Olga Masníková

* 1931

  • “I was going to school during the war from 1937 to 1945, just during the time of the occupation. We were not allowed to learn geography and history and we had to study German on the same level as Czech. I had it like this when I was ten to fourteen years old; the younger pupils didn’t have it like that. I have my school certificate from that time and it is terrible. When doctor Brožík later saw it, he was surprised that history and geography classes had been prohibited, but it was really so. When I later married my husband, he could not understand why I did not know where countries were located. I kept telling him: ‘Don’t be mad at me, it is not my fault…’ I showed him my school certificate and he eventually realized that it was really terrible that we had not been taught this at school at all.”

  • “Mom asked Boris: ‘Well, you have finished the graphic design school, and what would you like to do next?’ He replied that he would like to be in the film business. He had a dream he would be like Disney in America. His mom then read a newspaper and she noticed an advertisement that some company was looking for an animator to do animated films. His mother knew German and she thus translated it for Boris, and he liked it and he wanted to get there very much. They went there immediately. The company was located in Francouzská Street, near Wenceslas Square. My husband came there, knocked on the door and the door opened and a man came out and started speaking in German. Fortunately Boris’ mom, who was with him, understood him, because she had attended school during the Austria-Hungary era and she had thus learnt German and she could speak it really well. She thus explained to the man that her son was deaf and that it had been his lifelong dream to work as an animator for animated film. The man said: ‘Fine, but can he draw?’ Mom said: ‘Yes, he can, he studied a graphic design school, and his drawing is excellent.’ The man thus invited them in. They came to a room where there were many desks. My husband was the first candidate who came there. He was looking at his desk, which had a slanted surface with a glass on the top, just like the desks for artists look like. There was a stack of papers on the desk and they told him to draw a little girl and make her walk and move. My husband looked startled for a while; he didn’t know what to do. But the man told him to calm down and said that he should just take his time and that he had the whole day to do it. The man and Boris’ mom then left. My husband was sitting there and thinking. Suddenly he got an idea, he remembered those little stacks of paper with picture frames, you know what I mean – if you thumb through them quickly enough, it looks as if the pictures are moving. My husband remembered this and he tried to draw the little girl taking the first step. He didn’t know how large it should be, but he tried it. Then he went through the stack of papers to check it, and he found out that it didn’t look natural, and that her steps were too long. He thus crumpled the used papers, threw them to a waste paper basket under the desk and he began anew, but he didn’t like it either, and he crumpled the papers and threw them away again, and gradually the stack of papers on the desk was diminishing but the waste paper basket was overflowing. He eventually discovered that he needed to draw small sections at a time so that the movement would look fluid and natural. The girl’s body needed to move as well, because otherwise she would look like a puppet with only legs moving. As he was drawing it over and over again, he learnt it and understood what to do. When the man from the company came to check upon him, he praised him a lot: ‘Schön! Gut!’ (My husband understood this, because he knew a little bit of German). The man immediately assigned other work to him. Boris’ mom was happy that he was so successful and that the company hired him. But at the same time they were looking for other new employees. My husband remembered his two brothers, who were without a job at that time, because the Germans had closed down their schools and they had nothing to do. It occurred to him that they might join the company, too. His older brother was an excellent photographer and he knew how to shoot films and operate a film camera, and the eldest brother spoke perfect German and he was thus able to communicate with the boss about work-related matters. The boss was giving them assignments, and my husband’s eldest brother was searching for people who were needed for it, and my husband was teaching them how to animate the motions of the characters, and the other brother was teaching the people how to operate a photo camera and a film camera so that they would know how to create various kinds of films. I have the names of their first films written here. I remember that the third film was called Wedding in the Coral See. My husband kept records of everything and the films were really beautiful. Apart from that, my husband was also drawing various comics and pictures for magazines. But back to the film studio: in 1944, when the end of the war was near, one day the studio manager didn’t come to work. He used to come there regularly to check the work progress and to see what the people were doing. At that time there were already about fifty people working there. They were all sitting by their desks, my husband was teaching them what and how to draw, and his older brother was shooting the individual frames with the camera, and the eldest one was organizing the work, but one day the manager didn’t come to the studio. Nobody knew what happened or what to do. At that time they just finished the film Wedding in the Coral Sea and it only needed to be delivered for screening, but they didn’t dare to do it without the manager. They were a bit confused, and they waited for two or three more days, but manager didn’t show up. They had a meeting and they agreed that they would make a request to the committee and ask whether the studio might be allowed to continue if they would manage it themselves. The committee approved of it, but they needed to find a new name for the studio. They were raking their brains about it. It was called a film trick studio, but they didn’t like the name. They were thinking how to include the work ‘trick’ in the name. Then they got the idea that the studio was actually managed by three brothers. And thus the name Bratři v triku (‘Brothers in T-shirts’ – a pun on T-shirt and trick, which sounds the same in Czech – transl.’s note) was invented. Then they asked Mr. Trnka to create a logo with three little boys for them. Mr. Trnka was the author of the three boys in striped T-shirts who take a bow. When the logo was finished, they sent a request for authorization of this studio to the committee, and the committee approved it, of course, because it was the first Czech studio for animated film, and they were happy about it as well.”

  • “Around 1952 or 1953 the communists were confiscating factories. My father’s factory was to be closed down, but eventually it was not, and it was only to be moved to some other place to establish a so-called unified factory. That meant that various small traders had to move into one place. My dad had a press machine in his workshop, and it was used for pressing parts of hair combs, for instance. Just like all the other equipment, the machine was to be moved to Hostivař. Dad was transporting all the things there by car, but the machine was too large, and he thus wanted to disassemble it. Two workers were standing next to the machine and dad began dismantling it, but he didn’t know that inside there were weapons and films which had been hidden there from the Germans. When he hit the machine with a hammer for the first time, the weapons inside exploded and he suffered burns all over his body. He was burnt on seventy percent of his body. Luckily he quickly fell on the floor and he covered himself with something so that the flames would not burn his entire body, but the two workers unfortunately died. When was it actually? 1952? Or 1953? Well, in 1957 we moved from Ostrava… Actually, it was probably in 1955. Dad celebrated his fiftieth birthday that year, and the colleagues from the factory then came to congratulate him while he was in hospital. Mom phoned to Ostrava to tell us the news that dad had suffered burns on seventy percent of his body; that was terrible. Seventy percent… They had seven children, and she had to be so worried…We arrived immediately, and the doctor came and asked my mom: ‘Is this your husband?’ Dad’s legs were relatively fine, so mom recognized him and replied: ‘Yes, this is my husband.’ ‘The first stage is the most critical. We will see in three days.’ It sounded harsh, but that’s the way it was. Mom was counting the days. She was observing dad, taking care of him and fearing for him. After three days the doctor came to check upon him again. I don’t know if mom called him or if he came himself, but he looked at dad with a surprised look and he said: ‘Well, we will need to wait ten more days whether he does not contract blood poisoning.’ My mom kept coming to dad and bringing him chicken soup. The soup really helps with healing. Dad was eating it and he was getting better and better. After ten days the doctor came again and he was surprised that dad was doing so well and that he looked strong. The two workers have died meanwhile and dad was still alive. Mom said: ‘Well, he is a humble man, he exercises in the local Sokol every week and he works hard in the garden, and helps me at home with our seven kids.’ The doctor was only nodding his head in amazement. Fortunately dad eventually fully recovered.”

  • “(My husband’s) mom owned a house. It was a large house with four two-bedroom apartments. She lived alone in one of them, and later she lived with us when we moved in. We then stayed with my husband’s mom. She was a lady, a fine and decent woman, but she was quite straightforward and strict. She would always tell me: ‘You need to clean properly, the apartment needs to be spick and span.’ That was her favourite maxim. I was not much into cleaning. I would always just arrange things so that it looked tidy, but she was really strict about it. But then I got used to it… During the communist era (in 1949-1951) his mom had to give the rent she received from the tenants to the communists. She really had to give them everything. Mom asked: ‘And what will I have for living?’ They told her that she would get 300 Crowns each month. Mom was shocked: ‘Only 300 Crowns?’ ‘You have three sons, don’t you?!’ By that they meant my husband and his two brothers. But my husband’s eldest brother had a wife and two children, and the other one had a wife and two daughters, and then there was my husband, but he was deaf and none of us had a job. We were thus thinking what to do. We both needed to start working. My husband began working in the new Klement Gottwald’s Ironworks in Nová Kunčice, and I began to work in the Vítkovice Ironworks.”

  • “At that time we lived in Prague again and I was looking for a job. I was already at home for the third or fourth year, doing only household chores and taking care of the garden and I gradually learnt how to cook and make fruit preserves, but it was not enough for me. It was the same all over again. At that time we were subscribers to magazine Elán – that was the former name for the magazine Gong. I noticed a job advert that the Union of the Handicapped was looking for a copyist and interpreter in their office and I decided I would give it a try. The Union of the Handicapped was located in General Píka Street, which is now Vinohradská. I came there, there was some shop and behind it there was a room with four or five women sitting there. There was one man in a wheelchair with them, Mr. Čejka. I introduced myself and said that I was looking for a job: ‘What can you do?’ they asked me. I told them that I would like to train as a copyist. ‘And do you know how to type?’ ‘No, not yet, but I will learn it. I will try hard.’ Then they wanted to see whether I was able to write well. They gave me a paper and somebody brought me a text, which I needed to rewrite on the typewriter. But there were many mistakes in the text and they told me I had to correct them myself. Fortunately, I knew Czech well from my husband who was teaching me at home even after I had finished school; he was very patient with me. I was copying the text on the typewriter for about an hour. I tried to type with two fingers, because I was not yet able to type properly. When I handed them the result, I had only three or four typos there. The people from the office were quite surprised that I knew Czech so well. I explained them that I had to study and that my husband was strict with me about the Czech language, but that it has served me well. They hired me and I felt a great relief. I was working as a copyist and interpreter for many years, from 1961, when I began working there, until two years ago, until 2011, when I said to Mr. Šturma that I wanted to quit the work. I had my age for it, I was eighty. I have really done a lot of work during those years. I was active in the committee, in the women’s club, I worked as an interpreter, I was in charge of the treasury, and I served in many functions.”

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    Praha, 13.12.2013

    media recorded in project Memor
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My husband first saw me in dancing lessons led by the deaf dancer Mobi Urbanová

Masniova Olga orez dobove.jpg (historic)
Olga Masníková
photo: vlastní archiv autora

  Mrs. Olga Masníková, née Čálková, was born June 28, 1931 in Prague-Košíře as the second of seven siblings. As a little girl she nearly lost her hearing after suffering from otitis and in 1937 she was thus admitted to the Prague Private Institute for the Deaf-Mute in Smíchov in Holečkova Street. She quite enjoyed going to this school. Some teachers were not permitting the children to use the sign language, and when they noticed that the children were using it to communicate with each other, the children had to pay penalties, but on the other hand there were also Catholic nuns who worked in the school and who tolerated the sign language. Some of them also used it to communicate with the children, and they were very kind to them. All the time during her elementary school and vocational school studies, Olga was attending dance lessons led by the famous hearing-impaired dancer Mobi Urbanová. She also met her future husband there. The girls were dancing in a gym and there was a balcony from which other people were able to watch them. Boris Masník, her husband-to-be, was among them. He fell in love with her immediately, and as soon as Olga turned eighteen, they married and they lived together happily for sixty-two years until his death. Boris Masník was a famous animator and together with his two brothers he established the first Czech studio of animated film called Bratři v Triku (‘Brothers in T-shirts’). He worked as an animator for several decades. Although Olga Masníková had learnt the seamstress’s trade, she never pursued this profession. At first she worked in the Vítkovice Ironworks, and after moving to Prague she spent long fifty years doing interpreting and administrative work for the Union of the Handicapped, and later for the Prague branch of the Union for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.