“It was bothersome. Continual surveillance. We always lived in such an extraordinary state – house searches, arrests, interrogations, and so on. One morning I was normally arrested by policemen – not by the State Secret Police members. There is a post-office in the Košíře neighbourhood, and they put handcuffs on my wrists and cuffed me to a central heating pipe, right in the place where people going to the post-office were passing. Thus from the very morning, people were streaming to the post-office and greeting me and asking me what I was doing there. But I didn’t know either. Then at about 4 p.m. the policeman returned and released me. Allegedly his task was to hold me so that I would not be able to meet some Austrian minister, who was visiting Prague and who was scheduled to meet the Chartists. This is just to illustrate the terror we were being subjected to.”
“My name is Svatopluk Karásek and I was born on October 18, 1942 – during the war. My father was Petr Karásek and my mother was Doubravka Karásková, born Černíková. I had two elder brothers: Milan – a land-surveyor, and the photographer Oldřich Karásek who died about a year and a half ago, thus I am now the only one remaining of our family.”
“I always narrate it like this: It was the first day of school. I was going to school and I saw an interesting-looking guy, walking the same way, so I asked him if he was also going to that viticulture school. He was a fourth-grader, while I was in the third grade after I had been transferred from Děčín. We began to talk, he said he was from Počernice, and so on. Somehow I mentioned to him that I had nothing at all in my bag, just a Bible, and he opened his bag, and there was a Bible as well. We appreciated this coincidence, and we didn’t head for school anymore, but for the U Šrachtů restaurant instead, where we started talking about it and we became friends.”
“At first I served as a pastor in Hvozdnice – it was a let’s say desolate congregation, because no pastor had been there for eight years. Then in 1968 the institute of a secretary for church affairs was abolished, and thus they told me to go there to try out my new methods, that I could do no harm there, because there were only two believers. So I went there and what happened was that within a year the village was all in a stir, and the church was full. Then the state authority over the church was reinstated, including that church secretary, and he told me to leave. They gave me a list of churches without a pastor to choose from. I told them I was not going anywhere, that I had been appointed here and that I would remain with the congregation. I stayed there for some six more months, but I was forbidden to preach, so every time someone from the believers had to read my sermon. I resisted, but then the synod senior said that he would appoint another student with his wife there to pastor that church, and thus I went to Nové Město pod Smrkem. I had a youth group there, and the church secretary intervened again, and said that if I worked well, I would get a pay rise of 60 crowns – I was earning some 560 crowns a month. I told him: ´You mean that if I worked badly, if there were no youth group, etc.´ A conflict between us erupted immediately. In Nové Město pod Smrkem, the church was thriving again: there was a youth group, we were singing. Thus my state approval was canceled without a reason.”
“It was still going on, the police was monitoring it, but it didn’t look like they would intervene too much. Only later Martin Jirous met Havel and showed him the photos of the underground (although it wasn’t called that way yet) and explained to him what was going on – he presented to him the Report of the third musical revival. Havel published this report in some English international magazine and based on this, in Moscow they somehow analyzed it and an order was issued to stop this so that it would not keep spreading. We were normally playing like before and all of a sudden, the sixteen or seventeen of us young people were all arrested on the same day. One day there was a raid and all of us ended in the Ruzyně prison. I couldn’t believe it. When they were arresting me, I was saying: ´This must be some mistake, I sing songs here, we have 1976 already, they cannot arrest us for that.´ Vráťa was in the adjacent cell – and he was only playing the saxophone, never saying a single word, so how come they could arrest him?”
“The Beatnicks and the New Testament – that was my thing.”
Svatopluk Karásek was born October 18, 1942 in the family of a government ministry official Petr Karásek, who was briefly imprisoned after February 1948 and then allowed to work only in manual positions, and Doubravka Karásková, born Černíková, whose family had evangelical tradition. As a young boy, Svatopluk was influenced by the beat generation culture, which inspired him to search for his own path in life. Later, New Testament entered his life. His mother also passed on to him the love of humour and comedy. After elementary school in Prague-Smíchov he began studying at a school for gardeners in Děčín. After he was dismissed from this school for the second time, he transferred to the school of viticulture in Mělník, where his life-long friendship with Vráťa Brabenec began. After that he studied Komenský’s Evangelical Theological Faculty, where he was admitted at the second try, also owing to the help by professor Hromádka. The faculty was relatively conformist, but the students were searching for new ways of sharing their faith and organizing various artistic happenings. Unlike some of the older generation of theologists in the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, Svatopluk Karásek and his friends rather aspired to link their faith with the milieu of artists, and they did not perceive a need to participate in reforming the social and political affairs so keenly.
A turning point for Karásek came only with the death of Jan Palach and the Russian occupation. In 1968 he began his service as a pastor in his first post in Hvozdnice. However, after a conflict with the state secretary for church affairs he had to leave the flourishing congregation and he was transferred to Nové Město pod Smrkem. After repeated problems, his state approval for pastoral activity was cancelled. Financial problems followed. He eventually found employment as a castellan on the Houska castle, where he spent several wonderful years with his wife Stáňa and their children. Then he received an invitation to the underground movement, and he has not left this community till his emigration. One of independent communities was established in Houska. Frequent visitors included pastors from the New Orientation, like Miloš Rejchrt, Alfréd Kocáb, or Jan Šimsa. He replaced his sermons to a congregation with biblical lyrics in his songs. Repercussions of these activities came in 1976 when he was arrested. The district court in Prague sentenced him together with Ivan Martin Jirous, Pavel Zajíček, and Vratislav Brabenec to eight months of unsuspended sentence for riotous conduct. A wave of solidarity followed the trial and at the turn of 1976-1977 it materialized in the founding of Charter 77, which he signed with the first wave of signatories in Ječná Street in the flat of the Němcová family. This year also marked the beginning of his new career as a window-washer.
Their family lived together with Martin Jirous and Juliána. He participated in meetings of evangelical pastors - Libštát, and with his family they often visited various underground communities, e.g. in Řepice, he was also a frequent guest of meetings in Ječná street. His having signed the Charter 77 brought about constant pressure from the police and the state system. He eventually consented to a repeated offer, and under a so-called Asanace program he moved out of Czechoslovakia. After difficulties in an Austrian refugee camp he and his family arrived to Switzerland, where he was accepted as a pastor’s deputy in a congregation in Bonstetten; five years later he moved to a large congregation in Höngg. He took part in various events promoting human rights, in meetings of the underground movement abroad and he also preached in Free Europe and in the Czech congregation of Přemysl Pitter in Zurich. After 1989 he was travelling back and forth between Switzerland and Czechoslovakia. His wife Stáňa had an established medical practice in Switzerland, and neither their children wanted to return. Svatopluk eventually kept commuting to Switzerland till 1996. In the following year, his spectacular ordination in the Salvator church in Prague took place. His life was however bitterly affected by a sudden death of his wife. At present Svatopluk Karásek is still active as a pastor in the Salvator church in Prague, he also brushed off his knowledge from the school of viticulture and he engages in wine trade as well. With his second wife Pavla they have two daughters, he also frequently visits his children who live in Switzerland. He considers the genuineness of living in the period of Charter 77 to be the most pure and free years of his life.