Ilja Racek

* 1930  †︎ 2018

  • “The school, which I had attended as a boy, was seized by the Germans towards the end of the war. They were shooting from out of the turret, and several brave Karlíners were shooting at them. My father’s friend was killed by a German bullet there. I first saw a dead man with a hole in his forehead there. So there was shooting there - in Karlín in forty-five. Then the tables turned, the war was over, the school had served as a warehouse for the German army. They had winter equipment there, fur hats, vests, felt boots. That got all thrown out, of course, and the brave Czechoslovaks took it for themselves.”

  • “I had a classmate at the grammar school in Žižkov who was interested in acting, he was also my classmate at the conservatoire. He fell in love with a girl from a rich family that escaped over the borders. He, all enamoured, fled with them. He succeeded, but the girl was arrested here. And he, knight in shining armour that he was, decided to come back and rescue her. He visited me at home in Karlín - my parents were away at the cottage. I told him: ‘You dolt, go and hand yourself in before they catch you.’ He didn’t. They arrested him, of course. And me too, for not reporting his visit, which I had told my friends about. They were, unfortunately, Party members, and what with the self-criticism that was in fashion back then, they told on themselves and me as well. It escalated into a [Socialist Youth] Union disciplinary meeting. I took a day off from Olomouc for that. My Party friends ate humble pie. I didn’t. I was punished, I received the strictest admonishment short of being expelled from the Youth Union. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of it. Some goody-two-shoes sent the minutes of the Unionist meeting higher up, to the appropriate places. To security. So in Olomouc, at one in the morning, knock, knock at the door. Two gentlemen in leather jackets. The way life has a knack for uncanny coincidences, the evening the theatre had staged Thirty Silver, [a play] where they blackmail an American official into testifying before the Un-American Committee. They took me to the Olomouc police station at seven a.m., where they questioned me in a similar manner. Full-on routine, good cop, bad cop. They said: ‘You will never play theatre again.’ Which was a fatal blow to me at the age of twenty.”

  • “In Komárno I was given options to choose from. I chose Banská Bystrice because they had an army theatre there. I was assigned to the AEC. Luckily it wasn’t the mines, just earthworks. It was February, we mixed concrete there. It was an odd assortment [of people] in the AEC. There were theologians who prayed morning, noon, evening. There were the sons of rich Prague families. There were former entrepreneurs, coffee-shop owners. There was one Czech American who had come back to serve his old homeland after the war. He ended up in the AEC and said he was a dunce and was now mixing cement like an idiot.”

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    Praha, 29.03.2017

    duration: 01:43:30
    media recorded in project 10 pamětníků Prahy 10
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I lived in mutual antagonism with the Bolshevik for years

Ilja Racek, 2017
Ilja Racek, 2017
photo: archiv pamětníka

Ilja Racek was born on 24 June 1930 in Prague. After graduating from conservatoire in 1950 he found employment at the Moravian Theatre in Olomouc. He was interrogated and monitored by State Security because of being in touch with a friend who tried to emigrate. Because he was open in his opposition to the Communist regime, he was assigned to the Auxiliary Engineering Corps in Banská Bystrice for his mandatory military service. From 1960 he played at E. F. Burian Theatre and then at Vinohrady Theatre in Prague. He was the only member of the theatre company who refused to sign the “Anti-Charter”, the document signed by numerous prominent Czech artists as a statement of protest against the dissident Charter 77.