Josef Čunek

* 1955

  • "Of course, we knew where we were, and that some professors here were good and some were here just because they were in Pacem in Terris. And that even some of our fellow students were here only to observe what is going on. So we just accepted that as something given. Most of us theology students, maybe even two-thirds of us, knew that it was not a matter of our lecturers but of our self-study. So we started forming groups and we were meeting with secretly ordained priests or former professors who were forbidden to teach. We were trying to find a way to Prague. Or, for example, Dr. Zvěřina used to visit us, not in Litoměřice, but in the surrounding villages, where we always arranged to meet for a seminar in some house. At that time Dominik Duka was a workman somewhere in Pilsen, so he also visited us."

  • "First I met with the church secretary from Přerov. I would say that nowadays that’s just a bon mot. How could people even say something like that? The church secretary welcomes me and says: 'Welcome to this district, I am the district secretary and I wish you success in your work, but please, pay attention to the reconstruction of the church and the scaffolding that is often needed, rather than to the people.' He tells you all that directly and does not even blush. He will immediately tell you not to care about the people and especially not to contact the youth too much."

  • "I remember that in 1990, when I was preparing third-graders for their first Holy Communion, I think it was February 1990, an eight-year-old boy, in the third grade, stood up all of a sudden, he didn't want to listen and learn anymore, so he said, 'We're going on strike now, we won’t study anymore!' He learned it from TV and from his parents, he wanted to go on strike, (laughs)..."

  • "Then I was transferred to Tábor, to Bechyně exactly, and there we formed a group of believers. They were graduates from different fields, for example doctors. There was also an evangelist among us, Jonatán, a very typical Old Testament name. It was at the Bechyně airport, forest all around us, so we had a place to hide. We agreed that every Saturday evening we would take off from our companies and we would have a kind of spiritist séance. We would meet as religious people, we could talk about God, and encourage each other. Those were amazing things compared to when I found out I was being monitored. All of a sudden I found out that the lock of my personal belongings was cut off. We had little copies of the New Testament, they disappeared, also letters disappeared. Counterintelligence came and questioned me. When they bother you for a month, or three, or six, your stomach feels it, even if you don't admit it to yourself. So I was enjoying life, but I returned from military service with stomach ulcers."

  • "There was a tank next to a tank along the wall surrounding the factory. We stared at it open-mouthed, of course. And as I was talking about the volleyball court there, it was lined with trees and bushes which went almost till the main road - about fifty meters, then there was grass. So I remember hiding in that bush next to the tanks. I picked up a rock and threw it. I just couldn't help myself. I was thinking that nobody could see me. And then I remember how the tank turret together with the gun barrel turned. That's when I got scared. I was still hiding, but not in the bushes anymore, I was behind some trees. The need to do something, to defend yourself, when you clearly know something wrong is going on, that was stronger than my fear."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Velehrad, dist. nahr., 23.03.2021

    duration: 01:54:47
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Velehrad, dist. nahr., 26.03.2021

    duration: 51:39
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 3

    Velehrad, 15.07.2022

    duration: 03:03:14
    media recorded in project Stories of the region - Central Moravia
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

I don’t have to make big revolutions, but I know my goal

First Communion, Zlín, 1963
First Communion, Zlín, 1963
photo: Contemporary witness's archive

Josef Čunek was born on June 6, 1955 in the then Gottwaldov (now Zlín). He grew up in a family where his mother’s Catholic beliefs were mixed with Protestantism on his father’s side of the family, and he served as an acolyte from a very early age. In 1968 he joined a Catholic Scout Group called Kamzíci. Between 1977 and 1979, after getting his apprenticeship as an electrician, he served basic military service at the airports in Brno and Bechyně. At this time, the counter-intelligence showed interest in him - as “a hidden religious fanatic and an enemy of the socialist regime” - and in October 1978 a signal file with the code name Klér was created. Although Josef himself had not yet decided to become a priest, there were suspicions by the secret State Security that he was secretly ordained already. He entered the Jesuit Order secretly in 1979, in 1980 he started to study at the Litoměřice Theological Faculty and graduated in 1985. The day after his First Mass he took part in a pilgrimage to Velehrad, which became a manifestation for believers from all over Czechoslovakia. He worked as a clergyman in Přerov and Lidečko. After 1989 he became an official member of the Jesuit Order and spent some time in the editorial office of Vatican Radio. Since 2004 he has been the rector of St. Ignatius Church in Prague and the superior of the Jesuit community in Prague. In recent years he has been the administrator intercalaris at Velehrad.