Vratislav Cvejn

* 1950

  • “A text I know something about was The World of Life. It was an A4-page essay that was written in a Christian community and Italy, and it was then spread throughout Europe in several ways. It got also to Czechia, somebody translated it here and it was circulated among the communities that were meeting in secret. When we got The World of Life here in Liberec, Mr. Petr always copied it in a week. He made thirteen copies at a time on those thin papers with carbon papers. We basically grew spiritually reading that.”

  • “I have a vivid memory of 21 August 1968. Early in the morning we and our neighbours were standing at a crossroads and were listening to the humming planes and thinking of what was going to happen next. The adults then went to work and there was nobody to look after us. So, I got on my bike and went into the town among the tanks. I cycled to Pavlovice along Generál Svoboda Avenue and when I arrived under the bridge on Rumjancevova Street, the shooting started in the square. I understood that I was not supposed to be there. I was cowering under the bridge and a Russian soldier shot up the facade of the District National Committee a few metres from me. Then we were just glued to the radio, and I had the hobby of collecting photos."

  • “I have an experience where we invited people to a meeting at our place, and we invited the Franciscan priest Bárta to speak. He worked in Liberec for a long time and was a kind of the leader of the Franciscan underground movement. We sometimes invited him to meetings of these people, and he also taught us. I had to take my car, drive to Perštýn to the U Pelikána house, drive to the garage where priest Bárta got in, and then I drove him to our garage where he got out. We thought we were doing everything we needed to do. However, we were still aware of the fact that a black car was sometimes parking under our window on the street when we had those meetings. But I guess we were never interesting enough to deal with it more than that."

  • "We met here and had contact with in fact a secret priest, Father Bárta, who at that time kept the underground Franciscan order alive. He was imprisoned several times. In 1968, or perhaps in the spring, we met at the parish, not at home. It was first at the parish of the youth and was led by a young priest, Father Opletal. He had a thing for youth. Girls always met at the parish in Malé náměstí on Thursdays and boys on Mondays. He had a small apartment there, and we sat there on the bed, in the closets, and on the bench, and the catechism was discussed there for two hours a week. That was our foundation of faith. And there we also met Father Bart, whom he sometimes invited, and he went there to tell us his experiences. We continued meeting, even though it was no longer possible to meet at the rectory. Everything was then cancelled. It lasted for about a year or two after 1968, and then it all ended. But we met at home and we sometimes invited Father Bart tjere. He lived in Na Perštýně, officially as a disabled pensioner."

  • "And so I stood there under the bridge, got off my bike, cleared myself a little to the side, and the Russian boys with submachine guns jumped out of the truck. They watched what was happening and one of them shot a few times in the facade in front of me as a precaution. At the time, it was the district national committee building. When this tense moment was over, I preferred to pack up and go home. Later, I took pictures of the dimples in the facade to prove that I was there. Then I still remember that they started to worry about whether there would be a war or not and if we were supplied and we started going with nets, where there is still something to buy, in which shop they still have buns and in which they no longer. The shops were bought by evening. Then the food was hard to find. But on the other hand, that we were hungry did not happen."

  • "Velvet Revolution. We were not surprised at all. I know people at work said to themselves, 'What do they want? What happens to anyone and what don´t they like? ‘But we knew why it was. I was so shy, but most of my peers were active in the Civic Forums and did and arranged a lot. We wrote posters, we went to spread banners in front of the town hall. We did all that. I was also in the plant in the Civic Forum, but I wasn't fast enough for these guys. From the beginning, I toured the buildings with a commission and convinced people that we would remake the ROH [Revolutionary Trade Union Movement] and things like that, but the people who could do it switched sides in a month or two and took back the activity. Only those who were corrupt by the harsh communism fell away, and those who were too clever for themselves took over. I know that those in our plant were smart and suddenly wanted to be a leader, and in the end it turned out that they didn't agree and the construction plant fell apart in two years. As the totalitarian leadership ceased to be, so it ceased to be the leadership as such. New economic structures had to be created. The whole economy had to be reborn because it ceased to be directive."

  • Full recordings
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    Liberec, 10.12.2015

    duration: 52:19
    media recorded in project Soutěž Příběhy 20. století
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I was cowering under the bridge and a Russian soldier was shooting a few metres from me

Vratislav Cvejn in 1976
Vratislav Cvejn in 1976
photo: witness´s archive

Vratislav Cvejn was born on 19 July 1950 in Liberec, he spent his childhood and youth with his parents and siblings in Harcov which is now part of Liberec. The family was religious. As soon as he found out about the invasion of the Warsaw pact troops, he cycled to the centre of Liberec to see what was going on. When he arrived at Rumjancevova Street, he encountered Soviet soldiers and one of them started shooting at him with a machine gun. During his youth he used to meet Christian young people, they met in various flats and also in a parish. After he became independent and started a family, their flat also became a meeting place for the faithful. They met with, among others, the secret priest Jan Baptista Bárta. They perceived that they were being watched, and their friends urged them to be careful, but they were never detained. In the Spring of 1989, he and his wife participated in The Congress of Families in Castel Gandolfo. As soon as it was possible, Vratislav Cvejn joined Civic Forum and became its active member. He founded his construction company in 1990. He lived in Liberec at the time of recording (2022).