Meir Lubor Dohnal

* 1938

  • “Although back then in 1978 Operation Clean-out hadn’t started yet, in principle it pretty much had. Because, and it wasn’t just us, we had handed in our routine, annual, and totally hopeless application for an exit permit, as was usual in those days, in this case for a holiday in Greece, and suddenly we were approved for the exit permit, even for our daughter - I mean no family ever got that for all the members. We deliberated, and in the end it seemed that I’d stay here and my wife and daughter would leave. Because they hadn’t locked me up, the interrogations weren’t too long or often enough weren’t at all, they were probably just police routine, and I think they didn’t even have any relation to our signing the Charter. We didn’t want to tell anyone about our plans. Not even my wife’s parents; we didn’t think that they’d rat us out to the cops, but unlike us they were terribly worried about their poor granddaughter. So we didn’t even tell them about it, and we only told it to two of our friends from various circles, who could possibly help us. After 1990 I found out that both of them were agents of State Security.”

  • “Karol Sidon kept it secret from me when it was in the making, he was worried about my family. We then made it right and signed the Charter, my wife and I both. We were friends with Vlasta Třešňák, Andrej Stankovič, we were a group that belonged together; say I wasn’t friends with Ivan Jirous, though we knew each other. My wife wanted to leave no matter what, but I didn’t want to. At one point we considered the option that she would go ahead with our daughter, and I’d join them later, maybe. And then I realised that’s complete bollocks. We did the rounds of the banks with Sidon, so I’d make it in time, and I pushed my wife and daughter to Wilson [formerly Wilson Station, renamed to Main Station - transl.]. Sidon and I rushed up on to the wrong platform. We saw them across the rails, and the train was ready to leave. So I had to run around and under and jump into the train just as it was setting off. So that’s how I got into emigration.”

  • “It’s improving awfully much. When I came back to Prague for the first time in twelve years, in 1991, it was two worlds. Today no one can tell them apart, they’ve merged long ago. The generation of my students would think it was some silly concocted tale. But it was like that back then, and it wasn’t just in the clothes the people wore, or the dirt in the streets and how it was all grey everywhere. It was mainly in the behaviour, in this kind of melancholic pissed-offness that the Bolshevik bred within us, in a suspiciousness, in that people usually said something different than what they actually thought. Those are things that a Bavarian had no need for, and was thus the better off for at that moment.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 05.03.2015

    duration: 02:08:47
  • 2

    v bytě Lubora Dohnala (Praha 1), 15.11.2017

    duration: 01:13:09
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
  • 3

    Praha, 18.03.2018

    duration: 01:31:05
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

There’s always something important that’s left aside that’s good. Such is life.

Lubor Dohnal
Lubor Dohnal

Lubomír Dohnal was born on May 27, 1938 in Prague into a family of mixed religion. His mother was of Jewish origin, and she died in the extermination camp in Sobibor together with most of her family. His father had to leave his teaching position and begin forced labour. When he was six, Lubomír had to start wearing the yellow star, constatnly in danger of being transported away. To escape the authorities’ surveillance, he moved in with the family’s maidservant in South Moravia. in March 1945 he began attending school after the war, in Roztoky near Prague, where he lived with his grandmother. As a boy, Dohnal remembers his love of reading. He did not get along well with his father and his new family, and so he took the first opportunity to leave home. Immediately after graduating from secondary school in 1955, he applied to military school. His aversion to the Communist regime matured throughout the 1950s. He went through several jobs, and in 1961 he joined the Department of Screenwriting and Script-editing at the Film and Television Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He worked with Elo Havetta, Juraj Jakubisko, Juraj Herz, and many other prominent figures in Czech cinema. In the 1970s, the regime made working in cinema difficult, so he mostly worked in manual labor, in various jobs. He started attending the Old-New Synagogue in Prague. He did not hide his strong disillusionment with the state of society. He regularly felt the persecution by State Security. In 1977, he and his wife Blanka signed Charter 77, and the following year they relocated to Vienna with their daughter. They settled down in Munich (*in Munich or Vienna) .Lubomír Dohnal earned his living as a screenwriter, film director, and dramatist, and he cooperated with Radio Free Europe. He focused mainly on themes in connection with Judaism and Sudeten Germans. In the 1990s, he began teaching at the Film Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague. In 2002 he took up the chair of the Department of Screenwriting and Script-editing and settled down permanently in Prague.