“Whenever a soldier was released from the army, he had to receive some written evaluation of his service. The company commander was supposed to do that, but he was either lazy or incapable of it, so it was done by us with university degrees. We made a complete joke of it. When some soldier was stupid, uneducated, we wrote how he ‘convinced other soldiers of the [beneficial] politics of the Party’. Private Bílý, who had bad eyesight and couldn’t hit a thing - we wrote how greatly he had mastered his weapon. We made fun of it like that. The company commander always threw a fit and then signed it - else he’d have to rewrite it. But we wrote our own evaluations like that as well. Who else, the company commander won’t write it, he’s lazy... So we praised ourselves as much we could - a kind of competition, who will write he’s the more enlightened, the better soldier. At the next field exercise, which was in Vimperk in 1982, I had a lot of conflicts with the battalion commander. He kept yelling: ‘Comrade Franěk, the worst soldier! I’ll write a complaint to your work place! You can’t be an officer of the Czechoslovak People’s Army!’ And again, we wrote the reports ourselves, he was too lazy, I praised myself to no ends, he signed it again. It backfired a bit, though, because they phoned me from the army administration: ‘Comrade, you have such excellent reports here, would you like to become a full-time soldier?’”
“What surprised one was the kind of mutual hatred of everyone to each other. You wonder why, say, the officers didn’t see us as people, but as trouble-makers who must only be bullied. And we hated the officers. The soldiers who were there for two years hated us, who were there for one. And we - I don’t want to say hate - but there was a barrier there between us and the soldiers on compulsory service... I came there in 1980 and the army was already disintegrating. When some reserve soldiers from the mid-70s came for training, it was okay. But this was disintegration. Practically no one took it seriously, no one knew why they were there, no one listened to anyone. Authority was based on fear alone. People were afraid of the ones who had the power to lock them up. We university students were given commanding posts - as platoon commanders or deputy platoon commanders. But we couldn’t actually command, no one listened to us. We could attempt to at times. Then there were the non-commissioned officers, who were there for two years - they couldn’t even attempt to command. You had to work out various methods of manipulation, which you learnt to employ to make something happen. Only the officers - they were afraid of them, so they could give orders. But again, it was a kind of authority based on fear. So it was a very dark period. Another thing - you saw the disintegration of the army in its complete formalisation.”
“We packed everything up, in the afternoon we got into the armoured cars that were parked in some field beyond Josefov. The vehicle’s commander always received a piece of typewritten paper with the so-called marching route - that is, some places, towns, crossroads, or which route to take. That was the rule. This case was an exception because we got the marching route in closed envelopes, and we weren’t supposed to open them until we received the order to do so, which never came. So the whole battalion got into the armoured cars. The procedure is always the same - first, the order is given to start the engines, then you wait and your car joins the column at the assigned place, which can take ten minutes, twenty minutes, half an hour. We got the order to start the engines, which meant we’d set off as normal. We waited three hours until the order came to switch the engines off, disembark, return to the barracks. So I guess that was the key moment. We then found out that [Polish] President Jaruzelski had been negotiating, that he was going to declare a state of emergency - I don’t know if he actually declared on that day, or if he promised to do so. But at that point it was clear that we had been supposed to go to Poland and that it had been called off at the last moment.”
Marek Franěk was born on 27 June 1956 into the family of researchers in Prague. He turned to the Catholic faith at secondary school, he took an interest in music and started playing the organ. In the latter half of the 1970s he undertook studies of musicology at the Faculty of Arts in Prague, which was suffering from Communist party profiling and swarming with State Security agents. He underwent compulsory military service with a motor rifle brigade in Prachatice. His battalion was assigned to Operation Krkonoše 1980, a special military exercise that could have led to the invasion of Poland. He experienced the complete disintegration of the army, where the only authority was fear and the soldiers wrote their profile reports for each other. After military service and to be allowed to work as an aspirant at the Institute of the History of Art of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, he joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. After the Velvet Revolution he had ambitions of changing the way things worked at the Academy. He served briefly as the deputy director of the institute, but in the end he was ousted from the Academy of Sciences on fabricated charges. He was then employed at the Czech Ecological Institute at Ostrava University. Currently, he teaches psychology and does research at the University of Hradec Králové; he also directs the church choir at St Francis of Assisi Church in Prague.