Mgr. Jiří Čechák

* 1938

  • "They let me go there because I made the argument that I was going there to defend the world championship and similar reasons. So I just fought for the exit clause, and we were quite surprised because I had already spoken out against the communists quite publicly. I signed Několik vět (A few sentences). My younger friends came to me and gave it to me to sign, so I signed it without hesitation. Even though I believed it might get me into trouble. But instead, I believed, even at that time, that the regime would break apart because it was already 1989. Then I left that summer and I never came back. So that's when I left my family, and my wife knew that either I was going to make it there, as a coach, and everybody would help me get my family there, too. By then, we heard through the Red Cross that America was helping. I was fighting through the whole emigration thing. I took English classes there. The English I learned in the Czech Republic wasn't enough at all. The self-taught textbook I knew by heart was not enough. So I went to school regularly, and at the same time, I worked."

  • "So the cops took us right away. So I was there for questioning. I was questioned by two guys who were doing athletics. So, 'Jiřík, would you like a shot?' I said, 'No, boys, no shots.' So they interrogated me. And there were two of them because there had to be two of them. So they said, 'Since it's you, we're giving you two days to go get her.' And I said I'm not going to go get her. I'd be useless there. Because if the girl emigrates, she's got it all figured out. And she's there with a guy, she's in love. I don't see that when a couple like that leaves, it's usually two choices. Either it brings them together in misery. Or it goes bad and the girl will be left alone. And in that case, I would maybe go get her. And so she stayed there, broke up with the guy, and made it as a model."

  • "Then, when he came home after the war, he was scarred by grenade fragments from when he was fishing with grenades with the Russians, with the Soviet soldiers, because, of course, they had this warlike style of fishing. He got fragments in his forehead. The day he came back, he wanted to make us happy at home. So our mother sent him to get cherries in a big bag. So he got on his fast bike. He raced a bike, so his bike was different from the bikes the people rode to work. Anyway, when he was riding back with the bag of cherries, he was going too fast again, and that provoked the Soviet car, and so they followed him. They kept catching up with him, and he kept getting away. Then when they had the chance, they ran him over and killed him. Just like that. For fun. There's a lot of us. That's how they viewed it. Then we found out that the driver, who, of course, was drunk, was then shot by his commander. They solved everything with alcohol."

  • "The whole crowd flocked through the town, past the ice rink, over the bridge, through the exit to the old Hradec, to Hradiště. We met them up at the top of Písek, in the woods. They were Poles, they had armoured cars, there wasn't even a tank. They stopped there and waited for further instructions. The Russians were directing them, of course. So we cursed them there, the Czechs can speak Polish. I had the feeling that they were unhappy about what they had done. These were normal guys, soldiers who had military duty like we did here at that time. I don't believe they would shoot if they were ordered to. They wouldn't have shot."

  • "We were interrogated for educating the youth against socialism. I said, 'No way, you'd have to shoot me.' That's how I turned it around right away. I just tried to educate them to be fair, and athletics and rules like that. There's no offside or foul. There's a measuring stick, and that's it. That house - I always swear at it when I drive by it, in Polabiny. It was such a shithole, today's police. I think it's still a police. They had two rooms there. I'm sure they watched us through some window, a kind of mirror, and they took turns watching us. There were two of them, and they kept taking turns. One time, I was there for eight hours, one time for seven hours, and one time for five hours. I have to admit, they behaved decently. I didn't play around, swearing at them. We tried to explain things to them. And in the end, I felt like we understood each other quite well with this guy. He introduced himself as Captain Quick. Those were their names, everybody had a fake name like that, and would say, 'You know we were born on the same day?' He was about four years younger. Then I found out that the guy died about about five years later. He must have accumulated so much crap in himself that he couldn't survive in my opinion."

  • "During the Heydrichiad, in 1942, I was four years old, but because we lived near a little church, suddenly there was a truck with people, and my parents and everyone was looking out the windows, and they didn't know what was going on, what was happening. Soon we heard gunshots. The people in the truck were going there to be executed. That's what we were watching. We didn't understand the Heydrichiad, we didn't know who Heydrich was. We knew they killed somebody, but they used to kill everybody back then. We didn't know it was such a big trouble for our whole nation."

  • "We had a twelve-year-old older brother who also played sports. He was an excellent student at school. In the spring of 1945, when things were already moving around, he was with the partisans. There was a partisan movement in Holicko. He was twenty years old, he rode a bicycle competitively, and he and his cycling group were all with the partisans. That was horrible many times because he would come home at night, he would have a machine gun over his shoulder, and he would come to tell us he was all right, get something to eat, and go back into the woods somewhere. The bad thing was that we hardly saw him during that turbulent time. Then when the Russians came, the partisans joined up with the Russians. He was pretty badly wounded because when they were catching fish with grenades, he got grenade fragments over his eye. So he pulled through that, and the day he came home from the hospital, he said he finally wasn't going to worry his parents any more. It must have been terrible for them to have a child disappear at such a time. That was martial law, the end of the war. Everyone had a gun. You didn't say, 'Stop!' They would shoot right away. As he wanted to make us happy, he got on his bike and rode to Lány to get cherries for our mother. She wanted to go by herself but he said he would do it. On the way, the Russians killed him. That was terrible. Simply drunk Russians. It was a terrible shock. And Mummy! The hardships of the war and all. That's what knocked her off. Then in '47, she died. Me and my brother were nine."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    ve Staročernsku u Pardubic, 11.10.2018

    duration: 01:01:39
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
  • 2

    Staročernsko u Pardubic, 11.10.2018

    duration: 01:01:29
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
  • 3

    Hradec Králové, 03.01.2023

    duration: 02:48:52
    media recorded in project Příběhy regionu - HRK REG ED
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Russians killed my brother after the war, says famous athletics coach

Jiří Čechák while jumping (approx. 192 cm) in Dvůr Králové, 1967
Jiří Čechák while jumping (approx. 192 cm) in Dvůr Králové, 1967
photo: Witness archive

Jiří Čechák, together with his twin brother Pavel, was born on 25 March 1938 in Pardubice. His parents, Jana and Vladimír, had two more children, Jiří’s five years older sister Eva and twelve years older brother Vladimír. At the end of the war, his brother Vladimír died tragically, and two years later, his mother also died. His father could not reconcile the care of the children and his multiple jobs, so he sent the twins to an evangelical children’s home in Sobotín. They spent one and a half years there. After the closure of the children’s home, both boys returned home. Jiří Čechák trained as a toolmaker and started working at Tesla in Pardubice. He played sports all his life, playing hockey and football, and in the end, he got a foothold in athletics. After the war, which he spent in Slovakia, he graduated from the Faculty of Physical Education and Sport at Charles University in Prague and started working as a professional coach. He had great success not only as a national decathlon coach but also as an athlete. In 1989, he emigrated to the USA, from where he returned after a year and a quarter. He went to the United States once more for five years, this time with his family. Even in 2023, he was still coaching youth and lived in Staročernsko near Pardubice.