“Except for being a constructor and repairman I also became a member of the factory council there in Mannesmanka, I was a youth´s delegate. I started to do trade union work. That´s how I started to understand or rather I began to try to understand economics. That factory it was a great school for me. Over four thousand Germans had worked there before the war, they were evacuated after the war, they left our country, and there were only very few employees left. That managing director at that time went to Italy (there was great unemployment at those years) and negotiated about an arrival of several hundreds Italians. There were a lot of Yugoslavians, too, and there were many people who had never done anything with steel, let alone something so complicated as Mannesmann´s pipes."
“Husák reproached to us that we acted against the regulations. The country was flooded with tanks, hundreds of thousands of tanks, hundreds of thousand of soldiers…You protest against it and he tells you that you broke the regulations! I hadn´t heard anything so annoying a long time before. That´s why we took the competence, we took it as responsible people, in our hands. We took it for granted that the truth is on our side, that morality and justice is on our side and that’s why we had the right to act. Competence is not anything given from the Lord or anyone else, competence is just an ability to behave responsibly in situations when others are not capable of responsible behaviour.
“I have to tell you about one thing, which was very important in my life: in that factory, that „Manesmanka“ I started to organise such things as voluntary work in the country. We had the craft, we knew our craft and we were able to repair agricultural machines. At two o´clock the shift ended, it was from six to two, and we jumped on cars, well not on cars but on lorries, and we went to a village somewhere, where there were machines ready for us to be repaired. We were working only for a piece of bread with grease nothing more. I have to tell you that I have never seen members of any other political parties (that means other than communistic) doing this voluntary work. That really surprised me. For example national socialists, except for that Krejčí, who I was talking about – that chief of those drill pipes, and who was a real personal authority for me….but those young, those who joined that youth organisation, I never saw them work. Never. That was a thing which I found really objectionable, because…. to build a state…. We identified with that, as they call it, building enthusiasm - those were clichés, but we really meant that the work had to be done…"
“First of all it was negotiating about creating, I would say, groundwork for further progress, which was by many still understood as a reforming political process in Czechoslovakia. It began, once again, with personnel matters. There was a protocol signed in Moscow that those old ones, such as Indra or Bilak, mustn´t be deposed, called off their political functions. They simply musn´t be driven out. So after mutual agreement we decided for such a way that we will increase the number of members of the Central Committee, so about seventy new members extended the body of the Central Committee, especially those people who had been in Vysočany. During one of those meetings Dubček offered me the post of an economical expert in the board of the party, instead of Koldr. I just waved my hand and said: ´This is not going to work out´. “
„At the time when all this was happening my dad wasn´t at home. He was on the frontier with his troop. One day just after Munich he arrived and said: ´You have to go. They betrayed us.´ he arrived on such a small lorry. Mummy packed quickly, I don´t know why, but she took radio with us, also a petroleum cooker, then some other stuff and dad took us over that iron bridge from Litoměřice to Terezín. Terezín was empty because only one division was settled there and it was deployed on the frontier. It was on the borderline. The barracks were therefore empty and we stayed for several week s in one of those big rooms in the barracks. We slept in the corner, on the floor and our mother prepared meals for us on the cooker. There wasn´t anybody else around. No buddies, it was a town where we didn´t know anyone."
“I was elected to that board of the congress, but it started really chaotically. And then someone remembered of me, that I should take hold of it. I think it was Litera, Jarka Litera, but I´m really not sure, because I´ve never been thinking about it. I just did one thing, I said: ´Yes, I will accept, I will manage it but you will obey.” It was a direct speech. “Look, there so many of us here, we might be soon dispersed, maybe it won´t last until this evening, but we had to do this and that…´ The people there listened to this and were really disciplined, nobody repeated oneself, they didn´t interrupt one another. Well, they were really disciplined and I think it was also thanks to me…”
“The Vlasov army gathered in the area of Lužná-Lišany and moved southwards between Lužná, Lišany and Rakovník. We knew that those “Vlasovci” could sell us some weapons. So me and some other boys went to get some guns there. So we got there and wanted to bargain somehow. But those “Vlasovci” wanted a bicycle from us which didn´t want to give them. We only wanted to give some money or some cigarettes for the guns. But they didn´t want to give us the gun, only exchange it for a bicycle, but that´s what we couldn´t do because we had a long trip back home, and we would get scolded by our parents. If they perhaps asked the following day: ´Where´s your bike?´. And I would take a gun out and show it to my father, I really don´t know what the reaction would be. There I also got to know general Vlasov. He came suddenly in a large open Mercedes, a tall man with glasses and red lapels inside, and he started talking to the soldiers and one of them said ´Eto Vlasov´. I knew who Vlasov was, that he was with fascists etc. So I was looking at him and thinking ´My god, what am I going to do´ We didn´t get those guns to use them in an uprising.”
“Then, of course, a new Central Committee gathered and a problem occurred. Who was going to be a chairman? So they said: ´You were leading the congress, so you´ll be the chairman. And I said: “No I can´t do that, I don´t have this kind of experience´. So they said: ´You will do that.´ And that was the end of it. I proposed other people than me”.
I have experienced the times of incredible pride of this nation
Věněk Šilhán was born on 12. February 1927 as an oldest of three sons of Josef Šilhán and his wife Marie. He did not complete his lyceum studies, entered an apprenticeship to become a locksmith and after the war he started to work in “Manesmanka” in Chomutov as a qualified worker. He wanted to finish his secondary education in Chomutov but at that time there was no chance to study for full-time employed people. That is why he chose to study The University of Policy and Social Studies in Prague, which didn´t require completed secondary education. After finishing his studies he remained at the same faculty as an assistant and in mid-fifties he spent two years of studies in the USSR. After he had returned he started to work as a university teacher at the University of Economy, he habilitated and later became a professor. During 1960´s he specialized in scientific research on the field of industrial economy and became a director of The Research Institute of Industrial Economy. In spring 1968 he was voted a delegate for the forthcoming 14.congress of the Communistic party which was planned for September of that year. Because of the Soviet invasion the congress took place at the end of August. As a delegate of this extraordinary congress (called “Vysočanský Congress”) he was voted to become a Deputy First Secretary - a deputy of Alexander Dubček. At the beginning of “normalization” he had to leave political life and he became a labourer. He belonged among the first signatories of Charta 77. At the end of 1980´s he co-founded The Club For Democratic Reconstruction “Obroda”. He was one of the seventeen founders of Občanské fórum. In the post-revolutionary period he was a rector of The Faculty of Economy.