Jan Kyncl

* 1943

  • "The Pope [Paul VI] gave a beautiful speech. 'Representatives of the small country of Czechoslovakia, which is being taken over by the Soviet Union and the Allied armies. I wish your political situation would return to a normal democracy. I will pray for you.' Some of the delegates here, could you tell me what the prayer should contain?' He asked beforehand what language we would speak in, and Machálek said, 'English.’ We were prepared for that, I was supposed to speak. But next to me suddenly stood a man- a handsome man with broad shoulders, strong, looking more like a culturist and said I am going to be your interpreter. So I spoke in Czech.'Thank you for the invitation, and if I may ask what you could pray for, I would be glad if you would pray for the freedom of Czechoslovakia so that I can return to a free country where truth and love will come first. We have wives at home, we have children at home, and we would be happy to return to them all safe and alive. And then the whole hall stood up. I can't estimate exactly how many people were there. Eight hundred, a thousand. 'Viva Ceco, Viva Ceco!' And we had tears in our eyes. The support was overwhelming."

  • "In the evening I called together my friends who were on the expedition. I said to them, 'Guys, we have to demonstrate, come on, let's get the five-pointed star off the town hall!' We were already busy. There was already shooting in the square, the tank came into the arcade. So we climbed up, Moulis was still there, he was also helping us with the expedition. He gave us the keys to the attic. We got to the attic and climbed up to the upper balcony. And then we went up to this little tower on the ladder and we went through the windows. With Karl Heisig, but I should point out that there are no important names because we did it as a team. Somebody had to belay, hand things, tools and so on. Karl Heisig and I went up that tower and it was not nice. There were a lot of people down there, machine guns pointed at us, at least we had that feeling. Karl says, 'They're going to miss anyway.' I said, 'Karl, stop it. Rather look to the other side. The Russians were all around the town hall."

  • "In the morning we were awakened by a phone call that Prague was occupied by Russians, that planes were landing. We heard planes flying over us. And Jirka said, 'Honza, we can't sit at home. Come on, let's go to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, let them explain it to us.' There were already a lot of people there and it was already surrounded by Russians or Warsaw Pact. There was a soldier standing there with a machine gun. And some young guy says, 'That's my Party Central Committee, let me in!' He said, 'Stop!' He went further in that direction and they shot him in front of me. Now a doctor bent down and we said, 'It's the doctor, he needs treatment!' They didn't treat him."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Liberec, 25.01.2022

    duration: 01:42:15
  • 2

    Liberec, 03.02.2022

    duration: 01:55:30
  • 3

    Liberec, 05.05.2022

    duration: 01:38:55
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
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They went up to the town hall with a black flag. Underneath them were occupiers with machine guns

Jan Kyncl in the desert, 1969
Jan Kyncl in the desert, 1969
photo: Archiv pamětníka

Jan Kyncl was born on 6 February 1943 in Prague to Josef Kyncl and Anna Kynclová, the middle child of their three sons. The family moved to Liberec right after the war for work. He often spent his holidays at his grandfather’s house in Újezd u Berouna, where he witnessed his grandfather’s death after he had a heart attack during collectivization. In 1952, his father refused to install a five-pointed star, the symbol of communist power, instead of a knight at the Liberec town hall, and for a while, he found himself in prison. In January 1968, he helped organise the first edition of the Jizera 50. In August 1968, he and his climbing group climbed the tower of the Liberec City Hall, where he raised a black flag in protest against the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops. At that time he had already organized the Hoggar Expedition to Africa, which he still managed to undertake. He set off on his journey on 15 January 1969. The expedition returned on 1 April 1969. On the way, together with other climbers, he was received by Pope Paul VI after the burning of Jan Palach in the Vatican. During the period of normalisation, he had great difficulty finding employment. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, he took down the five-pointed star from the Liberec Town Hall and in 1990 he placed a lion on its top. In 2022 he lived in Liberec.