“I arrived on the twenty-fourth [of August], I remember it exactly because it was Dad’s birthday. I came to Prague, the train stopped in Smíchov because it couldn’t go to the main station because of the blockade. There was no transport at all, so I had to walk all the way from Smíchov to Letná. I can still remember walking along the Vltava, surrounded by tanks and armoured cars, and me walking amidst them. Staring wide-eyed at what had happened. When I came home, I found that my brother was lying heavily wounded [in the hospital] at Charles Square because he’d snatched up a camera and gone straight into the streets of Prague. At the medical centre in Italian Street, which suffered from gunfire, he tried to use his deeply limited knowledge of languages - he still can’t speak proper French, although he’s lived in the country since 1968 - to explain to the commander of the soldiers there, a relatively small unit, that it was a hospital. That it was a medical centre, that they shouldn’t be there, that they shouldn’t shoot at it, that they were taking wounded people there. And [the Russian] said he wouldn’t discuss the matter, so my brother, who was always a bit of a hotshot, yelled at him: ‘Tovarisch komandir [Comrade commander]!’ And when the tovarisch komandir turned round, he took a photo of him. And he started legging it with the camera, so he got a sub-machine-gun burst in the back. He was lucky, the bullets hit him in a way that he didn’t die. It mangled his shoulder, but he was lucky.”
“The whole trial [with my husband] was just for show, and he spent another two years in prison. So they released him in seventy-four. And it must be noted that he served his time in Minkovice, which was the second correctional category. But it was basically a much stricter prison than Mírov. Mírov wasn’t a simple prison. It was a Category Two, and it had a very bad reputation. But in Minkovice they made crystal [glass], like in a number of prisons. People who have glass chandeliers at home, produced from the fifties to 1989, should gaze at them with affection because that was the slave work of prisoners, mostly. Just like the polished fashion jewellery, beads, and so on. The work was really very hard, and the trouble was that they had a base ration of food that was insufficient for the hard work they were doing there. If you weren’t fast enough and didn’t fulfil your quota, you got a reduced ration. You had to catch up and keep up with your quota or surpass it for some time to get bigger rations.”
“It was in the so-called hole. It was a room for two, perhaps three people, about as wide as my outstretched arms. I am or was a metre sixty-five [centimetres] tall, and it’s said that your outstretched arms are about the same as a person’s height. So it was a metre eighty-five, maybe two metres. The problem was that there wasn’t a toilet there, just a hole leading down, with a tap above it, which provided water. So something that wasn’t exactly [great]. Over the next four days I got the company of two girls, both street hookers, young, simple girls. But they took me for interrogation every day, so I [only] spent the nights with them. The interrogations were, well, most of the cops were really uneducated. They had their degrees, the police ‘judr’ [JUDr., Doctor of Law - trans.], but they were terribly uneducated. For instance, I took some pills - I had them for an acute stomach problem, I wasn’t completely healthy at the time, and they were awfully surprised that I needed them. I don’t know why they were surprised.”
Moses wandered in the desert for forty years, although he was just a stone’s throw away from the promised land
Kateřina Dejmalová was born on 24 March 1949. She was raised by her parents to be loyal to the Communist regime, but she never identified with its ideology. In 1972 both her parents were arrested and sentenced to several years of prison in a show trial. Kateřina Dejmalová graduated from Czech and Romance languages at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University. From the early 1980s she and her husband Ivan Dejmal took part in the organisation of so-called home seminars and the copying and binding of samizdat publications. After 1989 she lectured on Czech and world literature at the Faculty of Education of Charles University. She worked as an editor of Literární noviny (Literary News) and at the Office of the Government. In the years 2006-2014 she worked as headmistress of the Lauder Schools in Prague. She is the author of several primary school readers and the co-author of a university study book on literature. With her husband, she took part in many ecological activities and published a number of reviews and translations. She now works as a contracted editor for several publishing houses. Her area of interest is the protection of human rights around the world, the defence of democracy, and a responsible approach to the planet Earth.