Václav Daněk

* 1929

  • “She lived in a flat that she had split up with Shklovsky, who was a theoretician and the ideological leader of Futurists. And they didn’t get on together well, [Osip] Mandelstam was an Acmeist, and Futurists didn’t like Acmeists. It said on the doorbell: Mandelstam and Shklovsky. I rang it, Nadezhda came to open the door and gestured [me to be quiet] and pointed to show that Shklovsky was there. Even though he was fine, there was still that mistrust. And we only communicated as among mutes. She took a bag, showed me some photos and put them inside, she showed me some texts and put them in the bag. She put on a coat and we went shopping. She took me... This was under Krushchev, when things were calming down, but they were still afraid of the KGB... She took me to a park bench, glanced around to see if anyone was sitting nearby - she chose a central bench, to have a good view. She was afraid at home too, afraid of bugs. And even in the park... She just pointed at my bag and whispered. ‘Otkroyte [Open it]. I give you manuscripts an’ photographii, which I brought.’ She dropped them inside, and we talked for a bit longer, then we went to the shop, then she said goodbye and I left. That’s how I brought her memoirs, the first volume, which she had still written together with Oten.”

  • “We came to Kralupy, and I rode through the square on my bike. Some German boys older than me rushed out from several alleyways. They were already in the Hitlerjugend, those Henleinite youth activists. They knocked me off the bike and beat me up. That’s how it started. That was at the end of August (1937), and in September, October, they held a demonstration in front of the school: ‘Hier ist deutsches Reich! Gehen sie in Böhmen.’ [This is the German empire! Go away to Bohemia.] And Henlein’s motto was: ‘Arbeit und Brot!’ [Work and Bread] Our school’s caretaker was a German, he worked at the Chomutov Poldi Works, and he was a Social Democrat. His wife was as well. So the caretaker opened a school window right above the crowd, he took two loaves of bread, which were meant for the children at school, and he threw them into the demonstration, saying: ‘Hier haben sie Brot!’ Here’s your bread. ‘And what do you mean Arbeit? You work at Poldi, you at Mannesmann, so what Arbeit?’ And they started laughing and lost their unity, and the demonstration lost its wind and dissolved somehow. So that one didn’t work out.”

  • “We were small fish, but throughout all the districts it was probably the [Russian] advisers stirring it up, so they picked out some young rebels. And they offered to guide me over the borders as well, before graduation. Well, I refused of course. So one time... I didn’t write about this in my memoirs at all, one time I was going down a dark street in Chomutov, from the wine bar, and someone came up behind me, slipped a revolver into my jacket pocket and legged it. But I was a fast runner, so I caught him up and found out who it was - he was from the business academy, and I found out that he was the informer. I mashed him in the gob, threw the revolver back at him, knocked him down and ran off! I had a bike in one house, so then I rode off to Spořice [home] by bike.”

  • “In 1945 [the Red Army and the NKVD] were taking in the emigrants. [Uncle and Auntie] lived in the ‘Russian House’ in Strašnice, it’s a corner house on Průběžná Street. Well, and in May 1945 they took a lot of men from there to the gulags, and few ever returned. But they brought my uncle a rehabilitation and they offered him Soviet citizenship, because they mapped all his previous activities and discovered that he was the victim of revolutionary errors. But he didn’t know that, he was in hiding in southern Bohemia, waiting for them to leave. They sent it to him from the embassy when the first NKVD agents, who were gathering the people up here, had already left. Of course, he refused the citizenship, but he accepted the rehabilitation and went to visit his native land, his native village. He was all aghast, because apart from one brother everyone was dead. Only then did he understand what had gone on there.”

  • “Later, when he was a Chartist, I arranged it so that he wouldn’t die of starvation and wouldn’t have to do manual labour. He was listed as a man on housework and he earned a living by doing translations for the radio, which were presented under other names. He was the most prolific author of foreign poetry at the radio, he was covered for by about seventeen people, mainly women, but they were all from the profession. They were mostly editors from Odeon and Mladá fronta.”

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    Praha, 15.04.2015

    duration: 04:32:24
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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Since 1938 I knew that we were not a nation of cowards

Václav Daněk, temporary portrait
Václav Daněk, temporary portrait
photo: Soukromý archiv pamětníka

Poet and translator Václav Daněk was born on 9 July 1929 in Prague. His parents were teachers and amateur actors. He grew up in southern Bohemia, and in 1937 his family moved to Kralupy near Chomutov. After the annexation of the Sudetes in 1938 they returned to Southern Bohemia (Bošilec, Frahelž, Veselí nad Lužnicí etc.). Daněk attended grammar school in Tábor from 1940-1945 and graduated from Chomutov in1948. From a young age he showed musical and literary talent. From 1949 to 1951 he was a singer at the Na Fidlovačce Theatre and studied singing under Zdeněk Otava, soloist of the National Theatre. After deciding to shift his work towards a literary career, he studied drama at the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague from 1950 to 1954. From 1954 until his retirement in 1994 he worked as an editor at the Czechoslovak, (later Czech), Radio in Prague. In 1968 he co-founded the Experimental Studio, and twenty years later he continued this legacy by creating the Audio Studio, which he headed for four years. His wife Ludmila Dušková (1932-2010) was a translator and a long-time editor of the Světová literatura (World Literature) magazine and of the Odeon publishing house. Together, they kept in frequent touch with Soviet writers, and brought their, (often banned), works to Czechoslovakia. Václav Daněk is the author of eleven collections of poetry, and scores of translations from Russian. He also published a book of his memoirs Kam utek Stolkolet (Where the Flyears Went).