Jan Sedláček

* 1931  †︎ 2016

  • “This is for us, we’ll hand this out. Of course, Pavla first had to make a few copies for the two of them. You see, when she studied the agricultural school, she learnt to type, and back then we bought her a pretty neat typewriter, it was pretty expensive. But we reckoned that she may as well learn to type properly. It came in handy in the end. Pavla chucked ten sheets of tracing paper into the machine, and hammered the keys so that even the last copy would be legible. But I had problems with the old man, my father. He always took five of the ten copies. But I also gave them to various friends. First I took the Charter to the Party chairman in Nová Bystřice. But it wasn’t just the Charter, it also included [texts by] Vaculík and Patočka. So I tried to distribute the lot.”

  • “Then sometime around midnight, it’s hard to say, I woke up. I had difficulties breathing, there was an enormous racket going on. There was a low, wide window just under the ceiling - barred up of course. It was 8 September, I think; the window was open. And there was a car standing outside the window, supplying the cell with a very generous amount of exhaust gas. The gas spread out along the ceiling and slowly drifted downwards. I thrashed about on the plank bed and then fell on to the concrete floor, where I could breathe better. My mind was so muddled that it didn’t even occur to me to stand on the planks and close the window. I guess I would have reached it. And so I just lay there and gasped for breath.”

  • “I wrote to my wife that I needed an advocate. Except the problem was being able to write the letter at all. I didn’t have an envelope, letter paper, or a stamp. I remember that one of the recidivists in my cell had both paper and envelope, but we had no stamp. By tapping Morse code on the wall we found that they had a stamp in the neighbouring cell and that they could give it to us. In the evening, when the lights went on, we placed a match box on a loose slat by the floor and pushed it to the neighbouring cell, where they opened the box and put the stamp in. Then I wrote the letter and sent it the very next day - open, of course. And this letter, in which I asked for an advocate, took thirty days to get from Olomouc to Růžďka.”

  • “You know, I could not forgive myself for it: after the humiliation that we experienced from the communists, I would have wished to spread some other kind of texts. Like this, for example: Rise, people, rise! Beat the beasts... These verses are from Václav z Michalovic, by Svatopluk Čech. To put it simply, I would have much rather spread something like that. Charter 77 was too weak and diluted for me. It was too weak and I wanted to get rid of that gang. But since there was nothing else, I was therefore spreading the text of Charter 77.”

  • “There were two cops. One of them is still alive and his name is police officer Hlaváč from Velká Lhota. The other, lieutenant Koňařík from Hovězí, already died. They were simply guys from Moravian Wallachia. No Russians or some gang like that that. The cop from Hovězí jumped at it, he grabbed one book, then another and he asked me: ‘Where are the details about the publisher? What is it? How did it get here?’ I didn’t say anything for a while, and the other cop from Lhota didn’t speak either. At last I said: ‘You can see that these are books. West Germans brought them here…’ The granary had a low ceiling and the cop moved to a place where the ceiling was a bit higher and he declared: ‘Mr. Sedláček, the fun is over!’ And he ordered the other one: ‘Call the state police!’ It took less than forty-five minutes and our yard was swarming with so many policemen that I have never seen together in my life.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Růžďka, okres Vsetín, 30.09.2015

    duration: 04:33:06
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Rožnov nad Radhoštěm, 06.04.2016

    duration: 02:50:33
  • 3

    Rožnov nad Radhoštěm, 07.04.2016

    duration: 01:38:52
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

If I had known what kind of people the communists really were, I would have never stayed here and I would have built my life in the free world

Photo from around 1980 / Jan Sedláček's archive
Photo from around 1980 / Jan Sedláček's archive
photo: archiv Jana Sedláčka

  Jan Sedláček was born March 16, 1931 in Růžďka in the Vsetín region in a farmer’s family. His father was working the fields on the Moravian Wallachian hills, expanding his farm and raising his children in the principles of Protestant Christianity. During the Nazi occupation the family was hiding a man who had fled from forced labour in Germany and they were supplying partisans with food. In February 1945 Jan Sedláček witnessed a Gestapo raid against the partisans and villagers. None of those who were arrested, including several of their relatives, has ever returned home again. The Sedláček family faced pressure to join the Unified Agricultural Cooperative since the communist coup d’état in 1948. The cooperative’s officials confiscated their fields and instead assigned to them inaccessible land far away from Růždka, which was impossible to work on. After nearly thirty years of resistance Jan Sedláček gave in and in 1976 he signed the application form to join the cooperative. At that time, he had been hiding religious literature brought to him by couriers from West Germany and the Netherlands in his granary for already five years. Evangelical pastors were coming for the books and handing them out in their parishes. From 1978 Jan Sedláček was disseminating the text of Charter 77 in the Vsetín region. A house search in September 1983 discovered this transfer point for foreign books. The State Security Police confiscated the books and Jan Sedláček was sent to a detention prison. After half a year of imprisonment he was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment with a one-year postponed sentence. In 1993 the Unified Agricultural Cooperative in Růžďka broke up and Jan Sedláček started working again as an independent farmer at the age of sixty-two. He has three children. Mr. Jan Sedláček passed away on June 2016.