Marta Holeková

* 1947  

  • “This happened a really long time ago, in the early seventies, I think. A friend from Slovakia came to pick up some books. He parked his car in front of our house, with the boot full of books. There were crates of books on the back seat. He just needed to run upstairs to ask about something. I said: ‘I’ll wait for you here in the car, in the driver’s seat.’ So I waited there. Suddenly I saw a car come up from behind, headlights on. It stopped behind the car I was in, and some cops got out. That startled me, but I kept my wits about. I got up from the driver’s seat and asked them what they wanted. They said: ‘You’re parking incorrectly.’ I said: ‘Excuse me, this isn’t my car. I’ll just pop inside for the driver to re-park properly. But he’ll be leaving now anyway.’ So I left the car open and ran into the house. They told him he was parking incorrectly, and he left without incident.”

  • “After the occupation [in 1968], they [at Cambridge University in the UK] took a great interest in Czechoslovakia and in those countries in general. They formed the so-called East European Prayer Group. Students came there from all of the colleges of Cambridge, those who studied Slavic languages or were interested in what was going on there. So my sister and I also went there, and there were discussions about it. They asked what kind of aid would be possible to our country in this situation. We arrived at the conclusion that education is the most important. So we realised that, for instance, buying a Bible here in those years was almost impossible. I think they had it in one shop in Prague, but no one had the Bible otherwise, and it was not easily available. So it would be good to bring in some Bibles. So it happened that when we returned, a number of volunteers – the border was still quite permeable – brought in the Kralice Bible, then some children’s Bibles, and so on. We didn’t have a car, so someone would pick them up from us and distribute it further. It was actually a gift. We didn’t have to pay for it. The publications were then spread further on among people. It was an amazing way to serve. We realised that the totalitarian era made people parched, parched for moral, profound reasoning, opinions, and thought. So these spiritual books would help the nation endure or rise above the degradation in which we lived.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 10.07.2020

    (audio)
    duration: 01:44:41
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Praha, 22.09.2020

    (audio)
    duration: 01:32:22
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 3

    Praha, 06.10.2020

    (audio)
    duration: 58:25
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

If only we could also lead such heroic lives

Marta Holeková during the recording session
Marta Holeková during the recording session
photo: Post Bellum

Marta Holeková was born in Prague on 22 March 1947 into the family of Bohumil Procházka, a bookseller. At the outset of World War II, her father joined the resistance, working with the Faithful We Stay Petition Committee; when he was discovered, he was incarcerated in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp for four years. Her mother Lydie Pravda Procházková came from the family of Josef Štifter, a preacher of the Unity of Czech Brethren. During the war, they maintained friendly relations with the family of the Jewish architect Rudolf Wels, and they hid their belongings for safekeeping when the Welses were imprisoned in Terezín. Although most members of the Wels family died in Auschwitz, Marta Holeková is still friends with their descendants, who live in Great Britain. Her father’s bookshop was nationalised in 1950, and Marta and her sister grew up in relative poverty. While in her first year at grammar school in 1963, Marta was badly shaken by her father’s death. After graduating, she completed a follow-up course in librarianship. During the summer holidays of 1967 and 1968, she worked as an au pair in Great Britain, where she received news of the Warsaw Pact forces’ invasion of Czechoslovakia. She refused the option of emigration, choosing instead to help her homeland by distributing Christian literature inside totalitarian Czechoslovakia. From 1970 to 1989, she worked with the Dutch Christian organisation Open Doors; she picked up parcels of books from abroad in Prague and helped deliver them to readers. She was later aided in this activity by her husband Pavel Holeka. Both of them were active members of the Church of the Brethren (formerly the Unity of Czech Brethren). During the normalisation period, she was employed as a librarian at the Department of Russian Studies of the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague. She gave birth to two children, Matouš and Noemi. After 1989 she began teaching English at a primary school but fell seriously ill soon after. She resumed work in 1996, this time as a specialist at the foreign section of the Rectorate of Charles University and later as a librarian at the Institute for Criminology and Social Prevention.