Jana Kociánová

* 1948

  • “Mummy couldn’t have simply said: I’m going to make this and that for dinner. She went to the shop and such basic items like onions may be lacking. One time there were no onions, another time no potatoes, and I don’t even mention toilet paper. There were no sanitary pads. Even after my mummy passed away I still had to combine and invent at least three variations of meals because some things simply couldn’t be found in the shops. Later I learned somewhere or simply figured it out myself that they did it on purpose. So that people wouldn’t dig into politics, and rather spend their time hunting for stuff that was lacking. Things like a fridge or a washing machine could not be purchased by simply coming to the store. They just weren’t there. They were obtained via personal connections.”

  • “I dreamt of playing tennis and I even think I wouldn’t have been bad at it. But to come to my mummy and ask her to buy me a racket – she’d chase me around with a wooden spoon. So I saved money. When mummy couldn’t make us bread with grease she gave us 30 hellers for a roll. I saved these coins, bought a ping-pong paddle for fifteen crowns and went to see Mr. Karlík, telling him I wanted to do ping pong. Which had happened. So I had been doing it ever since I was fourteen up until five years ago. I still have a number of medals from the veterans’ tournaments. Ping pong requires daily training. But most of all – given that we hadn’t even had running water at home, let alone a bathroom – the tournaments and all meant that every weekend we’d go play a match where there were showers and all the luxury.”

  • “I got waken up by a loud thunder. It was tanks driving on cobblestones. I thought: ‘Well, they’re making another WW II movie,’ because I encountered that in the past. But there were many of them, a whole convoy. So I thought what was happening? And then people were running around and even us who hadn’t had a radio got the news what was going on. I was completely shocked. I rushed out and went to work on foot. Now I had to cross the bridge to Resslova street but it was blocked by tanks. They told me: ‘You won’t pass here, this is closed.’ I had already walked far to get there and as I said, I am a rebel. So I went to one of the tanks and said: ‘I’m crossing the bridge to the other side and don’t tell me I’m not. I need to go to work.’ I knew Russian very well and unfortunately made use of it. I even started to call them dogs – using very inappropriate words. At first, I was amicable: ‘Who gave you such orders? Do you know why you are here? Are you just blindly obeying who-knows-who’s orders? What is the trouble with me crossing to the other side?!’ Then it escalated to calling them names. He pulled out his assault rifle which appeared 50 cm from my face. The crowd pulled me towards the ground and the soldier himself got scared. Those boys, they were greenhorns, not knowing where they were and what was going on. But for me, that was a catastrophic moment, of course.”

  • “The other time someone asked me what was worst about this period of time and I told them – as I am telling you now – that it wasn’t fear, but rather the stress. A permanent stress of remaining undercover, up until the last moment. That was the worst thing about that era. Because the other things we could sort out by organizing private, closed parties. Back then, people hadn’t rushed after money the way they do today and everyone had the same regardless of what they did. So we lived our amazing private lives during the parties – of course with the curtains drawn. Nobody was hiding anything there, and there was no way anything would become an issue.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 04.08.2016

    duration: 01:48:24
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

The worst part was the stress of not getting exposed

Jana Kociánová, 2016
Jana Kociánová, 2016

Jana Kociánová was born in 1948 in Prague. Her mother was a single parent taking care of two children. As a child she was affected by the harsh material conditions in an incomplete family. She strived to make up for her social handicap through great study results and later through sports. At fourteen years of age she began playing table-tennis in which she gained much success. While growing up she became aware of her homosexuality which she was forced to conceal practically up until the fall of the communist regime due to professional and family reasons. Her first steady girlfriend was an Austrian sportswoman. Thanks to frequent sports trips abroad she was able to get to know life behind the iron curtain. However, after the 1968 she hadn’t left the country - besides patriotism she also refused to leave behind her ill mother. From the 1960s up until 1989 she worked in managerial positions at the Prague town hall, in a research institute, and eventually in a travel agency. After 1989 she started her own tourism business. Throughout all times she kept fighting for a decent life of sexual minorities as well as her own in which she succeeded. Up until fifty-five years of age she represented Czech Republic at high-level table-tennis events.