Iva Drápalová

* 1925  †︎ 2016

  • “I got out of the building after my lecture and a Tatra 600 was already waiting there for me. There were policemen sitting in it and they pulled me inside. They picked up Lubor at his work and took the mother-in-law from her home. Little Dan was there as well. They asked me where they should put him. I told them to give him to my sister. So they drove to Mikovcová ulice but my sister wasn’t home. So they took him to the police station where he spent the next three days. After the three days, my mom found him there. He was just three years old.”

  • “We weren’t beaten or screamed at, at least I wasn’t. When they locked me up in a solitary-confinement cell for the first night, I remembered the verse from the Bible: ‘God gives sleep to his dear ones’, and I slept. The worst thing about it was that I was terribly bored. When there’s no interrogation, nothing, you get really bored in your cell.”

  • “The spokes person came to me and said that the interpreter must have gotten stuck somewhere. She asked me if I could kindly translate the conference. She said she knew it was not my duty but that they’d greatly appreciate it. My colleagues told me: ‘You’re here for us, not for everybody’ and they didn’t want to let me go at first. But I told them that if they let me do the interpreting, they will learn what’s going on. If they didn't let me go, someone else would do the job, possibly screw it up, and they wouldn't learn anything. So they let me go and do it. I went out in the front and told Čalfa: ‘Please, I’m very tired after the last couple of days, but if you speak in short and nice sentences, I’m sure I can translate it well’. He smiled and said: ‘I will’. And he really did. He spoke in short and reasonable sentences.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 26.01.2011

    duration: 02:58:32
    media recorded in project Portraits of Prague citizens
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

I took things as a matter-of-fact. That’s why I wasn’t afraid

2.jpg (historic)
Iva Drápalová
photo: archiv PB

Iva Drápalová was born on April 4, 1925, into the family of Czech professor, Antonín Václavík. At that time, the family lived in Slovakia where her father, a talented ethnographer, was sent after the war to help with the formation of the Slovak national identity. In 1939, all Czechs were expelled from Slovakia and the family was sent back to Brno. In the same year, Iva received an offer to study at a two-year boarding school for girls in England. Barely a month after she had gone to England, the war broke out. Iva could not return to Czechoslovakia and lost contact with her family. After two years at the boarding school, her scholarship expired. Due to the intervention of Jan Masaryk, a friend of the family, she was given the opportunity to continue her studies in London. Because of her excellent test results, she was accepted into Edinburgh University where she managed to graduate from two fields of study in record time. With the end of the war, Iva returned to Czechoslovakia and completed her doctorate degree at the University in Brno. In 1947, she married a Professor from Prague, Bohdan Jelínek. However, he emigrated in 1948 and left his pregnant young wife behind in Communist Czechoslovakia. Iva was able to cope with this difficult situation and later married for a second time. Her new husband, however, came from a family that was very uncomfortable with the existing regime. Her new father in-law and brother-in-law spent many years in communist prisons. Iva and her husband, Lubor, got involved in trafficking schemes through the Jáchymov mines. For this, they were sentenced to three months in prison in 1953. With an adverse cadre report, they had trouble finding jobs for a long time. The situation improved only in the sixties when Iva was given the opportunity to work as an interpreter for the Prague Information Service. Thanks to her job, she was able to work in the office of the Czechoslovak international press agency, the ‘Associated Press’, in 1968. After two years, she was in charge of the agency. The entire family was, however, under constant surveillance by the secret police. After the revolution, Iva learned that her file counted over 1,200 pages. She left the Press agency in 1988 but still played a very substantial role in the November events of 1989. As an interpreter, she translated for foreign journalists that were coming to Czechoslovakia to report on the revolutionary developments. She continued to cooperate with foreign news agencies in the years to come.