František Horák

* 1941  †︎ 2022

  • "Nobody ever made it easy for me in the brewery, absolutely no-one. But you know what? I'm gonna tell you an interesting thing, the year 1989 came, revolution. And that was a certain time, when people gave things... I was working as the brewer back then and simultaneously as manager of the workshop. The people were deciding on who will go on to call the shots. In the boiler room I knew a person from the poultry plants, I won't name him, and he whispered people, that they should of course vote about me, if I am gonna or not gonna be the boss, whether or not I can continue to work as the brewer. The union representative, Ms. Hejduková, visited me. She said: 'We would like, Mr. Horák, for you to call a meeting.' And so I called a meeting. 'We would like to tell you something.' And basically there they could vote on if I'll continue to be the boss. That was the time after the revolution, I don't know exactly which month it was. Well, and there they threw their votes in, who was for and who was against, they were voting about me. I survived it, basically, that crazy time."

  • "I know that the regime didn't stand for anything. We had a bakery, they took everything from us. But I fell in love with only beer, I only took care of the brewery. I complained about politics - about communism in the pub in all manner of ways. In the end I joined the Party. They said: 'If you want to be a junior brewer, František, then you have to join the party.' I told them: 'I won't join.' I eventually ended up joining. At home I remember, back when dad still lived, we listened to Radio Free Europe, the voice of America. Independent entrepreneurs, the butcher, and so on hung out at our place, swore at the regime and I grew up in this sort of environment. And I joined the Party. At that point dad wasn't there anymore, oh how he would have given me an earful for that. That time was all sorts of weird, I wasn't hurting anyone, Jarda Richter was also a party member and wasn't hurting anyone. Of course I wasn't forced to join. But if I hadn't, I wouldn't have been able to work as a junior brewer, and so I did it. Some could say that I was a hypocritical asshole."

  • "We had good beer, but then we just blew it all, because the cooling compressor broke. We had a temperature of eight degrees in the cellars, we made the yeast go bad, the beer started smelling awful, those were problems of the 60s, 70s, and onward. Beer brewing in Svijany was done very primitively back then, we were missing people for the work. There were industrial companies all around Svijany, glass machineries in Turnow and in MH Liaz. The companies paid very well there and here we in food production were paid badly. At one point we had about fifty people employed, but about eight of them were literally drunkards. They didn't come to work, or came late, or they drank and ruined all your work, ruined the product. I experienced all sorts of malfunctions there; there were times, when they woke me up at two in the morning. The electrician was in the neighboring village, the motors were without protection, the pumps were burning, their motors. They woke me up at two in the morning or at midnight and I drove to get the electrician."

  • "In the year 1985 we had the Vratislavice plant, Louny company. The production deputy Svoboda came by the beer brewery in the year 1985 and said: 'František, Zeman...' - that was the director of Louny - 'Zeman is going to close you by the end of the year.' Even then under the previous regime breweries were being closed regularly. Cvikov, Roudnice, Šluknov, Bílina, and we were on the chopping block too. But because I became so invested in the art of brewing, I loved that work so much and personally knew many directors - it was mainly engineer Richter, chairman of the agricultural co-operative Jenišovice, and other people, Mr. Balcar and a deputy from the ministry of food products, basically I surrounded myself with these people. Back then the Czech and State Planning Commission existed and we got on there, on the state commission with those influential people. And then through Jarda Richter, chairman of the agricultural co-operative Jenišovice, a terrific person, we managed to get all the way to the minister of agriculture and Toman, well, the son of Richter went to university with him, with that Mr. Toman. And we got to everything, that was something of a peak for us. And they helped us save the brewery."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Liberec, 01.07.2021

    duration: 01:22:26
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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František, do you want to be a junior brewer in Svijany? Then you have to join the Party

František Horák in the Svijany beer brewery, early 70s of the 20th century
František Horák in the Svijany beer brewery, early 70s of the 20th century
photo: archiv Františka Horáka

František Horák was born on 22 August 1941 in Turnov. His father owned a bakery with one employee, which was taken from him in the 50s by the communist regime. In the year 1955 František Horák went to apprentice to become a brewer. In the year 1957 he joined the Svijany brewery as a manual worker. He lived through the occupation of Czechoslovakia in the year 1968 as master of the cellar. The invasion of the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact armies disappointed him deeply, since he was a supporter of Alexander Dubček and other progressive functionaries of the KSČ. He later joined the Party himself, otherwise he wouldn’t have been made junior brewer. In the year 1985 the Svijany brewery was threatened with closure, but was saved by František Horák thanks to influential contacts. After the Velvet Revolution the employees voted whether or not he should continue acting as brewer and decided that he could go on as a brewer. In the year 1998 he took part in buying the beer brewery from the foreign finance group Bass. If that hadn’t happened, the brewery would have been forced to close. He became the director and a minority stakeholder. He stayed in the brewery until the year 2009. František Horák died on May 29, 2022. Recording the witness was supported by the Liberec Region administration