Šimon Pánek

* 1967  

  • “There’s a lot of places and a lot of people all around the world, who’re much worse off than us. We’re lucky because we’re doing great. Therefore we shouldn’t forget about all those people who’re worse off than us and try to share at least a small fraction of what we have with them. As the Czech Republic, the Czech society, we’re not able to do a great deal, but we’re capable of helping tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of people around the world to have a better future. This is something of a great and permanent value that is eventually inherent to every religion. Starting with the Talmud: ‘Those who save one human life save the whole world.’ And that’s how it is. Thanks to the support of the Czech society we’re able to save human lives and improve living conditions all around the world.”

  • “My name is Šimon Pánek. I was born by the end of December 1967 in Prague and my dad was a political prisoner in the 1950s. He was partially rehabilitated in 1968. My grandfather was a legionary who went all the way to Vladivostok and then joined the party before the war. He was a prewar member of the party. My dad always used to tell me that while he and other students were supporting president Beneš, his dad was cheering on the Old town square. So their ways parted very much. After my dad had fled from the prison camp in 1953 he was in Prague and was seeing his mom but he couldn’t meet his dad and his mom couldn’t tell his dad about the meetings.”

  • “I’ve had a rather good, happy and fulfilled life. My dad always used to tell me to postpone the confrontation with the regime to a later time, when I’d already be someone. I later found out that the dissidents got the same advice in the eighties – not to confront the regime at an early moment, to go to university in the first place and wait with the confrontation till later. I didn’t know this, however. I actually never really thought about whether to sign the Charter 77 till 1989. I simply live my life within the limits that exist, I say to a certain extant openly what I think and I’m searching for loopholes.”

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    Kavarna 3+1 Újezd Praha Český republika, 20.04.2010

    (audio)
    duration: 01:33:29
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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Not to be running away from something, but to be pursuing a certain goal

A041116_JAN_PANEK_S_V.JPG (historic)
Šimon Pánek
photo: současná Mikuláš Kroupa, dobová internet

Šimon Pánek was born on December 27, 1967, in Prague. In the 1950s his father was in communist prison for his political beliefs. His mother was an economist by profession, but later studied art history and worked in the National gallery in the modern art collection. They got divorced in the time of the Normalisation. Pánek talks of his youth as of the happy times he spent hiking in nature and at weekend cottages. He spent his adolescence travelling with his friends in the so-called “expedition group”. During these years he had the opportunity to meet the traveler and writer Jaromír Štětina. He studied Biology at the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Charles University but didn’t finish his studies. In 1988 he co-organized a humanitarian collection for the victims of a devastating earthquake in Armenia. In 1989 he co-founded the student movement STUHA. He participated in all the anti-Communist demonstrations that took place between 1988 and December 1989. By coincidence (he was making money somewhere outside of Prague to finance his expeditions) he wasn’t present at the demonstration on the National avenue on November 17, which set off the downfall of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia. During the student protests in early November 1989 he was elected to the presidium of the Student coordination center. He also became a member of the Civic forum and an envoy of a special team of Václav Havel that was charged with negotiating the formation of a new democratic government. In 1990 he was co-opted to the Federal Assembly for the Civic forum but he didn’t accept the offer. He refused the mandate even after in June 1990 he was elected to the Assembly by preferential votes from a back position on the candidates list. He claims that he had other plans and didn’t want to go into politics at that time. He was one of the founders of the private Information agency Epicentrum where he worked. He further co-founded the Lidové noviny foundation, which later became the NGO Člověk v tísni (People in need). He worked in the Office of the President of the Republic and was engaged in film production. Today, he’s the director of the largest Czech humanitarian, development and human-rights non-governmental organization Člověk v tísni.