Mgr. Jan Choděra

* 1947

  • "Everybody, and especially a local politician, must enter politics with humility. Being humble towards what his function means in the first place. [That it is] not the salary, or the chair, or the office, but that he has to take care of those things that are assigned to him, and not just those that he can... and that doesn't happen anymore. A lot has changed, a lot has changed. One thing I've found out is that everybody believes in democracy if it's convenient for them. But that their opponents have the same right to democracy, they don't care about it so much anymore. So I understood, even though I hadn´t wanted to believe it, that we still have to learn democracy a lot. When the revolution came, I know that at that time... I don't know if it was an American politician, or [Margaret] Thatcher, or whoever it was in Britain... they just said that Czechoslovakia would need fifteen years to learn democracy. And I was thinking, 'You idiot, we already know something about democracy!' That person was not only right, but he deeply overestimated us. Really, you can see it in everything."

  • "I even got that time to Bartholomějská Street. In Wenceslas Square again, the cops had it all well prepared. I was walking, I had been at my dad's, I was walking from his place, it was evening, it was already dark. And I was walking up Wenceslas Square and I met a friend. There was already a gathering of people there, so we were watching, we were participating, and we were saying, 'Hey, there are buses full of policemen, we have to watch our for them as soon as they get off the buses.‘ And they did get off the buses, but by that time there had been other policemen, so they locked us in, put us all in police vans and took us to Bartolomějská Street, so I was there until seven in the morning. I was lucky again that the investigator... there were two of them, classically a good one and a bad one, and the bad one... I didn't like him very much, we started talking there. Well, we started talking with the one who was interrogating me, the good guy. He said, 'You were there to...', and that I was obstructing traffic. I said, 'I was on the pavement all the time. I wasn't obstructing at all.' So we were talking about these stupid things, which annoyed the other guy, and he just stood up and left. And I was sitting there, he was talking to me about something, and it was really getting to be about seven in the morning, I had been there with him for maybe two hours, and he said, 'You know, I'm tired of this. You are not calling me names, and I don't want [to interrogate] anybody else, I'm going to finish soon, so don't be mad at me for keeping you here so long.' Lucky me! If there had been a kind of moron there... I saw boys who had been beaten with a baton. I saw a girl who had been beaten with a baton. We were standing there in the corridor all lined up, hundreds of us. And I was lucky enough to bump into a guy who was fed up with it."

  • "There was a denunciation. And, as I said, my father was very sociable, so there used to be meetings at the parish house, a pharmacist, and Mr., I don't know who... I know one of them was a pharmacist, but I don't remember the other professions, although I know a number of the names or I know there were stories about them. And what happened was that my dad, or rather our family, my mum and dad, bought a cooking robot. It's funny today, but back then in Jeseník it was like when television started, the whole house would go over to the neighbours' flat to watch TV. So they came to see it [the robot], and one woman who was there too, described it, I don't know why, as a meeting of a conspiratorial resistance group that wanted to overthrow the communist regime, and things like that... So, I think that some State Security officer needed to do an activity there. There had been actions against the clergy, so they went ahead and staged a show trial in the full sense of what a show trial is. There was no a single difference from that definition. He was accused of setting up and running, with the help of an Intelligence Service agent, a training center that was somewhere in Posazavi, God knows where, far from Jeseník. That he ran a training centre for agents, or rather, I don't want to say terrorists, because these were not terrorists, but a resistance group equipped with weapons, and I don't know what else, and things like that. To make that up without a sigle piece of evidence, that's fiction. I even know that they showed him a picture of my grandfather, Řepa, and said, 'That's the Englishman.' He said, 'No, that's my father-in-law,' and he got punched in the teeth. Then one of them, it wasn't my dad that did it, it was the whole group, when my dad was accused to be the leader of the resistance, he was just cornered, so he said he had buried it, something, I don't know what, that he had buried guns somewhere in the garden, so they dug up the whole garden at his place. They didn't find anything, so of course they beat him up, but he had two or three days of rest before they did that."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 08.02.2023

    duration: 01:59:47
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Praha, 05.05.2023

    duration: 01:24:22
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

The world will be a good place to live when people respect each other’s rights

Jan Choděra (1965)
Jan Choděra (1965)
photo: Witness´s archive

Jan Choděra was born on 24 October 1947 in Jeseník to parents Danica and Jaroslav Choděra. His father served as an evangelical pastor and after the war he was sent to North Moravia to take over the local parish. In the autumn of 1948 he was arrested after being denounced and after a staged trial as the head of a “subversive group” he was sentenced to four years in prison. Shortly afterwards, the family moved back to Prague. Jan graduated from secondary technical school of construction and began his university studies at the Faculty of Construction. He witnessed the intervention of Warsaw Pact troops in August 1968 directly in the streets of Prague, where he was posting anti-Russian leaflets. In March 1969, he was interrogated in connection with the celebration of the hockey team’s victory over the USSR team, and in the same year he was given a suspended sentence for damaging a memorial near Roželov, which wrongfully praised Russian partisans at that place. After this case, he dropped out of his studies and started his basic military service. Subsequently, he was employed at the Prague Construction Renovation and other companies in the construction industry. In 1973 he married Eva Borová. His father-in-law was Josef Bor, a lawyer of Jewish origin who had lost his family in Auschwitz. He wrote his memories of the painful period in the books The Abandoned Doll and The Terezín Requiem. In the 1980s, the witness completed distance studies and graduated from the Faculty of Law of Charles University in Prague. During the events of November 1989 he was in close contact with students as an employee of the Czech Technical University (ČVUT), where he was elected to the first academic senate. After the Velvet Revolution he had managerial jobs in the Diplomatic Corps Services Administration, Česká spořitelna and Agrobanka. In November 1989, he became a member of the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party (ČSSD), in whose ranks he actively worked in important public positions such as a local representative of the Prague 4 Hall, a representative of Prague City Hall, and Deputy Mayor of Prague City.