Vasil Mohorita

* 1952  

  • “My experience was the same as anybody else´s – a negative one. But as I was different, I didn´t react hysterically. Deep inside I was surprised, I found it to be an extraordinary event, but I wasn´t upset as I knew already so much about all the wars and horrors – all what´s out there, all the things that could possibly happen – and I took it as just another episode. It was unpleasant yet it wasn´t the end of my life. I had such a mindset that I knew that this was not the end.” - “So as a sixteen-years old you already embraced it in such a calm and balanced manner...” - “Back then, A.J. Liehm had been living in our house, and so did general Modesto – the famous Republican general, there were the families I was talking about, and they were all ran away. All of them, the people with whom we had been living, Jewish families, people who survived the concentration camps, they all emigrated after the occupation. So it was obvious, they didn´t want to get in trouble after what they experienced during the WWII. Suddenly, the streets were empty...”

  • In a distinct constellation which can emerge during a war or a in battle, a single positive signal can change the entire situation and overturn the odds unexpectedly and that´s exactly what happened.” - “And what the positive signal was?” - “It was me. As I gave them the printing works... Consider that all the documents had been printed on Saturday and on Sunday in the ÚV SSM printing works. Everyone knew it of course. On Monday, Mladá fronta newspaper wrote that I attended the Presidium of the Municipal University Student' Council and that we condemned the police crackdown against the protesters...” - “So in short, you think that the SSM, and you, played the crucial part...” - “Yes. On Wednesday, as ČKD men went, as Miler and his men from ČKD were marching to join the protest in the Wenceslas Square, on their way from Vysočany they had been passing the SSM headquarters, and as they went they were chanting ‚SSM, SSM, SSM!‘, that was on Wednesday. That was the positive signal that had been given. Someone brought down the wall, crossed the river and gave others an example.”

  • “I met an important and politically engaged neighbour on the street and he told me that we would have to wait for twenty years.” - “So you knew already back then how it is going to be?” - “Of course. And I wasn´t even seeing the people. That was my greatest problem after the revolution as I expected that everyone had been living like I have been living. That everyone knew it was just temporary. That nothing last forever, neither the Soviet Union nor the regime in our country. That nothing lasted forever and it would just end one day. In such a spirit I have lived with the people whom I had been meeting here. With whom I had been working or with those who had been working for me. But after the revolution I realised that they were shocked by what was happening, by the regime change. Even today a read the nonsense they are capable of thinking and writing, being not able to imagine they could believe such things.” - “As you studied Marxism and the ideology in the USSR – did you believe it, did you take it seriously?” - “No, not at all. There was the first lecture and a professor would come, with maybe twenty decorations from the war, and he would tell you: 'Do you know what the difference between the student of Marxism before the Revolution and the student of the Komsomol University is? The student of Marxism before the revolution, during the Tsar era, would sit at home and on the table, he would have The Capital by Marx. And as he would hear that someone is banging on the door, he would close the book and he would hide it under the table, and he would put a bottle of vodka and some glasses on the table. But the Komsomol University student would have vodka on the table and as he would hear banging on the door, he would hide vodka and take out The Capital.' That´s what our professor told us during the first lesson. And he was one of those who had been liberating Czechoslovakia and you could see how insulted he was by what happened in August 1968. Those people were affected by that. They would let you know they are, all the time. You could feel it in the air everywhere you went.”

  • “To learn... I don't know what we were expected to learn there. But the aim of the one-year study was just to be there, in Moscow, I would say. They would take us to excursion; from time to time we would go to some theatre or to see some of the Moscow´s essential historic sights. And of course, we would read Marx and Lenin and everything related to that. It was a kind of a course. Like VUML, but on a daily basis, not an evening school.” - “It´s hard for me to understand. You resented the Soviet occupation like anyone else yet you were in Moscow, studying at a school ran by the occupying power. Did it rise any questions in you, regarding the morals of it?' - “It didn´t. I knew things were already in motion and everything just has to end well.”

  • “For me, the only important thing was that I began to notice it. The game. There was no way you couldn´t notice it. Me and my father, we were watching the famous ice hockey match, the one we defeated the Soviets. And the phone began to ring and on the phone was my uncle. A he told my father on the telephone: “So you did lose.' Never in my life, before or after, have I seen my father so flabbergasted. And surely it wasn´t because the hockey. My uncle was a head waiter at Jalta, which itself was a quite strange institution – the Interhotel Jalta – and of course there was a hidden meaning in what he told my father. As he would just get angry because of the hockey, he would start cursing or something. But this was like he was revealing some sort of secret obviously.”

  • “As the head secretary would read us the Charter 77 during the presidium meeting, I stepped forward and said that I would sign it myself.” - “That´s exactly what you said?” - “Sure. Me and the trade union chairman. The chairman of the district trade union council and I, we did say that on the OV KSČ presidium meeting. We weren´t members but we were allowed to sit in the back as regular guests. During that time people would complain that they had to sign petitions but the things had already gone to far for them to stop it. They had to inform some of the officials what the Charter 77 was about. So they would read us the Charter declaration, what was the Charter trying to tell in the first place, what Husák and Brezhnev had signed in Helsinki. So we stated openly that we would also sign it. That there´s nothing wrong with it. As the Charter didn´t come with anything more than what the representatives of the communist worker´s parties signed. You see, even Husák signed it!”

  • “I wanted to go to the Nad Štolou gymnasium where my sister had been studying before she dropped out. So I wanted to go there as well as I did the exams, it was just a matter of formalities, but my father came with the idea that I should become an auto-mechanic. He declared that it´s just a beautiful profession. So in the end I agreed, even though we didn´t have a car, I never drove one and I wasn´t really into it, but I considered it a decent solution. Instead of going to gymnasium where I would have to do much studying. It wouldn't be like at the elementary school where I didn´t open a book for nine years. So I went to the Military Construction. We had a workshop at Strahov, at the Strahov Stadium, made from changing rooms. There were those changing rooms and they would put pasteboard on it and make us the workshop. That was where I spent my first year.”

  • Full recordings
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    Praha, 06.12.2018

    duration: 01:18:52
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Praha, 06.12.2018

    duration: 02:10:56
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 3

    Praha, 25.02.2019

    duration: 01:47:06
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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I lived under pressure for twenty years before the revolution and for ten years after it was over. I was down and out mentally

Vasil Mohorita was born on September 19th 1952 in Praha to a Czecho-Ruthenian family. His father, Vasil Mohorita, was born in Carpathian Ruthenia and before the WWII he had been working as a lumberjack; his mother Ludmila was born in the village of Horní Počaply near the town of Mělník. After the WWII began, his father defected from Carpathian Ruthenia to the USSR where he was arrested and imprisoned in the Gulag camp. In 1943, he we released to join the 1st Czechoslovak army corps established in Buzuluk where he was trained as a paratrooper. In 1944, he was deployed in the Protectorate with the ARAP airborne unit, allegedly serving as its chief of staff. Vasil´s mother Ludmila was a war widow and she met Mohorita after the war. They were issued flat in Praha-Holešovice, in the so-called Little Berlin, a modern housing complex from where its German residents had been expelled. In 1968, Vasil had graduated from the primary school at Strossmayer Square, he began his apprenticeship as a car mechanic and began to attend the organised youth gatherings. In 1970, he joined the newly established SSM (the Czechoslovak Socialist Union of Youth) in which all the former youth organisations merged. From 1971 to 1972, he completed the one-year course at the Komsomol University in Moscow. Upon his return, he become an instructor at the SSM Municipal Committee and later, he was the Prague’ Second District’ SSM District Committee secretary. In 1977, he began to study at the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia ’ University of Political Sciences. From 1982 to 1968 he was the Czech SSM Central Committee secretary and he also served as the deputy chairman of the SSM’ Czechoslovak University Students’ Center ; in 1986, he became the chairman of the Czech SSM Central Committee and since 1987, he was a federal SSM’ Central Committee chairman. In 1988, he become the Party ’ Central Committee Secretariat member; in November 1989 he was a member of the Central Committee’ Presidium and the Party secretary. During the November 1989 revolution he led the negotiations with the Občanské fórum (Civic Forum) representatives and with Václav Havel. On the emergency Party congress in Decebmer 1989 he was elected the vice-chairman of the Party. In January 1990, he was elected the Federal Assembly member representing the Communist party. During that period, his influence has been weakening and he was an unaffiliated member of the Assembly. In 1991, he established the KSČM splinter faction Demokratická levice (Demmocratic Left) which he left afterwards and formed Democratic Worker’ Party with former members of the Czechoslovak Socialist Party. He was the Federal Assembly member till the 1992 elections. In the 90s, he started a business and was dealing with Russian and Ukrainian companies with little success. In 2000, as the CS Funds scandal broke out, he suffered a nervous breakdown and developed psychotic symptoms but he didn´t seek medical help as he was fearing for his life. He found mental balance again in Britain while working as a helping hand in a restaurant kitchen. Since that he makes his living doing part-time blue-collar jobs in Britain and in the Czech Republic; he also lived in Spain and in Israel. He lives in a rented room; he is divorced and has two children.