“I can say that I knew Gustav Husák from Leopoldov. We told him, you’re a Communist and you got high treason, we also got high treason, but we’re not Communists. And he retorted that the party was testing him. In the end he became president. But I have to say he was something of a sad figure, something like Hácha [the Czech president under Hitler’s Protectorate, forced into collaboration - transl.]. Hácha was condemned a lot back then after the revolution, but he was a tragic figure. Hácha was the chairman of the [Supreme Administrative] Court, and it was his duty, when [President] Beneš emigrated, his duty to take up the role of president, even though he didn’t want to. He would’ve preferred to rummage in his stamps because he was a passionate philatelist. But in the end he was forced to accept, and he tried his best under the circumstances to somehow protect people from the Nazi aggression. That he died in prison was pretty unfair. He was forced to take the job and to function somehow and try his best. And Husák was something similar. I remember that he didn’t like Brezhnev back then, but even so he tried to avoid political trials here, because Brezhnev would’ve set up a Stalinist regime here with political trials, and Husák tried to avoid that, and he did, so I wouldn’t judge him too harshly.”
“Something of a war started. I called it a war against the citizens. It was a war, actually. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. Simply, the kind of system they had in Russia, the Stalinist regime. And nowadays when someone says, well you could’ve left - well you couldn’t. No one could leave normally, the only way was to shoot your way out like the Mašín brothers. There was no other way. You couldn’t even leave for a visit. That was very strictly regulated. Nowadays people think you could just up and go abroad, but you couldn’t. Even a trip to the eastern states required permission and a visa, it was difficult. The borders were guarded, there were zones there, several kilometres wide. Trees cut down to keep it clear. Simply said, you couldn’t leave or emigrate this way. Basically, they created a system where ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us’.”
“It was the typical judicial process the way it was back then. The lawyers had to have [signed] collaboration, of course. I was allowed to choose my lawyer, although I knew it was completely pointless. The trials were prepared ahead of time, the sentences were prepared ahead of time. The whole thing was just an act. The lawyers had signed collaboration with State Security, we couldn’t expect them to fight for their client like they do today and try to show how capable a lawyer they are, that they can keep even clear-cut criminal out in the free. Of course, nowadays it’s a matter of property and criminal law, you don’t have political trials any more, but back then everything was politically focused. I wasn’t so naive as to expect my lawyer to get me out of it somehow. You had to count on it being like that.”
Milan Matějů was born in Prague into the family of a journalist at České slovo and a stay-at-home mother. From his youth, he was a member of YMCA, and in grammar school, he met Vladivoj Tomek, with whom he joined in resistance actives against the Communist regime. Tomek’s resistance group Othello planned to overthrow the regime, and Milan Matějů acquired weapons for this purpose, later assembling radio sets that could be used to listen to foreign broadcasts; he also helped distribute anti-state leaflets. He did not participate in any of the group’s armed operations, but when Othello was discovered by State Security, he was arrested and accused with rest of the group. He was sentenced to three years in prison, and spent this time in the forced labour camps Bytíz and Vojna and the prison in Leopoldov. After his release, he continued to make radio sets and distribute leaflets. Until November 1989, he earned a living as a television repairman. Milan Matějů died on November 25, 2021.