Miroslav Pešta

* 1929

  • “After Sokol was banned we would continue to get together; and we were using the same exercise systems as we did in Sokol, but we couldn´t use the name. But the way how we dealt with children and how we taught them to be honest and encouraged them not just to sit but to be physically active was still the same.”

  • “It ceased to exist. Even teachers who were Sokol members and used to train us in Sokol couldn´t engage in anything and so.” – “And did the people continue to gather, in secrecy perhaps?” – “We would meet in small groups to play ball games for example. We boys would gather still as we were friends. But it couldn't be said that we were doing it as Sokol members.” – “Sokol Organisation members also participated on the resistance during the Second World War. Did you know anyone from Týn, who got into trouble?” – “People knew about it, but they would not discuss that with children. So we would not tell anyone as we were just boys. But my father, for example, would tell me: 'Listen, leave this man alone and don´t discuss him with anyone.' But I no longer remember what his name was...” – “Your father didn´t join the resistance?” – “My father was a member of a group operating in the town, they would help people in some ways. They had been meeting in someone´s house for example, so nobody would find out.”

  • “It makes you happy when a parent with a small child would recognise you and say: “I used to train with you as well.” And it affects the children in their everyday live also, and that´s the reason why I have been doing such work. Yet when parents would ask how much money we earn I would tell them that we are doing it for free. And they would often refuse to understand. But later, they would find out that we are doing it just to make children happy and we are not being paid.”

  • “So, after the year of 1948, in 1949 and in 1950, things started to get rough. But we were still training and most of all – as we were living in a small-town – parents still wanted their children to exercise so they would be physically active. So they would bring them to us and we would say that we train like they were training in Sokol but we are a different organisation.” – “And the Sokol officials?” – “Some of them were banned from engaging in Sokol activities and they could no longer be there.”

  • “There was Sokol Gym build and funded by people who had sympathy for the cause. Many people gave money, others had been working at the construction site. That was quite a success. Many kids could just let off steam there in their childhood. And adults also, of course.” – “What did Sokol give you?” – “It gave us how we thought about our country, about the life of our republic; and above all, it taught us to be honest and true. Not to get involved in some kind of nonsense and so on. And that was good.”

  • “I started exercising at Sokol Festivals in Praha because of my uncle who was a trainer at Sokol Organisation in Praha-Dejvice. He would invite me to come. He would say that if I wanted to exercise, I should come to Praha so I could join the boys. The year was 1938.” – “And how was it?” – “Beautiful. It was such an experience... Seeing the whole mass of boys my age – or maybe a year older or a year younger – as we assembled in the immense area of the stadium, that was an experience that I remember to this day.” – “What were you exercising with?” – “We were running, maybe we had some poles or something like that. I was excited that they were able to accommodate all of us in Praha´s schools where we have been sleeping on the ground.” – “You were just eight, maybe nine years old.” – “I shouldn´t have been allowed to go there, I should have waited one more year. But my uncle knew how it was and he would say that I could give a flawless performance so I could be allowed to go. I remember that to this day.” – “The All Sokol Rally in 1938 was a peace manifesto of a kind...” – “Well the spirit was that we were a sovereign nation, that we are Czechs. It was beautiful. We would yell: ‘We had been and we would be, Edvard Beneš, we would follow thee!’ That was Edvard Beneš, the president.”

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    Praha, 19.09.2019

    duration: 53:18
    media recorded in project Memory of the Nation: stories from Praha 2
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Three times I witnessed Sokol being banned: once by the Nazis and twice by the Communists

Miroslav Pešta in 1955
Miroslav Pešta in 1955
photo: Pamětník

Miroslav Pešta was born on July 3rd of 1929 in Týn nad Vltavou to Marie and Leopold Pešta, who had also been born in the town. Miroslav had a two-year-older brother Jiří. His father worked as the director of the Týn nad Vltavou´s municipal power station; his mother was a housewife. Peštas were the Sokol Organisation members and they raised their sons in its spirit. Miroslav attended the All Sokol Rally on Strahov in the historically significant years of 1938 and 1948 and witnessed Sokol being banned for three times: once by the Nazis and twice by the Communists. In 1948, he graduated from Secondary technical school, then he worked as a designer in the Křižík Company and in the Tesla Enterprise. In 1955, he married Vlasta Klasová, also a Sokol member, and they started a family. In his free time, he would join the children in the gym, educating them in the spirit of Sokol, in spite of the fact that the Sokol organisation had been banned till the year of 1989. From 1967 to 1972, he has been attending summer camps for children in Ledeč nad Sázavou with his wife, working as a supervisor. For fifteen years, he was the chief of T.J. Sokol Královské Vinohrady Sports Club. He had been training children till 2019, the year of his 90th birthday.