Jiřina Čechová

* 1937  

  • “I agreed with one of my classmates, who lived in Znojmo, that on the day of the general strike we’d write up a banner and set off to Znojmo. We agreed that if more than fifty people gather, we’d pull out the banner and start a demonstration. And the square was full from top to bottom! Even the grammar school! I asked the students: ‘Do you have a banner? I’ll give you one.’ But I can’t remember what was written on it. The banner was made from an old bed sheet - my husband made me those. One time he made me one for May Day in Brno, where I was then arrested.”

  • “The teacher just told us: ‘Children, the inspector is coming to visit. And inspectors are greeted by standing up and raising your right hand.’ We practised it. Of course, there were some words that were supposed to go with it, but that would have gotten the Beskov farmers mad, so he said nothing. The inspector came during the break, we stood up and raised our right hands. But one Honza happened to be at the toilet. He came back, stopped in the doorway, saw the inspector. So he remembered he was to lift his right hand. The usual greeting in Beskov was ‘Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ’, the children shortened it to ‘Proljechris’. And so Honza greeted with the Nazi salute and Jesus Christ. Both the teacher and the inspector were on the brink of bursting out laughing, the inspector only just held it too. Afterwards, the teacher came round to our place and told Mum and Dad about it. They all laughed their heads off!”

  • “In the morning of the twenty-first, the paper boy brought a supplement to the newspaper, which stated that Soviet forces were occupying Czechoslovakia. I reckoned it was an advertisement for some film. Then I lost my nerves and started pointing at the article and shouting ‘Das ist nicht Wahrheit! That’s not true!’ But then I bought the newspaper. My colleague and I boarded the first train available, which was also the last train they admitted through the borders - it wasn’t possible to get through after that. I arrived in western Bohemia; we were stopped before Prague by tanks on the road. When we set off to circumvent them through the fields, we were picked up by people who were coming from Prague and was turning round. So the whole bus got to Prague easily enough.”

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    Praha, 04.10.2016

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I would take a book, warm socks, and some drink with me to the interrogations

Jiřina Čechová ED
Jiřina Čechová ED
photo: Post Bellum, Eye Direct

Jiřina Čechová was born on 16 June 1937 in Bezkov, Znojmo District. During the war, Beskov was the only village in the area that was not annexed to the German Reich. After the Communist coup in 1948, the family suffered from the death of Jiřina’s father, a former Czechoslovak legionary who had served in Russia. In 1955, after graduating from grammar school in Znojmo, she applied to Charles University in Prague, and five years later earned her degree in archiving. She worked in archives for some time; in 1965 she started working as a teacher at the Znojmo grammar school, thus discovering her life’s calling. During the purge in 1970 she was fired from her post and earned a living doing temporary jobs. In 1975 she received an offer to work in Vysočina from her future husband, Miloslav Kabelka; they married soon after, and two years later she gave birth to their son Vojtěch. By then, Jiřina was already translating forbidden books, such as Orwell’s Animal Farm; she and her husband also copied out the text of Charter 77. Due to problems with State Security and the threat of losing employment, they moved to a little station house in Stařeč, where they kept a small farm alongside Miloslav’s job at Czech Railways. In 1988 Jiřina signed Charter 77 and became very active in politics. She participated in numerous demonstrations; after the Velvet Revolution, which she experienced in Znojmo, she was co-opted into the District National Committee for the Civic Forum. After 1990 she returned to the teaching professions, where she stayed until her retirement in 2006.