Monika Cajthamlová

* 1965  

  • „The first time [I went] to the West, to Vienna of course, [it was] the closest. I wanted to buy tea, good tea, in a beautiful tin. When I got to the section where the teas were, there were so many that I got sick and fainted. I had known there was everything [available] everywhere. I could take a look in foreign magazines. It was possible to smuggle films in here, where we could see it. But to stand there and watch it... I got sick. I didn't buy any tea. So that was my first trip to the West. Then, of course, I was in America and I was in Berlin and I was over there and I was over there. And so on. But I'll never forget the first [departure]. Anyway, my husband and I, we have a sort of game, when we are crossing the border, we always say: won´t there be anything, won´t anything happen? And now that the borders were closed again because of the well-known virus, we went there by car. And I got sick again, because in that moment, it clicked. It never leaves you, the fear that they're going to close the borders again.“

  • „Because then they closed National [Street]. They started to squeeze us from two sides. This is a well-known, historical fact now. I didn't know anyone in the crowd, I just saw and said hello to David Němec. As the squeezing was going on, I still really remember it, my skirt cracked at the button as people were rubbing against me. So I was holding my skirt to keep it from falling to the ground. It was really scary. I put my hands like that to keep my chest from getting crushed so I could breathe. The feeling of not being able to breathe, that was really, really, really intense. And there were girls crying and calling for help. What was very nice, really very nice, though, was that complete strangers, guys who were taller, bigger, would make a sort of, like, protection [wall] around the crying girls, as long as they could hold it, so that the girls could turn around and breathe. If we managed to look into the eyes of the people who were there to take action against us, it wasn´t a pleasant sight. I don't know if they were scared too, and if that's what fear can do to a person, or if they were so stupid that they really thought we were doing some harm, or if they were scared, or if they were injected something, I really don't know. But those eyes were glassy and hateful. Or maybe my memory doesn´t serve me well.“

  • "During Palach Week I got the chance to meet a water cannon. We were there with Filip Topol. When they dispersed [people] at the top of Wenceslas Square, where a nice lady let us go into an optician´s, more people... Because then the cops started behaving quite aggressively there: [using] batons, pulling us to the ground and so on, cars driving into us. So we got to Vodičkova Street and we were running, or actually rather walking, but there were always water cannons going through there. When the car with the water cannon was approaching, we stood against the wall. I always look there when I am passing on the tram. Against the wall, it was cold, so that our faces wouldn't get hurt, so that it wouldn't get into our ears, into our eyes and so on. And in that cold we got a full strike, it pinned us to the wall. Again, it's an experience, it's an experience. Nothing happened to me. At most I had a cold. I was dressed, I wasn't hurt, I just hit my head against the wall. That's all. I see it as an experience. And it's actually comical, a water cannon pointing at me, a tiny woman. Well, that indicates something, some desperation on their side. What on earth was it?"

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Slavonice, 05.08.2020

    (audio)
    duration: 02:06:13
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

I was glad to have found the courage

Monika Cajthamlová at State Security video recording (1988)
Monika Cajthamlová at State Security video recording (1988)
photo: The Security Forces Archives

Monika Cajthamlová, née Kafková, was born on 14 February 1965 in Prague. In 1984 she graduated from secondary pedagogical school and took a job as a kindergarten teacher. In the second half of the 1980s, she joined the Prague Dissent. In 1988 she signed Charter 77. She had to stop working with children and earned a living as an usherette and carer. She participated in anti-regime protests, including the end of the student demonstration on 17 November 1989. She experienced the brutal police massacre on National Street and spent several days in hospital afterwards. In the early 1990s she married architect Jakub Cajthaml, with whom she had two children. After the revolution she worked in education. In 2020 Monika Cajthamlová was living in Prague.