Jaroslav Haidler

* 1933

  • “In the newspaper, they did not allow me to do anything anymore. This was due to formal mistakes or they simply said it was not appropriate. They have simply completely discredited me, so I left. The others like Král, Beránek, they always thought– and also said so – that things would get better. I did not believe that and I left. The others stayed and were forced to leave anyways. Because later they started shooting in their own ranks and those who did not sign were fired anyways. And those on the editorial board who during ‘67 and ‘68 did not get in the news at all suddenly started playing smart and wrote sharp comments. I remember that for example Koloučný always wrote almost one full page of non-sense! I remember one of the biggest bastards – he is already dead now – he wrote: ‘Haidler, Brichta, Král – we won’t take their bread away but we won’t be buttering it either.‘ This is exactly how it was published in Průboj. We saw we needed to leave. And so we left.“

  • “Jára was great. Imagine the situation. My wife came for visit and our boy, who was born in 1958, was 12 or 13 years old. When they came to visit me in Bory, I had to sit and leave my hands on the table all the time. My son Jára was not allowed to kiss me and my wife neither. Then I got a letter from him and he wrote: ‘I always thought that cages are only in banks to prevent robbery. But I did not really think that the prisons are full of bars.” Then they have taken revenge on my boy. He won a regional competition in Russian language. It was a great celebration at school. The teacher and the headmaster congratulated him. But then the next day a letter arrived saying ‘Jarek, there was a terrible mistake. They have counted the votes wrong. You came in second.’ The winner was the son of a Communist from the Regional Committee of the Party.”

  • “I was looking into the details and suddenly I saw a notification which said: ‘The warehouse keeper has fattened up his pig before his own eyes.‘ So I thought who could have written this, it was really funny. I went to the teacher, Dočekal, and I told him: ‘Professor, I am an editor now.’ And he got scared and said: ‘My God, what have you gotten yourself into?’ I asked him what to do and when I explained him the whole situation, I asked him to tune my piece. I gave it to him and he said: ‘It’s good, it is well written.’ Then he drew a pig with a tube in its butt and a co-op member inflating it. I put a headline: ’A penny saved is a penny earned.’ Now imagine the reaction when it was published. The newspaper was sold out immediately but suddenly a guy ran in the office shouting: ‘You bastard! Do you know who I am?’ I replied I didn’t. And he said he was a member in the District Committee of the Communist Party and asked whether I understood what I did with the article, because it was humiliating the Party. And I told him: ‘Mr. District-Committee-Communist-Party-member, I only wrote what is the truth.’”

  • “Mum said that she had been there that evening when they brought him, and in the morning she told me things were bad with Dad. Later on I reckoned to myself that even if it was true, that he drove in the car and that he crashed into the tree there by Krásný, he had to go over the crossing slowly. It was said that Dad had drunk a bit; it’s true that he sometimes had a drink, but I don’t believe that he would drink if he was driving by car. And if so, as I say, if he’d have crashed into the tree, he couldn’t have been so trashed up. And yet the car was undamaged. You understand? The car was fine and Dad was mashed up. Unfortunately, he was tended to by a German back then. And [the German] was probably afraid to say that Dad had been shot, that he was shot to bits! Because, I heard that later on when I worked at the factory, a former policeman who also dropped out and ended up in production, he told me it had been a big operation, which Vendelín had messed up. [Q: And how big a share of guilt do you ascribe to Vendelín Žižka?] Well... he was the central figure for all that went on there. [Q: And did you confront him about it as an adult?] No. He became a big fish in politics... It wasn’t possible. He tried, he even became my stepfather. [And your mother believed him, she didn’t have any suspicion?] I actually think they were in it together. And yet he was married. Right until the last moment Mum was of the opinion that it was an unfortunate accident, and when I told her it had happened a bit differently, she just said that was slander, you shouldn’t say that about your dad. I told her, okay, I won’t say it, I’ll be quiet, but you mull it over. Well, she mulled it over in her own way, she was pretty unexcitable, so to say. I was proud of Dad. That he had found the strength and that I hadn’t been disappointed in him, that the things he had told me, he had also lived by them, and that he hadn’t let himself be humiliated by the regime.”

  • “I should explain what the X-Ray was. I was still at Průboj at the time, and one bloke came to me saying he had something for me, if I wasn’t afraid of it. I said I couldn’t claim to be any big hero, but what was it about? And he said, look, I know that at the post office - but that was the old post office in the Na předmostí quarter in Ústí, a two-storey house - there was a tiny little room on the top floor which had a cupboard fitted on to a door, and when it was opened, there was no board at the back, and the party members - those were just the post master and his deputy or the party chair - put letters there that State Security was interested in. That means, either they took them directly, or, he had some kind of contraption there, he opened it and read it, and if there was nothing of interest in it, he put it back, and if there was some damaging contact there, he took it with him, they copied it out there and then gave it back. So we went there, the post master was terrified, how dare I, but I went there with one officer of Public Security [the police force - transl.], one of those who later objected to what this man later claimed, that it wasn’t true. So this was a policeman who openly agreed with the development started by Dubček’s wing - he even brought a petition stating as much, he brought it to the newspaper’s office. That was one reason, then also the Man with Fire in His Face... [Q: Who tipped you off to the X-Ray?] It was either someone from the post office itself because otherwise he couldn’t have known about it, perhaps he had told me his name at the time, but he was also scared, so he didn’t tell me his real name, I don’t know his name, I had to go with him all the way up there, to the sanatorium, there he told me this secret information, he was scared and shaking all over when he told me about it; I wondered if it wasn’t some kind of bait, and I went and I even described the mechanism. And the other thing which was part of the bill of indictment was that I, like I told you, was responsible for [covering] the state authorities, so I did the rehabilitations, and I was there for the rehabilitation of the regional secretary of the Social Democrats, he was called Veverka, he was from Liberec. That was also dreadful, the way they broke them in and tortured them; and when it was over, we went to have a coffee in Bohemka. And I was thrilled that they freed him, right, and I said, Mr Veverka, so when’ll we establish the social democracy here? And he said, you’re a nuthead, boy. I asked, why? Dubček says that it’ll all happen, the renewal, everything, the mistakes there were will be corrected... To which he replied: ‘Surely you don’t think the Communists will allow us to turn into a social democracy? But there was a bloke in the restaurant reading Rudé právo [Red Law, the main Communist newspaper - transl.], well, every dunce and dolt read it in those days, right, so it didn’t occur to me, but he was an implement of State Security, some bastard like that who was there, he recorded this, and deduced from it that I wanted to establish a social democracy!”

  • “Except that year forty-five, I lived that in full. I didn’t even realise it at the time, although partially yes, but when looking back, how our people could - because those were the biggest bastards there in Říčany who later went at the Germans who were there, those who were in Vlajka [The Flag - a Czech nationalist organisation that collaborated with the Nazis - transl.] and its organisations, they had to walk around the square and tidy up, I walked by all of it and thought, gosh, that won’t do any... and the same later on, when they threw them out, that was even worse. [Q: You actually saw one Max Nejedlý - but the name doesn’t fit in your book, you changed them, including your own - your character is called Jakub Jonáš - you witnessed him shoot a German soldier.] Max himself is a combination of several figures, but back then in Říčany he really was an officer of the Czechoslovak army, who, just as Moravec, had served the Germans, and then, right after the war when things started, he suddenly rushed up and caused the German to be shot, but those were old gramps, those weren’t real soldiers; if they were soldiers they would be glad to be able to throw down their weapons and stop fighting; it was plain, dirt simple murder. But this person, I met him later on, this Max, who appears throughout the book, that’s an authentic person who isn’t alive any more, because he was older than me, so he’s dead now.”

  • “They gave me three and a half years... oh, and that’s a joke, I was defended by a person I later found out was a State Security agent, and he was there like he wasn’t there at all. They whammed down three and a half years on me, I reckoned, oh for flips sake, that’s a bit too steep. Then I read it and I got an idea - in April sixty-eight Svoboda started as president and he declared an amnesty. In other words, I appealed on the basis that I had been unfairly tried, and the Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem accepted my appeal and I was declared innocent. But the regional secretary, Jaroslav Hein, another nasty beast, he didn’t like it, so together with the district attorney, he lived not far from me, they sent an appeal to the High Court, and the High Court found out that the amnesty doesn’t apply to months, so they struck off the three years and I went into the cooler for only six months. So the wolf is fed and the goat stays alive [a Czech idiom for a situation which seems to satisfy two contradictory demands by some peculiar compromise - transl.]. So I was in Bory; while there I met with Uhl, which is also interesting, Uhl was pretty cold to me, later I found out why, because he knew there was a State Security agent in the cell with him. And by another coincidence, I knew the boy because the boy came to me and claimed he was from a mixed marriage, that he’d ran away, that he’d got the death sentence and was then amnestied, and the dunce I was, I wrote this all down in good faith, and then I discovered that this Mirek here had told me a pretty tale so he could say it wasn’t true, to discredit me. He was a right sneak because he counted that if the change in ’68 worked out - I’d be the good guy, and if not, he could use it against me, that he’d misinformed me on purpose or that he’d told me a pretty tale.”

  • “My mum, that’s an interesting figure, because she was one of the first two female graduates from the Jablonec business academy. There used to be only boys there, and they were the first, a Miss Borůvková, and Šlapáková Jindra, the first female graduates, women, they graduated at the ages of 24, 27. She herself was a Scout. And that’s why I was surprised how come she gave herself so fully to the Communist ideology after year forty-five. I couldn’t... The way I make sense of it is that she was a person who was a bit... that unfortunately she didn’t have spine, so she let herself be bent. I always asked her: ‘Mum, how could you join that party?’ She always dazzled me: ‘Jeez, the Soviets liberated us. In forty-seven they helped us with the grain, it was dry here.’ She forced me to read Julda Fulda [a derogatory nickname for Julius Fučík, the idealised resistance fighter of Czech Communist propaganda - transl.] - In the Land Where Tomorrow Already Means Yesterday, I read it and I reckoned: ‘Mum, but this is a load of bollocks!’ Dad was a lot older, and he had been on the Russian front during [the Austro-Hungarian monarchy], and he had told me about the poverty there. And he said, it can’t be possible for the things they showed Fučík there to be propaganda. Well, and we yapped at each other like that with Mum, but she did always help me in the end, I must say that. Surprisingly, imagine that she had me taught Russian during the Protectorate. The lady was called Dornomintová, she was a Russian refugee, and she came from them there Boyarskaya families. So by the end of the war I knew Russian pretty well, and when the Russians came, I was able to speak with them...”

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“If a person is convinced that the regime in which he lives is based on lies, violence, and deception of the public, then he surely cannot support it in public.”

Jaroslav Haidler in Editorial Office of Daily Průboj
Jaroslav Haidler in Editorial Office of Daily Průboj
photo: archiv Jaroslava Haidlera

Jaroslav Haidler was born on the 14th of June 1933 in Liberec. His mother was a committed Communist, but his father had other opinions. After the German occupation, the family was forced to move out of the border region. They settled down in Říčany near Prague, and after the war, they moved to Frýdlant. His father was presumably shot while pursuing anti-state activities on the borders. Jaroslav was expelled from secondary school in his seventh year for claiming that there were “no heroes lying in the grave of the liberators.”He worked at a textile-machine factory in Frýdlant. He later attended a boarding school for “politically impaired” youth, where he was accused of sedition together with several classmates for listening to Radio Free Europe. After serving in the military, he worked as an agricultural journalist of Vesnice Frýdlantska (Village of Frýdlant District). In 1958, he served shortly for the Ministry of Interior as the interpreter for a Soviet advisor. In 1960, he began cooperating with the North Bohemian daily newspaper, Průboj (The Spearhead). Shortly thereafter he moved to Ústí nad Labem and began a distance course in law. During the somewhat relaxed period of 1967-1968, he wrote of the people unjustly punished in the 1950s, State Security methods, and more. Mainly for his article in which he disclosed to the public the existence of the so-called X-Ray (that is censorship) at the Ústí post office, he found himself on trial and sentenced to three and a half years of prison in 1972. After he appealed, his punishment was reduced to six months. After returning from prison in Pilsen-Bory, he moved with his family to the village of Povrly near Ústí. Jaroslav Haidler became a greengrocer manager. Just a few days after the Velvet Revolution in November 1989, he returned to the editorial board of Průboj, newly renamed to Severočeský regionální deník (North Bohemian Regional Daily). In January 1990, he was elected editor-in-chief. After disagreements with the other shareholders, he left in 1993. He began writing for the newly established Ústí travel magazine Koktejl (Cocktail). In 2008, he published his first book - Jobova zvěst (Job’s News). For his most recent book, Očkovaný Satanem (Inoculated by Satan), he received the Club of Non-Fiction Writers’ Award as part of the Miroslav Ivanov Awards in 2013.