“I saw many dead bodies. I cannot say how many because we didn’t have that information, we just saw all the young boys or someone climbing up a tank. But there were many innocent victims too. All it took was for someone living in a second floor in the center of Prague to open a window. The freaked-out soldiers thought something had been prepared and started shooting at the buildings. So there were so many needless casualties and no one intervened against it. All the intervening consisted of us trying to convince them that in our country we had democracy, that there was no counter-revolution, that they had come here as occupiers and not as friends.”
“Our people – the People’s Militias, Public Security – in armored personnel carriers and vans, brutally intervened against peaceful protesters with batons. It was terrible. I was there when… there was a refuge where people had been waiting for a tram. They had absolutely nothing to do with it, with the demonstration, they had just been standing there. An armored personnel carrier with a water cannon drove out of a side street, pointed the cannon at them and turned it on full stream. The people were rolling on the pavement like garbage because the jet was really strong. They were innocent, just waiting for a tram. So the interventions were not just against people who threw rocks at them or something like that. It was a hysteria or chaos of the policemen and the militias, brutally intervening against us – Czechs against Czechs. I think that this was maybe even way worse than the August events, when the nation had been united.”
“In the evening there was a program finished by the national anthem and then people started leaving. Except that the first days were under a lot of pressure, because those who went in or out of the theatre had their IDs checked by the Public Security and their personal details were being noted down. So the psychological pressure was great for the audience. And as for us, they told us downright: ‘Look, don’t expect to ever perform plays again. Rather expect being sent to a gulag or prison where your family will never see you again.’ So the pressure put on the strike committee was huge and the fear was immense. Because it ended with the debate and suddenly it was just the three of us, locked in a theatre. The Public Security was driving around, shining light into the windows, banging on the door and asking us to come out. It was…”
“Meanwhile they started rehearsing this religious play Comedy about a Star with Martinec which was premiered before Christmas. Because they had insisted that we made up for the theatre’s financial losses, caused by the strike. The director had an idea to do this beautiful play. The whole drama ensemble played in it, the theatre was crowded, some people were even standing. He approached it like… when there’s the massacre of the innocents, police in riot gear were standing there – the guards of Herod actually – with shields. Mothers of the slaughtered children were putting candles in front of them. It actually evoked the whole spirit of Národní třída and it had a very strong atmosphere. For the first time we saw nuns in cassocks in the theatre. At the end people sang Christmas carols. We managed to make up for all the financial losses of the theatre by the end of December.”
To look at the stars at night, to overcome one’s own fears
Ladislav Dušek was born June 14, 1943 in Prague. He lived with his parents and two older brothers in very modest conditions. His father František worked as a roof tiler, mother Anna was a housewife. The family moved to the borderlands after the war – first to Vroutek near Podbořany, then near Ervěnice and finally back to Prague after Ladislav’s father had died in 1954. While working at the mail rail, Ladislav graduated in acting at a conservatory. He witnessed the events of August 21, 1968 in Prague and joined the peaceful resistance against the invaders. One year later he experienced the peaceful demonstration at Wenceslas Square on the occasion of a one-year anniversary of the Warsaw Pact Invasion and he saw the brutal intervention of the armed forces against protesters. He married Hana Marešová in 1969 and their first daughter was born one year later. He started working at the Municipal Theatre in Most in 1969. In 1989 he signed the ‘Několik vět’ petition and moved to Liberec with his family the same year. There, during the revolutionary November days, he joined a strike in the F. X. Šalda Theatre. They organized discussions with guests who informed them about the latest developments in Prague, and they also informed workers in factories about the events. For ten days they slept in the theatre and resisted the psychological pressure of the Public Security. After the revolution, Ladislav Dušek entered local politics and continued to act in the theatre in Liberec.