Vratislav Brabenec

* 1943

  • “Jirous can claim this for himself, that’s all right, too. But I have always thought about it in a way that we were doing our own stuff, the stuff that we enjoyed, the stuff that made us happy and that was entertaining to us, and so on... Including our as if cynical and detached way of understanding the society. But we did not deal with the communists in any way, no, we didn’t. In other words, if the communists had not taken interest in us… They could have organized their own meetings, and we were having our own meetings. We didn’t care about their meetings and regulations. We knew that it was stupid, too, that it was a nonsense. Actually, in a way, we were taking a little revenge on them… well, revenge is too strong a word. We didn’t care about them. I say that the greatest insult you can cause to somebody – doesn’t matter if it is to your boss or to a woman – is to show indifference. I don’t care about you. You can yell at me, if you wish, but you are nobody to me. Yeah. And of course, the StB officers loved it if somebody got engaged a dialogue with them. They liked it. Obviously, they abused the discussion for their own benefit. But what they didn’t like – and it was the hardest thing to endure – was if you did not answer them at all. If you put on the face like I don’t care, I don’t care at all. Do you want some water? No. Do you want coffee? No. Do you smoke? Yes. Do you want a cigarette? No. I practised it for some time and naturally, I got a thrashing for that, too. That’s true as well.”

  • “…the turning point occurred after one such night visit by the StB, when the police told me in a matter-of-fact way that it would be better if I left the country and they asked me whether I would not like to go. My wife told me that she probably would. They said to us: you will either leave or we will imprison you. Since we had a little baby, my wife said that it would be probably better for us if we left. Well, Mr. Brabenec, imagine this: what if we came to you to do a house search and found a submachine gun right here in this closet, with your fingerprints and all, and submitted it to court, and you know what would happen then. I could imagine that quite easily. At that time, for me as a signatory of Charter 77 and a notorious trouble-maker from the underground movement, it would drag for a long time. It would be classified as an attempt at armed revolt, and I would be hanged for it. That was one of the jokes they played with me.”

  • “A little man with blonde hair showed up there on the following day and he said: ‘I learnt about it only when I got out from the prison.’ The blonde man had allegedly said to this StB officer: ‘I am the cousin of Jirous. I would like to go and have a look there.’ Do you know who he was? Havel. Jirous’ cousin. These idiots did not have Havel’s photo, and Havel thus spent about half a day there. Then he went to Malostranská in the evening and he wrote about what had happened, it was titled Proces (‘Trial’) or something like that and it was about the court trial with us. On the following day it was broadcasted on Radio Free Europe and on the Voice of America and it thus spread all over the world immediately, and since it was written by Havel it was credible and it was his eyewitness account of what he had seen there. The StB officers must have done it on purpose. Fuck it, in the dramatic times like this, at least they could have bothered to find out what Havel looked like.”

  • “There was one significant thing there, and I recognized it already back in 1978 – I remember that I talked about it with doctor Jiří Němec. I told him: ‘See, they got certain scripts, tailored to each one of us and they deal with us accordingly.’ And later, perhaps in the 1990s, it was somehow revealed afterwards that they really did employ psychologists and screenwriters who were observing you and then making ecommendations: ‘Look, his weak point is red wine, or women, or he gets disturbed if somebody steals a book from him.’ There were scripts, and I even got hold of mine in the 1990s, and that was interesting… Later I also saw a script which was created for Karol Sidon, and it was very expertly produced, and it included instructions how to deal with a specific person. Well, it was not… I was a witness against Obzina, the former minister of interior, and I showed them the script there. The script concluded with the sentence: attempt to make him move to another country.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 22.10.2015

    duration: 02:15:12
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

To have some joy in life

As a young man, photo taken by Ondřej Němec
As a young man, photo taken by Ondřej Němec
photo: Věnováno Ondřejem Němcem

Vratislav Brabenec is a well-known Czech musician, poet, and a representative of the underground movement. He was born in Prague on April 28, 1943 and he grew up in Horní Počernice. After completing the Secondary Technical School of Agriculture in Mělník, he studied theology at the Comenius Protestant Theological Faculty in Prague, but he did not complete his studies and he began earning his living as a garden designer instead. From 1972 he was a member of the music band The Plastic People of the Universe and he wrote many lyrics for them, e.g. the Passion Play. In 1976 he was sentenced in the trial against independent artists and culture activists to eight months of imprisonment. He served his sentence as part of his detention pending trial. Shortly after his release from prison he signed Charter 77 and since that time he was living constantly under the surveillance by the StB Security Police. In 1982 he was subjected to a number of interrogations which were accompanied by blackmailing and physical violence. Based on these incidents, he eventually decided to emigrate together with his wife Marie Benetková, with whom he was raising their daughter Nikola. He returned to his homeland only in 1997. He now lives in Prague and his activities include concert performances, poetry and other literary pursuits.