Jurij Nikelský

* 1976

  • "It was quite dangerous. When I was doing my business, I always managed to back out of it somehow. I was smart, I never paid anybody anything. Once something like that had happened happen, there would be no escape. I was invited so they could offer me their protection. And I got prepared, I found this policeman's phone number, his name was Jan Svoboda. This policeman was deployed against the Russian-speaking mafia. So when I came to talk with them, I told them this was a phone number of a guy I was working with. That I was working for him. So they thought there were just cops all over the place in the bar.”

  • "But the mafia was here. In the '90s, it was fashionable to be a mobster, to live by their rules. Even if you're a little kid. It was fashionable not to do what you should do, it was this set of rules - hairstyles, clothes - you could recognize such a person. Of course, those people also came to Prague. They would be like: “But I can't work, I'm not a fool after all. So let's continue doing this even here.” So they would contact the businessmen and they would offer them protection. Pay us something every month and if you have any problems, we'll come and sort it out. And there were many of them in the country.”

  • "My peers, or those little bit older, were born in the Soviet Union and spent their childhood during that era. The late Soviet Union was not so bad. The early one, yes, we could talk to our grandmothers, they would tell us a lot of bad things, but the late one wasn't so bad. Of course, at school we were persecuted for our jeans and long hair. We bought a lot from the Poles. They used to come and sell us things. They bought electronics in our shops and sold us chewing gum, T-shirts, shoes. You would go to some highway, you would stop there and then he would come in a Fiat car, full of goods, and you would do business.”

  • "He wrote letters home and some friend of his told him: 'Come back, it's fine here, it's quite safe.' Probably, they were bought by the communists, or maybe they would just intimidate them. So he came back with his family, but he managed to stay for just two days. Then he went somewhere to this neighboring town and nobody has seen him since. Nobody knew what happened to him. Later, this document arrived, stating that he was shot near St. Petersburg, where the lake was. He was shot in the winter while trying to escape across the ice. That's where he was shot.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 03.04.2023

    duration: 01:18:58
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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You had to be smart while dealing with the mob

Jurij Nikelský in 2023
Jurij Nikelský in 2023
photo: Post Bellum

Yuri Nikelsky was born on 11 May 1976 in Lviv into a mixed Russian-Ukrainian family. His mother came from Kazakhstan, where her family fled after the war to save themselves from bandits and Bolsheviks; his paternal grandfather, Volodymyr Nikelsky, on the other hand, fought the Bolsheviks during the Ukrainian War of Independence. But Yuri had already been growing up in the relatively calmer conditions of the late Soviet Union, living in the town of Mykolayiv near Lviv. His father, Vladimir, worked as a lawyer and his mother was a housewife. At the age of twenty, he decided to go to the Czech Republic to find a job and has stayed there ever since. He made his living as a laborer and a textile seller in Vietnamese markets of Bokave and Sapa. He managed to avoid disputes with the Russian-speaking mafia and his business prospered. In 2023, he was living in Prague and was working as a real estate broker.