Pavel Sivko

* 1948

  • "That November had quite an effect on our marriage. It was already in a bit of a crisis. When my wife saw how everything was changing, she suddenly got this crazy fear that she would not have a job, that... I do not know, she was out of her mind. She took after her parents in that, a little more conformist. I did not really care about those issues. I figured I could do something, I hopefully could make a living again. I just did not want to make the mistake of crawling somewhere trying to get involved. I just wanted to do my job, I believed it would always be there. But she was right to a certain extent that some publishing houses have gone out of business, and on the contrary, about three and a half thousand private publishers have sprung up. Most of them are publishers who want to make money out of books. It is not that they want to make a beautiful book. Today, if you look in the shop window, in that jumble of books, if ten percent of them are beautifully done, that is a lot."

  • "A press centre was created at Mánes, where people began to bring papers, posters were painted there, and there were shifts where people would come in, work there as long as they could, and then change again." – "Did you help out there too?" – "Yes. But that was a matter of course, I do not brag about that. There were a lot of people there. Of course, we learned afterwards that most of the people who organized us there were the former members of State Security – those artists who were engaged directly as agents. I cannot say that in that spontaneity anyone could have organized anything for us, but it was interesting that they were the ones who became the spokespeople and they went to negotiate. And we trusted them."

  • "When I saw what kind of people were signing it, what kind of calibre, I thought, I am some little illustrator, graphic artist, so who would care about me? But I was persuaded that I should sign it. That the people who did not sign it would not get jobs and I do not know what. All it took was a few phone calls and you do not have to get the job. So, a strange situation arose where I started to be persuaded by those closest to me. My wife was pregnant. My family started pressuring me that Jitka was pregnant and I was the sole breadwinner and I had to do something about it. They were quite conformist in their relationship with the regime and I signed under that pressure. In a kind of last, ninth wave that still came out. They always published in Rudé právo who had signed it, and then it was a cloud of names, and I thought I was going to get lost in it. So, I signed it. To this day I still feel it as a kind of defeat."

  • "I felt it mostly through my dad. He signed Two Thousand Words and got banned that morning. Even the books that were finished, they went to the crusher. But he lived by those books and illustrations. And suddenly it was taken away from him. He started making ceramic walls for a living. He learned ceramics and started doing something completely different, which I admire on the one hand. Sure, he drew and did lithography at home, but he could not do those things anymore."

  • "Eventually the troops and all that, they withdrew, we observed that in the Weeklies and then when we arrived in Prague. They withdrew from the cities. But it was not so much the troops that were terrible as it was the way the people began to change. How suddenly some of them started to act according the proverb “Near is my kirtle, but nearer is my smock'. Suddenly they had a chance to get into some positions. And it was pretty quick. It surprised me how the society quickly pulled back from some excitement and pull tail down and there was silence. That was pretty scary."

  • "When I was in that high school in the 1960s, there was a loosening up. There was literature, movies came to us, absolute theatre started, the Theatre on the Balustrade, The Drama Club, the youth cinema, where suddenly we could see films that had not been available before. It was such an artistic, cultural, social thaw. Then we considered it normal, thinking that beautiful times would come, that society would finally cleanse itself and be about something else... And then August came. A bash, as they say."

  • Full recordings
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    Praha ED, 09.05.2019

    duration: 01:51:22
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Praha ED, 04.07.2019

    duration: 01:35:09
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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The worse thing during normalisation was how quickly people changed

Pavel Sivko
Pavel Sivko
photo: pamětník

Pavel Sivko was born on 24 January 1948 in Prague. His father Václav Sivko was a painter, graphic artist and illustrator, his mother Libuše was a housewife. Pavel has a sister two years younger. In his youth, besides his father, he was also influenced by his father’s friend, photographer Josef Sudek. In 1967 he graduated from the art school on Hollarovo Square and the same year he was admitted to the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design, where he studied in the studio of Jiří Trnka. After his death in 1969, the studio was taken over by Zdeněk Sklenář. He graduated from the school in 1974. After signing The Two Thousand Words and resigning from the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in 1968, Pavel’s father was unable to work professionally, was prevented from illustrating books, and could not exhibit or publish, which he took very hard. He died prematurely in 1974. Due to his participation in the anti-occupation strikes after the invasion of the Warsaw Pact troops, Pavel was unable to serve the compulsory military service in the army art group for background reasons, but had to enlist in a labour battalion in Cheb. After the service he found employment as a book illustrator and graphic artist, working freelance and avoiding political subjects. In 1977, when his wife Jitka was expecting a child, he succumbed to pressure from his surroundings and, fearing that he would lose his job, signed the so-called Anticharter. He spent November 1989 at the demonstrations and helped in the press centre at Mánes with the production of leaflets and posters. After the revolution, he worked for six years in the art department of the Mladá fronta publishing house, and from 1997 to 2020 he was a professor at the Václav Hollar Secondary School of Art in Prague. He was married to the artist Jitka Walterová Sivková.