Pavel Polnický

* 1943

  • "And it happened this way – well, I have my own version - that a colleague of mine who worked in Savoy, and they finished at three o'clock in the morning, when she was going from work and walking past my parents - because she lived around the corner - she rang at the door of the people she knew and she woke them up and said, 'Turn on the radio, we're being occupied by the Russians!' So I knew it so early and instead of going to Lysá to work, I took my camera and went to Přední Lhota. I went into town to see what was going on and somebody said that they were coming from Nymburk to Prague through Přední Lhota from Boleslav. So I went there to see, and I found out that they really were going. I asked the people who lived in the corner house if I could somewhere - they had a balcony upstairs oriented towards the garden, from where it could be seen. So I hid there - the woman had her laundry hanging up there - so I was hiding there because I was scared and I didn't know if a camera, a lens wouldn´t make a flash and somebody could think I had a gun and shoot me. So I was quite masked, I was scared, I'll admit that. Because the tanks and everything I filmed, the heavy equipment, the cranes, the bulldozers, the pontoon bridges, you can see it all on the film as they were pulling it towards Prague."

  • "So two gentlemen came to me in a car, if I could change, saying they needed to discuss something with me. They took me to the Praha Hotel, where we sat down, what will I have? So coffee, some drinks, they had something too. And [they said that] they found out I was good at Esperanto and that they needed something from me. And I said, 'What do you mean by that?' 'Well, sometimes an article in a newspaper or a magazine.' But I said that it seemed strange to me, that the magazines are censored in Prague at the censorship office, nothing gets to them in Nymburk. Probably it was more about correspondence, wasn´t it? 'Well, that too.' So I said, 'Forget it! Because if I came to the club and someone told me: "Hey, Pavel, what a lovely letter I got from Australia!" And I'd be thinking, "Girl, I read that a long time ago," and it would soon got out, people would find out, and I'd make a fool of myself. Don't ask me to do that, I won't do that.' They left disappointed."

  • "About after two years, when I had been working in the Esperanto Association, they said to me, 'Hey, Pavel, you should join the [Communist] party.' And I told him I couldn't. And he said, 'Why? What's stopping you?' And I said, 'Because I still want to live.' And he was looking at me saying he didn't understand. 'Well, if I joined the party, my father would kill me. So that´s the reason why I can´t.'"

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Poděbrady, 03.11.2021

    duration: 54:55
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
  • 2

    Praha, 31.05.2022

    duration: 02:08:18
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Hidden among the washing lines, he was filming the Soviet occupiers

Pavel Polnicky at the time of secondary school graduation, 1961
Pavel Polnicky at the time of secondary school graduation, 1961
photo: Witness´s archive

Pavel Polnický was born on 10 April 1943 in Nymburk. Two years later his parents moved to Poděbrady, where he lived almost all his life. His father was a member of the Social Democratic Party and refused to join the Communist Party in 1948. Because of his decision, he was forced to go into manufacturing and his children had trouble to be admitted to study. The Polnický family belonged to the Czech Brethren Evangelical Church, and the witness never left the Christian circles. At the beginning of the 1960s he started to learn Esperanto. Gradually he became an excellent expert in Esperanto, an organizer of Esperanto events and an active member of Esperanto organizations. He also devoted himself to children, whom he taught Esperanto to or he used to go on language exchange camps with them. In August 1968, he filmed the arrival of the occupying armies and later the funeral of Jan Palach. He refused to join the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and to cooperate with State Security. During the Velvet Revolution, the whole family would go to Letná to take part in demonstrations. As a lifelong blood donor, he was awarded the Golden Plaque of Professor Jánský in 2002. Pavel Polnický was living in Poděbrady in 2022.