren’t too happy about it.”

  • “Then November came, that’s when the big trial was. Petr Uhl, Václav Havel, Václav Malý, Otka Bednářová. That was the biggest trial with the Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Persecuted. On Friday the cops paid me a visit: ‘Mr Bísek, if you set out toward Prague on Monday, you’ll find yourself in our station, just so you know.’ So we knew that something was going to happen. By Monday we’d found out that the trial had begun, probably via the BBC. On Sunday, after the services, I dragged myself into the living room, we sat there with my wife. I looked up at the ceiling, which was poorly whitewashed, and this one kind of grain caught my eye. Incredible, right. I took a stepladder, plucked the grain off, and this metallic ring peeped out, the size of a fingernail. It immediately occurred to me that it was a bugging device, so I measured the distance from the wall. I went upstairs, into the loft, I pulled up the planks there and the hards board, and I felt inside the space with my hand and my elbow knocked into a box that buzzed. So I took it out. It had wires on it, and it was followed by a second box with a microphone on it. The box buzzed. I estimated a power input of two hundred and twenty, I rip the wires out, and it fell silent. I went downstairs and told my wife: We’re at war. We expected them to come rushing in at any moment. But nothing happened.”

  • “Well, getting to that document from a village was only possible through friends, that was pretty much the only way. We found out about it indirectly, that was no use. But then we went for a visit to Horní Dubénky, that’s an Evangelical parish, and the Kašpars had the document laid out on the table from some Brno friends of theirs. It included a list of the first set of signees. That document, it was unambiguous. We reckoned: This is our document as well. We’re not saying it belongs to us, but we belong to those who want to support it. We looked at the names: Rejchrt, Šimsa, Trojan, Kocáb, and others, Patočka, Hájek. We reckoned: Yes, well, they’ll send them to firing squad for that. That’s not much, but if it multiplies fast enough, they won’t be able to destroy everyone at once. So my colleague Pavel Hlaváč and I set off together. My wife charged me with signing it for her as well. We came to Prague, and because we didn’t know where to go next, we went to visit Ladislav Hejdánek, whom we knew through the church. When we came there, we saw a police car parked by the curb in front of his house. We didn’t know what to do, we turned the car, drove round the block a few times, and wondered where to go. But then we saw the cops leave. Pavel was driving. I said: ‘Look, we can park there now, they’ve gone, so they might not be back straight away. So we ran up and said we wanted to sign. We talked a bit and then drove back home. I know that as we were leaving Prague, I thought to myself: Right, and now we’ll be chased by tanks. We really were scared. Pavel had five children, I had four. I couldn’t sign for my wife. I came home, I told her all about it, that I hadn’t signed for her, and she was awfully angry.”

  • “At this time in the summer, I remember that I once went to the post office where the postmaster, Mr. Polívka – a party member – asked me about my subscriptions. I said: ‘I have no subscriptions’. He said: ‘Then I’ll write Literature review (Literární noviny)’. I said: ‘No, nothing’. That made him very unhappy because he wanted to have something written there. I came to him in the summer. He didn’t give me my mail package, leaned out and said: ‘They're after you’! I was terribly upset, so I bowed down to him and said: ‘Did you say something’? He said: ‘No, I didn’t’. ‘We were staring at each other, so I told him ‘Well, go ahead’. He told me: Mr. Reverend, do you know, that there is one cottage with a new telephone line and that some people go there, and we feel that it is linked to the rhythm of your life’? He also told me which building it was. When he finished, I told him: ‘Thank you for not telling me anything’. He said that I was welcome and passed me my mail package through the slot. So this was my experience with a man whom I took for somebody not to be counted with. He was from the neighboring village. He did this once and I've never had anything more to do with him. But it was remarkable.”

  • “After the signing of the Charter, we once met Mr. and Mrs. Uhl in Prague and we invited them to come to our place. They began to visit us regularly. The result was that we began inviting more and more people to our place. We had become a sort of a hotel. That’s what it was called. And I remember that one of the oldest police agents, who had apparently already served in the fifties, told me: ‘Mr. Reverend, you think that you’re building on the activities of Reverend Kadlec, who was the aiding the Council of the Three in Vysočina? Anti-German resistance. He worked at the parish and then he ran away ... you think that you’re following up on his activity. But then you’re terribly wrong. Now you’re opposing the working class and the party line. We have a new society today. I remember when we investigated one farmer, who then stood there with his wife and children and he paid a high price. So you better be careful. You might end up like that as well’.”

  • In the autumn – I don’t recall the exact date now – the largest trial began: Václav Havel, Petr Uhl, Václav Malý, Otka Bednářová and others. On Friday, the secret police came to the parish and told me: ‘You, Mr. Reverend, if you go to Prague on Monday, you will be arrested’. We knew that it was because of the trial. Well, after the church service on Sunday, we were sitting in the living room with Daniela. We were looking at the ceiling, it was sort of rough plastering, and there was something strange about the ceiling. So I brought a ladder, scratched a bit of the plaster off and there was a small metallic ring, about half a centimeter in diameter. So I immediately measured the distance, climbed to the attic, grabbed into that hole and I found a box in it. I pulled it out. There were wires hanging from it and it was making strange noises. So I unplugged it and it went dead. Then I ran downstairs and told Daniela that we were at war, and that maybe they would be here any minute.”

  • “Once I was sick and couldn’t go to work. I stayed at home and they came to the parish. Daniela told them that I was at work and they left. Now Telecí is one continuous road, straight and clear. I had to go to the rectory through the valley to the top, which meant that I would have been visible for at least ten minutes. And I couldn’t run. I was wearing orange. And they could have come back any time. I knew where the forester’s house was. You had to go to Rybný and back again. So before they would get there and ask the gamekeeper where I was, and before making it back again, it would hopefully take more than ten minutes I guessed. But I didn’t know that for sure. So I had to cross the street and if they had seen me, I would have probably lost my job immediately. I had a moment there when I realized that this was perhaps the time one can speak as a priest – even to the media – that this was a massive presence of God who was with me. I prayed to God: ‘Lord, perhaps you’ll be able to make them stay there for a while. Hold them there for a while, perhaps, make the wood ranger go to the toilet, and before they’ll speak to him, I’ll be able we make it. Well, then I set out of the parish, of course that I was going pretty fast, I crossed the road and went up the road to a place from where you get a great view. If they had afterwards asked someone about my whereabouts, they would have found out. But they only looked for me at the workplace and I was already there. As soon as I arrived to the parish, I thought it had been tremendously funny. I sat down in a hole in the woods and I was waiting there. And when I heard them pass, I took an ax and I started to hack some wood. They heard the sounds, turned around and came back. They said: ‘what are you doing’? I told them: ‘what am I doing? Don’t you see’? And if they had claimed that they didn’t hear me a while before, I’d simply say that I just had a snack’. ‘I’m not hacking all the time’. ‘So take your axe’.”

  • “As I told you, that interest was explained to me by Petr Uhl. I told him: ‘Please tell me, how come’? So he said ‘Well, think about it. They are simply in Hradec (Králové) ... in the region, there exists this sort of a cultural or religious section of the secret police. They need some action to keep themselves busy, and you've just returned from America. So, to me, it’s clear that it’s him’! I was him. I was just convenient for them. I was the object. So they just paid proper attention to ‘the object’. That was his explanation. You can add our activities to it, which were getting more and more frequent. Then, we Chartists, knew that we were getting into direct confrontation. It became clear.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha - Horní Počernice, 18.02.2011

    duration: 04:06:06
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha, 10.12.2015

    duration: 02:06:42
  • 3

    Praha, 18.12.2015

    duration: 01:33:48
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We’ll do you in with kid gloves, priest

Bisek Tomas_02.jpg (historic)
Tomáš Bísek
photo: Dobová fotografie z archívu pamětníka, součaná natáčení Eye Direct

Tomáš Bísek was born on November 30, 1939, in Prague. He comes from a traditional Protestant family. He graduated from the Technical University in Prague and was admitted to the Kovosvit factory in Holoubkov. After working there for about a year he enrolled into the army. At that point in time he decided to initiate extramural studies of theology and, in 1963 he was admitted to intramural studies. Although he could have lived with his parents, he chose to move to the dormitories in Jircháře. During his studies, he was elected for one year as the prefect, i.e. a student leader. He met his future wife, Daniela, and for some time they lived together in the dorms in Jircháře. After graduation, they went for one year to the United States of America, where Mr. Bísek did his post-graduate studies.  After his return in 1970 he started working as a priest in the parish of ČCE in Vysočina. He worked there until 1982 when he lost the state’s approval for this occupation. Because of his connections abroad and contacts with friends from dissident circles he was under the surveillance of the secret police, who repeatedly interrogated him. The police kept a file on him code-named “Solitude” and he was investigated in connection with the cases “Ideodiversion”, “Agro” and “Pope”. In 1977, he and his wife signed Charter 77. In 1979, they found a bugging device in their home. After the loss of state approval he was not allowed to work as a priest; however, they could use the parish apartment in the vicarage in Telecí. He began to work as a lumberjack in a nearby sawmill. He had tried for several years to get a job in the Protestant church but, his efforts failed. Therefore he accepted the offer of employment in Scotland and in 1985, the family went to Great Britain. At first he was the assistant pastor at the church in Cumbernauld. Later he became a proper pastor of the Church of Scotland in Glasgow. During his stay in Britain he cooperated with the Czech section of the BBC. After 1989 he repeatedly visited Czechoslovakia, and he settled in the country permanently in 1996. In the years 1996-2007, he worked as a priest of the ČCE congregation in Prague Spořilov. During his service in Spořilov he initiated the construction of a new church in Prague 4, which subsequently became the new hub of the congregation. Currently he’s retired and lives with his wife in Prague. Their four children live with their families in Scotland.