“How come the communist regime didn’t have you disbanded?” – “In the end it did but they didn’t really manage well. Look, if you work for the Zpravodajská brigáda resistance organization for a couple years, you get to learn so many tricks that they don’t stand a chance against you. When they had us dissolved, it seemed like a done thing but we carried on operating as a so-called green dissent. My grandson Leša correctly said that the communists were a bit weary to persecute us because we had many visitors from abroad and various people were saying that we had contacts with other states. I got dressed down, of course, for the protected landscape area Šumava. The comrades at the Communist Party Central Committee said to me: ‘Comrade, you must have gone crazy, you want to establish a protected area right on the iron curtain border, you must be joking.’ I replied: ‘Well, I was serious about it for the whole time but now it seems that it won’t be so serious after all.’ Us volunteers made Šumava possible because the state wouldn’t have dared.” – “What do you call the green dissent?” – “It meant that we were doing the same things as before but cut out the political talk. But it wasn’t too important for us anyway.”
“Dr. Hrabánek came to the TIS association meeting in February 1972. He was all upset, turned towards me and said: ‘I just found out that there are no Hucul Ponies left anywhere in the world. Oh God, what should we do?’ I said I didn’t know and that we needed to find out whether any are left – otherwise it would have been a catastrophy. Back then, we counted less than 300 horses. It was an estimate; in fact, there were even a bit fewer of them alive. I said: ‘What else can we do, let’s save them.’ We didn’t have anything – no money, no stables, not even the know-how, I have to admit it. But still, I said we were going to save them. And they relied on me; since I was secretary general of the association they thought I knew what I was saying. And so in February 1972 we got to work. However, we only founded the Hucul Club as the implementation body on 15 November 1972 because first we had to find out whether there were any horses let and second, whether they were for sale. We succeeded because the Muráň stud farm in Slovakia which bred Hucul Ponies just stopped operating. All of it seemed fairly bleak. From Muráň we bought what was left of the old horses because they had no young ones anymore. But at the same time they were very considerate with us. They told us: ‘You are our brothers and we will sell them to you for overhead price.’ So they weren’t too expensive at the end. The director of that stud farm, Ing. Zoltán Toperczer, said: ‘I know you Czechs won’t let the horses go extinct. I will give them to you as cheap as I can.’ And he really did. It was several thousand a pience but that wasn’t much because back then already a single horse was priced at several hundred thousand.”
“Us in Zpravodajská brigáda resistance group were tasked by the exile government in London to keep a record of the German armies’ movements on the territory of the Protectorate, and their armament. We had information cards templates which we filled in: where, when, what and how had it moved, what drove where, what brought what where. These cards were then centralized by higher officers whom I’ve never met, however. Usually, this was the way it worked. Up until we were asked to prepare for an armed uprising, of course, that was also a part of it. The funny part came when the Germans began deploying us for night shifts against allied paratroopers. I don’t know if they suspected us of being strange, or what. We were supposed to serve at night in the Prokopské valley and in the protected area on the left bank of Vltava near Prague. Our task was to catch the real quality paratroopers and resistance fighters who sometimes flew in, especially from Britain and before that from France. But there were but a few of them.”
Whenever we were clueless we left it up to the Hucul Pony
Otakar Leiský was born on 11 November 1925 in Pardubice. As a five-year-old he moved with his parents to the Slovak town on Prešov where following the economic depression his father found a job in construction. Shortly after the outbreak of WW II the Leiský family moved to Prague where Otakar joined the anti-Nazi resistance group Zpravodajská brigáda which had shared information on the movement of German armies with the authorities in London. After the war he began studying medical school but after five semesters left it and transferred to natural science. Following a military service with the artillery unit in Brdy he was admitted to the Ministry of Education, Department of Environmental Protection, where he helped establish this new field. In 1958 he in cooperation with the National Museum founded the Association for Environmental Protection (TIS) which had in 1969 gained the status of an independent organization, and which operates to this day. In 1972 TIS responded to the immediate risk of extinction of Hucul Ponies and by establishing the Hucul Club, and managed to save the breed. Otakar Leiský remains an active environmentalist and lives in Prague.