Luboš Dobrovský

* 1932  †︎ 2020

  • “Then there was this lecture when Mr doctor Verner would come to the class and he would write these two pseudo-equations on the blackboard. The first equation was: 1 = 0. And the second one was: 1000 = ∞. And he would call on my good friend, asking him: 'What did I just write, Radhaus?' And Radhaus, who had been quite open when dealing with the honourable professors, would say: 'You just wrote rubbish, Mister doctor.' And Mr doctor Verner would smile and say: 'See, boys and girls? And this rubbish is the foundation of the whole Communist ideology.'”

  • “In late 1976, Jirka Dienstbier would bring me the Charter 77 declaration. I would read it and say: 'Yes, that's the trick we have been doing till today in order to achieve something – to take the regime up on its word.' As all what the Charter did was to take them up on their word. But as amongst the authors there was also the author of the Power of Powerless (Moc bezmocných) and Letter to Husák, there was this continuation, so it was more than just taking them up on their word. And there were signatures of people with whom I wanted to share something, Mr professor Černý for example, whom I befriended while I was working as an archivist at the Museum of Czech literature. As every week he would spend an afternoon with several people whom he considered worthy to meet with. And I was a part of that group which would gather on such occasion. And often, there would be such a great discussion. As he had been one of those who would broaden my horizons immensely. And I would do the same for him as I would explain him why can´t we pin our hopes on Husák. And as such people would sign it, of course... Even the way they would address the power seemed reasonable to me. And I had no idea that it would bring such a reaction as it later did. But it didn´t surprise me at all. And even my brother signed it. So we had been among the first who did it.”

  • “Then I had been working with Ruda Zeman and Pavel Seifter (at the Cleaning National Enterprise). And that was good as we could do it like this: two of us would work and the third one would stay at home doing something. Ruda distributed samizdat publications and materials that came from abroad or were sent abroad. Pave Seifter was an editor of the Historical Collection (Historický Sborník). And and Honza Lopatka and me, we were editors of the Kritický sborník (Critical Review), or I would stay home working on translations. So two of us would work and the third one would stay at home. At the same time, Jirka Dienstbier and me, we would publish, or at least we would try to publish this samizdat magazine that according to Jirka Dienstbier should have been featuring mainly works by journalists who had already lost their jobs. But after we would publish just two issues, they arrested Jirka Dienstbier and locked him up. And Pavel, Ruda and me, we would do one more issue, but no one wanted to write for us, as everyone would be afraid, especially after they had locked Jirka up.”

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    Praha, 13.01.2014

    duration: 04:14:00
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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I didn´t want to get in situations I had been living through; more or less, my life was just happening to me

Luboš Dobrovský, a portrait
Luboš Dobrovský, a portrait
photo: Eva Palivodová

Luboš Dobrovský, born Hammerschlag, was born on February 3rd of 1932 in Kolín. His father, Ludvík Hammerschlag, of Jewish descent, was an office worker at the Draslovka chemical plant in Kolín. In July 1942, he had been interned in Theresienstadt (Terezín) from where he was transferred to Auschwitz in September 1943. He died in Germany at the end of the war as the train he was transported in had been destroyed in Allied air raid. His mother, Marie Hammerschlagová, moved from Kolín to the village of Ohrada with Luboš and his younger brother, running a small farm to meet the ends. After the war, his mother married Josef Dobrovský, a colonel who fought at both the Western and the Eastern front and came back to Czechoslovakia with the army led by Ludvík Svoboda. He served at the Garrison Command in Kolín and later at the Czechoslovak army´s general staff in Praha. In the school year 1949 – 1950, under his stepfather´s influence, Luboš decided to transfer from gymnasium in Kolín to Jan Žižka of Trocnov Secondary Military School (Vojenské gymnázium Jana Žižky z Trocnova). There he wanted to pass the leaving examination and continue in his studies at a military academy to become an officer. However, shortly before the examination he had been expelled due to his stepfather´s conflict with the communists in the leadership of the army. He took the secondary school leaving exam at gymnasium in Moravská Třebová, and as he hadn´t been admitted to university, he taught Russian and Czech in elementary schools in the country while studying at the faculty of education. From 1953 to 1955, he did his compulsory military service in Vimperk and had experienced disillusionment with conditions in the army. Later on, he graduated in Russian studies and Czech studies at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University (Filozofická fakulta Univerzity Karlovy). From 1958 to 1968, he had been working at the Czechoslovak Radio in Praha (Československý rozhlas), starting his career in external broadcasting department and later joining the editorial staff at the foreign news department led by Milan Weiner as the editor in chief. He had been working as an editor, an analyst and Socialist countries correspondent, participating on the unique, uncensored Commented news (Komentované zpravodajství) broadcast. From 1967 to 1968 he was the Radio´s permanent correspondent in Moscow. After August 1968, he had been working as an editor at Listy and Plamen magazines. After the magazines were discontinued, he had been working as an archivist at the Museum of Czech literature. From 1974 – 1988, he had been employed at the Cleaning National Enterprise (Úklid) as a window cleaner, and in 1989, he had been working as a boiler operator at the Motol University Hospital. At the same time, he was the editor of the Kritický sborník (Critical Review) and Čtverec (Quadrangle) samizdat magazines, he translated materials from Polish and Russian and gave lectures at the underground university. After the Velvet Revolution, he got involved in politics – from December 1989 to January 1990, he had been the Civic Forum (Občanské fórum) spokesman, from January 1990 to June 1990, he served as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman. From June 1990 to October 1990, he had been part of a team that negotiated the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country as the Deputy Foreign Minister. In October 1990, he was appointed as the Defense Minister by president Václav Havel and held the post till June 1992. After that, he had been serving as the chief of the Office of the President of the Republic and from 1996 to 200, he was the Czech Ambassador to the Russian Federation. Luboš Dobrovský passed away on January 30th 2020.