Jaroslav Med

* 1932  †︎ 2018

  • “My father deeply respected Masaryk. I will never forget it, today I am still a little scared when I think about it at night. Me and my father traveling to Prague for the first time. In September 1937. I think we stopped – I can’t remember – somewhere at the Pohořelec Hill. My father took me on his shoulders. And it was there we waited for the funeral procession to pass. I remember that my dominant impression from Masaryk’s funeral was that I would get lost. There were so many people. I held tightly to my father not to get lost, it was terrible how many people there were. This was my key memory. Then I naturally got familiar with Masaryk, with his work. I admired namely his Czech Issue and World Revolution, later Talks with TGM, so my relation to Masaryk was from being influenced by monarchism of my grandfather.”

  • “We were at Šumava then. It was a kind of no man’s land then. I arrived at a cottage and it looked as if the people just departed. Now imagine we were there, browsing, walking around. We were somewhere… Želnava, the land about the lakes. There we had our camp. It was beautiful, there is no discussion about it. But we had to be very, very careful, because the Bandera groups were crossing the border. We had to be really careful. Well, and now imagine that we walked there, looking into the cottages. We mainly ate gooseberry and red currant in the gardens. And suddenly there was military police. An American Jeep, four soldiers in white helmets jumped from it. They asked us who we were. Naturally no one could speak English, so we just pointed at our lilies that we were boy scouts. They laughed and it had a beautiful consequence for us – they took us in their Jeep, it was a larger, cargo vehicle, they took us into their camp and they gave us a box full of chocolates, peanuts etc. We arrived in the camp and all boys shouted with excitement, since we divided it and ate the chocolate and peanuts.”

  • “I learned by coincidence from a friend of mine in Havlíčkův Brod that in Petrkov there was an old man making prints and writing poems and that I should go there, because I could find it interesting. This was the late 1950s. I went there. Me and Mr Reynek liked one another. He called me “Jaroslav”, I called him “Mr Reynek”, since he was older than my dad, I could call him by his first name. We became friends, it was very interesting and fruitful friendship. I used it at first to come there to borrow books which naturally were not in libraries at that time.”

  • "Or take another distinguished scientist who was the dean of the faculty at that time. He truly was a grand linguist who wrote a number of significant monographs and who was very closely connected with the Prague circle of linguists. His name was Bohuslav Havránek. But then Stalin wrote a couple of essays on linguistics and Havránek had to publicly turn himself around on his previous work and denigrate himself. Just because Stalin, who had no idea about linguistics at all, had a different opinion on the subject and had rebutted the then-accepted theory. Life back then was full of sad absurdities like that. People got used to it and regarded it as normal. Can you imagine the great linguistic scientist, Havránek, criticizing himself in front of the whole faculty? Can you imagine him saying things like, Stalin is a genius linguist, how he admires his theses and that he was deeply wrong himself? That was the absurdity of those times but most of people took it as a fact of life. If you weren't crazy for Communism, like most of my classmates were, you could see this absurdity already."

  • “Somebody at the editorial board said that he knew Vladimír Holan who at that time was free to publish again. It was on the occasion of some anniversary and therefore we would ask Holan if he could give us one of his poems to publish in our magazine. We were, of course, absolutely enthusiastic about the idea because it was a great honor for us to have one of Holan's poems published in our magazine. So he sent us a poem for publication and it ended in complete disaster. That poem is today in the Trialog collection and it's called 'To the enemies'. I'd say that it's a bit sharp on the edges. It condemns human small-mindedness and ends with a peculiar verse which is very rude in a way, but so typical of Holan: ‘there’s no lightness of being, there’s just the lightness of shit’. The problem was not with the vulgar word, the problem was with the date that he had put underneath it. He dated it 1949 and that was a real problem for the comrades in the censorship office. They had to authorize everything that was to be published. If you wanted to publish a piece of toilet paper with an imprint on it, they’d have to put their stamp on it. They didn’t like the date and the outcry in the end, and our sweet magazine went to hell.”

  • “Well, eventually, I was glad that I found at least some job. Of course, it was no bed of roses. I taught at one of the worst schools around. I taught at vocational schools and my students were future workers who’d be laying asphalt concrete or pavements. These were the most problematic students of all, real troublemakers because they knew that education played no role at all in their future occupation. They were paying hardly any attention to my lectures and were very disobedient. Anyway, I tried at least to teach them to write and read and so on. So my job at this school was very adventurous. The students were some of the biggest rascals I’ve ever seen. They didn’t respect the school, the teachers and I believe that they had no respect for anybody at all. I got into a lot of difficult situations there but somehow I stood my ground as I was a lot younger back then and I wasn’t afraid of them as I was physically fit. I wasn’t afraid to hand out a couple of slaps when they crossed the line. Slapping some of the students was actually a daily routine with some of them. Without this, I could hardly get along at all.”

  • “At that seminar, I simply made a comparison between Alois Jirásek and Durych. It was at a time when they launched the Jirásek campaign under the auspices of comrade Gottwald and when the insane arbiter Zdeněk Nejedlý was still alive. He had to be involved in everything, always imposing his foreword on every publication that came out. It was at this strange time that I allowed myself to make a comparison between Jirásek and Durych at the Philosophical faculty. I borrowed Šalda’s diary in the Brodská library where Šalda was saying that Durych was bronze and Jirásek was dirt. He made these sorts of comparisons in favor of the great literary artist Durych. My comparison of course had very severe consequences because of the presence of a couple of fervent communists at that seminar. There were two utterly devoted communists – girls – who were so persuaded by the cause of Communism that they went to military training to defend Communism against the capitalist enemies. They were an example of stupidity blending with ugliness. I saw the military training at Vypich and I can tell you that these never-ending square-bashing and the rifle drills were a terrible form of spiritual masturbation. We had to drill on the training grounds rain or shine, in every weather condition, regardless of whether it snowed or whether there was thick fog. We had to roll on the ground in the mud. And these two girls did all of this voluntarily. Can you imagine this? They did it in order to be ready to fight imperialism. And these were the sort of people present at that seminar. According to their view, I humiliated a) comrade Gottwald, b) comrade Nejedlý and c) Alois Jirásek. It goes without saying that they immediately summoned me up in front of the faculty committee of the Communist party to explain what I meant by that. I was really stupid, terribly stupid.”

  • "It's a strange feeling. I'd say it's absurd. At this very place, there used to be a pin wall and there was a picture of Stalin with a red ribbon because he had just died. Now try to imagine something inconceivable, young lady. The corridor here was crowded with young lads and the majority of them were crying their eyes out! I wasn't able to shed a single tear as my dad had already explained to me what a butcher Stalin had been. He told me that Stalin was a rogue and a criminal. But everybody else seemed to be so touched by his passing away. I just nodded my head and agreed that his death was a catastrophe and then I quickly ran to my room. I took some textbooks and said that I had to go somewhere. Then I ran away from them, I don't even remember where I went anymore – maybe to some pub. I needed to get away from them because I was afraid that I might not be mourning enough."

  • “This was a substantially riskier undertaking. At Baba, at our friend Ševčík’s place, we established a sort of a discussion forum where a lot of different people were regularly meeting. We had dissidents like Václav Havel or Petr Pithart regularly showing up to discuss various issues and lot of other personalities from the dissent. For instance Josífek Zvěřina was frequently coming to our meetings and other people of this sort. The Chartists appeared pretty often as well. We were in close touch with them, organizing various events and spending evenings together. The Chartists were working on their speeches and certain documents were drafted there. Quite naturally, our activities didn’t remain unnoticed by the police for too long. I think that in a way we contributed to it as we were not being careful enough. After the death of one of the top brass of the communist hierarchy in the Soviet Union – I don’t remember anymore if it was Chernenko or Andropov – there was another meeting at Baba on the very same day or maybe the day after. It was a huge rally with a lot of people from the dissent present. Ševčík was displaying his political posters and the Chartists were discussing some declarations they were planning to make. Well, it didn’t take too long before the police arrived. They surrounded our nest and arrested all of us. There were agents of the secret state police, the StB. They took us to the StB headquarters in Bartolomějská for the interrogations. For some people, this had dire consequences. They lost their jobs and so on.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha 6- Dejvice, 20.01.2012

    (audio)
    duration: 01:48:40
    media recorded in project A Century of Boy Scouts
  • 2

    byt pamětníka - Praha 6, 24.11.2016

    (audio)
    duration: 01:15:17
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
  • 3

    Praha, 31.07.2017

    (audio)
    duration: 02:13:30
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I felt like being the witness of an absurd drama

Jaroslav Med
Jaroslav Med
photo: Jaroslav Med

Jaroslav Med was born in 1932 in Havlíčkův Brod. He graduated from a business school and shortly worked in a small factory producing cement piping. Later, he enrolled at the Faculty of Philosophy in Prague where he studied and later graduated in library science and Czech studies. In the 1950s, he became acquainted with Bohuslav Reynek, a poet and fine artist who had a substantial influence on Jaroslav Med. After the completion of his studies, Mr. Med taught at various institutions of vocational training and at the same time cooperated with the regional publishing houses in Havlíčkův Brod and Brno. In 1966, he began to work at the Institute for Czech Literature of the Czech Academy of Sciences. However, because of the commencement of the so-called Normalization, he was prevented from defending his candidate thesis and had to pick up teaching at the vocational schools again. In 1980, he managed to get back to the Institute and worked there till 2010. After the Velvet revolution, he began to teach at Charles University where he is still today. He is the author of seven books dealing predominantly with religious topics. Jaroslav Med passed away on February, the 14th, 2018.