“There were about five centres – at Žatec, Slaný and Louny. Once a year, just before Christmas, there was a meeting where they boasted what we had achieved. And there were speeches. The event was held in a large convention centre, I slumbered somewhere in the back. A Socialist Youth Union bloke had a speech on how he worked some hours for free, repaired a castle or whatever… And suddenly he says, ‘Imagine, comrades, that there is among us a young person who does not want to join us. And I want to ask you, Láďa, here before everybody, why is it you don’t want to join us? Come and tell us.’ Well, I had drunk about six beers at that time and it was a very long hall to cross. And now the tractor drivers, ‘Tell them! Just tell them, comrade!’ I said into the mike that I couldn’t join the Socialist Youth Union because they were pioneers of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia which had my friends’ blood on its hands.”
“They kept being a nuisance to me. They kept coming to my work, following me. Whenever there was an event, they arrested me at five in the morning and held me until eight in the evening. They didn’t want anything from me later, they just brought me some police books to read. I just sat there. And it was really unpleasant. One of them, Milan Havelka, he was really nasty. A 1950s cop. He kept telling me that I should hang, what was it I was doing to my dad and things like that. He was the bad one, then there was the nice one. It happened that I went from an interrogation and was confronted by other Secret Police officers who said that they were arresting me. I say to him, ‘I’m just going from an interrogation.’ And they said, ‘And have you told them anything?’ – ‘I haven’t.’ – ‘Well, perhaps you will tell us.’ And I spent there four more hours.”
“I went hop picking, with my colleagues in fact. My son was already born and I went because of money. I arrived and saw the terror in the eyes of all my colleagues. The secret police had arrived before me and told them that could not accept me because I would get into touch with university students. I didn’t care much and they solved it eventually by placing me at the very last position near the hopper, where hops fell down. Everybody went home and hops fell for another four hours. I was there quite alone and put hops into bags. Slave work. Because I was not allowed to be with the university students, I slept in the office, where they went early in the morning, so sometimes I slept for just two hours. The hops fell, I went into the office, they came for the morning shift. Once they came up to me and said: ‘Mr Drápal, tomorrow Americans will arrive to have a look at our hops picking. Not that you say something!’ – ‘Me?’ At night I painted on the hopper: ‘Long live Charter 77!’”
“Then one time, I was in a tram in Prague, and there was a bloke opposite me in a sweater with the Vokno logo. So I went up to him and said I had been looking for that magazine in vain. If I could buy it from him. To which he said I should come to the boiler room at St Thomas’s in the Small Side. That he works short-long shifts, so I should come this Saturday at so-and-so o’clock. I couldn’t even sleep properly. And that was Porky. He lovingly accepted me into the hardcore underground. I did the distribution of Vokno and Voknoviny for the whole of northern Bohemia. So I dived into the whole thing head first.”
“I worked there as an agronomist and he as a mechaniser. He always said: ‘Look, they’re after you. I’ll lend you my car so they don’t catch you. And where are you going, by the way?’ So I’d say: ‘Right, sure, you’re great!’ Then I found that they’d caught him driving plastered and they’d told him they’d either take his driving license, which would mean he’d lose his job, or he’d snitch on me. He took great care, he really sneaked on me perhaps every week. I had no idea. He was a drummer, a rocker, to boot, he kept railing against the Communists, we got on well together...”
“Back then I listened to [Deep] Purple, Kiss, and so on, and then I heard Umělá hmota [“The Plastic” - trans.]. It knocked me flat. The raw and authentic testimony of man. I had never heard anything like it, and I was utterly fascinated. I was also fundamentally influenced by the television programme Atentát na kulturu [“Killing Culture” - trans.], which was broadcast when I was in my seventh year at school. I was completely staggered. To see that such people exist, that the tribe I belong to really does exist.”
I felt that truth and goodness, which can enrich you and make your life beautiful, were elsewhere
Vladimír “Lábus” Drápal was born on 27 March 1964 in Louny into the family of a Communist functionary, which never really accepted his views and his activities. Already as a child he instinctively sensed that he must look for truth, goodness, and the beauties of this world outside the official structures of Real-Socialist society. In the end, at the age of twenty he was paradoxically pointed to the direction he chose by the propaganda television programme Atentát na kulturu (Killing Culture), which aimed to demean the underground culture of the time, and by a recording of the Czech band Umělá hmota (The Plastic), which - unlike the music of Western rock stars - appealed to him with its raw and authentic testimony of contemporary life. He gradually found real companions, mainly in Prague, including František “Čuňas” (Porky) Stárek, the group around Plastic People and Revolver Revue, who met in the Košíře pub of Klamovka, or Milan “Svědek” (Witness) Padevět and the people from the Bethlehem Chapel. He helped distribute the magazines Vokno (Windo) and Voknoviny (Windonews) throughout northern Bohemia, he took part in the organisation of underground culture events. Until 17 November 1989 he suffered from police oppression by the Communist regime, he underwent countless interrogation sessions at the hands of State Security. He is now the director of Louny Theatre and the owner and manager of Guerilla Records, a label that publishes and promotes music and literature that still fails to find its place in mainstream editorial plans and media.