“The Party members tried to show how pretty it is there. Roses planted outside of the blocks of flats, and so on. But people weren’t quite that stupid in general. They complained about the environment, too. You could see the dirt on the cars. People’d go with newspapers in front of the bus to see which way it should drive. Because of the fog, which was caused by both the mining and the chemical plant. People knew that, they sensed it, but they couldn’t do anything about it because they didn’t have the data necessary to protest about some specific case. For instance, the chemical plant leaked hydrogen cyanide in 1981. It burnt the leaves and also the deer and so on. That all had to be covered up. So no one knows how it worked, who suffered because of it.”
“They didn’t know anything, actually. They knew there was some kind of fog, yes. But you had no idea what the fog contained, of course. You lived with it. That inability to obtain information. Either they didn’t reply, the state officials I mean, or they flat out said it wasn’t true. Radio Free Europe and The Voice of America helped clear things up. That’s how people found out about it. But they didn’t have anything in their possession, no paper. The newspapers, the media weren’t able to publish it because no one allowed them to. There was censorship. People were left clueless. So they could only start revolting thanks to those first ecological demonstrations. It stirred everything up. Organisations started to be formed. Mothers of Teplice, and the such.”
“In 1964 my first wife died of cancer. Although she was a non-smoker, she had it in her nasopharynx. Later I found out in Pardubice that at the time, they gave orders to monitor what I had on my desk, to see what people were saying. Back then I lectured at the academy - called the Jan Amos Komenský Academy after the revolution - with that cancer and children’s illnesses were widespread. It wasn’t published or promulgated anywhere. But it spread throughout the area even so. There were frequent tumours even in children. So in 1979, when Brontosaurus already existed, I joined them. We did debates in a small theatre in Litvínov every two months with people like the head health officer, or Josef Jiránek, and so on. I started doing things in an organised way practically from the start of 1979. Before that we’d measured outflow of slurry from the cow shed, for instance, which drained into the stream. The way they solved it was that the cooperative stopped breeding cows, instead of fixing the cesspit.”
Trees dried up, people died of cancer. No one did anything about it
Petr Pakosta was born on 3 March 1938 in Hradec Králové. He grew up in Brandýs nad Orlicí. His father was a post office clerk, and her mother was a worker. He completed primary school in 1953 and applied to a vocational school for miners in Ostrava. He passed a graduation exam at a secondary technical school. In 1959 he started working as a miner in Most District. He was employed in various positions, until he was finally put in charge of a department with sixty employees. He lost his management job during the political profiling purges after 1968 because he refused to join the Communist Party and he voiced his disagreement with the entry of Soviet forces into Czechoslovakia. Until 1974 he worked as an ordinary miner. He passed a basic teaching course, which allowed him to teach technical and practical subjects at vocational schools and secondary schools. He did not like how the mining and chemical industries were devastating the landscape in northern Bohemia. And so in 1979 he joined a movement called Brontosaurus, which organised events to help restore damaged nature. He was one of the founders of Eco-Forum of the North Bohemian Region Basin Area, a society that voiced public disapproval of the damage caused to nature even in the times of the Communist regime. He helped save Jezeří Manor, which would have otherwise been destroyed by ongoing mining activities. He organised demonstrations, where inhabitants of northern Bohemia protested against the Communist functionaries who refused to solve the ecological problems. In 1991 he helped prepare documentation for setting regional ecological quotas for coal mining. Having gone into retirement, he tended to a small ecological farm and continued to participate in projects to protect nature in northern Bohemia. Petr Pakosta passed away on July, the 15th, 2022.