PhDr. Monika MacDonagh Pajerová

* 1966

  • “I was completely... I mean, I was crying all the time, I was completely shocked. Because I was not ready for the interrogation. Věra Jirousová educated me for the other interrogations: not to talk, not to want coffee, not to want water, not to go to the toilet. Radek Schovánek and Petr Blažek told me that I was the youngest person in whose name they opened a signal file. The one to be used to take measures. Was it not for Martínková, I do not know what games they played there, the measures would have been taken and I would have followed Markéta to the garden centre. They interrogated me when I was 16 years old. I have one file of State Security, it is called Pája. I was lucky that it was preserved. There is a completely perplexed 16-year-old girl, totally wide-eyed, simply a neurotic grammar school student who does nothing else but teaches German and English to some losers who will one day probably have to leave their country. I, of course, did not take any money for it.”

  • “Effectively, they were boycotting us. The driver was taking the ambassador Jarda Šedivý to an important meeting. And he was simply driving him deliberately all over Paris so that Jaroslav would be late. I said: 'Can I leave these documents in the car? They are fairly important, you will not lose them, will you?’ Of course, I returned in ten minutes and the documents were not there. It was tough. I would say that their passive resistance lasted about half a year.”

  • “Of course, the connection with actors was tragicomic because we knew all the people from television series. I knew even when I was 23 years old that it was wrong and rather vulgar. As Kundera would say, (it was) the triumph of kitsch. When I was in the editorial office of Free Word (Svobodné slovo) newspapers in Melantrich Publishing House and when we were waiting for the people who would perform there, Karel Gott appeared in the room and was supposed to sing with Karel Kryl. I was staring at Karel Kryl with admiration, I just could not understand that he was so short. I imagined that he was at least 3 metres hight and kept him asking: 'Would you like some coffee?' And suddenly Gott whom I really could not stand came. I don´t know if Janeček and his horrible people were there with him. And I knew that it was wrong.”

  • “That was crazy, really crazy. We still somehow naively though, I don´t know what was happing in our minds, because we though that when there were so many of us and that when we were not carrying any guns - that is why we were shouting: ‘Our hands are empty‘ - that it might be a misunderstanding and that they could not be so serious and that after all, it was a permitted demonstration. Something may have changed in our minds somewhere between Albertov, Vyšehrad and Národní which of course did not change in their minds. So, we were trying to speak with them. I know that at one moment I stood up and went to the side that I would try to find a commander and would tell him that we were the organizers. That we invited the people, that it was permitted and that if something happened, we would be to blame and we would not want it. As naively as this. They told me: ‘Get back!‘ Of course, nobody wanted to talk to me.”

  • Well, the 17th November was a firebomb that had fired it all off, but I have to be honest and say that we organizers, didn´t count on anything like that. We simply..we organized it for a pretty long time, spent several months making banners, preparing flags and flowers and what was most important, Marek Benda from the STUHA and I from the STIS were running around all the state administration offices, the Communist Party, the Socialist Union of Youth, the Prague Committee of this and that. Well, we were really a good team to fight to get the permission. We wanted badly to make the 17th November demonstration legal so that then we could invite as many people as possible there. This was the idea Martin Mejstřík and I brought back from East Germany where at that time in Halle, Leipzig, Gera, Jena – everywhere there had already been demonstrations – officially for peace, organized by Protestant Churches. They simply gave us the advice: everything had to be legal. “We always get a permission for the Freedom March to take place and then, of course, lots of other people join in, tens of thousands. And then they can hardly do anything against such large crowds.“ Mejstřa and I were all ears and once they took us on Monday, it was in Leipzig, at the end of September or the beginning of October and there were 400 000 people at the demonstration. We were completely beside ourselves, couldn´t believe it at all. And this was called the Peace March and the organizers were the churches of St Nikolaus and St Thomas. That was something.. we were only staring ..As here, we couldn´t count on the support of the Church too much, we decided to use Jan Opletal and the anniversary of closing Czech Universities.

  • We kept searching for the dead. This was a parallel story. We did believe them. We went on searching for the three dead people, at least I had seen three dead, Dobrovský as well, then we heard somewhere that it had been only one. So we went on looking for this one dead person, Martin Šmíd or somebody. It is interesting that our students of medicine had an access to some hospitals without problems thanks to people like Martin Bojar or Zuzka Roithová to the Vinohrady hospital and such. Yet, it was somehow impossible to enter the Hospital Na Františku. That´s why we became suspicious that the dead and heavily injured are there Na Františku. We even almost made an elaborate plan how to take over the hospital to learn the truth about the victims. We didn´t know, not even foreign correspondents knew, not to mention our media.. Well, Czech radio and Czech TV started to inform about us when the big demonstrations started to happen, say a week later. We had problems to gain an access to the media. So, there was a loop: somebody announced something to Radio Free Europe to Ivan Medek in Vienna, he telephoned the news to Munich and there it was Lída Rakušanová or someone else who broadcast it in the media.

  • Then there was the municipal forum at the Municipal Library organized in fact by the AMU (Faculty of Performing Arts), the Kavarna magazine. The forum was called the Dialogue and there was an empty chair standing on the stage prepared for a Party member who was supposed to have a discussion with us. The poor man didn´t have the courage to come and that´s why it was only Igor Chaun, Martin Mejstřík and probably Jan Hřebejk and Petr Jarchovský. Well, it was an incredibly funny situation because we were having a discussion with each other and that man, in fact a comrade, still was not there and then we missed him less and less and in the end somebody said – O my God, wasn´t one more person supposed to be here? Such an absurd situation. But I want to say that in spring 1989 people from Prague universities already knew each other. At least those active ones. At the Philosophical Faculty at AMU, DAMU at the Faculty of Journalism where there were terribly active people, Pavel Žáček and Fefík and Rebeka Křižanová and others. At the Faculty of Medicine, the incredible Tomáš Drábek and Vašek Sinevič, I can´t understand how they could find time beside their studies. Well, and in the spring 1989 we met the people from the STUHA organization who had come to find out what kind of organization we were and this was the beginning of the preparations for November. We wanted to organize something. At first, our idea was the Palach Week because we all had been through the previous demonstrations and had been chased along the squares. When we met, it was clear that we knew each other by sight because there had never been large crowds at these demonstrations.

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    v bytě pamětnice, Praha Vinohrady, 15.06.2017

    duration: 01:53:02
    media recorded in project Memory of the Nation: stories from Praha 2
  • 2

    Praha, 06.02.2019

    duration: 01:43:37
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 3

    Praha, 02.04.2019

    duration: 01:34:05
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 4

    Praha, 03.05.2019

    duration: 01:30:49
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 5

    Praha, 22.05.2019

    duration: 01:30:46
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

She was interrogated by State Security when she studied at grammar school. She led students to go on strike when she was 23 years old

Monika Pajerová at the Wenceslas Square demonstration, November 1989
Monika Pajerová at the Wenceslas Square demonstration, November 1989
photo: archiv pamětnice

Monika MacDonagh-Pajerová was born on the 8th of January 1966 in a small village Janov near Děčín. Her parents had just passed their Secondary-school leaving exams and they managed to graduate, have another daughter and to move several times in the following six years. Monika started to attend a language school in Prague. As the only one in her classroom, she was not a member of Pioneer Organization; her parents were friends with Charter 77 signatories. She was interrogated by State Security when she studied at grammar school and they opened a signal file on her as a hostile person. The reason was that she taught English and German to dissidents who were planning to leave Czechoslovakia. After her Secondary school leaving exam, she studied English studies and Scandinavian studies at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University and she and her fellow students published a student magazine Situation (Situace). On the 17th of November, she presented a demonstration in Prague´s Albertov that had been organized by students on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of closing of Czech universities by Nazis. She was there during the massacre of student parade in Národní třída and she then became a spokeswoman of the strike committee. She started to work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1990 and she used her knowledge of five languages there. She worked as a cultural attaché at the Czechoslovak and Czech embassy in Paris. Then she worked for Council of Europe. She returned to the Czech Republic in 1998 and she worked as a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She left her position when Jan Kavan became minister. She worked for Czech Television, significantly participated in the campaign for the Czech Republic’s accession to the European Union. She teaches in Prague centre of New York University. She is an author or co-author of several books concerning the Velvet Revolution, the European Union or books of collages by Jiří Kolář. She got married to Irish Peter MacDonagh and they have a son Tomáš. Her daughter Emma, a political scientist, actress and musician, was born during her former relationship with Jiří Smetana. She was living in Prague in 2020.