“The original title of my diploma thesis was ‘Humour and satire as a form of a feedback for communication processes in a democratic and totalitarian state’. The opponent for my thesis was Kornel Földvári. He helped me a lot, because he gave me a magazine; he had some connections in Frankfurt, Germany, where the magazine Pardon was being published. It was the best satirical magazine in Europe in those times: just amazing. He played an important role there. Germany was going through a tough period, because young people born during the war had grown up and started asking their parents questions like: ‘What were you doing during the war?’ And that strangled democracy began to open up on all sides, and Pardon reflected that in a brilliant way, because they had wonderful authors and artists. By the way, caricaturist Stano Kochan, who later left Czechoslovakia and became the best caricaturist in the world, worked in the Kultúrny život magazine. I also mention this because in those times something really started to change here, and we hoped for a really positive development. We were all the more disappointed here in Czechoslovakia back then.”
We released Bratislava/nahlas and then we waited for a while. Firstly, the only reaction was just silence, then spontaneous public interest, and then a very sharp attack through the Pravda daily (Pravda – the Slovak word for ‘truth’), which was run by the Communist Party. A well-known publicist published a long pamphlet there under the pseudonym Dana Piskorová. At that time, however, we also received many encouraging messages, because, for example, Vladimír Mináč stood by us. He was an important figure in Slovak culture and at that time also a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. We found out that in the government, the prime minister at that time was Peter Colotka, there were people who thought that if we wanted to publish something, we should be able to publish it and they, the government, should just try to react to it in a sensible way. Nevertheless, the investigations began. It is interesting that those people who were protecting the old railways were among the first to be called over to the StB (the Communist secret police in Czechoslovakia). Then there was another wave. Even though we did not want it, some information leaked to the Radio Free Europe. Only later did we find out who leaked it and for how much money. It was a person who had nothing to do with Bratislava/nahlas, but for money he gave information to the editor in charge of news from Slovakia. At the beginning, we thought that it would cause us great problems, but then the whole situation somehow faded away. Maybe they had found out that we did not leak the information. Maybe they just used the fact only to provoke outrage against us for the fact that we had courage to do that. And then we found out, that they would call us one by one, but that was only after a year. Every week one of us would go there, every single week. We agreed that each of us would say the same thing. That it was created as a part of a legal event as an annex to the report from the meeting of the No. 6 front organization: the Slovak Association for Nature Conservation. On May 2, 1989 I was called to the StB’s office, which was at a place in Bratislava commonly known as ‘Februarka’. There was a very annoyed man called Dr Belan who asked us all these questions, checked them on his list, and that was it.”
“When there was a need to make a decision on who will be the head of the Slovak National Council, we were still having student meetings. That one was in the building of the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava, opposite Mozart’s house. One student came to me and told me, ‘Mr Gindl, Mr Lasica wants to talk to you’. I came down the stairs and Lasica was waiting there, warming his feet near the heating, because it was very cold in those days, and he said, ‘Vladimir Mináč told me to come here and tell you that he already has the obedience of the good members of the Central Committee of the Party. They got rid of the orthodox ones, and the new ones want to help us make the revolution happen.’ He does not want anything for that; he would just like to become the prime minister after that.’ So I told him ‘Well, tell him, it is all set up and he can come tomorrow. So on the next day, Vladimir Mináč came, he met with the Coordination Committee of the VPN (Public Against Violence, Slovak: Verejnosť proti násiliu) and he made this request again. Jano Budaj told him: ‘Mr. Mináč, we respect you because we know that you have helped us with the Bratislava/nahlas case, but we find this request strange and inappropriate because if you want to get into the National Council, there are many new political parties now being formed. Each of them would like to have you as their candidate, and you will almost certainly get to the National Council after the free elections. And then we will see if the National Council will make you the prime minister or not.’ He said, ‘So you do not accept my offer?’ We answered, ‘No we do not accept it, because now it would seem so clientelistic and strange.’ Mináč got angry, he flushed and said, ‘You are going to regret this!’ Later, he became a very serious enemy of the VPN. Why am I talking about this? It is not interesting as an anecdote itself, but at that time the Communist Party of Slovakia gave up its leadership role in the state, and people like Ondruš or Feldek went to the Civic Forum in Prague to report this on behalf of VPN, and about three weeks later we saw it on TV. Čalfa, who was a Communist, came to Havel with the same offer and they reached an agreement.”
When I saw that the regime was bulletproof, I was trying to find another way of expressing myself
Eugen Gindl was born into a doctor’s family on 4 February 1944 in Bratislava. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to the town of Liptovsky Mikulas, where he spent his childhood and adolescence. He graduated in journalism in 1968 at the Faculty of Arts of Comenius University with a diploma thesis on humour and satire. After the Soviet invasion, he left for two years to study at university in Berlin, and he travelled through Asia. After returning, he started working as a reporter in the weekly journal Život. Gradually, he began to cooperate with Czechoslovak radio and television as well as the Koliba film studios, writing several plays, productions, and films. All of them were on progressive topics, which also described the dark sides of life under the socialist dictatorship. Because of that, many of them were hidden and put aside and broadcast only later. In the 1980s he joined the anti-Communist movement and participated in the creation of the Bratislava/nahlas publication. As a member of the Public Against Violence movement’s coordination committee, he was significantly involved in the revolutionary process and subsequent efforts to democratize the media. After 1990 he became editor-in-chief of the Kozmos magazine; he also published the Central European Newspaper and founded OS, which is an extensive cultural-social monthly. He wrote critical articles in the SME daily.