“For my parents, the way things developed after 1968 was very painful. They were expelled from the party because they refused to tell the screening committee that the invasion was brotherly aid. That was the worst blow for them, because in the late 1960s they had seen hope that their lives had some kind of meaning... I think that Mum fell ill because of it: she contracted cancer, she underwent surgery at the age of fifty-three and died five years later.”
“My grandparents lived in Postoloprty, when the Sudetes were taken they had to leave, and four years before they were transported they lived with my aunt in Lenešice. The whole time every Jewish family was just waiting for their transport! The situation got worse and worse, and they just waited... It must have been dreadful and stressful for them.”
“[Q: How did your parents feel about the February coup in hindsight?] Dad once told me that they were well prepared and they succeeded, whereas the non-Communists were too slow. When I think back on it today, I get goose bumps. If I didn’t know that my parents were great people, who ended up paying for their Communist convictions, I’d feel worried about that.”
“I was helping with the organization of his funeral and I realize how shocking it was for me. Because up to that point, I personally hadn’t been able to imagine that I was capable of doing something of that sort. It felt so overwhelmingly strong to me but at the same time I was afraid. I remember that on television, they played one program after the other, where charismatic personalities cautioned against following his example, because they were afraid he might become a role model and others might follow. I remember that at the time it wasn’t perfectly clear to me – as it is today. Today, I understand how strongly Jan Palach became a symbol. But back at the time, I didn’t have a strong opinion about it, yet. Nevertheless, I felt the power of the crowds walking through Prague on the day of his funeral. It was crowds of students at a time when similar processions had been altogether suppressed here. It was a great demonstration of power and I think that it was the last flaring up before the Normalization, which unfortunately came very soon afterwards.”
“When I went to the first interrogation that was due because of the Charter, I was ready. I was very nervous. I visited a couple of people that I asked how I was supposed to behave. Then I simply told the interrogators that I have a very bad experience with the StB, dating back to the 1950s, when they had forced my dad - after he had spent a very long period in solitary confinement - to give false testimony. Therefore, I told them, I didn’t trust them and I refused to talk with them. They would try it for a couple times more. At the office, there was a good cop and a bad cop. The ‘good’ one tried to involve my children. He said: ‘look, today, your children are small. But one day, you’d like to see them studying at university’. So they tried the classical methods that they had trained well. But I was ready when I went there and I refused and that was it.”
“Only recently, I began reading the letters that my parents had been exchanging for six years while they were in prison. They would send each other one letter each month for six years. It makes for dreadful reading. It is so terrible because it has an awfully communist air. Of course I don’t believe that they believed everything they wrote in those letters. They had to tailor it to the taste of the censorship and simultaneously they still tried to influence the process by their letters – this is especially true for my mom. You have to keep in mind that we’re speaking about a period when people were executed in political processes. So they had no certainty about their own fate. It makes for horrific reading. When I was reading it, I stopped about halfway through because I fell sick. But I have to face it and get back to reading when I muster enough strength in me again. Back at the time, the regime committed terrible crimes to the souls of the people. It was immense violence and a huge sorrow that they inflicted upon them. Maybe even worse was that they had their share of guilt for the fact that the regime had been installed here. I think that this made it all the worse for them. It must have made the burden heavier to carry for them.”
You have to live in accordance with your conscience
Mrs. Věra Roubalová-Kostlánová, née Lomská, was born in 1947 in Prague. Her father and mother come from a Jewish family (her father originates in the famous Prague Lieben family), and together they survived the war in England. They were both convinced communists. Her father worked as a regional party secretary in Plzeň. In the years 1950-1956, he was imprisoned and tried in the process with Marie Švermová and the regional secretaries. Věra Lomská spent a part of her childhood together with her brother in a children’s home. In the 1960s, while she was studying at university, she began meeting with student activists, in particular with Jiří Müller. This is where she also met her first husband Pavel Roubal. They opposed the invasion of 1968, they organized the student strike in the autumn of 1968 and they helped in the organization of the funeral of Jan Palach. Although the Věra and Pavel had three sons, they were among the first ones to sign the Charter 77. In the summer of 1978, Pavel Roubal was imprisoned for two months for binding samizdat books. Later, he became a member of the Committee for the protection of the wrongfully persecuted (VONS). The spouses moved from Prague to Častrov near Pelhřimov, but they maintained contacts with the dissent even here. They also continued to be surveyed by the StB and they were several times interrogated. In October 1990, Pavel Roubal committed suicide as a result of a psychic illness. In January 1992, Věra Roubalová was among the last of the three spokespeople of the Charter 77. Since the 1990s, Věra Roubalová, later Kostlánová, devotes herself to psychotherapy and to work with migrants. She has spent 15 years working at a migrant counseling center. She is the winner of the Memory-of-Nations award 2010.