Bořivoj Černý

* 1947  

  • "Bořek, let me go back to 1969, to the victory over the Soviet Union at the World Hockey Championship in Stockholm, Sweden. Do you remember the moments after those victories?" - "I remember both games. The first one ended 2-0 and the second one 4-3?" - "Yes." - "When the first game ended, I went to Wenceslas Square, I was already living in Prague, there was a perfect atmosphere there. There were no more than a hundred people celebrating. There were cars driving around with banners, with the result, such a nice celebration of the victory. I took pictures there, they were published in Stadion, a sports magazine. I was probably the only one who took pictures. Then there was the second game. I was there, too, there were a hundred thousand people on Wenceslas Square. There was the trouble with Aeroflot, it was said to have been smashed up by people. But it turned out that State Security agents did it. I didn't like that anymore, because it wasn't so spontaneous, and I left. The mood wasn't what it should have been, so I left."- "The atmosphere after the second game was different, there was already politics there?"- "I think the second celebration turned into politics, fires were burnt there. There wasn't the atmosphere I take as sporting. It went a little bit somewhere else. And then what happened next? I took pictures of the smashed Aeroflot for the editorial team the next day. Nobody knew who had smashed it at the time, we didn't find out until after the revolution. It just wasn't right for my liking."

  • "How did it turn out in the People's Defence?"- "There were the first checks in the early seventies, I passed. There were second checks, they fired the editor then, I still passed. Then there were third checks, I didn't pass that. Sixteen people were supposed to leave the army publishing house, only two of us left in the end."-"What did they ask you at the background checks?"-"If I agreed or disagreed with the [occupation armies] arrival, if I approved or disapproved of fraternal support. I said that the occupation had surprised me. Of course, at the first two checks they corrected me that it was fraternal support. Actually, there were people in the commission who wanted to help me rather than do me any harm. It was only when a new editor-in-chief came in that it pepped up."-"How old were you when you were fired?"-"I was the youngest journalist fired because of 1968, I was twenty-five."

  • "Láďa Ježek and I were a funny pair of guys, he was 160 centimetres tall, I was two metres tall. We used to work together on reports, at Dukla, it was always a fuss when we arrived. Once, I didn´t work in Obrana [People´s Defence] anymore, I was just visiting there, I saw Láďa writing a report. The local chairman of the Socialist Youth Union came to say that he was raising money, five crowns for a memorial of a fallen Soviet soldier. Láďa told him not to bother him, that he was busy, to come back in a while. These were probably the last sentences that Láďa Ježek uttered in the People´s Defence, and he was fired without notice. "Who was this man, the chairman of the Socialist Youth Union?" - "When Cibulka's lists [Lists of State Security collaborators and agents, published after the Velvet Revolution] came out, I found the gentleman there. But I was surprised that as a young boy he behaved that way."

  • "At Cibulky, at the courts, famous people and journalists used to go there. There was also Mr Falada from the Mladá fronta publishing house. I went to him, we talked and I asked him if I could get a job as a freelancer at the newspaper. Fortunately, an opportunity at the Agricultural Newspaper [Zemědělské noviny] presented itself, which was an incredible editorial office, a sort of the First republic newspaper. The floors creaked, it smelled of cigars and pipes. When they turned on the rotary press downstairs, the house would shake under your feet. Today, there is a huge glass monster at the corner of Opletalova Street and Wenceslas Square. I started there in 1965, doing things that weren't suitable for the pros who were employed there permanently. I took photos of minor sports... but what's a minor sport? But I had a journalist pass, even though it was just editorial pass. It was enough back then, I took photos of league football, all sports. I could get everywhere on my journalist pass."

  • "I want to go back to the fact that after the occupation there was a big action in the barracks to support Dubček and the government. [We thought] we would help them by joining the party. So I got the red book with the others, about a month later. It was quick, and then I returned to civilian life and went to work normally at Stavoservis. Then the April plenary session came, they elected Husák, there was no support for Dubček, so I threw my party card on the table. That started my political career in later years."

  • "But the Russians had their radio broadcast and we, with our equipment, were jamming it. And they didn't like that. Once, when I was at the gate, the Russians arrived on a motorcycle with a sidecar and a machine gun, and behind it a GAZ car with officials, and they said they wanted to talk to the commander. I went to our unit chief and told him what was going on. We had loaded machine guns in those days, before that we served without weapons. So the chief took them to the commander and then we could hear the Russian yelling at our people that in Russia they were hanging people like them."

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    Liberec, 30.06.2021

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He was fired from newspaper in 1973, he won the Czech Press Photo award 25 years later

In 1980, when he was not allowed to work in newspaper because of his disagreement with the Communist Party's policy in 1969
In 1980, when he was not allowed to work in newspaper because of his disagreement with the Communist Party's policy in 1969
photo: Witness´s archive

Bořivoj Černý was born on 14 December 1947 in Liberec. His parents came there from Mladá Boleslav region after World War II during populating the Sudetenland, from which most Germans had been forced to leave. When he was 15 years old, the family moved to Prague, where his father got a job at the Hunting Association. Bořivoj Černý played tennis from childhood and was also involved in other sports. In Prague, he trained as a construction locksmith, he was interested in photography, and even before his military service he worked for Agricultural Newspaper [Zemědělské noviny]. He started his military service in the autumn of 1966 and served as an army radio operator in Stříbro, where he experienced the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops on 21 August 1968. He photographed the occupiers in Stříbro and later in Prague. In order to support the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, Alexander Dubček, and the Czechoslovak government in resisting the occupation, he joined the Communist Party while at military service. After the April 1969 plenary session of the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, he left the party because the conservative wing of the Communist Party, led by Gustáv Husák, had taken control of the republic and removed Alexander Dubček from office. In 1969, the witness began photographing sport and other events for the army daily newspaper People´s Defence [Obrana lidu]. He met with Minister of National Defence Martin Dzúr, Presidents Ludvík Svoboda and Gustáv Husák, and he also photographed Cuban President Fidel Castro. Due to his leaving the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1969, he started having problems in the following years. Although he went through two background checks at the editorial office, he failed to pass the third one after the new editor-in-chief, a conservative communist, took over. He left People´s Defence on 1 January 1973. He began taking photographs on a freelance basis, his photos included the construction of the Prague metro and the dam in Josefův Důl. He also worked as a night cleaner and cherry picker. In 1978, he returned with his first wife to Liberec, where he was admitted to the newspaper published by district committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, called Ahead [Vpřed]. He was in charge of the sports page, but Liberec communist officials found out that he had been forced to leave the People’s Defence and he was subsequently fired from Ahead newspaper. Until the Velvet Revolution, he worked as a commercial photographer in the Ještěd department store and in the People´s Consumer Cooperative Jednota. After 1989, he returned to work in newspapers and in 1998 he joined the regional editorial office of Mladá fronta Dnes. In the same year he won the Czech Press Photo in the Sports Photography category. He also succeeded in other categories in Czech Press Photo later. In 2021 he was living in Ždárek near Turnov. The story of the witness was recorded thanks to the support of the Statutory City of Liberec.