Joska Skalník

* 1948  

  • "I used to come with an order. When they accepted it, I told them: ‚Beware, if someone finds out, you could get yourselves arrested.‘ So they got scared. For instance: The Voice of America announced Pavel Wonka’s death. It was at night and suddenly – knock, knock. By that time I lived at Letná. A notice on a piece of paper arrived. Václav Havel was the friend from the metro. He asked me to prepare the funeral card since in Hradec they prevented them from priting it. As I drove to the printing office early in the morning, they were already waiting for me, shouting: ‚We’ve been betting champagne already when are you coming over with that card.‘ They had also heard it on the Voice of America. It was printed out in an hour, his brother picked it up but then I found out that his mother was denied the mailing at a post office."

  • "I entered the bureaucratic machine unprepared, learning everything anew. Following the presidential election, the newly-elected president Václav Havel had all the personnel and us line up. Now imagine what we looked like back then, Oslzlý and I, both really bushy and against us the whole Husák’s entourage. The president told them: ‚Certainly, you realize the situation. You are done here and these are my new advisers.‘ Those guys were just looking at us when suddenly, one of them jumped up and said: ‚Mr. President, we welcome you here in the name of the Civic Forum of the Prague Castle.‘ We all started laughing out loud..."

  • "The guys from the secret police got over to our place and spent sixteen hours in there. It was horrible since the kids were still small, just getting up for school and as they returned the agents were still in there. I was only worried about them finding mimeograph copies hidden under the coal kept for Cibulka. Fortunatelly, they didn’t. They went through all my things at home. Even through the new year’s postcards I was creating – they marked them with letters and confiscated everything. Then they took me for interrogation where they kept repeating: ‚Where did you obtain this and that Charter 77 document...?‘ I was tought to reply that it came anonymously by post. The guy typed it in and then came another question: ‚Where did you obtain Pavel Tigrid’s book Testimony?‘ Once again, I replied that it came anonymously by post. When this happened for the fifth time, the interrogator lost his nerve and shouted at me whether the print couln’t have possibly been left at the doorstep. I calmly replied: ‚Who knows better – me or you? I am telling you – it came anonymously by post!‘ So they wrote this down regarding all the documents. Cibulka taught us how to behave during a house search. For instance, I had to have a witness, an independent citizen. But where to find one at 5 a.m.? So they went to ring the bell of the landlady. Her son came over and showed them his card. I had no idea he worked with the police."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 22.06.2015

    (audio)
    duration: 01:23:24
  • 2

    Praha, 23.06.2015

    (audio)
    duration: 02:09:05
  • 3

    u pamětníka v ateliéru, Praha 2, 04.11.2016

    (audio)
    duration: 31:13
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
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Litmus paper of the normalization

dobové foto.jpg (historic)
Joska Skalník
photo: Post Bellum, dobová fotografie: archiv pamětníka

Joska Skalník was born on 23 March 1948 in Prague but grew up in Kolín. His childhood was marked by a congenital disorder affecting his legs. Already at elementary school his talent for arts had been recognized and he was able to develop it in an arts school. Later, he was strongly influenced by people close to the painter Karel František Foltýn. After elementary school he initially studied at a commercial high school but after three years transferred to a school of decorative arts. In 1969 he had to suspend his studies because of his health, graduating a year later. His first job consisted of painting decorations and script at the State Theater Studio. In 1977 he transferred to The Drama Club where he worked in promotion and where he has stayed to this day. Apart from that, he used the premises of The Drama Club to organize unauthorized exhibitions of paintings and photographs. He co-founded and since 1970 was active in the so-called Jazz Section. He actively participated in numerous samizdat book publications (I Served the Kind of England, John Ono Lennon and others) as well as magazines (Revolver Revue, Original videojournal). On 2 September 1986 he was arrested for his illegal activities, detained and sentenced to a three-year suspended imprisonment. Following his release he continued with his illegal activities all until the Velvet Revolution. As a close friend of Václav Havel’s he participated in the foundation of the Civic Forum for which he drafted graphic and promotion materials. In 1990 he became an adviser to the newly-elected President Václav Havel but left only a year later. Ever since he has been exclusively engaged in art work. He lives in Prague.