Mgr. Jaroslav Čapek

* 1949

  • "Our border crossing in Bratislava to Hungary was strange, but I didn't find that out until later. We arrived there in a Trabant at eleven o'clock in the evening. I remember it exactly because it was a do-or-die moment. They took our papers and left. They left us sitting there and there was practically no traffic. I had no idea, I didn't find out even in exile, but only years later when I came home that they had a wiretapping device allowing them to listen to what we were saying. I don't know why, but we didn't say a word to each other in all that time before they came to us, and they came an hour later. The kids were asleep. There we could have revealed ourselves by saying, 'See, it's a good thing they didn't poke around here,' or something like that. And then the boys would have come to poke. We didn't say a word, so they let us go."

  • "We went to Traiskirchen, where we checked in at the police barracks. An officer of their state police was sitting there, which is also an interesting moment, and he said: 'What do you want?' I described to him, that we decided to leave Czechoslovakia and we have been advised to contact them. 'That's all possible, but, please, what do you want?' I started to feel that something was wrong here: 'What does he want from me?' He wanted me to say that phrase, I've already mentioned it once today: 'I'm applying for political asylum.'"

  • "It matured in me for ten years, and along the journey of life in those ten years, I witnessed several times in the courtroom a decision that said to me, 'Jaroslav, you can't support this anymore. You can't do their wall anymore! I took it personally that by being there as a defense attorney, I was giving legitimacy to it, that everything was okay, that in the actual trial, the person had an attorney so they could defend themselves, and that the attorney was trully defending them. But if the justice system didn't work like that, it was useless, it was just theater."

  • "There was a military oath and it was the same for everyone. In our unit, we all refused to sign it initially. I don't remember exactly, but there was an oath to the Czech and Slovak nations, but also that we would cooperate with the Warsaw Pact troops, something like that. We didn't like that very much, because we were hit by the 21st of August 1968. We refused to sign it. There was a fuss about it, they needed oaths, a soldier has to take an oath before they can educate him, teach him how to use a weapon, and so on. We were pressured by the higher command. Most of our unit gave up and accepted it when they explained how necessary it was. Seven of us didn't sign, and I was one of them. Then they broke about two more, but still five of us stayed and we said no."

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    Hradec Králové, 10.11.2022

    duration: 03:25:55
    media recorded in project Příběhy regionu - HRK REG ED
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In court, he felt that the trial was just theater. He didn’t want to play his role in it.

Jaroslav Čapek in 1980-photo taken by the Austrian police during an application for political asylum
Jaroslav Čapek in 1980-photo taken by the Austrian police during an application for political asylum
photo: Jaroslav Čapek’s personal archive

Jaroslav Čapek was born on 5th March 1949 in Varnsdorf. His father was forced to work there during the war (Ger. org. Totaleinsatz) and his mother arrived in 1945 as part of the settlement of the borderlands. As a boy he watched soldiers building a fence on the state border. After elementary school and secondary school in mechanical engineering, he received his draft order in August 1968. He spent the 21st of August in the barracks in Terezín, expecting to be sent to fight the invaders. He refused to sign the oath. After the war, he studied law in Prague from 1972 to 1977. He married and they had two sons. He worked as an associate in a law consultancy in Děčín. For ten years he thought of emigrating. In 1980, he and his family left for Vienna on the way back from a holiday in Yugoslavia and applied for political asylum. In December 1980, they were allowed to settle in Canada. They lived in Edmonton and then in Toronto. He worked, among other things, as the administrator of the Czechoslovak Masaryktown Centre in Toronto. He was a member of the Czechoslovak Federal Council and participated in anti-communist protests. For this reason, both his and his wife’s Czechoslovak citizenships were revoked. In November 1989, he sent photocopiers to Czechoslovakia for the Civic Forum. In 1990 he returned home and settled in Hradec Králové. He worked as a lawyer and represented F. O. Kinský in a restitution dispute with the Czech state. In 2022 he lived in Hradec Králové.