Petr Brandeiský

* 1930  †︎ 2022

  • “It was quite the experience, as everything changed within ours. A completely different situation. Of course, the memories of 8 and 9 May are extraordinary. I longed to find out about Russia. In our town, as the case was elsewhere, there were many people enthusiastic about it, obviously associating Russia with communism. It’s still the same today.”

  • “Think about it, but maintain your own line of thought; your own thinking. Go farther than I went. Of course, I am at the end now – I am happy to wake up each day, come here, and make coffee. I sit here and look if the Prague Castle and Petřín are still there… Well, they are there, indeed…”

  • “This thing happened to me. I was taking an exam in historic grammar with Professor Sokolova. As a boy from Czechoslovakia where people addressed each other ‘comrade’ all the time – you know, ‘Comrade, what are you doing…’ – I translated it literally, and addressed her: ‘Comrade Sokolova…’. She gave me this look and said: ‘Where are you from?’ I didn’t experience people addressing each other ‘comrade’ until back in Czechoslovakia again.”

  • “Professor Khalvin gave me the floor. He could hear I spoke with an accent, so he asked me where I was from. I said, Czechoslovakia. He said he had been to Czechoslovakia in May 1945. They were driving down from the hills, trees blossoming along the roads, and they arrived in Opočno. Finally, he added: ‘The prince himself accepted us.’ It was Colloredo Mansfeld. He invited them over to the renaissance chateau. I don’t know Piotr Yakovlevich Khalvin’s military rank; I don’t remember.”

  • “That was in 1956 when the developments in Hungary took place. Students from Hungary were studying there as well. One of them was named Sandor. He was tall and lank, and we called him the ‘walking excavator’. During a lecture, he suddenly asked for the floor and said: ‘I knew socialism was nothing but a scam’. That was during the events in Hungary. He said he didn’t believe in it anymore. The teacher told him: ‘Sandor, nobody forces you to champion the Soviet Union, but you can still champion Russian literature.’ Nice, isn’t it?”

  • “There were so many cops, it was terrifying. I ran to the metro, line A. A cop with a baton followed me, and I ran down the escalator. He would follow me, but the operator stopped the escalator, so he couldn’t catch me. He just battered the handrail with the baton and yelled: ‘I’ll get you, just wait!’”

  • “I was in third class on 15 March 1939; it was Wednesday. They announced the formation of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Our teacher played the violin and we children sang “Čechy krásné, Čechy mé…” The teacher was crying, teary-eyed, and then she took us to the cellar because she thought the occupation army would storm into the town. That didn’t happen; it was not on the agenda at that point in time.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 17.07.2021

    duration: 59:42
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha, 30.07.2021

    duration: 01:40:20
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 3

    Praha, 06.08.2021

    duration: 37:45
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Despite getting to know others, each must live on their own

Petr Brandeiský as a student in Leningrad, 1953
Petr Brandeiský as a student in Leningrad, 1953
photo: Archiv pamětníka

Petr Brandeiský was born in Úpice on 6 February 1930 as the second child of Zdeněk and Zdena Brandeiskýs. His father came from a Jewish family in Úpice and his mother was a Roman Catholic from Nymburk. In order to prevent the Protectorate persecution of Jews from affecting the children, the parents divorced and the father moved to the nearby Hořičky. The father was transported to Terezín in 1943 and perished in Auschwitz later on. When Petr Brandeiský was expelled from high school in Jaroměř for racial reasons, he worked at a scales factory and completed a scales maker training. The formative experience of Úpice being liberated by the Red Army in May 1945 made him take interest in Russia and its language and culture. He started studying Russian in 1951, initially in Prague and continuing in Leningrad (today St. Petersburg) from 1952 on. The young student was deeply influenced by the local university luminaries he met. Having returned from Leningrad in 1957, he worked as an assistant professor at the Department of Russian Studies of Charles University’s Faculty of Arts. He completed an internship in the USA in the late 1960s. He lost his job at the Faculty during the normalisation era purges and was expelled from the communist party. He taught Russian and German at the Academy of Performing Arts from the 1970s until retirement. Petr Brandeiský lived in Prague at the time of recording the interview in 1921, worked as a volunteer with the Jewish Community, read and translated his favourite German and Russian classics, and wrote poetry and short stories. He won the Volunteer of the Year Award of the Prague 10 Municipal District in 2019. Petr Brandeiský died on 9 August 2022.