František Lízna

* 1941  

  • “He spoke so very politely, Václav [Havel - ed.] did. They came and told him he would be immediately released if he asked for pardon. To which he replied that he’d like to discuss it with his wife Olga. They said that was out of the question. So he wanted 24 hours to consider the proposal. That was also out of the question. So he said he’d like to meet with three prisoners, whom he’d name. So he summoned us. They turned to the first one, he was a prisoner who had previously worked at the Ministry of Engineering. He’d opposed Husák’s suggestion that the Škoda Works should open [a branch] in Bratislava. I don’t know what his name was. He said: ‘Vašek, do it, there’s no point in you sitting here.’ I remember that precisely. Then they turned it to me, I was completely aghast, so I said: ‘If it’s possible, let Mr Vitoniský speak first.’ He said: ‘Vašek, don’t do it.’ I had to decide the matter. I said: ‘Václav, I’m completely taken aback by this. You’ve been here a long time. You’re ill, your wife is waiting for you, I don’t have the courage to tell you the one or the other.’ But in the end I added: ‘Václav, you know what, don’t do it. They have to release you. If you sign it and ask for pardon, it’ll seem as if you’d did something.’ He grew serious and said: ‘Then I won’t do it.’”

  • “It was necessary to work against the system. Most people got completely caught up in fear. I’m actually rather surprised that Memory of Nations is working on disclosing these things, but they must be disclosed. The nation is downcast. It will take 40 years for the old generation to die out and a new generation to come, one that will be firmly rooted in moral values. That’s the way I saw it.”

  • “I celebrated Holy Mass every day in Pilsen in Bory. When entering Bory, they gave us twenty crowns, that we can buy something. I wanted to buy some tea because coffee was completely out of the question. I come into the canteen and see enormous boxes of matzahs there. I reckon, that can’t be right, they’re selling matzah here - true Jewish bread, which was a fundamental requirement for me to celebrate Holy Mass. I never saw them anywhere else, only in Pilsen-Bory. Some good cop and brilliant angel must have slipped them in there, that’s the only explanation. When I tell this story, people think I’m saying it to be popular. I was awfully glad to have experienced these things. Whenever I think whether I should be thankful for my life, I reckon to myself that it’s lucky that I was in Communist prisons, which taught me to live according to the truth.”

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    Šumperk, 31.03.2016

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I had an urge to fight the system

18-years-old František Lízna, high-school graduation, city of Jevíčko
18-years-old František Lízna, high-school graduation, city of Jevíčko
photo: archiv pamětníka

František Lízna was born in 1941 into the strongly Catholic family of a farmer from Jevíčko and a Sub-Carpathian Ukrainian. From his early childhood he was a sworn anti-Communist who felt the urge to fight against the system. He was arrested and imprisoned for seditious activities on several occasions - for the first time in 1960 for destroying a Soviet flag, in 1964 for attempting to leave the country, in the late 1970s and in the years 1981-1983 for distributing samizdat literature, and finally in 1988 for printing pamphlets about political prisoners. From 1968 he was employed as a social worker in Velehrad, where he felt the calling to join the Society of Jesus. After completing studies of theology he was ordained to the priesthood, but he was not given state permission to provide spiritual services. Between his prison stays he worked in various places throughout the country in social and health services while actively participating in dissident efforts surrounding Charter 77. He is a recipient of the Order of T. G. Masaryk for outstanding contributions to the development of democracy and human rights.