Otakar Braun

* 1950  

  • “I remember that day nicely. Mom got up in the morning to go to work, we had an old radio, she was tuning it to pick up the news, and I told her: Please, don’t bother, it’s going to whimper anyway, there won’t be anything new.’ Then I went to the stop and people there were saying that there were Russian planes over Prague, which I hardly took note of, because there were a bunch of them here anyway. And then on the bus people were saying that they’d heard the radio and something was going on. I got work, nothing was going on, people were talking, and then we were all called to the canteen. A trucker there brought a foreign transistor radio which worked well, turned it on, so we heard everything, how they were seizing the radio, the gun shots, and later how they played the national hymn. Everyone was crying, especially the ladies. So, I knew it was bad. Then we walked around the squares and threatened the Russians coming there from Točník, from the river they turned into Plzeň. There was a confectionary shop on the corner and they knocked off a part of the building. Yeah, and I remember a guy named Venca Sudík, I remember how he jumped onto the footboard and spit in the driver’s face. There are probably some photographs of it somewhere Žebrák.”

  • “Suddenly we found that it was somehow freer. I remember once coming back from lessons, I took a bus from Florenc to Žebrák, and all over Prague was written: ‘We want Císař.’ It was before the presidential election and he was Svoboda’s opponent for nomination. Then at ČSAD, when I was still in training, people were already starting to do private business, to have their own cars, and it all started to unfold. Then an uncle from came from America and said: ‘The Czech nation’s starting to wake up.’ Yeah, so then we fell in, too.”

  • “There was always some thing or another trailing me. It stayed with me all the way till eighty-nine. In school, back when I started going to school, sometime around fifty-six, first, second, third grade, they were wild. They were out for me. The principle once took me by the ear to the podium a showed me to everyone: ‘Here are the bourgeois, this is what they look like!’”

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    Praha, 09.07.2020

    (audio)
    duration: 01:39:41
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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I’ve been an enemy of the state since first grade

Otakar Braun was born on 20 February 1950 in Prauge. His father Jindřich Braun came from a Jewish family from Carpathian Ruthenia. During the Second World War, he endured forced labor, deportation to a concentration camp, and the Death March, but was wary of discussing these war time travails. In May 1954, he ended his time in Prague and moved for work to the town of Žebrák, where he was employed as a driver for the František Volman company, a producer of agricultural equipment. Here he would also meet his future spouse Helena Volmanová, the granddaughter of the factory owner František Volman, who began his business in Žebrák in 1872. Following the February coup of 1948, communists nationalized the company, confiscated the family villa, and sent the witness’s father to work in the Hrouda iron-ore mine in Zdice. The factory went on to function under the name TOS (Továrny obráběcích strojů) (Machine Tools Factories). In the 1960s, Otakar Braun trained as an auto mechanic in Čáslav. He worked till 1989 for the ČSAD (Czechoslovak State Transport) and ČSAO (Czechoslovak Automobile Garage) companies. From the time following the Velvet Revolution until his retirement he served in the police force. Today (2020) he resides in Záluží, not far from Žebrák.