Ing., Arch. Petr Popov

* 1940  

  • “The return to Prague then, it was by a night train and when we went through České Velenice, there was this wired border and a fat officer approached me, asking me where I was coming from, where I was, why I was there and whether I had money, Czech money. I told her that I had Czech money, and she immediately wanted to take action. But I told her, wait, I have the money quite legally, I was given them from a Bulgarian bank. She calmed down and in Prague I met my brother, so I found myself at a dorm in Strahov and there were still echoes of that post-68 life. It was a kind of free life, unlimited, there were no barriers and I met some very nice people there.”

  • “This was the opinion of the people I used to meet then, the company of people who were fired from their jobs and engaged somehow. And this was my vision of the world, the local one.” — “That you saw it in the same way as people here.“ — “Quite in the same way, actually I developed this perspective not that I came here and got among those people but I had it already in my head, I discussed it with my brother, who took part in the demonstrations here, ‘We want light’ and events like that in Strahov dorms, so I already had an idea and it was just confirmed that I got among the people who saw the world as I did.”

  • “Even those who — with some minor exceptions — were in the Party — didn’t believe it. And I will tell you about a case that happened to me. I, among other things, served as an interpreter in the Czech-Bulgarian relation and there was in Pardubice — I can’t remember what year it was — a show of technical films. And someone who translated from Bulgarian collapsed in the delegation. I don’t know how they found me, but I was recommended and I interpreted. And when it ended, there was this final meeting, which I liked quite a lot, in the technical museum. And there was some food. And because I helped him with interpreting the secretaries took great care of me, they brought me sandwiches, but if you interpret, on the level of ministers’ deputies, you should not be holding a sandwich in your hand, even if someone gives it to you… But the interview between the ministers’ deputies was very interesting, because the deputies, one was Czech and the other Slovak, the Slovak one being from Easter Slovakia, so he was drunk very early, well the Slovak deputy suddenly gave his Bulgarian colleague this glassy look and said: ‘Shit! shit! Socialism, but you can’t do it without money!’ But the Bulgarian deputy understood only the first two words. And he immediately wanted to know what the comrade was saying. I began to sweat, because I didn’t know what to say, what the consequences might be. Then a good idea occurred to me and I told him that the comrade here was saying that socialism was a good thing, but that there needs to be a financial stimulus. This is how I translated the sentence. The people didn’t believe in it either and mostly they were after money.”

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In Bulgaria the communism was more brutal, in Czechoslovakia it was subtler

Petr Popov
Petr Popov
photo: sbírka Post Bellum

Petr Popov was born on November 21, 1940, in Brno as the first child of an insurance company staff member and a Bulgarian-born student of construction engineering. After 1945, his father worked on the reconstruction of roads and bridges destroyed by the war, in the late 1948 he was arrested and deported, as “a technical expert and right-wing element” back to Bulgaria, where he was followed by his family. He studied at the grammar school in Plevno and then went on to study construction engineering at the university in Sofia. He worked as a designer of concrete constructions all across Bulgaria and in 1970, after a short stay in Austria, he returned to Czechoslovakia, where worked in Kovoprojekta state company and in the Institute for Inventions and Discoveries. He associated with intellectuals afflicted with normalisation checks and engaged, after 1989, in local politics.