Jiří Felix

* 1931

  • During normalization, I have been a commissioner for entrance interviews on the department of Romance studies many times. It was a total farce, because the poor applicants were thinking that it was the job of the commission to decide about them being accepted. This was an absolute error, but we couldn’t tell them. The only thing we could say was whether we recommend them or not, but the decision itself was up to the Communist Party Headquarters for Prague 1 on the Old town square. I remember sad stories; there was a boy, whose name I forgot, from a film-maker family – smart, polite, he knew all he had to. We recommended him, but he was refused, because his father was expelled from the party.

  • And then the Heydrich assassination happened. I remember clearly how we went to school and all the trams stopped in front of the the Invalidovna house; we couldn’t go any further as the assassination was committed. We were able to get Vysočany, where we lived, only after several days. I recall how I went to see my mother in the school teachers' room and everybody wanted Heydrich to die. Which eventually happened, but what followed was terrible. Accidentally, I was just on Malostranské Square when the city radio announced the destruction of the village of Lidice.

  • At university, we had a girl who left after two years. She was really good-looking, smart, her father being a senior doctor in Benešov. But contrary to her father, she was a terrible communist. But she was the kind of a saloon communist, a very dangerous one; she always asked: „how do you mean it, comrade?“ Later on, we learned that when her father spoke against the regime at home, she threatened him: "Don't talk like that, papa, or I will have to denounce you!"

  • I remember that on high school, we had an event shortly before the graduation in an assembly hall. It was already after the communist coup. And there, someone was babbling and the other students were laughing. But the young communists there replied: „You may laugh now, but we will give you recommendations on universities!“ And they were as unashamed as possible; it was true, after all.

  • I remember that two or three months after the German occupation of the borderlands the city of Most was completely evacuated, empty. We went for a walk in the city and the shops were empty with nothing to sell; just the portraits of Hitler and Henlein were in the shop windows instead of goods.

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    Praha, 12.03.2012

    duration: 03:00:34
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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Don’t talk like that, papa, or I will have to denounce you!

Youth in Prague
Youth in Prague
photo: Fotoalbum vydané k osmdesátým narozeninám Jiřího Felixe

Jiří Felix was born on February 21, 1931 in Prague. He grew up in Most, where he witnessed as a son of a primary school teacher, acts of German nationalism toward Czech school kids. Apart from publicly glorifying Hitler, German children threw stones on their Czech counterparts. After the Munich Treaty, he and his mother were expelled from Most. His mother was appointed to Trhová Kamenice in Českomoravska vrchovina. After the German invasion on March 15, 1939 and the abolition of a Czech school there, she managed thanks to her relatives, brothers Patočkas, to move to Beroun and consequently to Prague. Part of his family was executed here after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. He was a high school student at the time of the February 1948 coup, where he saw the rise in power of communist ideology; communist classmates were mocking non-communists, saying that the latters’ future depends on their reports. In 1951, he was accepted to the department of Romanic studies at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University. From the mid-1950s, he has regularly gone to Romania for study stays, where he received his doctoral diploma as the first Czech to do so. After his arrival to Prague in 1967, he became an internal employee of his home department. He is considered one of the most important Czech Romanic scientists. Jiří Felix is also a direct witness and participant of the evolution of the Faculty of Arts from the 1950s until today. In the 50s, he experienced the climate of fear, where people were afraid to voice their opinions, where students were expelled for the slightest signs of ‘ideological unreliability’, where some classmates were denouncing their colleagues and where some professors had enough courage to struggle for the least level of decency and science to be maintained on the faculty. After the Soviet occupation, he saw the normalization purges that caused, on the faculty as well as in the society as a whole, ‘a total demoralization of the public life’.