RNDr. Jiří Poláček

* 1938  

  • “The last step was 20 August [1969], a huge demonstration was taking place in Wenceslas square on the eve of the invasion. Wenceslas square was completely full and it was demonstration against the occupation of the country. And back then it was the first time when Czech police forces took actions against their own (Czech) people. Until then either foreign forces affected it or there were no actions against people. This time, it happened that police units had been prepared in Ve Smečkách, in Krakovská and Štěpánská Streets, armoured cars arrived from Jindřišská Street and separated and dispersed the crowd and they divided the square into segments. I was in the upper segment close to Opletalova Street. And I just managed to, before they pushed the transporter to the wall, I managed to walk to Opletalova Street, to Masaryk railway station, I bought a ticket to Switzerland. I went home, I lived in Vršovice, I packed my bag, it was a hand luggage, a cloth bag that you use for carrying trainers and going to trainings and (I packed) my guitar. And (I went) back to the railway station, I got on the train - it was a night train via Berlin to Malmö, Sweden. And it happened fast from that moment. My parents were of course quite unhappy because of it back then, I would also be unhappy if my children had to run away somewhere or if they ran away, so they accompanied me to Děčín, we said goodbye there, they got off the train and I continued to Berlin. And I was in Sweden on 21 [August 1969] in the morning.”

  • “We were playing in the garden and suddenly two festively dressed people appeared at the gate. One of them was our father whom we knew very well and a beautiful slim lady in a flowered dress was standing next to him and we immediately realized that she was our mother. Because we wrote to each other. We could write to each other. We could send a correspondence card with thirty words in German from one recipient once a month. So we wrote. I wrote, Ivan [my brother] wrote, my father wrote, so we basically wrote one correspondence card every week. And we had pictures so we realized that she was our mother. It must have been the most wonderful day of her life for her.”

  • “It was in 1990 and Jana´s brother said back then: ‘I will bath you in champagne when you come back here!‘ It really happened, however she did not have a bath in champagne but she had to get into a bath wearing a swimsuit and he poured champagne over her. That was it and the following day we met with our friends from university; we had been a really great group, but the group broke up because we started to study at different faculty; so there were many of us and we filled a pub and we were drinking Russian champagne the whole evening there. So for me champagne and revolution bland together.”

  • “When I arrived in Sweden, I supposedly went there on holiday, so I wrote to my work that I was newly married and that my wife got an internship in Sweden and that I also had a possibility to work at university, to learn new things and to come back home and use them for my homeland´s benefit so that I requested a year-long suspension of employment. Well and a no concerning the suspension of employment came and also (an order) to come home immediately saying that otherwise I would be fired and considered an immigrant with all it took. Jana [my wife] was invited to return and she wrote (them) the same, she wrote them that they, I mean the company where she worked, had allowed her (to go away for) a year and that she had already started working which she could not interrupt, which was truth, and that she would come back in due course. And she was fired. And then a trial took place and Jana who had left first and ‘tempted me‘ was sentenced to serve 18 months and I was sentenced to serve 14 months in prison.” - “What (were you convinced) of?” - “Of illegal departure from the Republic. So we were criminals.”

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    Praha, 07.06.2021

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    duration: 02:07:45
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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I got on a train and left for Switzerland on 20 August 1969 in the evening

Jiří Poláček in the cottage in Káraný in 1954
Jiří Poláček in the cottage in Káraný in 1954
photo: witness´s archive

Jiří Poláček was born on 8 June 1938 in Prague. During his childhood, he experienced separation from his mother Anna who was Jewish and who was deported to the ghetto in Terezín in 1944. When she returned home in 1945, he could not even recognize her in the first moment. Other members of his mother´s family were not so lucky; his aunt, niece and grandmother were also in Terezín and died in the concentration camp Trawniki. In the inter-war period, Jiří Poláček was a member of both Sokol and Scout and he preferred to attend Scout because legendary Zdeněk „Káďa“ Zelený was his section leader. His family lost a prospering colonial goods store after 1948 and his father Rudolf was only allowed to work as a warehouseman. Due to his background, Jiří Poláček faced troubles with admission to Secondary Chemistry School in the 1950s, and university education in this field was completely forbidden to him. That is why he started to study at the Faculty of Science of Charles University in 1959. The 1968 occupation meant a signal for him to go abroad. He and his wife Jana settled in Sweden where they had both gradually travelled. The witness spontaneously decided to leave after experiencing the suppression of anti-occupation protests in August 1969. Communist court sentenced Mr. and Mrs. Poláček in absentia for illegal departure of the Republic, they were not rehabilitated until 1990. After fifty years, Jiří Poláček evaluates his decision to leave the country as a good one. Thanks to it, he got to know the feeling of freedom. He was successful in exile, he established himself as an expert in the pharmaceutical industry and took the opportunity to explore the world. In 1996, he founded a travel agency TjeckienExperten which took Swedes to the Czech Republic. Nowadays, he knows that life does not end when you are fifty and that strong family ties can be kept even thousands of kilometres away. Although he experienced great injustice, he still trusts people and says that he actually has not met real evil.