Mgr. Jarmila Kopečková

* 1936  

  • I base it on the characteristics of humans. Every human being has always good and bad qualities and it's all about what will prevail. However, they can at least publicly say what they think and not be arrested because of it. I go to do shorthand during local authority meetings, so I can see it there. It is normal human behaviour as everyone has their good and bad qualities and everyone presents only what they want. They choose only a certain part and start to present it. But you also have to mention the other part. When you talk about one part of the issue, you should also talk about the other part. However, the problem is that the other part is not mentioned. Both parts of the issue (are not mentioned) together. They talk for example just about the first part and everyone goes ‘hurrah, it is like this.‘ But it then is not. And it will work like this in every regime and all the time because everyone wants to assert their truth. So they choose only what is convenient for them. But thank goodness they can say it; for example if someone lies, you can say that it's not true, and they have to justify why they're lying. And that is something that did not happen back then. So freedom of speech is great.”

  • “We kept a track of the situation and saw the hopelessness here. Because as soon as the leading role of the Communist Czechoslovak Party was enshrined in the constitution, it was hopeless. And there was ‘the help‘ of the Soviet Union and we could not control it. What is now that we can say what we want, did not exist back then. Everyone kept their mouths shut, as they say. You simply did not present yourself without a reason because you would get into trouble.”

  • “The year 1951 was bad. I wrote a diary, so I remember it – we were the first class that had to do the so-called final exams. They were done before a committee and the committee directly decided who would study which school. I always wanted to study at grammar school and then to study medicine. I always had As and never had Bs. We had to go before the committee with my father in the afternoon and the committee could not say anything because of my school results but they said that my socialist education was not ensured at home and that I would have to go to working-class environment and that if working class sent me to study, I could study. So everything that I had imagined in my youth collapsed. And at the same time, they persuaded my friend, whose father was a fire fighter and who had Cs with big difficulty, to study. She cried that she did not want to and that she could not handle it.”

  • “The prosecutor confused legal terms back then. He did not know what tenure was. I quite admired my dad´s counsel, he managed to prove that the public prosecutor was off the mark. And so dad was sentenced to only one year. Instead of five years. The original proposal mentioned from five to ten years.”

  • “It was in 1956 or in 1957 after the events in Hungary when the communists were already backing off a little bit. Mrs. Schneblingová came to our office back then. They had a pharmacy opposite Malé Náměstí [a street in Prague – trans.]. Apart from that, they also had a pharmaceutical factory which had been nationalised in 1948. Back then, the nationalisation decree stated that only equipment used to run the factory were subject to it. However, they came to their house and confiscated also carpets and paintings from them and placed the things to a residence where leaders went on holiday. They placed it there as equipment. And my dad came to a conclusion that paintings and carpets did not serve for the permanent operation of the enterprise... Well and he got into a scrape. They came to arrest dad a week later.”

  • “I was telling Líba that I was not going that way that I was worried. Líba was running and all of sudden I could see planes in the sky. And as soon as I ran across, all hell broke loose. At first, glass started to fly due to a blast wave and then cobblestones. I was only kneeling and praying and I could only see a space over me with nothing flying in it. It was horrible, horrible. When you see the war films, I was in it. It was terrible. When the hell was over, I dug myself out. There was a lot of water and everything was smashed. There was nobody in the street, there were many people there before and there was nobody all of sudden. Only a woman was dragging a man and shouting that he could not walk. My legs and my head were hurting, a piece of my bone was knocked out. But fortunately, the skull was not fractured. I came to the entrance of the palace and there were two flaming bombs. I was absolutely terrified of it but walked past them and someone grabbed me there and pressed me to a column and then took me to a cellar and they treated my head there. I had everything covered in blood, my head was bleeding heavily. So they treated it and I went home when the bombing was over. I went home horrified if they were alive and secondly because my coat was ruined with blood and I was afraid that mum would be angry that I had ruined my coat.”

  • Full recordings
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    Praha , 04.05.2021

    (audio)
    duration: 01:31:14
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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Aircraft suddenly appeared in the sky

Jarmila Kopečková in 2021
Jarmila Kopečková in 2021
photo: Post Bellum

Jarmila Kopečková, née Chodlová was born on 14 April 1936 in Vinohrady in Prague to a family of Karel and Jarmila Chodl. She had a younger sister. Her mother was a teacher and after her daughters were born, she became a housewife. Her father taught Mathematics and Arts at a town school and then he studied law. Jarmila spent part of her childhood with her mother and sister in Tábor at her grandmother´s, in 1943 they returned to Prague where her father worked as a lawyer in a publishing house. In February 1945, when she was on her way home, she experienced a destructive air raid on Prague in Vinohrady. While she escaped with injuries, her friend was killed. Her father worked at the Ministry of Education after the war, he refused to join the Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1948 and that is why he was fired in 1949. Jarmila who wanted to become a doctor could not apply for a secondary school finished with secondary-school leaving exam. She started to study at a two-year business school but the headmaster transferred her to a programme finished with secondary-school leaving exam thanks to her great school results. She won a national championship in shorthand in her fourth year in 1955 and she met there her future husband Vlastimil Kopeček. In 1957 when she was studying at Pedagogical College, they arrested her father who was at that time working at the State Historic Preservation Office. He stood up for a family whose flat equipment was illegally seized by the communists during the nationalization of their pharmaceutical factory. He was sentenced without probation to serve a year for misconduct in public office. Jarmila graduated from college in 1960 and then she faced refusals to employ her because of her father´s cadre profile. Jarmila Kopečková taught Shorthand, Accounting, and other specialized subjects at Prague secondary business schools in Dušní, Bubeneč and Vinohrady. She was still working as a stenographer during the time of the recording of the interview (2021). Her husband died in 1990. They raised a son and a daughter together.