Oldřich Hamera

* 1944  †︎ 2021

  • “I produced the complete print including bookbinding. That is precisely why I kept improving my skills up until the point when I was the best and able to do the entire thing. This was really practical, because, often, when the police busted me they asked me: ‘Who collaborated with you on that?’ I just smiled and told them: ‘I’ve done it all by myself.’ The replied: ‘We don’t believe you.’ So, the secret policemen brought me to stamp printer where they ordered me to show them what I can do. So, I did, and they were forced to admit that I actually knew to do it. What is more, in the end, after such scenes had happened repetitively, some officer took me aside and asked me to take up work in the stamp printer. So, I told him that there was no way I’d do that.”

  • “Some three days prior to his death he had me summoned to the room where he was lying, to the intensive care department. This is where our last discussion took place. It was the first time ever that he addressed me informally. Up until then, he was Doctor to me and I was Mr. Hamera to him. Here, he began calling me ‘Olda’ which surprised me. He wasn’t doing well with his legs and so on. Monika Zgustová brought him some stupid bottle of vodka in exchange for him letting her publish some even more stupid book. He told me: ‘Open it!’ So, I did and he said: ‘Russian style: leave me a half for the night.’ So, I took the bottle and drank up half of it at once. He said: ‘Now, put it back.’ So, I returned it to the shelf. He leaned to me because director Vodička was present to prepare him for shaving. This guy annoyed him there all the time. Hrabal took my hand, and caressing it, he told me: ‘Olda, we used to be calligraphic boys. And now, go already.’ This was our last goodbye. Three days later he allegedly jumped off the window.”

  • “I came to the white house only to find Láďa Merhaut, and, next to him, the 205 cm tall Vladimír Boudník. Now, he looked at me as at a burst tire because he wasn’t sure. We were walking past each other for three or four months before I invited him to my home studio. It wasn’t a real studio: it was three times three metres and this is where I lived with my family. I got married when I was twenty, and I was there with my wife. But, I also had a studio there. So, I brought him there and he said: 'Jesus, I’ve been here before!‘ My mum asked: 'Hello, Mr. Boudník, what are you doing here?' Now, we came to realize that he had lived with my aunt Helena for a while, and that they actually looked after me. So, we basically became old pals again. Instantly, Vladimír brought me to his studio, lent me his press, and showed me how the joy is done. In five minutes we were back in the streets of Žižkov. We went to Jíšas‘ restaurant where we drank pale beers. So, my education in graphic arts consists of five minutes in his studio. He pulled out a board from under his bed with his toe and covered it in paint. Then, he pulled a sheet of paper out from the sink which he placed on the matrix, covering it with felt, and pushed it through the cylinders. On the other side he pulled out the sheet of paper upon which – as he saw it for the first time and spread it in his arms – wondered. And I retained the ability to wonder to this day.“

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 01.02.2016

    duration: 02:02:34
  • 2

    Praha, 16.02.2016

    duration: 01:57:52
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I’ve retained the ability to wonder

Oldřich Hamera
Oldřich Hamera
photo: Dobová: archiv pamětníka, současná: Eye Direct

Oldřich Hamera was born on the 3rd of March, 1944, in Úvaly near Prague. Following the February 1948 communist coup, his family was subjected to persecution, and he himself was bullied at school. He found strength in his grandparents’ resilience and in reading adventurous literature. Ever since elementary school, Oldřich was interested in natural sciences, but his grandpa wanted him to be interested in plumbing. In elementary school, Oldřich also began attending an arts club. Unfortunately, he was soon to be diagnosed with tongue-bone cancer, and had spent a long time in a hospital where he started drawing technical medical illustrations. When he recovered, the communist establishment forbade him from pursuing his studies after finishing elementary school, and so instead he trained to be a locksmith. By the end of the 1950s, he became active in the newly-emerging conservationist and landscapist movement. In the course of his military service, he had sustained two serious injuries. During the treatment of the second injury, he got to know his future wife. Soon thereafter, Oldřich began working for a large engineering company where he met the artist Vladimír Boudník, who introduced him to graphic arts and the so-called explosionalism. Through Boudník, Oldřich was introduced to the writer Bohumil Hrabal with whom he became close friends. IIn the 1970s, he worked in a printing company where he also published samizdat (“self-publishing,” or dissident, underground publishing). He was the first to publish K. H. Mácha’s intimate diaries. Due to the nature of such activities, he was getting in ever more trouble with the secret police. At one point, a policeman threw him down the stairs, injuring him severely. After the Velvet Revolution, Oldřich worked as a graphic artist, illustrator, and restorer. He considered himself a successor to the Czech informel. Oldřich Hamera died in November 2021.