Carole Paris

* 1960

  • “He was a little bit nervous as we were approaching the border; that I remember. He was sweating and the fake eyebrows begun to unstick. I told him: ‚You have to go to the restroom to glue it back on because something is not quite alright.‘ He said he would do it but he was a bit sweaty, not feeling quite on the top of the world. So I told him: ‚Light up this cigarette here, smoke it, it will be alright.‘ This went fine. Only that I forgot to explain to him – I thought this was obvious but he didn’t know – there was a barbed wire at the border which he expected, but also policemen were passing by with German shepherds. At that moment he asked: ‚Is this normal?,‘ – ‚Yes, this is normal.‘ He thought they were already looking for him, that they were after him with the dogs. ‚It is normal, perhaps they are looking for somebody but surely not you.‘ The border police came over and asked me whether I had something to declare. I said that I bought some flour, opened my bag to show it to them, all went fine, the policeman said alright. Then he asked whether the gentleman had anything. I replied: ‚Hold on, he doesn’t speak Czech,‘ but of course he understood all of it. I asked him in French: ‚Do you have anything on you?‘ He responded like: ‚Mmmm...‘ – ‚He also has nothing.‘ He understood it all but I pretended to speak French to him. A sort of a theater play. One wouldn’t believe it if they saw it in a movie but it worked out. Then we got to West Germany."

  • “The funny part is, I have to say, that during my first visit I brought with me two plastic bags full of books, magazine Svědectví issues and other things. Obviously, I got lost, unable to find the apartment where those people had lived, in the Jižní město area. A policeman helped me out. He came to me and saw me being completely lost. It was already six in the evening, it was dark. I told him the address but he wanted to know the names of these people. Since I was completely naïve I thought that if I would tell him the name he will recognize it and arrest me. So I did not tell him the name, I said I didn’t know precisely, that I only knew the exact address. He searched for it with me. He was very nice, a regular policeman, no secret agent, but I did not feel good about it at all – he would always offer to carry my plastic bags. I replied: ‘I myself will carry those, there are presents for children inside.’ He walked me all the way to the apartment. When this friend of mine, Ivanka Hyblerová, opened the door, she stiffened, seeing a policeman with some completely unknown woman. I was thinking what to do when suddenly I realized she did speak a little bit French – that is why they sent me to her. So I told her in French: ‘Hello, Ivanka, I am your cousin, bringing presents to your children from uncle Pavel.’ I meant Tigrid, of course. She understood immediately so she replied: ‘Thank you, welcome,’ and hugged me. An amazing theater play this was. The policeman asked whether everything was fine and she said: ‘Yes, yes, all is fine, goodbye,’ and she slammed the door in front of him. We practically didn’t know each other but we ended up rolling on the floor laughing. It was quite a nice experience in the end. I didn’t know what to say so I thought of a present from uncle Pavel.”

  • “Then I arrived again in the summer, to attend a so-called summer school for students of Czech language. This took place at the university and was accompanied by a month-long scholarship. I managed to stay throughout the whole of August. So we met again and I offered him to help him get out across the border. He could no longer live at anybody else’s place because he became known and everybody knew it about him. His friends and Charter 77 signatories were also getting in trouble. They were followed by the police because they knew that he would show up at their place sooner or later. Therefore it was becoming inconvenient to them, too. So I told him: ‘I will give it a shot, let’s try and get you out.’ At the beginning he didn’t want to but then he gave it some thought and said: ‘Ok. If you can manage, I will try it. I won’t last here for long before I get arrested. Or the others will run into trouble.’ Because anyone who he stayed with could have had problems. Once in France, I therefore began looking for options on how to get him out.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 28.04.2015

    duration: 01:41:48
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Light up your cigarette, it’s going to be fine

Carole Paris before her departure from Czechoslovakia, November 1982
Carole Paris before her departure from Czechoslovakia, November 1982
photo: archiv pamětnice

Carole Paris was born on 18 October 1960 in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges near Paris to a French couple. Her father worked as a project architect, later establishing a family business. Her mother, an accountant by training, initially stayed home with Carole and her sister and later returned to her original profession. Carole studied German and Russian studies at a university in Paris. Later, under a friends’ influence, she also began to learn Czech. In February 1981 she visited Czechoslovakia for the first time, and become very interested in the country. In Paris she got to know the Czech dissident Pavel Tigrid and his wife. She started smuggling their exile magazine ‘Svědectví’ and other literature to Czechoslovakia. During her rather frequent visits she established contacts with the underground, dissidents and Charter 77 signatories. She also became friends with Jindřich Tomeš who was, following his escape before criminal prosecution, a wanted person hiding under false identity at various friends’ places. In August 1982 Carole was awarded scholarship at a summer school of Czech language held in Brno, and she decided to smuggle Jindřich Tomeš to France. She obtained a false passport for herself as well as for him and at the second attempt in November 1982 they managed to leave Czechoslovakia for France, where Tomeš was granted political asylum. Carole finished her studies in Paris, latter marrying a Czech man and starting a family. She visited Czechoslovakia again in 1990 after the fall of the communist regime. She works as a journalist and lives near Paris.