“I think that it was on Friday, May 4th, I think it was Friday. People were already overwriting German signs in the streets in the evening, and the following day the Prague Uprising really broke out, I remember that I had the radio on and I was listening to the twelve o’clock news, and the announcer was reading the news in a terribly fast voice. And suddenly, what happened was that the radio building had been taken over and they began calling for help, calling for Czech police and the Czech government army. The army corps consisted of some seven thousand people. Well, that’s what I remember, I was sixteen at that time, or about to turn seventeen, and I know that I was helping to build barricades in the street.”
“I heard about it in the Dutch radio. From the report I could see what was happening in Prague. There were more of us Czechs in Holland at that time and we obviously gathered together. We immediately went to the embassy to find out what was happening. I have to say that the embassy staff treated us nicely, and they did whatever they could for us. Our embassy there was fine. I was quite scared, because I had three children in Prague, and I was afraid of what was going on. I remember that I tried to call my wife at home, but I succeeded only several days later, and I remember that I had to wait for that phone call. I had it reserved for seven in the evening, and I got the phone call only at one o’clock at night, but at least I learnt that they were alright and nothing had happened to them. I wanted to return to Prague to be with them, but they were persuading me to stay there until the end, and so I came back to Prague as late as 28th September.”
“Right the day after I began, they put me straight to work and they sent me as a defence counsel in a criminal case which consisted in defamation of public official. I was defending a certain gentleman – it was probably already an appellate procedure, because the court took place in Prague-Pankrác, and that was a regional level court, so it had been judged before in a district level court in Kladno, but I don’t remember precisely – and the gentleman had said in some pub in Kladno that Tonny Zápotocký (the communist president at that time – transl.’s note) had been standing there at the corner and that he was an old accordion player, and so on. Well, this blockhead was saying things like that and a policeman happened to overhear it, and thus it turned into defamation of public official.“
I began working as a barrister in the worst possible time
Zdeněk Kučera was born in 1928 in Prague. During the war he and his schoolmates had to flee from school several times in order to take cover during air raids. He was helping to build barricades during the Prague Uprising. After the war he completed his studies at the Law Faculty, where he specialized in international private law. As he claims, in the period of the harshest communist lawlessness he tried to defend justice, and he also served as a barrister for farmers who were affected by the collectivization process. He did not get involved in the political trials, because he was still considered too young and untrustworthy for that. He spent the time of the Soviet invasion to Czechoslovakia in 1968 in the Netherlands, but he returned home to his family. He was teaching at the Law Faculty in Prague during the normalization era as well as in the 1980s. He did not face any problems in his job, but his children had troubles with being accepted to secondary schools. Zdeněk continued teaching at the Law Faculty in Prague after the Velvet Revolution. He is now retired.