“As a child I felt social difference quite keenly, but I was not so sensitive to political matters. Say, I noticed that in our class the children from the more bourgeois quarters sat separate from the children from the Hliník colony. Another thing that affected me was when the father of one of my classmates died during football - the stand collapsed on top of him - the event was discussed by our class and we were sorry for our classmate; but then a girl from Košíře lost her mother - and it wasn’t even mentioned. I really hated these social differences, which were built up from childhood.”
“We used to go the mountains for holiday with my father, to the Giant Mountains, to Šumava. We got on well with the Sudeten Germans; we had private lodgings, we had lunch at a restaurant, and we went on hikes and everything was fine. But then 1937 came and we found out we couldn’t visit the border regions any more because anti-Czech sentiments were too strong. It wasn’t just a matter of Czech-German relations: we stayed at the Gaberts, who had two sons - one a Fascist, the other a Social Democrat - who quarrelled so badly you couldn’t imagine. So instead of the Giant Mountains, we went to the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia, but we discovered that Slovaks were also very unpleasant towards Czechs.”
“As soon as the war was over, crowds of women tore into the Germans’ flats and began looting them. These were no riff-raff - they were the wives of councillors and officers, whom I had to curtsy to as a child. I knew one German lady, the mother of a schoolmate of mine who was a year older, she had married a Czech; my schoolmate was brought up as a Czech, and although her mother didn’t speak good Czech, she was always immensely kind to us children. These women tore into her flat and pillaged it, they took everything to the Ondrás’ pub, they heaped table cloths, bedclothes and other things on a gigantic table. I saw the hags screech and fight over the things. It was an unimaginable experience.”
I would like for the twentieth century never to be repeated
Olga Fialová was born on 9 February 1927 in Prague as the daughter of the bank clerk Martin Reis. Soon after the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was established, her father joined Petiční výbor Věrni zůstaneme (the Petition Committee Faithful We Remain) and supported the families of people persecuted by the Nazi administration. He was arrested for his illegal activities and imprisoned in Germany from 1942 to 1945. After the war he became vice chairman of the Settlement Bureau, where he organised the official deportation of the German inhabitants. In 1945 Olga followed in her father’s footsteps and joined the Czechoslovak Social Democracy. In May 1948 she became a member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. After graduating from the grammar school on Vodičkova Street in Prague (1946), she spent a year in Great Britain. In the late 1940s she studied English and Czech at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague. In 1949 she married the art historian Vladimír Fiala. She did not complete her university studies. From 1954 to 1957 she worked as an editor at the Mladá fronta (Young Front) publishing house. In 1960 she was employed at the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, which was soon merged into the Svoboda publishing house. Until her retirement, she was employed to publish the works of Marx and Engels; from 1984 she edited books as a contract worker and translated from English. After the Velvet Revolution she participated in the renewal of the Masaryk Workers’ Academy, and she was a long-standing member of its board.