“They had a different Communist lackey there [at the Mladá Boleslav grammar school - ed.], called František Nerad. He was fanatically diligent in fulfilling the orders of his political superiors. I don’t if he was actually a stetsec, either way, he collaborated with them, he informed on all the professors. He’d make rounds of the school. Boys who had longer hair, he’d pull it and drag them around by it. When someone had a cross on their neck, he’d rip it off. I stood up for one of those boys. I told him he had no right because freedom of religion was guaranteed. I don’t know where it came from, me being seventeen, eighteen. The boy happened to be a friend of mine. His name was Milan Kundret. Our parents happened to play Mariáš [a Czech marriage-type card game - trans.] together. We knew each other from elsewhere, personal and private. And this boy, who was unaggressive, a bit of a podge, he had Holy Mary or a cross on his neck, I don’t know. The headmaster tore it off of him, and I told him he had no right to do that because freedom of religion was guaranteed. This was followed by several visits to the headmaster’s office, and then I was suspended from the Boleslav school. He told me I had been reassigned to the grammar school in Mnichovo Hradiště. I was there for about a week, and then the headmaster there apologised and said I wasn’t allowed to study there either...”
“Around the Charter the signature meant really a lot. So you reckoned, finally, figuratively, I’ve given you one on the nob, you Commie. And here you go. I’m not hiding anything, shushing anything any more, I won’t watch my words etc. On the one hand. Then it proved to be, in the hindsight of what is now almost forty year, a decisive moment of liberation. The path onwards was mostly set. Namely, boiler rooms, menial forest work, I carried cloth in a textile factory, I did cleaning, water metering. The kind of jobs society looks down on. The second half of the Seventies was when my first children were born, I have five of them in all. The first three were born in the years 78 to 81. My wife was at home with the children. I worked for a miserable wage. I did the cleaning at the Vinohrady theatre for 800 crowns. Then I tended to the boiler at the Convent of St Agnes for 1,500 [the average gross wage at the time was approx. 2,500 crowns - trans.]. Five people lived off of that. It was very difficult. We survived somehow, but my wife doesn’t like to think about it, because she kept house, and it was bordering on poverty.”
“It was almost impossible to find a job in Boleslav. That’s basically why I moved to Prague. I commuted as a boiler man. You just couldn’t do that in Boleslav. A person could live at least somewhat inconspicuously. I had several interrogations, which ended quite abruptly. I was jotting down notes during one interrogation. I was summoned for informative questioning. I knew I had the right to take notes. The stetsec [State Security agent - trans.] tore it from my hands. I said if I don’t have my legal rights, we won’t continue. It got pretty hot for a moment. They had their bruiser, then their ‘psychologist’, their nice boy. The bruiser roared that he’d break my head open on the radiator. The nice boy surprisingly turned out to be a classmate from primary school. I guess that’s worth mentioning - at primary school, there were two boys sitting in the front row, Husák and Zelenka. Both of them were a head shorter than the rest of the class. And whenever they wanted to be called out, they’d have to hop up and down and wave their hand about to be seen. And one of them, when I was summoned to one of my first interrogations shortly after [signing] the Charter, he sat facing me, tapping one of those pencils with a rubber end, and said: ‘Well, Mr Jirounek, what will you tell us?’ And I told him: ‘Don’t be silly, Vláďa.’ I couldn’t switch over. And Vláďa blushed, ran out, and another came in, the bruiser, the brawler. Nowadays - I think his name’s Hrubý - he owns a logistics company in Boleslav. He was a pretty successful stetsec. By contrast, he bared his teeth at me. He said he’d bash my head open on the radiator. So I told him to go ahead and try, and he didn’t, surprisingly. That was either crazy courage, or lack of judgement. The fact is that they really did beat some people blue. They kicked them all over, took them thirty kilometres out of town and dumped them in the forest. And that happened to more than a few people. I don’t know why they didn’t do it in my case. But they didn’t. One explanation is that they preferred and mainly enjoyed targeting people who were scared and who told them a lot. I know when I was on my way back from one of the ‘flat seminars’ of Láďa Hejdánek with one girl, we were stopped by two officers at the entrance of 11 Slovenská [Street]. They checked our ID, wrote down our numbers. I received a summons to the State Security in Prague 6, somewhere around Pod Markétou. I was there about twenty minutes, but they pumped the girl there for six hours. The purpose of their work was, of course, to get as much information as possible. When they saw it wasn’t working, or that it would take too much effort, they just didn’t carry on. At times they wanted to sock me proper because I’d asked them to pay for my travel expenses, that took them aback, they said that was a bit too steep.”
I never regretted it, I’m glad things turned out the way they did
Miroslav Jirounek was born on 3 August 1955 in Kladno to Bohumil and Marie Jirounek. The family soon moved to Mladá Boleslav. The witness attended primary and grammar school there. His family upbringing infused him with a love of culture and the traditions of the First Republic. He was an excellent violinist, successfully participating in a number of competitions. On a spiritual level, he was strongly influenced by the Evangelical pastor in Mladá Boleslav, Alfréd Kocáb. He made music together with Kocáb’s son Michael.
The Soviet occupation in 1968 was a turning point in his life. He refused to accept the consequences of normalisation, and he personally criticised the headmaster of the Mladá Boleslav grammar school, František Nerad, who drastically curtailed freedom of speech and religion at the school. In 1973 Jirounek was expelled from school, in the end he graduated extramurally at Wilhelm Pieck Grammar School in Prague. In 1975 he was accepted to study conducting at the Prague Conservatoire - only to be expelled half a year later, despite very good results. He was later allowed to complete distance studies - thanks to the intervention of the Human Rights Committee in Geneva, which he wrote a letter to. He worked in various menial jobs, including that of a boiler man at the Convent of St Agnes in Prague. In 1977 he signed Charter 77. In November 1989 he was a founding member of the Civic Forum in Prague. He attained recognition as a member of the Third (anti-Communist) Resistance. He and his wife Michaela have five children. Miroslav died on 22th November 2020.