Václav Hora

* 1937  

  • “Well, surely exile [literature] was the most popular. When the book Tank Battalion was published everyone wanted it. The book Today I Am Laughing Over It by Adina Mandlová was extremely popular as well, grandmothers were carrying it in their skirts. And finally Lída Baarová. These actresses were popular with older generation.”

  • “So, you sold books of exile publishing houses?” - “But there were only a few of them, you could not make your living of it. So, we got them also from Czechia. But I went for them to Yugoslavia.” - “For Czech books from Czechia?” - “Because they did not do trade with me, with a stupid emigrant. I got some Yugoslav Czechs in Daruvar, Mrs. Sohorová and I always went there - first by train and then by a minivan - and they ordered everything from Prague. They gave [the books] to them because they were glad that Czechs from Yugoslavia were reading. But it was I actually. They were cheap and I smuggled them afterwards - I sometimes had to smuggle them over Austrian border because those idiots there were brash [saying it was] ‘handelsware‘. So, we always went to Yugoslavia, we brought book to Frankfurt and started to offer them in lists.”

  • “The Czech customs officers, the Border Guard officers boycotted the service. They were sitting in the restaurant on the borders.” - “You mean that they opened them and let them be?” - “They let it be, they let people to go there.” I arrived there from the television service with leaflets. I carried them to the restaurant and started to hand them as they were sitting there. All of sudden the waitress said: ‘Mr. Hora, a Russian is standing behind you.‘ He really was standing behind me, with a gun in a leather... And the car was standing outside and the leaflets could be seen there. He told me: ‘Whose car is it?‘ I said: ‘I don´t understand you.‘ So he ran out of the restaurant and ran towards the borders, towards the border crossing. It was clear that he was running for a backup. So, we quickly got in a car and we went away. It is down the hill from Vojtanov, a first village. I said: ‘Hurry up, hide between the buildings!‘ Out of the road. And really, after a while we saw an armed GAZ with machine guns passing us. Of course, they did not see us. Who knows what they would do to us...”

  • “The good thing was that as a class of librarians they employed us for a temporary job for example in the Museum of Czech Literature. And they brought the forbidden books there. But they did not let the class of librarians to work there, but the museum one or cultural enlightenment class. And we shared a room in the boarding house. And they said: ‘Man, there are such books there! Couldn´t you somehow...‘ And I said: ‘ Yes, I will pretend to arrive there from Cheb with a big suitcase, I will tell that I had forgotten my key from the boarding house in Pobřežní street....‘ So, I went to the Museum of Czech Literature, to the corridors and they filled my suitcase with books there. I could not even carry the suitcase through the checkpoint of the old codgers there. And so, we stole a lot of books from those collections.”

  • Full recordings
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    Praha, 04.11.2019

    (audio)
    duration: 01:43:49
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Praha, 19.11.2019

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    duration: 01:15:54
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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Exiled bookseller sold Czech books to emigrants

Václav Hora with his grandmother, Nýřany, 1943
Václav Hora with his grandmother, Nýřany, 1943
photo: archiv pamětníka

Librarian and bookseller Václav Hora was born on 10 December 1937 in Pilsen. He came from a simple background, his father trained to be a locksmith. Parents moved to Cheb in 1946 due to possibility of having better housing in flats that were left empty after the Germans had been displaced. Václav Hora inclined towards books and magazines since he was little; he helped a local newsagent to sell newspapers and he later went to help in the library of Cheb. He studied at Secondary School of Library Science in Prague. He was expelled from the school a year before the secondary-school leaving exam because he was failing Maths but he eventually finished the school as an extramural student. After his military service, he studied Library Science as an extramural student at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University; at the same time, he started to work in Cheb as an employee of Cultural and Social Centre KASS. His task was to organize variety shows but he also run a film club on his own initiative. He participated in publishing of samizdat information journal “Contemporary” several days after the Invasion of the Warsaw Pact troops in August 1968. He left for Frankfurt am Main on 30 of August 1968 where he started to work in local university library. However, he returned the same year in November to finish his studies at the Faculty of Arts. He definitely emigrated in September 1969. He published a magazine for emigrants “Frankfurt courier” in Frankfurt between 1974 and 1976. In 1976, he founded an exile bookshop Dialogue which at first worked as a mail order shop and which also opened a shop in 1977. Apart from above stated activities, Václav Hora continued to be an employee of Frankfurt university library. The bookshop did not prosper much at the end of the 1980s and he had to close the shop in 1988 but he still continued to sell books by mail. He worked in Frankfurt till 2002 and he gradually moved to the Czech Republic after his retirement.