Mgr. Eva Sirotková-Franklin

* 1934  †︎ 2020

  • “What was you farewell to the National Theatre?” “Sad. We started rehearsing the first ever musical in the National Theatre – Fiddler on the Roof. I had the role of one of the daughters, the Fiddler was played by Mr Pešek. The last rehearsal before holidays was saying farewell to the father, played by Mr Pešek, and I was saying farewell to him, I was to depart for Siberia. It was touching, really. He asked whether I had warm underwear and I kept crying for the whole time we were saying good buy. Behind the stage my colleagues told me: ‘What is it with you? This is just the first rehearsal and you take it so seriously…’ And I just couldn’t tell them it was for the last time that I saw them. I could not say it to anybody. Even my parents didn’t know. Only one of my colleagues, Bořivoj Navrátil, knew. I told him. He was my closest colleague.”

  • “The Czech minority in San Diego was not large. And I didn’t really care for meeting other Czechs since I had witnessed some meetings in private, when Czech women complained about lack of coarse flour or that the ham was too sweet… I really didn’t like meeting the Czechs. Only when we did some cultural programs for them. In San Diego I met the Czech poet Jiřina Fuchsová, whose husband had a decent position and provided her with the opportunity to publish samizdat books. It was similar like with Škvoreckýs – but she published poems of poets-emigrants. She also made translations into English and published the books bilingually. Naturally, October 28, was always an opportunity to recite somewhere and the Czech Sokol organisation always organised something so I met some Czechs.”

  • “Of the whole time my dad was in prison I remember just one visit, in Bartolomějská street. They took us into an office where they brought him. It was a strange experience for me to see my dad in that uniform. He had a kind of longish hair, not in fashion then, especially among older people. But he wasn’t given the chance to had a haircut. They gestured us to sit down at the table and the man that brought him to us, the warden… my dad brought him a chair so that he could sit with us at the table. And this got me angry… I said, ‘Dad, the man can bring his own chair, he is younger than you.’ And my dad just stared at me, wanting me to be silent. But as a teenager I got so angry by these details when they unjustly humiliated people.”

  • “Naturally when we learned that Russians were in Prague, the very first thing I wanted to do was to go home, because I was afraid that I would never seen my son. My husband, however, told me we couldn’t go. He said, ‘We were sentenced in absence for two years for leaving the country and if you go, you won’t see your son because they will lock you up.’ I let myself be persuaded and we immediately started working on getting him out of the country. As soon as possible – eventually it took a year. But we were lucky since before they closed the border and normalisation commenced, there were still some decent people at the Foreign Ministry, who helped families to reunite, so they signed visas for Tomáš and his great grandmother to visit alleged friends in the United States, who signed the invitation, and we got our son. They landed in April 1969, just before the border closed for good.”

  • “When people ask me why I returned I always say that because it has always been my home here.” – “And did you have hard time leaving America?” – “No, not really hard. As soon as we decided to go, I knew I would be leaving people whom I like, but the friendships of Americans was different. I met them as friends later, I didn’t spend my childhood with them. Stronger friendships are usually formed in childhood and I didn’t my childhood in America. They are very nice, cordial people, but everything is rather on the surface. So when I returned home, it was a much stronger experience for me. Also because I could return back to the theatre, albeit not in an active role. But I can watch theatre, I can be a part of the actors’ company, to which I was accepted as an old actress. This is a very nice feeling. I have not achieved this in America.”

  • “When my father was arrested, we were naturally black sheep. People did not greet my mum in the street and crossed to the other side. We were in debt since we only had our mum’s meagre income. She worked in the Municipal Office and when she was sacked, she didn’t have any income for some time. My mum found a job working as a train conductor and did this job for the whole time, until my dad was released. And we, to make some extra money, we had the extra job… there were these old houses and people were paid to take them apart and clean the bricks. So me, my brother and my mum took apart one small house and got some money for it. We cleaned the brick every weekend.”

  • “A personal-political assessment was always read there and Radovan Lukavský read it for himself, since he was the chairman of the entrance examinations committee. Either Lukavský or Plachý was the chairman, I don’t remember anymore. But Lukavský suggested that they did not need to read the personal assessments, because that would be a waste of time if, for example, they had discovered during the first monologue that the candidate was hopeless and they would lose time. Therefore they said that only after I had passed the talent test, then they would read my personal-political assessment. In this way I probably made an impression on them. Moreover, Plachý was known for his anti-regime opinions, and Lukavský was a Catholic, and so they got me into DAMU even though my personal-political assessment was so bad.”

  • “They staged a political trial in Jáchymov with the Czech employees of the Jáchymov uranium mines. Some uranium ore probably got lost there, although I don’t who would have any use for uranium ore and how he would be able to make money on it. They blamed my father for it. And since it was a Russian project, it was regarded as high treason. When dad returned from prison, I asked him what he was actually guilty of that he had been sentenced to five years. He got five years! And this was still the minimal sentence because those who worked directly on the mining of uranium ore, got even worse sentences, and some even got the death by hanging. The Russians simply insisted that those who had done some sabotage acts there had to be punished. They probably wanted to scare people. And probably somebody also criticized the fact that uranium was being exported to Russia for free and that it was not fair, and they did not like to hear that.”

  • “I managed to take that speech of Ludvík Vaculík from the Congress of Writers in 1967 with me. It was very long and I had a copy hidden in my suitcase with a double bottom. I brought it to Deutsche Welle (a German radio station), because the gentleman in whose place we stayed was from Düren and it was too far from Radio Free Europe. He thus took me to Deutsche Welle instead. There they told me that they would need me to read it out loud into the microphone, because they only had announcers there and they would not be able to read such a long text properly. They promised that they would not mention my name. I thus recorded it and they offered me to work for them. But I could not sign any contracts because we wanted to go on to America and I wanted to get my son from Czechoslovakia there. I was afraid that this would complicate the matter.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 08.06.2017

    duration: 03:24:58
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha Eye Direct, 04.10.2017

    duration: 02:14:11
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

I didn’t feel sad at all for leaving America

National Theatre 1964, "The Kingdom of God"
National Theatre 1964, "The Kingdom of God"
photo: archiv pamětnice

Eva Sirotková-Franklin was born February 15, 1934 in central Ural in the village Gubakha to Czech parents Karel and Štěpánka Sirotek. Her father worked in Ural as a site manager during a construction of a large factory. The Sirotek family returned from Russia immediately before the outbreak of the Second World War and they settled in Prague. Influenced by his positive impressions from his stay in Ural, Eva’s father supported communist ideas and he joined the Communist Party. By becoming a Party member he followed the example of his brother Emil Sirotek, who had been executed by the Nazis in 1944 for his activity in the resistance movement. Karel Sirotek was not involved in the resistance and the family has survived the war unharmed. After the war the Sirotek family moved to Karlovy Vary, where Eva’s father got a job as a site manager in the uranium mines in Jáchymov. In 1950 he was unjustly accused of sabotage by the communists and he had to spend three years in prison. Even in spite of this injustice, Karel Sirotek remained loyal to the Party and he only left it in 1968. Although her father was a political prisoner, Eva Sirotková was allowed to complete her studies at grammar school in 1952 and thanks to Radovan Lukavský, who refused to take into account her unfavorable personal-political assessment, she successfully passed the talent entrance examination for the DAMU (The Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague) and she was accepted. For four years she was an actress in the Regional Theatre in Karlovy Vary, for one year in the State Theatre in Brno and in 1961-1967 she performed in the ensemble of the National Theatre in Prague. In 1967 she and her husband Ivan Francuch, a psychiatrist, emigrated to West Germany, where she then cooperated with the radio station Deutsche Welle. From Germany they went to the United States. Eva’s twelve-year-old son Tomáš was allowed to follow his mother to the USA in 1969. Eva completed studies of psychotherapy in the USA and she devoted herself to this profession until 1991, when she returned to the Czech Republic with her third partner, actor and mime Antonín Hodek.