Vladimír Grégr

* 1933  

  • “I would like to add that Eduard Grégr had been quite a hell-raiser. Like when he had smashed that bench at the Imperial Court. I don´t know whether you knew that story.” “I didn´t. Tell us.” “He surely had been hard to get along with. On one occasion, Czech deputies would - but I am getting of the point now so maybe it might be confusing, but I find the story quite funny – would obstruct the Imperial Council session by giving four or five-hour speeches. They would read editorials, laws and so on. So he would read for four hours, then he would go downstairs to have a coffee and some other man would take his place and speak, maybe telling exactly the same. Some of them would even sleep in the pub across the street where they used to eat or drink coffee and beer. And after some time, as I can´t imagine how long it might have lasted, someone just stopped this madness of theirs, so Eduard Grégr would go berserk and start smashing the bench in front of him. And he would smash it so hard it would break. Emphasis: 'Now, we Czechs have come here to teach you Austrians a lesson!' And as they would come back to Prague, they would take the board with them and they would carry it proudly while marching across the Wenceslas Square (Václavské Náměstí) and elsewhere, showing this piece of wood to just everybody as a proof they had taught the Austrians a lesson. And our family still has the board in its possession! One of my distant cousins has it. I tried to convince him that he would lend the board – with a sign 'This board had been broken by Eduard Grégr' or something like that – to the Senate. Be he refuses so there´s nothing I can do about it.”

  • “As I came to Praha I started working at Energoprojekt and there were several more people who avoided military service by doing that. And just for the record, if I would stay in the army, the people who were born in the same year as I was had their service extended by one year. They had to serve for three years instead for just two. That would spark quite an outrage, as my friends from the army told me, but you couldn´t do anything about it. Shortly after that there was this huge peace campaign, they were telling how the Socialist Bloc was willing to reduce the Czechoslovak army to maintain peaceful coexistence. So as a proof of the Czechoslovak government willing to maintain the peaceful coexistence they would set the length of military service back to two years, so they could all go home as they were supposed to do before the extension.”

  • “My father didn´t want to leave the Republic, I would say, as I know that there had been no talk about emigrating before February 1948. But maybe I had told already about money we had in England. As there was this coup in February 1948, they would invite him to the office downstairs and he had to sign documents on the nationalisation process. And the national trustee, or the man who would become the national trustee, would turn to him and say: 'And what about the money in England, Mr Grégr?' He knew, as the money was kept in the books, that there was this sum of money deposited abroad. My father would hesitate for a while and ask them to excuse him for a moment. He went upstairs where his wife was – we used to call her aunt Eva, as our mother died tragically during the war. And he would tell her: 'Eva, we have to decide now. Either we would leave, having quite a sum that would keep us going for some time, or I had to go downstairs, sign that paper and give them the money.' And aunt Eva – as she had so little time to decide, and probably she didn´t want to leave her family and most of all her mother – would say: 'I´m not brave enough, I can´t do that.' And he would tell her that was all right, go downstairs and sign the money transfer document. And that – more or less – was the end of the idea of leaving the Republic.”

  • “Here´s how it had happened. There was this Miss Feiglová working at our printing company, I think she was an accountant. She handled money. And as the Nurnberg laws were implemented she would see my father and say: 'Boss, I am Jewish, but I did cut the connection with them long time ago.' My father would say: 'Does anyone know about it?' She replied: 'I guess no one knows much about it.' Her parents were dead. 'No one knows, I guess.' And my father said: 'If you would promise me you wouldn´t tell anyone,' excuse me [witness cries], 'you could stay here.' And she would spend the whole war there. They wouldn´t get her. So by doing that, he might...”

  • “As he would get older, Eduard Grégr settled in Lštění. And as he would go to Vienna to attend the Imperial Council session, he would get take a train and go to the Franz Josef Station in Praha, where he would change to express train to Vienna, heading back towards Čerčany. And if Ferdinand d’Este went to attend the session, the train would stop in Čerčany so his luxury carriage could be attached. And at one instance, Eduard would get mad in the parliament and say: 'Everyone is bound by the timetable so the train had to pass through Čerčany without stopping!' Of course, he was angry as he had to go all the way to Praha. And just imagine that he had succeeded. Since then, poor Ferdinand d’Este had to go to Praha with his carriage to be attached to the train and he would just pass through Čerčany. As he had been living at the Konopiště castle so the train station in Čerčany was the nearest. So I hope that proves how much of a hell-raiser Eduard Grégr was.”

  • “These groups were soon to be given away. Gestapo found out what was happening and started to investigate some people. And uncle Vláďa knew for sure that sooner or later Gestapo would know he was involved. So during the last days in Prague, he would still be on the move, visiting various places. And every night he would spend at a different place so they couldn´t find him. But in the end, he didn´t succeed. My father would say: 'Why haven´t zou left yet?' But he had this beautiful relationship with his mother, Božena. My grandmother Božena, he couldn´t part with her in such a hurry. So he would postpone his leaving, when there still was a chance he could do that. By doing that he sealed his fate. On that day he would sleep in our flat in Hálkova street. And Gestapo would come to arrest him. And I am not sure whether I made it up or... But I think that as a boy I was looking from the window and saw him right at the moment when they would put him in a car. And they would take him to Pečka palace and following thing would happen according to my father. As they were entering the palace there was confusion as the Gestapo man who had been taking him in had to sort something out at the reception. At that moment he would stand outside waiting to be taken in the Palace. And suddenly he realised that that was maybe the last chance he had to escape. As it was at night and he knew the city well so he would know where to run. But he didn´t do it. And as he entered the Pečka palace, he realised: 'I am most probably done as I didn´t take my last chance.'”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 10.10.2018

    (audio)
    duration: 01:59:41
    media recorded in project Memory of the Nation: stories from Praha 2
  • 2

    Praha, 11.10.2018

    (audio)
    duration: 01:58:03
    media recorded in project Memory of the Nation: stories from Praha 2
  • 3

    Praha, 05.12.2018

    (audio)
    duration: 01:51:41
    media recorded in project Memory of the Nation: stories from Praha 2
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You have to carry on the family tradition

His uncle Vladimír Grégr; around 1937
His uncle Vladimír Grégr; around 1937
photo: archiv pamětníka

Vladimír Grégr´s ancestry traces back to Eduard Grégr, a nationalist politician, and Julius Grégr, founder of Národní listy (The National Newspaper). Since the 19th century his family ran a printing company in Praha´s Nové Město (The New Town). During the Second World War, his paternal uncle, also Vladimir, had been executed for participating in anti-German resistance. Vladimír Grégr was born on April 5th of 1933 in Praha. After the war, he studied at The King George of Poděbrady Central Bohemian College (Středočeská kolej krále Jiřího z Poděbrad) with Miloš Forman and Václav Havel among his classmates. After February 1948, as his family´s fortune had been nationalised, he was allowed to take a secondary school leaving examination, but after that, instead of going to college, he had to do the compulsory military service. He had been working at the Energoprojekt company, later serving as a construction site supervisor at Orlík Reservoir construction site. At the same time, he had been studying Construction Economics at ČVUT (Czech Technical University in Prague). In the 60s, he was a road construction supervisor at the District Investment Enterprise (Krajský investiční podnik). In 1968, he emigrated with Jana, his girlfriend and wife to be, and after spending some time in Traiskirchen refugee camp in Austria, he settled in Luzern, Switzerland, where he has been living since. In Switzerland, he had been working at a cantonal office for road construction management and he also had been associating with Czechoslovak émigrés. After 1989, the Grégr family got the printing company back in a run-down condition. The family abandoned the printing business but kept the building in their possession after the reconstruction.