Pavel Brázda

* 1926  †︎ 2017

  • “Back then in some limited circles it was known that I painted. So I was invited to Wroclaw as a painter, and they even transported some of my paintings there for the occasion. Except that when I drove there, we even had to take a detour, they stopped me at the border check, arrested me, and took me to the train station. They sat me onto a train, and then they checked to see I had arrived in Prague. So I couldn’t go to Poland. I don’t know how they came about it, I guess I was on some list.”

  • “So I took a table and a chair, and I saw to it to get the people who were coming there to write themselves down together with the reason why they were there. I came upon a heap of people who offered their services in copying out written materials for the Civic Forum. And so I took an interest in it because I had the justified feeling that no one cared about it much. I collected their offers and their contacts straight off. Then I stopped by the Civic Forum, where they also had some offers pinned up, but it wasn’t used at all. So I decided to establish something that I called Centre for the Production and Distribution of Civic Forum Printed Matter.”

  • “I took [the forced labour] very badly. So when things started loosening up in 1945, my mum actually [took me to the psychiatrist]. I wrote some texts just to relieve myself somehow because I couldn’t even draw any more. You came back sometime after dusk, and you might wait an hour for lunch in some dog-awful canteen, and then to supper. I couldn’t even stoke up a proper heat there, so even though the caretaker’s family did make a fire for me there, it was still cold. It was really difficult for me. The worst for me was that I had been torn away from my work on Hominism, and there was absolutely nothing I could do.”

  • “And this time he was arrested just a short time before Christmas 1949. And he was in real danger of being hanged. Except they didn’t manage to break him in so that he’d testify the way they wanted. What they managed to do with the others, those they paraded at the show trial. Thanks to the fact that he was so strong and that he didn’t let himself be manipulated with, he was tried separately, and he was only brought in as a witness during the trial with Milada Horáková. And even as a witness he testified in such a manner that later (because it also got into the newspapers) proved to be unsuitable for propaganda. In the end he was sentenced to 20 years.”

  • “A bomb blew up right opposite our house, in the Military Bakeries. The German soldiers had their base there. The whole place exploded, when we peered out we could see them driving off in a hurry. So we clambered into the building complex, a part of it wasn’t burning. We found glasses and unfinished bottles of wine belonging to the officers. And there were some people who came to loot the place. We joined in, so after that we had plenty to eat - shops didn’t operate much in those days. I took some cans of meat in lard, but mainly some 75 kilos of tobacco from Amsterdam. So I became something of a temporary millionaire because was still a rarity back then. I used the tobacco to buy myself a figurine that had caught my eye. I also made friends with one boy that I hadn’t known beforehand, who lived in our house. And one time we were crossing the street, and some Germans happened to be leaving, so we got ourselves a thirty-eight-litre barrel of rum. And that was the ultimate success of course!”

  • “Olga Scheinpflugová turned out to be a very effective co-organiser of all sorts of events that were supposed to lead up to Palivec’s release, so he might live a while longer in freedom. Then we managed to hold a big event among Czechoslovak writers, including some Communist ones, because Palivec was in good standing with them.”

  • “It was decreed that all Germans must leave Brno in three days. At the time, Brno had about 300,000 inhabitants, and I think that about 100,000 of them were German, but I can’t remember the exact numbers any more. But it was a considerable part of the population. And all those women, old men, children were forced to walk to the borders. They were only allowed to take as much as they could carry. Except they couldn’t even carry that for long, so the road was scattered with things they’d been forced to discard. There were people lying along the road as well. Of course, they were subjected to very drastic behaviour. And the majority of them, those who actually reached the borders, they were collected in camps, which were smitten by some epidemic. And here in Prague they burnt one German lady on Old Town Square. I didn’t witness any such violence or torture myself, but everything I found out about it I put together as a report for newspapers and magazines. The report contained a lot of factual information both about the expulsion and about the concentration camps, where they tortured people with hunger. Someone calculated that the amount of food that the prisoners got would have been enough to feed three hens. I don’t remember all of the facts and events that I described in my article exactly, but I sent it to all the newspapers and magazines (even the opposition papers Obzory) including those in Prague, but they didn’t print it anywhere. That was a completely taboo subject.”

  • “Some time after Palivec returned, he was rehabilitated. It wasn’t only Seifert who saw to that, but also a number of his other friends put in an effort. Which was especially important to him, because he took it all quite badly and very seriously, for example that they had removed him from Union of Political Prisoners. He felt that this had damaged his honour. So the rehabilitation was a great help for him. Except that they withdrew it again in the 1970s, luckily for him they forgot to withdraw the financial rehabilitation, so continued to receive that. So Palivec could live quite prosperously. Every day he would go to the restaurant Saint Maren, where he had subscribed lunches. And at the time many young Czech poets came to visit him, of the type like Ivan Wernisch.”

  • “Our world was a kind of continuation of the First Republic. In the hope that it would be renewed, that the Nazis would be defeated - we didn’t doubt that - and that this would again open up the world from which we were isolated. And yet that world of classical Europe, or possibly Western, American culture, was something which we lived in more than our current poverty and emptiness and abhorrence. Say, after Heydrich’s assassination they started putting up those long lists of the names of people they had just executed. In other words, we had such horrific moments, we listened to foreign broadcasts and watched the situation here, but that wasn’t anything that would reinforce or nourish us, because there very little positivity in it. To survive it was necessary to live in the figurative world of culture, which we connected to.”

  • “Then I went to Sychra. He didn’t agree with [me being expelled] in any way, that wasn’t his achievement, he couldn’t influence it at all. And he couldn’t protest if he wanted to keep his professorship. And he also had private commissions, say the grand drape in the Karolinum. He told me, when we spoke together later on, that the struggle is something like when Byzantium was formed, some kind of essential historical breaking point, and that it was necessary to approach that way and that it had its moments of interest. For him it was also an opportunity to hit out in monumental painting. He also told me: ‘Look at the people in those parades, at the real enthusiasm with which they participate in them. We wouldn’t enjoy it, but they do!’ Seeing that he was an affiliate of the original leftist avant-garde, I told him that it reminded me of Nezval’s verses: ‘I understand you, converted rogue, I know that the next epoch will crush you.’ And the rogue replies: ‘It calls me unbroken and proud, thus a criminal calls his death.’”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha Hagibor, 11.03.2014

    duration: 01:53:44
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Praha Hagibor, 11.03.2014

    duration: 01:28:05
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 3

    Praha, 09.10.2014

    duration: 01:25:40
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 4

    Praha, 21.11.2014

    duration: 02:10:27
  • 5

    Praha 10, 20.01.2017

    duration: 59:24
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
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The prosperity and sense of exclusivity that I had experienced in my childhood helped me overcome the deprivation that followed

1620-portrait_former.jpg (historic)
Pavel Brázda
photo: archiv pamětníka, Eye Direct

Pavel Brázda was born on the 21st of August 1926 in Brno into the wealthy family of the well-known lawyer Osvald Brázda. The witness’s grandmother Helena Čapková was the sister of the famous writers Karel and Josef Čapek and the husband of the important Czech poet, diplomat, translator, and post-World War I politician Josef Palivec. In 1945 Pavel Brázda briefly studied philosophy and the history of art at Masaryk University. The following year he moved to Prague to the Academy of Arts, Architecture & Design, where he continued with the history of art in addition to painting. However, he did not care much for his studies, and so in 1947 he was expelled from the school. That same year he was accepted to the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, starting in the third semester, in the studio of Vladimír Sychra. But he failed to complete this course also - in early 1949 he was expelled for political reasons, together with his future wife Věra Nováková. In 1952 they finally managed to obtain a degree from the College of Arts & Industry in Prague. Although Pavel was allowed to work in the fine arts profession, without membership in the Union of Czechoslovak Visual Artists his options were very limited. Practically the only commissions he could obtain were book illustrations in the field of natural sciences and medicine. Neither nor his wife were allowed to exhibit their art. In 1977, he was employed as a boiler man at a coal-fueled heating plant, where he worked for 10 years, until his retirement. The works of Pavel Brázda were for a long time completely unknown to the public. It was not until after 1989 that the magazine Revolver Revue started publishing prints of Brázda’s paintings. In 1992, he was the first visual artist to receive the Revolver Revue Award. Czech president Václav Klaus honoured him with a Medal of Merit in 2008. However, Pavel Brázda returned the award five years later in protest of President Klaus’s statements and conduct in public. Pavel Brázda passed away on December, the 17th, 2017.