“Then came the currency reform, and we happened to have a break between lessons, so we went to have a look at the square. And suddenly we caught sight of a demonstration. Simply, they took people’s money from them. And we saw the Škoda workers, and I reckoned, this’ll be a thank-you manifestation. And it wasn’t a thank-you manifestation. The workers carried sticks and iron bars and shouted: ‘We won’t be robbed.’ And when I saw that, I was standing by the church, and I could see the town hall: they rushed the town hall, and suddenly we saw Stalin’s portrait - down it goes, Gottwald - down he goes. They started knocking it all down. Soldiers arrived from the barracks. Of course, they were unarmed. What did the people do? They started shaking the car to and fro, and the soldiers just stood there. But it didn’t end up well. We went to school in the morning, and I got a two [B mark] in conduct. And do you know why? Because I had laughed at it.”
“And then the worst air raids on Pilsen started. I was on my way from school with my mum and sister, she was four years old (I was six), so we went to hide in the brewery. The beer cellars there were refitted as shelters. The Americans bombed the Pilsen station, because the American strategy was to stop all transport. Because they knew that the Germans wanted to retreat into the Alps and fortify themselves there. So they wanted to prevent that happening. They blew the station to smithereens. But the building we were in, which remains standing to this day, got hit twice. One came right by the entrance. The other smacked straight into the building. The bomb didn’t reach the cellars, only the parts we weren’t in. I remember, and that’s the odd part, we didn’t hear any explosion. Just this awful ringing in the ears, like as if your eardrums were about to burst - I remember that. Suddenly it went dark, and people started screaming, desperately screaming for help, because the part that was round the corner had caved in. And I remember it perfectly. I know that Mum shouted: ‘Children, cover your ears.’ Right, and we really did cover our ears, and my sister said, or lisped: ‘If granddad Flantík wath here, he’d thave uth.’ We were there in the dark, and suddenly everything was quiet. And we could hear some kind of thumping noises, but those weren’t bombs falling. Those were our workers digging the way through to us. Our chaps. It’s hard for me to think back on that, I get tears in my eyes. And this one chap appeared there, I can still remember, he was all black, his hair was singed like this, awfully dirty. And he said: ‘Parents and children first.’ And we clambered out through that hole.”
“So back then, when the Russians came, on 21 August... my friend and I were in Lužnice. I’ve been a boater my whole life. I’ve rode all the rivers that can be ridden. And at the time we were riding the Lužnice because my friend, his name was Jindra Krátký, he was a beginner, so we chose an easy river. And I woke up in the night. They had the lights on in one cottage, and suddenly they called to me: ‘Come and listen to this.’ And I heard that we were being occupied by the Soviet army, by the Germans, and by the Poles. And I thought, that can’t be right, but they said: ‘But it is, they’re invading us.’ So I went to wake up Jindra, and I told him what was going on, and he said: ‘I’ll take the canoe to Soběslav (where his mother lived), and you go home.’ So I took my heavy dry bag, my paddle, and I set off to the road. Dawn was coming, it was around four, five o’clock I think. I stood there by the road, with the paddle on my back and the heavy dry bag. Suddenly I saw them swarming up, driving past me. Armoured cars. I stood there completely helpless. The column was followed by our cars because people were going home from their weekend trips, from their cottages. I think the very first car took me in. They took me to Strakonice. And from there I got home. We were living in Dobršín at the time, that’s a little village hereabouts. I got home, switched the radio on. I remember sitting by the radio and waiting for them to summon me. I reckoned, there’s a foreign army here, they have to summon me.”
“And that gets me all the way back to the war. When we visited Normandy, I went to have a look at the beaches where those boys disembarked back in forty-four. And I visited Omaha Beach, perhaps you’ve heard of it, an awful lot of them died there. And they’ve retained some of the anti-tank barriers there, those were these cross-shaped steel rail constructs, which were supposed to stop tanks from advancing. And they left them there on the beach. I walked along the beach, there’s this circular cinema above Omaha Beach, where they show the films of American journalists - those who went with the soldiers, war reporters, and you see the ramp of the invasion boat open up and the boys rush out into the water. And you see the ramp open and the boys just start toppling down. Those boys went straight up against machine guns. The tanks were supposed to go first, but they didn’t manage to land the tanks, so the boys went straight in. So they fell one over the other. Coincidentally, there was also a Čelakovský in that first wave, one of the Čelakovskýs, who was in Switzerland at the time, he was in that army. I found that out in 1999, at a meeting of the whole Čelakovský family. So he was in the first wave of the invasion. And then I saw the graves of those boys, those are huge, enormous graveyards. The Germans are also buried there. They lost a lot of their own there too, of course. And after a time I came back to it, I got all the way back to the war, and I painted the picture Field Mass.”
Miloslav Čelakovský was born on 16 April 1937 in Pilsen. His father Josef is from the same lineage as the famous Czech 19th-century writer František Ladislav Čelakovský. His mother Miloslava was the daughter of František Müller, a pre-WW1 senator who spent six years in Buchenwald as a political prisoner. Miloslav Čelakovský attended primary school in Pilsen, and then eleven years of secondary school. He began painting already as a child. He was barred from studying university for political reasons, and so he went to work at a brick plant and as a miner at Krimich Mine in Tlučná near Pilsen. That improved his background profile, and he thus managed to get the job of an unqualified teacher in Nýřany. From 1961 he taught at a nine-year primary school in Horažďovice. In 1963 he got married, and a year later his wife bore him a daughter Magda. From 1971 he taught art at the grammar school in Sušice. In 1989 he and his wife Jaroslava helped found the Civic Forum in Sušice, which they were very active in until 1991. Miloslav Čelakovský retired in 1997. Since then he has been painting on a daily basis.