Jiří Fráňa

* 1947  

  • “The national anthem was being sung. Everyone was in shock. People in front of the city hall tried to argue with soldiers. They didn't know what was going on, nor where they were, they just followed orders. Later, the situation had begun to deteriorate, as from the new city hall where the National committee was, a commander of those troops emerged. People were pissed, someone threw down his hat, this big one like they had. People began to think whether that wasn't too much as even before that they were showing sunflowers into gun barrels. Even the boys who did it were unsure, as they had no idea. And then it went: 'Bang, bang, bang, bang!' And someone said: 'They are firing blanks.' Then lamp covers at the April 30th Street started to fall, on this street which led from the city hall to the main avenue by the railroad station. So people found out that they weren't firing blanks. So everyone was looking for cover. Fortunately, this happened just on a single occasion.”

  • “Then there was the May Day. And we who weren't involved in politics back then we didn't go to school in Socialist Union of Youth uniform as many others did. And there was this comrade deputy director at the school, she was red indeed. And she showed that ostentatiously, she mocked everything that opposed her view. And there was this scene, like they were showing themselves off, they were showing themselves off til there was nothing they could show. She handed out placards. And everyone started: 'We have to carry placards again.' I didn't know that madame, or comrade to be precise, was standing right behind me and I told them: 'Idiots, if you would come dressed as usual you wouldn't have to carry a placard. You are wearing the Youth Union shirts, so carry the placard.' And that was it. Comrade Vašková said: 'Fráňa, you are making remarks again.' And she issued me a Soviet flag. So we were the single school on that May Day that came to the platform with just a Czech flag, as the Soviet one remained poised as she gave it to me, resting against the wall. She was on the grandstand of course, as she was this hardcore comrade. And I suppose that she had to explain to the other comrades why we were marching by with just our flag. So after that I was done. I failed in everything, even in subjects I was quite good at. So they threw me out in no time.”

  • “We were sitting in a guardhouse, waiting for a guard to come to pick us up. You had a visiting card so you went in. And there was this lady sitting in a corner, obviously in a pretty bad shape, she was crying. And all of a sudden, this 'Whistling Dan' appeared there. He asked: 'Who wanted to speak to me?' Without a greeting or anything, as no one cared about formalities at that place. The lady in the corner said that she wanted to ask him for something. That she got this message, that her husband was in a very bad shape, that most probably he would die, so she wanted to see him for the last time. And I can still remember him asking her: 'Are you entitled to visit him?' And she said: 'I am not.' He looked at her and said: 'Dear madam, if your man would die right at this moment, I wouldn't let you in.' That offended my grandmother from Královo Pole, who got up and just started to beat the man. 'You are a Nazi!' she screamed at him. We were thinking that in solidarity we would refuse to go inside as well. In the end, he was so upset that he ran away. And those men who came with him were quite perplexed. They turned around and went away. Fortunately, we were picked up by different group of men so we went inside. And my grandmother was sitting there with that woman. I didn't know what there were into as she was waiting for us, for our visit to end. And while I was there I created this line inside myself. I told myself: 'And these are the people acting like they were supposed to lead us to better tomorrows.' I just told myself that for me, that was enough, being a twelve years old.”

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    Brno, 28.11.2019

    (audio)
    duration: 01:58:33
    media recorded in project Příběhy regionu - JMK REG ED
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They kept telling me that my father was playing basketball in Hungary, but in fact he was in the Leopoldov prison

Jiří Fráňa in 1960
Jiří Fráňa in 1960
photo: archiv pamětníka

Jiří Fráňa was born on June 22nd 1947 in Brno. In the same year, his father, Milan Fráňa, won the silver medal at the European basketball championship as a member of the Czechoslovak team. As a successful athlete and a Sokol organization member, his father was disliked by the new Communist government and in 1949 he was arrested by the State Security. He was sentenced in a political trial and imprisoned in Leopoldov until 1960. It was not until he was eight years old that Jiří discovered that his father was in prison. A single visit in prison had an immense impact on his whole life. He decided that he would never have anything to do with the Communist party. Jiří studied at a school of metallurgy but due to his opinions he was forced to leave the institute. He trained as a steel industry worker and to avoid being drafted he sign up as a coal miner. After he was released from prison, his father had been living in Brno and he started to train again. He was allowed to do blue-collar jobs only so he had been working as a glazier. He died in a tragic accident when he fell through a roof of a factory building on June 17th 1970. Jiří had been working in the mines till 1997 when he retired with a miner’s pension. In his spare time he has been visiting schools, sharing his experience of the totalitarian regime with the youngest generation.