Jaroslav Ondráček

* 1941

  • “My neighbor came over, knocked on the door and said: ‘Hey, the Russians have arrived and occupied us.’ I replied: ‘Hey, if they came, it was not in order to occupy us but to prevent the shit we might end up in.’ We went to the mine. Naturally, there was a crowd of people discussing things. So I went for my afternoon work shift. I normally went down the pit. The workplace at a pit needs to be under constant surveillance so as to prevent something happening. When work was about to start on Monday morning, someone would need to go underground Sunday night to make an inspection at all the workplaces to look for possible problems. There could have been water there, there could have been gas, a cave-in, whatever. So I just went to do my shift. And I remember the section chief saying: ‘Regardless of how this turns out, there will always be a need for coal.’”

  • “The Central Committee did nothing for a week. It took them a week to call a meeting. It only took place on 24 November where I made an appearance, saying: ‘Dear all, we have lost on 17 November at Wenceslas Square. You won’t be able to save anything now because all those former so-called communists who were in various functions, made an immediate U-turn.’ The director of the TV told me: ‘Man, I am left behind alone. I am the only communist in Czechoslovak TV.’ I don’t know how many employees there were at the time but I guess five hundred at least.”

  • “The problem with Šverma mine was also that it was ranked in the second danger category which meant that there was a risk of methane explosion. So for instance a regular switch was a box eighty times sixty times sixty centimeters large. It was a waterproof one so that nothing would get in. It all cost enormous amount of money and we had to act in a way not to cause any trouble. This means that the methane had to be measured and when there was a higher concentration, we couldn’t have worked. During our training we learned what was a shovel and a pneumatic drill. But suddenly we got there and found plowing machines. Those machines included a saw of sorts, with blades undercutting the mining wall which would then be scooped away. We learned to operate this. We learned to operate combines. Well, we just spent our lives learning stuff.”

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    Praha, 20.06.2016

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I am certain that people lived well under communism

V roce 1985 dostal vyznamenání Hrdina socialistické práce
V roce 1985 dostal vyznamenání Hrdina socialistické práce
photo: archiv pamětníka

Jaroslav Ondráček was born on 1 April 1941 in Pardubice. His parents got divorced when he was four. He grew up in the village of Skutíčko with his mother and her father Josef Novotný who was a Communist Party MP before WW II. In 1955 he began a training to become a miner in Malé Svatoňovice.  After its completion he took up a job at the Jan Šverma mine in Žacléř. He served in various positions and witnessed the era of hard work with little mining technology. In 1959 he joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. There, he held various functions and eventually even became a member of the Central Committee. He still held this office in November 1989 when the Velvet Revolution took place, which he strongly opposed. To this day he remains convinced that communist ideology is the right one and that life was better prior to 1989. His whole life was interwoven with mining and he kept his mining job even at the time when he became a high-ranking communist official. Up until 1990 he worked at the Jan Šverma mine, eventually receiving a disability pension due to ruined health.