“There was one lieutenant who was in charge of us. He didn’t understand a thing. For example if I wanted to go to Janovice for a beer, I would switch off the power, because that was my expertise and I knew how to. And he was without power and without television. In those days television was just starting. He would always come rushing up, asking for me to fix it. I would tell him that I was in the army to serve my nation, and so I had to do what the army required from me, that I wasn’t in the army to fix the electricity. And he’d retort: ‘But you know how to!’ - ‘Well yes I do, but it is not my military duty.’ So he would ask me what I wanted for the service, and I would say I wanted to go to Janovice for a beer. He approved it, I went to switch the power back on and set off for my beer. That’s pretty much how things were at the AEC.”
“In those days we kept hearing: ‘Prague is calling for help! Come to help Prague! Prague is still calling for help! We are fighting at the radio house! And so on. One SS panzer division was trying to keep hold of Prague. It was rough fighting for the revolutionaries, and of course from their point of view the easiest thing would have been to just send soldiers from Pilsen, which was a two-hours drive from Prague. The funniest bit is that the Americans did actually go there, they got as far as Motol [a suburb of Prague - transl.], and it looked as if the SS army would surrender to them. For them the most important thing was not to surrender to the Russians, because they were scared of them. They reckoned that they would somehow come to terms with the Americans. But then the order came by radio, and the Americans turned their jeeps round and drove back. A lot of people were terribly disappointed and blamed it on the Americans, saying what bastards they were that they didn’t come to save Prague. But in actual fact it couldn’t have been further from the truth, because during the Yalta Conference borders were drawn up between Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt - who would go where. Churchill didn’t want that, he fought the decision. He even tried to push through an invasion via the Balkan and for the American and Western armies to go from east to west. The Russians were against that, of course, so they had to do the invasion through Normandy and go from west to east. The demarcation line between the American and Russian armies passed through Rokycany and Písek. The Americans only took a part of Bohemia, the rest was for the Russians. Carlsbad was taken by the Russians. They weren’t able to come on time as they were still somewhere around Dresden, and people here were dying and fighting the SS. The was actually ended somewhere here on a hill near Příbram, that was the last battle of the world war. People died pointlessly, they needn’t have if the global powers, and Stalin especially, hadn’t been messing around. So in the end we weren’t liberated until 8 May.”
“As the military we had to do things that were pretty much illegal. We were building an airbase and the airbase had to have a train connection. It was necessary to build a rail track, and that obviously had to cross with some roads. So it was necessary to build a railroad crossing. You need a construction permit for that and another permit from the Road Department to close down the road. But they didn’t want to give us that in Čáslav, because apparently the road had a lot of traffic. Our boss, engineer Kalous, placed two boys there with spreadsheets to note down the number of passing cars. When this study was completed, we found that the last bus passed through at about eleven p.m., and then it was only the occasional car, nothing else. Not until four a.m. when the milkman arrived. We had those five hours to build the crossing. It was a splendid operation, they couldn’t manage it nowadays. There were two cranes standing each on one side of the road, Tatra lorries with gravel, excavators, the tracks were ready together with all the necessities. The bus drove by, the excavator dug into the road and off we went. At four in the morning the milkman drove over the finished crossing. The whole thing was built without permission.”
“I find it funny how people sweat when choosing the right profession, because I applied to the electrotechnical university for a very simple reason. One time we were standing, Mum and I - I was still a little boy, seven or eight years old - we were standing on the main square in Pilsen and the Pilsen mayor Luděk Pik drove up in his Hispano-Suiza. And I said to my mother: ‘Mummy, why don’t we have a car like that gent?’ My mother had a simple explanation for this kind of thing: ‘Look, we aren’t gents, Luddie. But he is a gent, so he has a car.’ So the logical question was: ‘Mummy, what should I do to become a gent?’ The answer was primitive once again: ‘You’d have to be a doctor or an engineer.’ And yet my mother’s secret wish was for me to be a locksmith. She didn’t want me to study. So when I was in the fifth year of primary school, I sat the entrance exam to the grammar school without my parents knowing it. And then when the results came, I showed them the paper. I thought my mother was going to cry.”
“In those days things were good at the Law Faculty. There was one credit subject called Behaviour of a Lawyer. It contained basic things like how a lawyer should behave at court and so on. There isn’t much that can be said about that, the ‘lecture notes’ were sixteen pages long. They were fixed with paper clips, and included the poem Lešetín Blacksmith [by Svatopluk Čech - transl.]. No one knew why. When you went to pass the credit exam, the professor wasn’t really interested in what you said, that was easy, but he always asked: ‘What were your sources?’ And if you told him, say, that you had drawn on Roman Law, he would ask: ‘And what other source did you use?’ You weren’t allowed to say: ‘Your pamphlet.’ The only option was to say: ‘Your research paper.’ When you said that, you got the credit. But when you said: ‘Your pamphlet,’ he would get angry and send you packing and you would have to resit the exam.”
Communism is unacceptable in that it divides society into people of a first, second, third, and maybe even sometimes a fourth category
Ludek Dembovky was born December 11, 1929. His father worked as a clerk at the Municipal Funeral Institute in Pilsen, and his family obtained a government flat situated in the building of the institute itself. Shortly before the outbreak of the war, the family moved to the nearby village of Nová Hospoda, where Luděk experienced both air raids and the arrival of the American army. The American soldiers chose the family’s house as their base of operations. Luděk even hitched a ride to Germany with the Americans, to Hitler’s residence in Berchtesgaden. From 1948 he studied electrical engineering at the Czech Technical University in Prague. In November 1953 he started his compulsory military service and was assigned to the Auxiliary Engineering Corps (labour corps). During this time he began working at the national enterprise Armastav in Pilsen, he later collaborated with a group of soldiers and university students in preparing the construction of several military airbases, in cities such as Čáslav, Pilsen, and Mošnov. In 1956 Luděk Dembovský began teaching at the Secondary Technical School of Electrical Engineering in Prague. In 1970 he was forced to leave the school for his political opinions, and he returned to the practical application of his subject. From 1972 until the Velvet Revolution he worked at Agropodnik (Agroenterprise) Prague-West. He then established his own company, which remains successful to this day. Mr. Luděk Dembovský passed away in July 2016.