Andrej Gjurić

* 1938  †︎ 2015

  • “Ever since then I was on Wenceslas Square every day because it quickly became clear that it was necessary to come there every day in the evening, as we saw that the more people there would be at the Wenceslas Square, the more they would be afraid. It started on Monday [November 20, 1989 – note by the author], when we went to the radio, then it spilled over to Wenceslas Square. Subsequently, everyone would go straight to Wenceslas Square. Everybody would come here every day. Meanwhile, we established the Civic Forum at the Social Services Administration, while the Civic Forum called on the management of the Social Services Administration to resign from their positions, which of course was relatively toothless and thus only declaratory. We invited the ROH to submit to the Civic Forum. For each workplace somebody was chosen to the central Civic Forum of the Social Services Administration. It was fun. And I went every day after 5 o’clock from the counseling office from Nusle and I headed straight to Wenceslas Square. Sometimes, I met there with someone from my family, but we wouldn’t take our daughter, Xána, there. She wasn’t small anymore, I think she was eleven years old. But frankly, at least until Thursday, but rather until Letná, nobody could be too sure if the cops wouldn’t move against us. We weren’t sure if the armored units or firefighters wouldn’t attack us, possibly with tanks. It was just a matter of whether the police or the army would mobilize. As it turned out, they wanted to mobilize, both the police and the army, but the army told them that it was not going to mobilize... There was still the militia men, whom we also feared, of course.”

  • “Suddenly a Treffpunkt started, which was attended by all of my auntie’s old fellow inmates from Pardubice and the such, and also by everyone who had ever been in touch with her beforehand. Mádr, Zvěřina, Pepánek Hošek - another old lag - and lots of male jailbirds. But also a number of intellectuals and other people that she had nothing to do with beforehand, because everyone wanted to stop by there. And just like when she was in prison - because she wasn’t allowed to teach any more - in Smíchov Auntie again saw it as her calling to entertain and accept all these people.”

  • “When they came marching in - that was back in the spring of thirty-nine - the Germans entered Prague, I was about three or four months old. And that’s another anecdote passed down by the family. They were standing by the window, looking out, Mum and Dad, part furious, part tearful - even though we don’t cry in our family - Mum held me in her arms and watched despairingly how the German vehicles kept streaming in, rain, snow, and suddenly I started laughing like a maniac. Quite logically, because for a baby it was a wonderful diversion, suddenly there was something going on down there, an awful hullabaloo, that they German soldiers unfortunately, that was another matter. But they, I wouldn’t say they won’t ever forgive me that, but they always brought it up again and again.”

  • “So there [at his aunt’s; Růžena Vacková - ed.] I made my first acquaintance with an amazing number of incredibly interesting people with incredibly interesting stories. You could come there pretty much any day of the week and there would always be someone there and you could always get talking. And another thing was that for the first time I felt I was meeting people whom I could speak with about my world view. And that was one of the greatest gifts. I could name them, all these prison children, they were all such amazing people! And many of them didn’t have a university degree because they locked them up perhaps when they were twenty, and they kept them there for goodness knows how many years. There’s a word that’s just occurred to me - simply, on this or that level, people who were humanly exactly the same, those were ontologically significant people.”

  • “And we were sitting there in the village - and that’s another awful moment. Suddenly some blokes come in, pistols in hand, and they say: ‘Hands up. We’re partisans and we’re here to find Antonín Jelínek, the mayor of Meziříčí.’ We said: ‘He’s not here.’ And they took his old mum and led her away somewhere. I remember I started bawling awfully, and I said: ‘Mum, what does this mean? You said the partisans were good.’ But I’m saying this now because about an hour later my mum, a thirty-four-year-old beauty at the time, she got up and set off into the forests to look for old Mrs Jelínková. The woods were full of fleeing soldiers of all kinds, partisans - let’s not be naïve, especially in Moravia there were lots of partisans who were quasi-partisans - various marauders who wandered around looting and so on. And this woman set out into the midst of all this and brought old Mrs Jelínková home. So that’s what my mum was like. That’s also why we don’t cry in our family.”

  • “In the book on the Club of the Committed Non-Partisans (KAN), there are about two lines about me something along the lines of: the founding assembly of the Club of the Committed Non-Partisans took place there and there [in the auditorium of the University of Chemistry and Technology – note by the author], the preparatory committee was introduced, they talked about the contents and so on. They explained why the Club of Committed Non-Partisans - which in my opinion was at that time an amazingly clever move, because even the social democracy had no chance back then, of course, not to even mention the other parties. Only the People's Party had a chance of getting people’s votes. Furthermore, remaining a non-partisan at that time still wasn’t what it became after 1989 - the Civic Forum is for everybody while parties are only for their members. Then partisanship really had a pejorative tinge. And as far as I am concerned, my name appeared there in the context that there was a broad discussion about the scope and the mission of the Club, and there were contributions to the debate from the audience. The two contributions that attracted the greatest attention were mine and Jenda Štěpánek’s. That’s the only place in the book where my name is mentioned. It says that my contribution was intriguing because it was a thoughtful and refined expression of ideas and as they were so impressed with it, I was co-opted into the central preparatory committee of the KAN right away, at the spot. Well, there were obviously some crazy debates going on there, for instance about Dubček - the star and idol. The debates revolved around the issue whether it would be possible for the KAN to remain open at least to reform Communists. It was a very simple statement which garnered applause and in the book it’s called a “refined expression”. I said: ‘Excuse me - the members of the preparatory committee were sitting in the front - but I have to oppose you on that point. It’s like founding a Club of Committed Atheists and saying that the Archbishop of Prague was a very decent man and if it thus wasn’t possible for him to become at least an honorable member of it’. Because they were considering making him at least an honorary member. I said: ‘This is tautology, it’s nonsense. The Club of Committed Non-Partisans means non-partisans’. And now, of course, a crazy hoo-ha went around the room. That's how it worked with me later in politics as well for all my life. There’s always that one sentence in the beginning, that refined speech and from there it just always goes downward, simply because I'm not a politician. Neither was I a commander in the army. It was simply not meant to be for me. And it soon turned out in the KAN. However, this was only in, let’s say, March or maybe April.”

  • “The Letná merry-go-round is a magical thing. We would go [from my aunt’s - ed.], because she lived on Small Town Square, we’d walk around the Small Town a lot, and also to Letná. And on Letná there was - and it still is, but it’s closed - this huge, circular merry-go-round. And it had horses and wooden cars, as is the usual case. But the horses were in full real-horse size. They were horses as big as horses, with real horsehide. There was a pillar in the middle with three knights standing around in real full plate armour, each different, and it had a barrel organ, or an orchestrion, quite spectacular! The merry-go-round whirled round, the orchestrion played, and we kept on riding it... I’ve got one more small memory connected to it. I remember that one time during the war we found the Hitlerjugend on it. We’d wanted to go for a ride, so we set off, and suddenly it wasn’t allowed because the boys from Hitlerjugend were riding it. And the Hitlerjugend boys, because of course they were brought up to be harsh, they beat the horses - only with their hands, but they kept on beating them. And I cried and said: ‘How can they do that to the horses?’”

  • “I just stood there in the garden (of the Government Office) and there were two gardeners, both were already gray-haired like me, and they were driving around on these mowers. I stood there, looking at them and I thought: ‘wouldn’t it be better to drive that mower here, have a completely free head and then go and have a big lunch? After all, I don’t have to be an inter-departmental secretary’. But all the time, I kept on vainly fighting the windmills. By the way, I have only ex post read my aunt's praise of the escapades of Don Quixote, where she claims, that it doesn’t at all matter, whether it’s windmills or giants. The important thing is Don Quijote, who always sets out against the mills, time and again. And in Viktor Dyk’s play The Growing Wise of Don Quixote, after Quixote grows wise, he loses all of his raison d'etre. And that's it. I always move against the mill and the mill wing lifts me up on my spear and smashes me against the ground.”

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Living in the shadow of the prisons

Portrait
Portrait
photo: archiv pamětníka

Dr. Andrej Gjurić was born in 1938 in Prague. His father, Dr. Alexandar Gjurić, M.D. was an outstanding doctor, a specialist in gastroenterology. He came from Bosnia and since 1923, he worked at the II. internal clinic of the Charles University in Prague. During the Second World War, Alexandar Gjurić, with his brother in law Vladimír Vacek and friend František Procházka, got involved in the local anti-Nazi resistance movement. They cooperated in particular with Vladimír Klecanda and Vladimír Krajina, and with the Political Center of the national resistance movement and the organization Central Leadership of Homeland Resistance (ÚVOD). Gjurić used his contacts in his native country and organized the so-called “Yugoslav tunnel” that was used for funneling messages and people from Czechoslovakia. Unfortunately, their activities did not escape the Gestapo. In April 1941, Vacek and Procházka were arrested and in April of the following year, the Gestapo came for Alexandar Gjurić as well. A year later, all of them were sentenced by a People’s Court in Dresden to death for treason. On July 10, 1944, Vacek and Procházka were executed. Gjurić was guillotined on August 16, 1944. He left behind his wife Dahlia, née Vacková, and young sons Andrej and Alexander. Andrej’s aunt, professor Růžena Vacková, narrowly escaped execution at the end of the war for also being involved in resistance activities. The family struggled to make a living and after 1948, it was subjected to further persecution. In 1952, Růžena Vacková was imprisoned by the communist regime and she wasn’t released until 1967. Andrej Gjurić studied librarianship, but soon he began to take an interest in psychology. He at first worked in the university library, then as a research assistant at the Institute of Culture and Journalism of the Charles University. In 1968, he actively participated in the activities of the Club of the Committed Non-Partisans. For this reason, he was forced to leave his job at the university in the beginning of the so-called “normalization” period. In the years 1970-1975, he worked as a corporate psychologist in the company Geoindustria, later as a consultant for a marriage counselling office specializing in marital and premarital counseling in Prague. After November 1989, he became involved in politics. He ran and was elected to the Czech National Council for the Civic Forum and later he served as a member of the Chamber of Deputies until 1996. In 1991, he co-founded the Civic Democratic Party (ODS). In 1996, he unsuccessfully ran for the Senate for the ODS in Příbram. Later, he was briefly a member of the Freedom Union. Starting in 1999, worked as a secretary of the interdepartmental commission for the family and children at the Office of the Cabinet of the Prime Minister. He died on September 27, 2015.