Professor Pavel Preiss

* 1926  †︎ 2023

  • “The years of my study were interconnected with one great person, who was deeply ingrained in the nation’s memory, and who in my opinion should be ingrained there even more. She was Růžena Vacková, a truly remarkable woman, a Catholic convert, who was an advocate of sacrificing oneself – a task which she has fulfilled absolutely. As far as I know, she remained in prison the longest time of all, they nearly had to kick her out of there, because she refused all forms of petitions for pardon. ´While there are still others imprisoned, I will not try to get out at all.´ She thus sacrificed herself completely. She was my professor for classical archeology, which she taught together with professor Čadík – a similarly tragic person. Tragic – but tragic in a victorious and triumphant way, you could say.”

  • “...politically speaking, I naturally felt threatened with my bourgeois origin, and so on. Nobody attacked me directly, but I felt constantly that this danger was still present there. I tried to avoid it, but I didn’t avoid it quite well, because there was another trap which the Bolsheviks had in store for me – the PTP, or Auxiliary Technical Battalions. In the next draft, and it actually didn’t happen on the day of the draft, but on the famous and well known date of September 5, 1950, which was actually the day when PTP was born. I can thus say that I am proud at being a fundamentalist PTP member.” Interviewer: “That’s nice.” – “Because basically I spent all the time in PTP during their existence. For they were canceled in April 1954, and replaced by other units, unarmed units, and so on.”

  • “When I was in the Blatná chateau with Jaromír Homolka again, we were studying the local collections. One day I came to him in a state of amazement, and it was probably apparent that I was having some kind of a shock. He looks at me and asks me: ´So what have you found? Škréta, or Brandl?´ - ´Brandl,´ I replied. Really, it was no fantasy nor fabrication, but it was a real finding of a remarkable painting of an Alexandrian theme, which was included there as a collected material without any further specification. At first I didn’t even classify it correctly from the iconographical point of view, for which I repent, but at that time I didn’t have the possibility to rely on iconographically relevant literature yet. That was an example of what was possible to find there.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 16.03.2011

    duration: 03:17:36
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha, 16.05.2014

    duration: 03:08:44
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 3

    Praha 10 Prešovská ul.7, 06.05.2015

    duration: 01:04:07
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

I think that I have been very lucky in my life

pp_1986_05_21a.jpg (historic)
Professor Pavel Preiss

Pavel Preiss was born May 21, 1926, and his bourgeois origin was to affect his life in the communist Czechoslovakia significantly. He has been living in one place all his life, in a house between the Prague neighbourhoods of Vinohrady and Vršovice. He attended elementary school there, and in 1938 he began studying a grammar school. The war complicated his studies when he was forced to do conscripted labour at the end of the war. After the war he began studying art history and classical archeology at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University, and he has remained faithful to his beloved subject throughout his life. In 1950 he was drafted to the Auxiliary Technical Battalions, which were just established. Unwillingly, he was loyal to this unit throughout its entire existence, till 1954. Upon returning from his military service he began working in the State Monument Conservation Administration, and under its National Cultural Committee he spent two years cataloguing collections of artworks in Czech chateaux. In 1956 he found employment in the National Museum, but he was not happy with the prevailing atmosphere in the workplace and the political situation there. While there, he however managed to be awarded the Candidate of Sciences degree, without having to join the Communist Party. In the early 1960s an opportunity to work for the National Gallery arose, and eventually it also became possible for him to organize foreign exhibitions. At that time he also resisted offers of collaboration with the State Secret Police. In 1969 he was awarded the docent degree. Briefly he was lecturing at the Faculty of Arts, but after a short time he was forced to leave. In 1992 he became a professor and in 1993-1994 he had the honour to work as a visiting professor at Vienna University. After his return to Prague continued lecturing at Charles University. Pavel Preiss passed away on December, the 17th, 2023.