Eva Kantůrková

* 1930

  • “When I was thinking about Topolánek, for instance, I thought: ´Well, but they had to pay for defeating us.´ They’ve paid for it. Because we in turn enjoyed the 1960s, we were publishing books, going to movies, we managed to develop our careers, to attain certain reputation, to get accustomed to a certain lifestyle and outlook, and nobody can take it away from us anymore. Nobody will ever take it from us. But what about them? When they were eighteen, they fell right into this muck of the 1970s and 1980s. And you wonder about them today? You know, I think it did happen, but it wasn’t so bad, because it was a culmination of something, which... I don’t know – the Czech New Wave in cinema, who has that? I think that out of every situation, even out of the worst one, like we have today (laughing) you can gain something.” Interviewer: “Are you disappointed by the present?” – “No, not disappointed. I’m angry. Terribly. Terribly. I’m terribly angry.”

  • “We lived on Národní Street with my mom, and it was very near Resslova Street, and I went to see the church after it had been flooded out by the Nazis. When they tried to capture the paratroopers, they pumped water to the crypt and shot them, and the photographs of these executed parachutists were then displayed in the Baťa shop window on Wenceslas Square. This was certainly a formative impression for me, for this was something when you could touch this horror directly. We heard the shooting from Resslova St. and we knew what was going on there. And another such experience was during the revolution in 1945, when I was walking the Old Town with my friend on that Saturday 5th May, and German flags began to be torn down. I saw little boys from Hitlerjugend being lynched on the Old Town Square, and I understood that this was bad, that I had to run home quickly. Then we were hiding in a shelter. Over there in Spálená Street, where the men from the shelter were going to build that barricade. Then someone came to tell us that my father got arrested in the Lidový dům. He was an editor-in-chief of some ladies’ magazine and they took them all to the railway station, which is Masaryk Station today, and there they were counting them, and every tenth man was shot. And we didn’t know if our father was the tenth in the row or not. These experiences were very personal and intense, and if I wanted to describe that time, I would select these as the most representative.”

  • “It may seem absurd, but I was most free while I was in the Ruzyně prison because I was my own boss there. I was doing what I wanted.” Interviewer: “Well, there are more people who say this.” – “While there... they could have beaten me, but they didn’t, they didn’t feed me well, I had lice, that’s all true, but I was the one who dictated the records. I was correcting that officer’s grammatical mistakes. He was going crazy. He was a young, self-conceited type, short-haired, fresh out of graduate law school, and he was arguing with me where to write S and Z or I and Y. I was always telling him: ´I’ll either correct it for you and sign it, or I won’t correct it, and I won’t sign this protocol.´” Interviewer: “And you were talking with them, with these StB policemen?” – “Well, you had to.” Interviewer: “I thought that...” – “Ruml didn’t. They told Ruml: ´I refuse to testify.´ I didn’t do this.” Interviewer: “It’s true that many people had learnt this formula by heart and...” – “I didn’t do this. No, I had no reason. I thought that I would break him by talking, and not by... You see, once you get stuck, you’re lost. Then you can’t do anything. You have to be careful even when you’re in the cell, it can be monitored, you mustn’t say anything and anyway, I was smarter.”

  • “I don’t remember who did it, whether it was the Journalists’ Association, but a large-scale trip for journalists to Babice was organized. It was after the trial, the people had already been sentenced, and it was clear that the testimonies had been made, and we already knew the terrible things they had confessed about themselves. Thus a certain veracity of what had happened has been confirmed. Meaning confirmed by the regime. None of us could know that Malý was an StB member. We took everything that was written about the process and these things at face value. They took us there, the group of journalists, I remember myself among them in particular, because to be honest, this was one of the things which affected me terribly. I consider it one of my worst experiences ever. It was even worse than when they imprisoned our Petr. This was far worse, because...” Interviewer: “You mean at that time, or...” – “At that time. I considered it as something... had it not happened, I would have never written that. I was in the culture department, not in the political news department, and I got there because I was interested in it, I wanted to see it with my own eyes. So we arrived to that school, the staircase was still damaged after the shooting, they haven’t even washed down the blood of those people yet, I talked to the headmaster’s wife whose husband got killed, and with Mr. Netolička, whose son, a worker, was also killed, and you saw how these people acted and how they spoke. This lady, she could be 35 or so, they had two daughters, she was dressed in black, she was still living in the school. And then they showed us the farms of the people who had been sentenced, and the cowsheds where there were emaciated cows and they were telling us: ´You see, they were not feeding the cattle on purpose, in order to avoid milk deliveries.´ They were explaining everything like this. They led us to the parish house and there was no doubt. There was sheer horror. The wives of the men who had been sentenced were still living on the farms. I remember a farmer’s wife’s eyes, which could kill you with the gaze. Today I know why, and I wonder that her eyes didn’t kill me, but back then I understood it in a completely different way. And what was most disturbing...” Interviewer: “Did you speak to these farmers’ wives?” – “No, we weren’t allowed to. And they wouldn’t speak with us at all. Someone was always accompanying us. It was just for show: ´And now, journalists, you’ll so what was behind that.´ And it was even worse in the parish house, they showed us the priest’s bedroom. As a child, I was brought up in reverence for a village priest, in Popovice I was going for confessions to him, the first communion, learning catechism from him. He was a man known for his good heart and all truly respected him – when he died, some twenty thousand people came to his funeral in those 1950s. He was that kind of man. And now, I had already left the church, but it made no difference, the childhood experiences still linger in you – now they brought me to the priest’s bedroom. This is simply something forbidden, something unthinkable. And there was a table, an alarm clock, his prayer-books, a crucifix – and it was there that the horror of this entire case descended upon me. There I thought: ´Something so terrible is happening here that one has to cope with it somehow.´ And I coped with it as I could. They said about Malý that he had been sent from the outside, he himself said it, the farmers confessed this way. And the article I wrote – I don’t mind having written it that much, that was owing to the era, to the fact that we couldn’t understand it. But what I mind is that there is everything – everything – in this article, as a friend of mine says. I got Fučík there, and imperialists, I got the Korean war there.” Interviewer: “Ideologically speaking, it is written very convincingly...” – “That’s the newspeak of that time. And what’s worst about it is that I was not led astray, that it was my genuine conviction. There is no doubt in it at all.”

  • “We were inside it, if you understand me. I stepped out of this inner world of the regime only in 1967, 1968, when I separated myself from it, when I said – I don’t want to have anything in common with it. Till then we were living as if we were shut in some oyster, in something closed, we knew what it caused harm to, we already knew about Zahradníček’s imprisonment, we knew his poems and we reflected on these issues in that time, in 1965, but we didn’t feel so detached from the system to be able to say – it’s wrong, it’s an error in the system’s setup. Within this system, we were fighting its deficiencies, and we defended ourselves. I don’t know whether this was good or bad. And this went with me since my university years, where it was taken for granted that you sort of sided with the opposition. And even after I graduated, for some time I worked in an office which controlled a publishing house, and I was involved in an argument concerning Pecka’s novel, arguing that it should be published, and not be banned as Hendrych proposed. Our internal participation was thus that of strong opposition, which was however not stemming from one’s opinion or conviction, but from one’s character and one’s immediate reaction to what was good and bad.” Interviewer: “Generally speaking, you can say that to a certain level you understood that the system itself was justified, and you only saw the mistakes or errors, as you mentioned, that it was necessary to amend the errors, to rectify the system, which within itself was correct.” – “It was not different. It was not different at that time. I had no choice. Before I turned fifteen, I had been living in a world, which was characterized in a certain way and which also accomplished many good things on top of that. We could also see the positive things that this regime was providing. And there were not just few of them. In this argument one thus didn’t deny the beneficial things that the regime has done. Like the position of workers, which really got worse only in the late 1980s, and not back then. Respect for labour was initiated, a great respect for labour, which was taken seriously. We were convinced that they were not being exploited and that it was bad to exploit workers.”

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    Praha, 29.06.2010

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    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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    Praha, 14.05.2015

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    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
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    Praha, 24.03.2017

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    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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    Praha, 21.04.2017

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It depends on whom you meet and whether you have the chance to wrench yourself free from your environment and step over its shadow

1796-portrait_present.jpg (historic)
Eva Kantůrková
photo: http://www.slovnikceskeliteratury.cz/showContent.jsp?docId=765

  Eva Kantůrková was born May 11, 1930 in Prague in the family of a communist journalist and writer. After her parents divorced, she was living with her aunt in a village near Velké Popovice, and when she turned 11, she began living in Prague with her mother. After graduating from secondary school, she worked as an editor in the Mladá Fronta newspaper and in agitprop groups of the Youth Union, and she studied philosophy and history at the Faculty of Arts at Charles University; one of her teachers was Josef Macek (1956). When she was 16, she became a member of the Communist Party. She was married to Jan Štern and Jiří Kantůrek. In the 1950s she held positions in the Youth Union, since the mid-1960s she was publishing in magazines and books. She became a full-time writer in 1967. She was a signatory and spokeswoman (1985) of Charter 77, in 1981-82 she was in detention, in 1994-96 she presided the Writers’ Council, from 1998 she was the director of the department of literature and libraries in the Ministry of Culture. She is an author of prose works, essays, and screenplays. Her works include: novels Funeral Cermony (1967), After the Flood (1969), Black Star (1982), My Companions in the Bleak House (1984), Jan Hus (1991), Lord of the Tower (1992), short stories Mr. Abel’s Legacy (1971), Man Behind (1988), memories Memorial (1994), Memory Records (1998), interviews with female dissidents We Met in This Book (1980), screenplays Funeral Ceremony, Master of Ceremonies, My Companions in the Bleak House, etc.