Jan Hrabina

* 1954

  • „I was summoned for questioning. Today I am no longer sure whether it was on Bartolomějská or Konviktská. It probably ended with some sort of threat, so there were no consequences. However, I also brought the text of the Charter to the workplace, where a colleague was reading it in the locker room and was clumsily caught by the manager, who confiscated it and immediately reported it. Anyway, I was summoned for questioning again. That's when their doctor examined me. He pulled a white cloak over his green uniform with “lampasácký” pants (a slang for military officers). He declared that I was endangering the safety of road traffic and confiscated my driver's licence. Under normal circumstances, nothing would have happened because I didn't have the car anyway. The problem was that my job consisted of putting up posters and driving around locations in a company car. So I would lose not only my driver's licence, but also my job. That's why I got a two-wheeler from the manager who tipped me off and drove it around the display areas in the city centre.“

  • „To be honest, I said to myself several times: I'll give up and join the military. In the end I didn't. Later, already locked up, I had one more option. It happened just before the sentencing. The president of the senate had me brought out of custody. He also brought my wife and our three-month-old baby girl and said to me in front of them: Mr. Hrabina, if you say now that you will do military service and that you retract everything you said, I will have you released immediately and you will go home with them. In front of me stood a woman with a child. Poor little Julinka was sweating because it was hot and she was crying. It was such a great temptation to back out of everything at the last minute. I think he even promised me that he would try to arrange it so that I would not have to do military service. And I… [pause] I just said no. With that, the cage fell. After that, no one talked to me anymore.“

  • „When we came to Řečický, there was still a meeting of the Civic Forum, where Šimon Pánek came and informed the college of the latest events surrounding the student strikes. At the same time, we happened to be there and pulled the tables from the Faculty of Theology inside so that we would have somewhere to sit. Agency activity gradually started. This means collecting information from all corners of the country that we have reached. Galerie U Řečické was located in a “pavlač” house (balcony access). I managed to go around all the flats and convince about four or five households to lend us their phone lines on the condition that we foot the bill. That's why I got a double line and stretched the cables to the gallery through the pavlač.“

  • „I think it was Ivan [Lamper] who turned it around in the end despite saying before that we had won and we were going back to the boiler room. At that time, however, it was already clear that there was no turning back. So he had the lion's share in the fact that we decided to continue. The question was how we were going to do it. We had no idea whether it would be a monthly, a daily, or a weekly. We met with Honza Ruml, Ivan Lamper, Jáchym Topol and several other people in a cafe, where we agreed to continue as a weekly. During that time there was also a suggestion that we should change our name. Information service was a revolutionary paper, which was already a bit out of fashion. We posted on the bulletin board: Write suggestions for what we should name ourselves. X number of names came up, but in the end Respekt won, which has continuously followed up on the Information Service since March. At that time, it had twenty to thirty thousand copies and the first funding was collected for it.“

  • Full recordings
  • 1


    duration: 01:03:56
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
  • 2

    Praha, 03.12.2020

    duration: 04:00:46
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 3

    Praha, 21.01.2021

    duration: 02:14:22
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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So that others can take hold of that hope

Portrait of Jan Hrabina in the Bohnice psychiatric hospital, summer 1974
Portrait of Jan Hrabina in the Bohnice psychiatric hospital, summer 1974
photo: witness's archive

Jan Hrabina was born on January 1, 1954 in Prague. His parents were employed in a foreign trade business specialising in industrial porcelain. Between 1958 and 1960, the family therefore lived in Damascus. Between 1966 to 1970 they spent their time in Budapest due to the work commitments of the mother and father. After the political and social changes initiated by the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact troops, the parents’ jobs were filled by other employees who were more loyal to the new conditions. From the beginning of the 70s, Jan continued to grow up in Prague, where he graduated a little later. At the same time, he met a group from the circle of the Evangelical Theological Faculty, including Vratislav Brabenec, Svatopluk Karásek and Aleš Březina, among others. Jan found his way to the evangelical youth organisation and a little later also to the Na Topolce Baptist Church. During the 1970s, he made a living, for example, as a playground security guard, a worker at a sewage treatment plant, or he would glue posters. In 1977, he added his signature to the Charter declaration. He also repeatedly applied to study theology, thereby delaying his enlistment. At the turn of the 1970s and 1980s, he served nineteen months of civilian service in the ČKD, but he repeatedly ignored the conscription order, which called for him to spend the next five months at an army unit. Based on this, he was arrested on May 4, 1981 and sentenced to two and a half years in prison in June. Between December and January 1982, he served his sentence in prison in Bory, where he met Václav Havel, Jiří Dienstbier and Dominik Duka, among others. After parole, he joined the unit based in Strašice near Pilsen for the remaining five months of the war. Later, in addition to other dissident activities, he devoted himself to the distribution of samizdat publications such as Infoch (Information about Charter 77) and Zpravodaj VONS. At the end of the 1980s, he had a cyclostyle in his apartment, on which he printed the pages of the samizdat magazine SPORT. During the Velvet Revolution, he participated in the running of the Independent Press Center. In the following two years, he worked as the first chief operating officer of Respekt magazine. He was rehabilitated in 1995 and in 2017 he was granted the status of a participant in the resistance and resistance against communism.