Professor, PhDr. Ladislav Hejdánek

* 1927  †︎ 2020

  • “For the children, it was important how my wife behaved. And my wife behaved as if nothing was happening. So ourdaughters followed suit. They made fun of the cops. Heda needed to calm them down. The girls found out that the cop on guard in front of our house was sleeping on the park bench and they went and stole those little notebooks where he wrote names of people who came to visit us, pulled out those pages and gave them to our friends. Battěk, for example, boasted with them to the police and there was quite an uproar where he could have obtained it. Our girls were at the receiving end, though, they couldn't study. I would need to bend myself backwards twice to keep them at the university. Well… alas. Only one of them decided to go to university when it was possible. Martina did not want to. She would rock it, though. She got her doctorate in natural sciences through distance learning courses. That is the only thing I feel guilty for. I behaved this way… I couldn't do differently but my children couldn't go to university.”

  • “Asking the same questions over and over, and mainly, ask about oneself. When I explain how something is, at the same time I need to doubt it – what if it was not this way? Patočka used to say that a philosopher works when walking backwards. It means: he said something, thought about it, did it and then he walked back in his own tracks to reassess what he had done. It is not easy to do something philosophical. You have to investigate whether it is exactly what you wanted and whether that what you wanted is right or it is not. This is the basis of philosophical thinking, you need to critically review everyting including one's own self. And, obviously, the subject who cultivates the philosophy.”

  • „He was nervous all the time and it was likely caused by the cops who checked him. Still, he calmed down he had a nice lecture, there was a debate, he felt comfortable. But he was nervous what would happen when he would leave. He knew that there were going to be cops again. They indeed took him with them, they invited him to their car, they drove him to the station to interrogate him. They wanted to know why he goes there [to my place] etc. They actually arrested him and placed him in a cell and did everything to elicit a feeling that he was not going to get out of there. It was not a matter of being executed but he expected that he would be jailed for a few years.” “What happened then?” “At the end, he was there for 24 hours, in a cell with a Gypsy, they placed him there on purpose, with a Gipsy he was afraid of. The Gypsy behaved… They probably told him to act wild. So he acted wild so that he would earn some brownie points with the cops. Derrida was pretty unnerved. When we found out, and it took no time, that they took Derrida away from our house, we went to announce it to the Agence France Presse. We split so that at least someone would get there in case they stopped someone and went to announce what had happened. We announced that they took Derrida away and that we have no clue about him. Embassy of France asked at the Ministry [of Foreign Affairs] what is up with Derrida, at the Ministry. The Ministry tried to appear that they have no clue. They pretended that they did not know what the cops were doing. This was very important. It was a major mistake which caused that the uproar was big. They were denying that anything had happened to him.”

  • “I was on good terms with Jirka Němec, I knew Václav Havel from that Tvář , not too much and we weren't particularly fond of each other. Vašek did not came alone, he brought Jirka Němec along. He came to tell me something because Jirka Němec was sure I would not kick him out. Havel was sure that I would kick him out. He suspected everyone. He did not trust… He did not trust me since that time I had not voted for him in that Tvář. He kept his distance. But I was a bit famous because they had me arrested a little bit so they came to tell me something which should not be heard. We went to the bathroom in my place in Slovenská Street and turned on the water taps, it's allegedly a good way to prevent eavesdropping. It is nonsense but it doesn't matter. And there they told me what is being planned and that the feedback for the relative success with the Plastics [The Plastic People of the Universe, an underground music band whose members were arrested for an alleged disturbance of peace.] and that we need to grab the opportunity and make a step forward, not backwards. That they are up to something. I said, Gentlemen, what about anchoring it in human rights? I brought a radio broadcast which I recorded on a casette, there was a piece of news that we ratified the Helsinki agreement, human rights, and that from that moment on, it's a part of our legal system.”

  • "I was walking around Prague, parents did not want me to go, I said that I would be careful and I won't mess with anything. So I went and in front of the [National] Museum, suddenly, a group of people, a Gestapo officer hanging by his feet, dead already, a bonfire under him, burnt head… And I said: 'Now what. Now we are the same as them.' At which point a bloke turned to me and slapped me in the face so that my head kept whizzing for another half an hour. Another bloke came to me and said, go there aside, you cannot this… here. This way, I protested once. They were almost rejoicing. They almost danced around the man set on fire and hanging from a lamp post.”

  • „Truth is not identical to reality. It would mean that when something happens, the what happened is eo ipso truthful. It does not work this way. When something happens, either it is truth or it is not. And when it is truth, then it shows or it does not. And someone is needed to show it, someone who would use the truth as their shield and go fight those who ara against it with this shield. The truth does not prevail on its own just by something happening. It would be easy. And the difference between that what happened, that what should have happened and that what should have not happened will appear. Truth shapes reality, the reality does not shape the truth. There are philosophical catches which cause troubles. The majority of people is led in the wrong direction since childhood. Telling someone that truth is not being… If truth were being, that is all what would happen. That would not be enough. Truth is not being. Truth is non-being. Now we need to explain it. It does not mean that truth is nothingness. I need an explanation that everything happens in this universe is an event. There are no smallest bits, corpuscles. Even the slightest thing happening does happen, it is an event. It has a beginning, a course and a conclusion. Even the slightest thing which is happening, which is real, is happening that way that some of it already is, something is not yet and something already is not. It shows well on the events of a higher type where we can observe it. It is difficult to find agreement about what happens on the lowest quantum levels. When I was talking about this at the Arts Faculty, a dog came and barked. And then the housekeeper came, called the dog away and I got this idea. I said: 'Look, students. When I ask what was it what came and barked,' 'Well, a dog,' they answered. 'And was it an entire dog?' 'Well, it was, it had four legs, a tail, a nose. Complete.' 'And was the dog a puppy it had been? And an old dog before dying? Now you see. The dog is being which, in a bigger part already is not and in another part, is not yet. For us, it is only what it is now but it wanes with the moment.' With this example, I could show that truth counts among those non-things, non-beings, non-objects.”

  • “So when the students announced that they're going to the Castle, I came and joined the procession And as we set out a bit later than the first group, they did not let us in the Nerudova Street and so we went from behind via Strahov and we got further than those who were in Nerudova. Those were stuck in the middle of Nerudova Street, the cops did not let them any further and we got as far as the Hradčanské Square, thez did not let us any further. There were quite a handful of us, several hundreds. Several thousands with those in Nerudova. This is a life-changing experience. Suddenly, there were blokes with machine guns, submachine guns. Ready to shoot us. Get out of here! Nobody could want me to like those Communists. Or those cops. Well, Trojan even started debating with one of those blokes who hit a girl and threw her on the ground. He [Trojan] helped her to getback to her feet and reprimanded him for behaving this way to a lady. He arrested him. So Jakub Trojan was jailed. I turned on the spot and tried to get out as far as I could. I managed a successful escape even though on the way, our Czechoslovak cop stopped us: 'Boys, don't be crazy, don't go there, it won't end well.' A sort of old gentleman in uniform.”

  • "I don't know when I signed it, but we agreed on it sometime end of November, beginning of December, when Jirka Němec brought along Vašek Havel and we talked the whole thing over in the bathroom with the water running. And that's when I gave Vašek Havel a recording of our radio where they talked about how important it is that also our country, our republic signed and ratified these international agreements. The second thing I gave him was the full text of both the documents, which I had bought quite ordinarily in Karlova Street. You couldn't get it afterwards, obviously. And Vašek actually didn't know it at that time. So I gave it to him, so that he had something to argument with. So he had it with him when he and Lanďák went to post it all, or where they were going, and they netted them. So I never got it back from him. No big deal, but I did grudge him that."

  • "Starting October, I was responsible for a group of older vicars and parsons, but also some so-called lay people who had applied for extramural study of theology, and I lectured them abotu philosophy. That was the reason why the boys asked me if I might consider continuing with this, unofficially. We met at various times, that's how ti started. In the meantime, some other people joined in and I did another two or three workshops. For instance, we did one with Kroupa, Martin Palouš and some others. We did some reading. There was a bit of it, but it was rather... about once a month, before they could organise it, we always had to find a place, each time somewhere different. We didn't say out loud, when or where it would be. Always just on a note... So I guess it was actually since 1970 or so."

  • "Ofcourse there were some sneaks in the group, I guess. I had thought we were being pretty careful, but then they were interrogating my wife once, they told her that she should talk me out of doing it. They knew about it. To which my wife famously said: 'Well, if it's something against the law, then put him in jail!' So that's how my wife cooperated with the police."

  • "The arrested me directly inside the Literature Memorial. They came in the night, I was guarding some Japanese miniature art, I was locked inside the church tower, and they called me from the gatehouse, saying they needed me for something and that they're from mofa (Ministry of Foreign Affairs). In actual fact it was the StB (State Security) that took me back home. And there was my wife and dr. Jirásek, both arrested. They had, just for fun really, written up a few envelopes for those leaflets that were supposed to tell they didn't have to vote. That was Operation Tesař. Tesař had already been arrested, but hadn't stood trial yet, that was only a short while before our own trial. I kept reminding the police of this at each interrogation, so soon all of them knew about it and they were annoyed that I was arrested and convicted of something that for one I hadn't done, I hadn't written a single envelope, I actually read the text for the first time at the police station when I was arrested, when they were showing me what text they meant. I only knew that vicar Dus brought it to our place, but I didn't have time as I was just leaving to keep watch at the Literature Memorial. I just had time to tel him that, as a vicar, he shouldn't be doing things like that. Then I left. Even that had been monitored, they actually told me that. They asked about some things, from which it was clear to Heda and myself, that it was all from eavesdropping. They wanted us to blunder, saying that other one had already admitted something."

  • "It was like this - I don't know who came with the idea. I suspect that one of the main persons was Šimsa. Šimsa did a lot of work on it, but there were others too. They arranged that Hromádka would invite a few people once a month to his house in Moravská Street. I think it was Šimsa who organised or inciated the deal. Hromádka was glad that he could talk in private to people that didn't look like they'd spill the beans on whatever he said. That's how it started and in a bit there were more and more people coming, and so I asked Hromádka one time, if I could bring along a Catholic, and he said: 'Yeah.' I took Jirka Němec. And then we started discussing the possibility of moving it to somewhere else, because it wasn't possible to keep on doing at Hromádka's place. He had a big apartment, rooms like this... When there were thirty of us, it was just too much. So we agreed to carry on in Jircháře."

  • "That was the end of the Fifties, and the Sixties, well that was comepletely arbitrary! If someone didn't actually provoke, then they didn't get beaten. No really. It's a distorted view of the Sixties, when people say that the criminal Communist regime ruled those forty years. That isn't true. First of all: a lot of people sit in jail, unjustly, not just as criminals, unjustly, in every country. There was a bit more of that here maybe, but definitely not more than is usual in Second or Third World countries. That's one thing. It's true that people who were let out after many years of prison, were let out during the Sixties, so even for those who sat it out, it was a time of hopeful expectations. All the more for people who were outside and who were following the situation. There were people, like in every society, who don't give a hoot about anything. So those people didn't care. But otherwise, should I look at my own life, then the most hopeful time I have ever lived in started just then, at the end of the Fifties, fifty-nine, fifty-se-, fifty-eight. When the philosophers started to rebel, there were the discussions in the Literary News, where Kosík wrote his article 'Hegel as a dead dog?' Then there was the conference, where everything was terribly criticised, none of the criticised people were invited, but nothing really happened anyway."

  • "There was always a lecture there, and seeing as the number of people we could take from the faculty wasn't that great, not enough for them to do it just themselves, and we didn't want it like that either, so we did it ourselves. Just here and there, when the opportunity presented itself, we invited them and we had so that it wasn't so much a lecture as a discussion. The discussion was the main thing. It was expected that the report be inspiriational, somewhat provocative, so that it would have to be discussed afterwards. That was a new thing, no one else did that. I must say that we were absolutely happy that we could be there. It's a thing one remembers still."

  • The secret police officers were in front of the house all the time. Later, when I became the spokesman [of Charter 77], they brought a bench from the park so that a cop could sleep there during the night. So that he would have someplace to lie down. The neighbour's son took some photographs and then showed them to his friends. It was a bit of farce but it was hard to guess how far it could go. It was difficult. I had this positive experience that I never showed that I was scared of something. Nor that I could be scared under some circumstances. I never showed this. It brought results. They were dependent on it [people's fear]. They could not function without that.

  • “I have a personal relationship toward him. He was one of the people who influenced my life. There is only a handful of them and I always point them out. I did not meet Palach in person but I read his texts, those he dictated to the nurses, pretty soon. I refused the a priori idea that it was an act of a madman. That it was a stupid thing to do, that a young person should not do this sort of things, I am sure about that and I told it to my daughters. However, I understand why he did it and I will not preach that he should not have done it, I would not dare to talk him out of it. I have some sort of understanding for a young person devastated by what had happened. The whole nation was on their feet and suddenly, everything went ….. He wanted to say something but he did not what it was, not even through his studies. The comparison with Hus is dumb. Hus knew what he was doing, Palach did not know what he was doing. He sacrified his life… but what is it worth when one is not yet Someone. I deeply understand it and I would never agree with those who claim that it was stupid. But on the other hand, I understand a young man who is unhappy about what is going on around him. How many times I was unhappy with all the things happening around me but I did not do anything like he did. I always tried rather to slip away. Not him. He went head first."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Písek, 05.09.2006

    duration: 03:22:51
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha, 16.10.2019

    duration: 02:01:49
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 3

    Praha, 17.10.2019

    duration: 01:59:02
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 4

    Praha, 18.10.2019

    duration: 02:01:45
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 5

    Praha, 11.12.2019

    duration: 01:54:35
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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I’ve got the feeling that I’ve spent my life doing things that, today, no one needs or wants any more

photo: archiv pamětníka

Ladislav Hejdánek was born on the 10th of May 1927, the single child of Ladislav Hejdánek and his wife Emílie (maiden name Poupová). His father was a baptised Catholic, but a rather laid-back one. His mother was from an evangelical family with long standing, so Hejdánek was brought up in the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (Českobratrská církev evangelická). He graduated from the Slovenská Street Grammar School in 1946 and went on to study mathematics and philosophy at the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Charles University. He switched to the Faculty of Arts to continue his study of philosophy. After graduating in 1952, he worked as a digger and cementer. In the post-war years he was an official of the society Academic YMCA. Beginning of the 60’s, Hejdánek, together with Jiří Němec, organised ecumenical seminars in the theological college in Jircháře. In 1968 he became a member of the Society for Human Rights. In 1971-72 he was jailed for half a year, and in 1972 he was implicated in a planned large-scale leaflet campaign to inform Czech citizens, that they had the right to vote, but not the duty to vote, thus that citizens had the right to abstain from the upcoming elections. Dring the Normalization period, Hejdánek worked as a night keeper, a boilerman, and a warehouseman. He organised private “apartment” workshops, to which he invited foreign speakers. He became one of the signatories of Charter 77 and one of its first spokesmen. Following the year 1989 he lectured at the Evangelical Theological Faculty at Charles University, where he headed the Department of Philosophy.