Hana Mahlerová

* 1944

  • "God forgive me, but there were no smart people in [VÚMS] management. And computer development was very necessary, so they needed smart people. Frankly, everybody who worked there, who belonged to the research there, were affected people. Either they were people of this type: 'Chartists', if we call them that. Or they were liberals thrown from somewhere else. It was interesting that there were people from the other end of the spectrum too. These were high-ranking communist officials who fell there because they were also smart and unsuitable for anyone. The wonderful thing was that they were able to discuss together. Those people understood each other there. I don't say they understood each other in their opinions, but they managed to talk together. And they needed them. So there was an incredible ,democracy’ and an incredible freedom of speech. I remember for myself that we had a security man there. And if the really bad ones were supposed to come, he called us they would come. Those were the things that happened in that VÚMS. And thank God that I had the honor of working there for a quarter of a century, because then when I came to the normal world, I was very surprised that it wasn't quite the custom [elsewhere]."

  • "I remember that night exactly. It was awful. Suddenly, the neighbors started banging on the door. I woke up and heard tanks on the Evropská street. It was such a drone that I thought it was a war. The planes landed one after another at Ruzyne airport and the tanks rolled across the Evropská street. That night was terrible. And the next morning I went to work - I was driving from Bořislavka to Loreta - and there I saw something that I still have engraved in my memory. [At Loreta] was a big military car and Russian soldiers. They were boys, eighteen-year-old boys who didn't even know where they were. They were sitting there at the bus stop. There was such a grassy meadow, and they squatted there and looked utterly frightened. They had no idea where they were or what was going on. And people cursed them, almost spitting on them. I'll tell you, I never had that contradictory feeling. The very first feeling when I first saw them was that I was really sorry for them. The boys squatting there were completely out of the house. I'm not surprised that people were cursing at them. Then I cursed them too. But I still have this feeling in me, because I was waiting for the bus there and they were squatting there, their eyes wide open, as they say, and they didn't know where they were or what was going on. They just picked them up and drove them here, poor thing. They were really [just] boys."

  • "We had Gottwald and Stalin in the textbooks of course. Stalin and Gottwald were there when you opened the textbook. Then came the time when we were carving and crossing out and we loved it as students because. This means that it was not studying, which was interesting for us. We carved first. 'Take a razor,' [teachers said] and we carved Joseph Vissarionovich. Then we carved Gottwald. But that was later. He lasted for a while longer. And then the crossing out began. That was later, because I remember that when we crossed out, I was in a seventh grade. We were crossing out Čapek, Shakespeare… Simply everything that could endanger the soul of a young socialist child had to be crossed out. We had Capek and Shakespeare at home, so the deletion just made us not have to study. That was great."

  • "What is so contradictory is how our generation is marked by the double world. First, we knew that what was said at home was not said at school. That is well known. We had a picture of Beneš and Masaryk hanged at home, but we had a picture of Gottwald hanged at school. So that made a big difference. But it seemed completely normal to us as children. There was something said at home - they taught me such a truth there. And there was something said at school that had to be followed. The child does not understand it otherwise. That's how it was. We believed it. That's how we experienced that childhood in those fifties. The fifties was a terrible time, but we experienced it beautifully. We were on the Hanspaulka - it was actually Hadovka - so there were connected gardens, holes in the fences everywhere, all the children were friends. It was after the war, and there was such a euphoria that there was finally peace, and everyone rejoiced. All households had keys from the outside. There were five tenants in the house where we lived. Nobody was locking the door, no way. So, I didn't go to spread bread in the attic where we lived, but I spread it at my aunt's place on the first floor because it was closer. That's how it worked. [Our] mothers did not work much in those fifties, which meant that one of them always looked after the children and the others went to look somewhere 'in the city'. I don't know what they were watching there. Probably fashion salons or something. And the children lived there altogether. All. No matter who was from what family, from what strata."

  • "In the year 1968, for the first time in my life, I fulfilled my dream, which I have not been able to fulfill any more since then, and that was that I took a backpack and Štěpán and a friend and I bought a train ticket and went all over Europe. We were getting off the train, we were sleeping in student hotels or in the open air. We went around Austria, Italy, France, Germany… Just a huge circuit. It was amazing. And that was what I wanted. What the communist took from me, because I'd never traveled like this in my life, and I'll never travel like that again. And if someone tells me today to travel, I'll say I don't want to [anymore]. I don't want to be guarded by police officers or any escorts, to go to the resorts, to stand in line for the Eiffel Tower and to have to buy tickets to a church over the Internet. I really don't want that anymore. I wanted to ride with a backpack and I wanted to do free travelling. So, I enjoyed it once. Unfortunately, I returned on August 10, 1968. "

  • "People stopped going to those 'teas,' and they started going dancing. And rock'n'roll started and those 'expressive dances'. Which meant that when you got somewhere and danced rock'n'roll, there were such stewards of order and morality everywhere in those facilities. And when you let go of your partner, they took you out. The couple only had to dance together, you couldn't dance alone. Those were rock'n'roll stuff like that. It was something amazing. I remember when my sister got her first record from Austria and there was rock'n'roll on it. Well, that was [something]. We were famous because no one had rock'n'roll. 16 tons. That was beautiful. I was lucky that it was relaxed a bit in the 1960s, so the communists let us [at least] into Austria. So, we had this culture - even if it wasn't just culture - it was also fragrant soaps and toilet paper. We drove everything and we carried these interesting things and records. That's how it started. Then it continued in the seventies, when we already had some friends in the West, when we were already bringing jeans or Floyds and the like. Amazing music. That was also very beautiful. The 1960s were [really] beautiful because we felt it was all a little different.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 25.10.2019

    duration: 02:06:32
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Praha, 17.01.2020

    duration: 01:23:28
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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Photography to me means making people happy

Hana during Velvet revolution
Hana during Velvet revolution
photo: archive of the witness

Hana Mahlerová, née Patzeltová, was born on October 4, 1944 in Prague. She spent her youth relatively calmly at Hadovka in Dejvice. In 1958 she entered the Secondary Industrial School of Graphic Arts in Hellichova Street - the field of applied photography. She graduated in 1962 and immediately began making a living as a photographer. At first she worked for the Poděbrady glassworks. In 1964, she began working for the Research Institute of Mathematical Machines (VÚMS), where she remained until 1991. She also survived the invasion of Warsaw Pact troops and subsequent normalization. VÚMS offered her a functioning working team full of interesting people and an unprecedented degree of freedom at that time. After leaving the VÚMS, she briefly became involved in the Liberal Democratic Party. In the 1990s, she worked for TV Nova and then briefly for Press magazine. After 2000, she worked in Strategie magazine for some time. She has photographically documented both the days of occupation in 1968 and what happened during the Velvet Revolution. She has exhibited her photographs in public several times during her life. She currently spends much of her time in a log cabin in the Benešov region.