Josef Kundera

* 1960

  • "Suddenly a colleague came in and said she just returned from Prague, that serious things were happening there, that students were being beaten up on Národní třída, that there were protests, that it was big and that it was going on everywhere. Someone brought a record player, so she played it for us. We were in shock. Everybody was saying, 'This can't be true.' Of course, the rehearsal was over, we stopped rehearsing and started talking about it. The party members immediately started to act. They called a meeting right away because I know some of them were hurrying there. They discussed about what was going to be done, what was their position on it. I didn't get involved. At that time, such comical situations arose. Once we had a group of those who coordinated the events in the theatre. They wanted to abolish the militia - and one colleague said: 'Wait, we don't have any militia here.' - 'Doesn't matter, let's establish one first so we can abolish it.'"

  • "At Easter we used to rattle on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and White Saturday in the morning, in order to substitute the church bells. According to the legend, the church bells flew to Rome. We used to go from the top of the village above the church to the lower end. In Wallachia we had these wheelbarrow rattles, it was little carts with cog wheels, these wooden rails. It made a great rumble. We kept various folk customs. Masquerade balls, carnivals and things like that. There were various societies, firemen, Sokol, Red Cross and so on. We organized trips and tours, and festivities and things like that. The village was alive and it's still alive to this day."

  • "I think that the disappointment of my parents, caused by the 1968 occupation, influenced me in some way. I don't know. I couldn't stop thinking about the disappointment from the 1968 and the occupation when experiencing the events of 1989. I was glad, of course. We already had our son Filip and my wife was pregnant with the second one. From a parent's point of view, one was cautious not to make any mistake, not to make any hasty decision. We lived a normal life. I didn't actually learn about the Charter 77 until 1989, or a little while before that. When I found out that my colleague Vláďa Volf signed it. He passed away. So it was only then that I found out about it. I must say that I was never interested in politics. I kept thinking about my parents, who believed at the beginning, the Prague Spring in '68, and then the terrible disappointment, the disillusionment."

  • I remember to this day exactly. We had a rehearsal on 18th, it was just the day after. We had a rehearsal, it was in the old theatre, in the original Horácké theatre. We were sitting there in front of the rehearsal room, and a colleague who had just come back from Prague came in. She was there and experienced it. She told us what was happening there, that police was beating up students on Národní třída, arresting them, things like that. Of course, there were riots before, but this time it was huge. Because in 1989 it all cumulated, and I guess it was the right time. So it started in the theatre. And then at Komenského Street, there was a shop window with photos and posters, so our technicians put a screen there and a video player. The colleague brought a video tape of the demonstration filmed by people. It was copied and distributed all over the country by the students and the actors. So she brought one of these tapes, and it was played in the shop window and people, who were passing by, watched it. Because they had no idea what was going on in Prague. On the news, they mentioned that some students were protesting and that the police dispersed them. But the video tape clearly showed what it was like, that the students were just sitting there peacefully.

  • "I joined the professional theatre in 1982, it was actually in the middle of the season, at the Slovácké theatre in Uherské Hradiště. Because I didn't get into university after my graduation. I applied in Prague, I applied in Brno, but you know, it was such a strange time. My dad was in the Communist party after the war, and when 1948 came, he just handed his legitimation in, and said, 'I don't want to be part of this.' And unfortunately, at that time, it meant that all of his children, including me, didn't have a chance to get into university. My brother was a great mathematician, he calculated everything in his head, and he was excellent, he was very good at maths. He wanted to design buildings, bridges, things like that. He ended up going to a cook-waiter apprenticeship because he didn't even get into proper secondary school. It was in the fifties, unfortunately it was such times. If you didn't follow the right political views, you weren't allowed to study. And on top of that we were a religious family, my parents were religious. They were in the People's Party then. So we always received 'we don't recommend' when applying for university. I only found out later about it. I was doing theatre, I enjoyed it, I was good at it, so I believed I would get into university easily. But then I found out that it's not that simple. The local national committee received a report on our family and based on this they always wrote 'we don't recommend university admission'. So no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't succeed in getting into university."

  • "It's a strong experience. It still gives me goose bumps to this they when I think about it. It was August 1968, when I was visiting my aunt in Gottwaldov with my parents and two of my older siblings. Today the town is called Zlín. I was eight years old, and I went to bed the previous night, unaware of anything happening. And in the morning I woke up and came downstairs. My aunt lived in that classic Baťa's half-house, if you know what I mean, the classic Zlín building. And I came down from the upstairs bedroom to the kitchen and there I saw my parents standing by the radio crying. They thought we were in a war. I remember that to this day."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Jihlava, 19.02.2021

    duration: 01:18:33
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
  • 2

    ED Jihlava, 05.04.2022

    duration: 02:28:37
    media recorded in project Příběhy regionu - HRK REG ED
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Waking up to August 1968 still gives me goose bumps to this day

Josef Kundera, as an actor
Josef Kundera, as an actor
photo: Archiv Josefa Kundery

Josef Kundera was born on 31 July 1960 in Jeseník, North Moravia. He lived there with his parents and three older siblings until the age of nine, when the family moved to Horní Lhota in the Zlín region. His memory of the invasion in August 1968 is the sight of his parents crying in the morning, afraid that there was a war on. He joined a drama club as a grammar school student. He didn’t get into university for political reasons, as his father left the Communist Party after 1948. He spent four months in the army before he was discharged with a blue book. In 1982, he joined the professional theatre, first playing at the Slovácké theatre in Uherské Hradiště and later at the Horácké theatre in Jihlava. In 2015, he received a nomination for the Thálie Award for the leading role of the milkman Tovje in the performance Fiddler on the Roof.