Zbyněk Čeřovský

* 1931

  • “When we evaluated the operation from the military point of view, it was done in a very primitive way. An air regiment lands somewhere without securing anything, they don’t have any fuel, they have rockets and bombs in they planes but they have no fuel. The ground units which ought to provide for everything for the regiment, including radio coverage, are waiting somewhere in Trutnov. They demanded fuel from us, but we did not have any fuel at the airport. The reason was that the bunkers which were built there were leaky, and fuel was leaking to the ground, and we therefore stored extra fuel at two other airports, in Eš near Pelhřimov and in Jičín. There were fuel tanks at the airport in Jičín, but somebody opened them and all the fuel leaked to the ground. We were thus not able to give them any fuel. It started raining, they had no place to stay and they were sitting in their planes, angry and tired and without food and fuel while they were expected to fight. I cannot imagine something like that. From the military perspective, it was a botched operation. That’s really the way it was.”

  • “I had no money, and before they released me from pre-trial detention, they were therefore so kind to give me the Rudé Právo newspaper every morning, which was the official daily, and while reading it I learnt that there was some Charter and that they were all criminals and subversive elements, and as the newspaper called them. The article stated that the society condemned this activity, and that companies and schools were issuing proclamations against it. I thus tried to find out more about what this Charter was. Imagine this: after I learnt the names of those involved, nobody wanted to speak to me. Nobody wanted to communicate with me. All those who did not know me thought that I was an agent, a dangerous man. But eventually I got to Vaculík. Vaculík invited me for some session in a pub and there we discussed everything. He gave me some papers to sign the Charter. He asked me: ‘Do you want to make your signature public or not?’ ‘If I sign something, it becomes public, does not it?’ My wife was waiting in the car, and she then said: ‘Now you will get into hell of a trouble, this is just the beginning.’ I signed the Charter at the end of February 1977, after my release when I was on parole, but when Prečan published the book about Charter 77, he listed my signature as if from May 1978, but I don’t know why.”

  • “The occupation of Hradec Králové was very aggressive, and the Poles acted even more aggressively than the Russians. They sent their paratrooper unit there, I don’t know how many men, whether a column or a battalion. We did not have any contact with them. Unlike Russians who believed that they came here as our liberators and saviours, the Poles treated us in a very aggressive way. The first thing they did was that they took over our command station, and they totally looted it and destroyed it. They even – and I have this documented– made me and lieutenant colonel Jelínek, who was the commander of his own battalion – stand in front of the hangar. I don’t know if they meant it seriously, but they told us that they would shoot us. We really did stand there with our hands above our heads in front of the hangar waiting whether they shoot us or not. They were Polish paratroopers. They did not shoot us. We were standing there with Jelínek. I remember that lieutenant colonel Jelínek exclaimed: ‘Fuck, let them press the trigger, or I pee my pants.’ I have never been in a situation like this before. I have been in dangerous situations while flying. But I have never stood against the wall with somebody aiming a submachine gun at me. I don’t know how a person would react to it. An insane number of thoughts run through your head. If they had pressed the trigger, you would have been dead and unable to do anything against it. Eventually they let us go.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Mšeno u Mělníka, 19.03.2015

    duration: 02:42:27
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    byt pana Čeřovského, Mšeno, 27.04.2017

    duration: 45:06
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
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We expected that after the revolution there would be the rule of law and that people who had made compromises with the previous political regime would not be in power.

Cerovsky orez.jpg (historic)
Zbyněk Čeřovský
photo: Zbyněk Čeřovský

Zbyněk Čeřovský was born July 13, 1931 in Hořice v Podkrkonoší. His family was leftist-oriented. His grandfather, who worked in a textile factory, was originally an anarchist who later became a social democrat and eventually a representative of the Communist Party in Hořice. Zbyněk’s mother was a dressmaker and his father worked for the company Elektrolux. When Zbyněk was eight years old, he experienced the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia by Germany. In autumn 1945 his father received an offer to become a state-appointed administrator of an agricultural machinery trading company in Litoměřice, and Zbyněk thus attended Josef Jungmann’s Grammar School there. After graduation, he began studying at a school for officer cadets but in August 1950 he was involuntarily transferred from there to the Army Artillery Academy in Hranice na Moravě. On August 3, 1952 he graduated holding the lieutenant’s rank and he was assigned to the 32nd heavy artillery brigade in Kostelec nad Orlicí. In 1953 he was selected for study at the Military Academy of Klement Gottwald. In autumn 1958 he started his duty in the 45th artillery reconnaissance air regiment at the airport in Plzeň-Bory. In 1961 he was transferred to the airport in Mimoň in the position of a staff chief of the Analysis and Photography Centre and in 1965 he became its commander. In the following year he began serving as the staff chief in the 18th fighter bomber air regiment in Pardubice, and after its disbandment in1967 he received an order to report to the staff of the 30th fighter bomber air regiment in Hradec Králové. That was where he experienced the intervention of the Warsaw Pact armies to Czechoslovakia in August 1968. Together with other several pilots, Zbyněk Čeřovský decidedly opposed the invasion of the Warsaw Pact armies. For this reason he was expelled from the Communist Party in 1969 and in 1970 he was dismissed from the army. In autumn 1976 he was arrested by the State Security StB for alleged anti-state activity and held in detention pending trial until February 1977. After his release he signed Charter 77 and he began to be involved more intensely in activities against the political regime. Among others, he established contact with the embassies of the USA and of Germany. At the same time he was under surveillance by the StB as part of the operation Soused (‘Neighbour’). In the evening of November 9, 1981 he was arrested by the StB again, and after several months of interrogations he was put on trial and sentenced to two years of imprisonment. While in prison in Pilsen-Bory he met many of those who opposed the communist regime, such as Jiří Dienstbier Sr., Dominik Duka and Václav Havel. After his release he was evicted to West Germany together with his wife and son as part of the operation Asanace. The Čeřovský family returned to Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Revolution. In September 1991 he accepted a job offer to become a director of the prison facility in Prague-Pankrác.