Ivo Mludek

* 1964  

  • “The Charter had great importance for history. Much is written of that, of course. But it also had a big impact on individuals such as myself. For those who lived in small towns and who were twelve, thirteen years old when the Charter was written. I began to realise the state that society was in and what it had been trying to push me into since my childhood. I didn’t want to give in to it, and the Charter was a way for me to say no. Really, no chance. For me, it was a way to gain self-respect. From primary to secondary school, military service, everyone kept trying to force me to feign a false loyalty to the regime. They claimed that I would live well if I snitched on people, if I hung out flags and raised my hand to agree with everything, although they knew that I had a different opinion. At the age of twenty-four, I saw how a large part of the people from my generation, who had been critical to everything, are slowly but surely beginning to break. ‘If I don’t do it, some bigger bastard will. You can’t piss against the wind.’ Those non-conformist people were slowly turning into the dummies they had mocked just a short while before. But I didn’t want to end up like that, and it was actually a kind of safeguard for me, to stop me from turning into a bastard as well.”

  • “Whoever heard the spontaneity, the vigour, the uncompromising and unfettered nature of big beat [the Czech term “big beat” grew to describe Western-style popular rock music, such as appeared in the 1960s and onwards - trans.], whoever compared it to what they played in the radio and on television, whoever saw that starchiness and compared the two, must have seen that a completely different world existed. And this other world, that was the stuff. That was a window into a totally different life than the one we knew here. Off to school wearing Tesils [Tesil is a type of polyester fibre; unsightly trousers from this material were a mainstay of Czechoslovak “fashion” in those years - trans.], hair cut two centimetres above the collar line - and if not, they’d drag you into the teachers’ room and cut it to shape... And suddenly there was someone here who said, go to hell with that.”

  • “It was a dreadful experience, to watch how my peers, who now had to mop floors with shoelaces and so on, were suddenly able to bully newly drafted soldiers in completely the same way. They transformed during that week when they came to the army as young boys, scared just as they had been... And they said they were giving it back to them. That this is justice, right. It was the university of life. People became brutes as soon as they were given the opportunity.”

  • “On the Czech side of the Beskids, there was a courier with a pack with some things in it so it didn’t look empty. On the other side, there was a Polish courier. He had exactly the same kind of backpack, except his was crammed with literature and all kinds of materials. At one moment the two met at an agreed place, changed their packs, and disappeared without delay. Each to his own side. That’s how things were smuggled in from Poland. This was repeated in some regular intervals.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Opava, 22.03.2017

    (audio)
    duration: 05:01:01
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Opava, 08.10.2019

    (audio)
    duration: 01:40:05
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

It’s not good to always choose the shorter route

+
+
photo: archiv Iva Mludka

Ivo Mludek was born on 27 August 1964 in Opava. He grew up in Ludgeřovice, Hlučín District. His father was a worker at the Klement Gottwald Vítkovice Ironworks in Ostrava, his mother was employed in a school canteen. While attending the Secondary School of Economics in Opava, he was gradually introduced to Western rock music. He bought vinyls at swap meets in Ostrava, distributed recordings, and organised rock disco nights in the village around Opava and Hlučín. After completing the school he began compulsory military service with the Border Guards - he was stationed in Břeclav, and he witnessed the Communist regime’s diligent protection of the Iron Curtain. From the mid-1980s he worked as a stage hand at the Silesian Theatre in Opava and gradually built up connections with the Czechoslovak dissent and the Polish opposition. He distributed samizdat brought to Opava from Prague and helped publish the local samizdat magazine Protější chodník (The Other Pavement). In December 1988 he signed Charter 77 and was subsequently subject to regular detainment and interrogation by State Security. In November 1989 he became a leading figure of the Velvet Revolution in Opava. In early 1990 he refused to enter into politics and instead co-founded the newspaper Region.