Jarmila Kovařovicová

* 1925  

  • “My daughter – I’ve already taken offense because whenever we come together, she asks me about my activities as an agent, how could I... I replied: ‘Jarunka, good heavens, you know how it was, how they policed us. I had to sign many things. I have never in my life informed on a fellow Czech. If anyone searched thoroughly, nothing would be found - not a word - regarding information about a Czech. The secret police asked me only about the British.’ And the British were so careful, that when the Thun Palais [British embassy] was being repaired, they bought sand in West Germany because they didn’t trust the Czechs, thinking that they could possibly bring in a listening device with the construction material. And they fired one chairwoman, when she took something... they fired her immediately.”

  • “I stood fixed on the railway platform in Přívoz and I couldn’t move when the train arrived. From the coach right in front of me, my father got off, wearing the same topcoat when the Gestapo escorted him from home. I ran to him and wanted to help him down the stairs. I clutched at his coat sleeve and got scared – it was only his bone covered by skin. My father looked terrible. Skinny, weak... but his eyes... in spite of suppressed anxiety and fear from the experienced, they smiled at me. I begun immediately to unpack the buns and when my father saw them, he started to cry. He took the box, ran back to the train and handed it through a window to other prisoners who were continuing their journey to Bohemia. When we drew near our house, I told my father about my dream. In front of the house, the lilacs were blossoming and they welcomed us with their scent. When the message got out that he was home... many people visited him... I can’t continue...”

  • “You know, they pressed upon me so, but I’m convinced, that even if there were 600 pages of documents in the secret police office, I didn’t speak about anybody from the [British] embassy. I mean about the Czechs.” – This is your report: ‘The source’, that means you, ‘adds that Schallerová is a great admirer of Switzerland. Her attitude to the Czechoslovak regime can’t be good, she often uses expression ‘in your Czechoslovakia’. – “She was a horrid crone. Horrid, horrid...” – There are also many reports about the British employees...’ – So tell me, what could I say about them... It was a terrible era. I wouldn’t like to experience it again. Always such miserable feelings, fear of loosing the job...”

  • “During the regime, we traveled the world. We were in Norway, Yugoslavia, East Germany, Switzerland, France... everywhere. During each journey, one person from the Ministry of the Interior was assigned to supervise us. When we travelled to East Germany, one hag got on the bus and said: ‘I am going with you to your concerts but I hate classical music, so don’t be surprised if I don't attend your concerts.’ When we arrived, she was received as a representative of the ministry by local officials and she had to willy-nilly sit in the first row. After our performance there was a long applause and we were called back for an encore. We sang a song by Forester which was so beautiful... and imagine, the hag stood up and went away. We glanced at each other and lifted our eyebrows. After the concert we went to the cloak-room and she was there, crying and begging us off. She said it was so nice that she couldn’t endure it, and didn't want cry in front of anyone. So we said to ourselves: ‘We defeated communism!’ We were so happy.”

  • “It was an organisation under which all embassies were supplied with Czech employees. So when I started to work at the British embassy, I had to go to this office, and it was here that they questioned me and said that I must, you know... [inform]. Because of that, I knew that almost everyone at the embassy was in the same situation as me. I knew that I had to be very careful, even with the Czechs at the embassy.”

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    Praha, 10.04.2010

    (audio)
    duration: 06:34:14
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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“What could I say about the Englishmen? And I didn’t speak about the Czechs.”

Jarmila Kovařovicová (2010)
Jarmila Kovařovicová (2010)
photo: Daniel Baránek

Jarmila Kovařovicová was born in 1925 in Metylovice, in the Místek Region. Her father manufactured whips and was a mayor of the Sokol club in Metylovice; her mother taught at the primary school in Metylovice. During the “Action Sokol”, the Nazis imprisoned her father in Brno and Auschwitz. After the war, the communists nationalized his craft and he continued to work; Jarmilla studied English and then became a teacher of the English language. In 1952, she moved to Hradec Králové, and in 1954 to Prague. She worked as a translator for the national corporation, Laboratorní Přístroje (Laboratory instruments), where she met her husband, Jiří Kovařovic, a construction designer and developer. In 1964, she moved with Jiří to Iraq, where she worked as a secretary to the Czechoslovak ambassadors, and Jiří taught at the University of Baghdad. After their return from Iraq, Jarmila was employed by the British embassy in Prague. At the same time, however, she also worked as an agent of the secret police and notified the secret police about the employees of the British embassy. In her leisure time, she sang in the Prague Lady Teachers Choir and travelled with the choir to both Eastern and Western European countries. After her retirement in 1986, she cooperated with Wellcome Company.