Zbyněk Jakš

* 1969

  • "Close it if you want to, but treat the miners the way they deserve for the years they gave to this place and the health they lost to their work. Or sell it and we'll carry on. That was the purpose of the strike. I went down and I went around the whole shaft and I asked the people if they would join us. I'd say seventy percent of the people agreed. But when you strike, you can't do it mindlessly, especially in the shaft. There are people taking medication, and also you have to secure the shaft. That means changing lamps regularly, masks, going around to see if there's a fire. If you search articles about this strike, they all say it was well secured, and I'm proud of that! Around one-thirty, my friend Václav Vadlejch was at the control room and I felt sorry it was him– but I called him that we were on an occupation strike at Kohinoor Mine. Only the guys, who needed to get out, went out. The rest of us stayed down. And the chaos began - the papers and emergency measures and stuff like that. So we stayed there and then the union got involved and we started to work out what to do. The TV arrived, the media started coming. And the politicians started coming. I went out after two days, I talked to Špidla, I talked to the head of the trade union, Richard Falbro. We talked about what was going on, and we talked about everything. The strike worked out in our favour. We asked for conditions to be met in case they decided to close down the shaft. And we succeeded. I think, these miners live off the negotiated conditions to this day. The miners received twelve times their salary as severance pay and another three thousand two hundred CZK every month depending on how much they had worked."

  • "That was the time when we didn't know what was going to happen to us. It was a very difficult time. A lot of people came to hate the mine. The people who worked in the deep, they were hauling iron that is 80-90 kilos, and they were doing it alone. It is possible to work this hard at first, but the body gives up eventually. Of course the transitions from the tremendous heat to the cold and the drafts, when you come out all sweaty, were terrible. When you're in your twenties or thirties, you don't realize it, but your body does. And the body will pay you back. There were a lot of people who had problems with their joints and their backs and so on. When the shaft was still working, there were places for disabled pensioners. Workplaces where they could do some auxiliary labour. But suddenly it ended, they fired those people, and a lot of miners came to hate the mine. We were used to some benefits when we went to work. We got our snack, we got drinks, we got bonuses, and those were the benefits that those miners had back then. But then the shafts started closing down, and it was slowly declining. They stopped giving this and they stopped giving that, and suddenly they didn't give us the money we went there to work for. Suddenly we found out we were making less money than a lady working in a bank. Why should miners ruin their health when other jobs around them are better? When random people make the same or even more money?"

  • "I think whoever saw it was a little pissed off. When I first got there, I saw four gutters, they were laid down. There was velvet and something was humming there. That was the first air conditioning I'd seen in my life. The temperature was constant there and I asked if I could sleep there. No soldier had conditions like those nuclear warheads. They were transported by trucks called isotherms, and the trucks could also provide the conditions that those warheads required. I saw four of them, there was a gutter with a warhead in it, and there were four of them all together. So I can say I saw those four."

  • "Of course we were scared, because we heard from the other soldiers who went there that there were poisonous spiders and vipers and things like that. We weren't used to it, we went there petrified. But the fears passed due to illness and fever. The men got dysentery there, so they had to finish the training in fever. But at the beginning of our stay, we used to go to the toilet on top of a car, on the front hood where we held on. That's how we went number two. We were afraid to be in contact with the sand. We slept there alright, it was cold at night and hot during the day. When it rained it looked like the sea but it dried out completely in an hour. When we were on guard in the evening, I wondered why they put ropes where to walk. I wondered also in daytime but when it was night, we were glad the ropes were there. Everybody was cautious with food there, but the food was okay. There was very little to drink. We were given a litre of chlorinated tea a day. There were tankers of lemonade. But as it stood there, the lemonade went bad, so they poured it out."

  • "I was serving in Hranice na Moravě, and I experienced the Velvet revolution in the army. It was difficult time. Only few people can imagine it. I was dating my current wife at the time. She was studying in Pilsen. They took away our radios and televisions, so we didn't really know what was happening or what should we do. Anyone who was in the army knows that it wasn't allowed to have a gun, a machine gun, or live cartridges in your room. And suddenly everybody had a machine gun full of live cartridges lying on the bed. They told us to be prepared, that we were going to fight the demonstrations. Now try to imagine what was going through my mind when they said we were going to Pilsen. I was to go to Pilsen, my future wife would be standing there, and I would be facing her with a machine gun. We didn't really have much choice. Thank God it turned out the way it did, and we didn't go anywhere."

  • Full recordings
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    Ústí nad Labem, 25.05.2022

    duration: 01:36:28
    media recorded in project Příběhy regionu - Ústecký kraj
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

They wanted him to fight the students in Pilsen with a machine gun. His girlfriend was among them.

Zbyněk Jakš at the age of 17, 1984
Zbyněk Jakš at the age of 17, 1984
photo: archiv pamětníka

Zbyněk Jakš was born on 9 September 1969 in Bílina, Teplice region. After finishing the technical school of mining in Duchcov, he joined the Pluto Mine. He served his military service in Hranice na Moravě, where nuclear warheads were stored. In 1988 he participated in military exercises in the then Soviet Union, in the Karakum and Kyzylkum deserts. In November 1989 he was in the army worried that he would have to enlist with a gun in his hand in Pilsen, where his future wife was studying. After returning from the army, he continued working at the mine, where he changed in almost all mining positions. In 2000, he initiated a strike for better conditions for dismissed miners. The strike changed the legislation and helped a number of dismissed deep mine workers to cope with the new situation. In 2006, he became the director of the newly established Podkrušnohorské Technical Museum, which deals with mining history in the Most and Chomutov regions. At the time of filming in 2022, he still held this position and lived in Most.