Vladimír Smetana

* 1950  

  • “Once we stayed in a shack in the Giant Mountains, which we borrowed from the television. In the evening the children and Alena fell asleep and I went to the pub, which was right next door. In the bar I met Ondra [Němec] and [Jáchym] Topol. We drank beer together and they told me they had an apartment in which they wanted to celebrate the New Year's Eve. So I offered them that they could arrange it peacefully in our house, in our four-room apartment in Zborovská. The organization was taken over by Olina Stankovičová and the whole group of girls around her. Even Havel came. Everything lasted until the morning, and the ceiling was moving overhead at the neighbors at the lower floor, because of the number of people visiting. Then I had to throw the rug out of the toilet because he was completely full of urine. There was a game at the time, so I had to throw away a bunch of stuff left there. For some time after the event I kept finding bottles all around the apartment, which were hidden by the incoming people behind the wardrobe, and then forgotten about them, because there was a large container of red wine on the balcony.”

  • „On August 18 or 17, 1969, I turned on the radio and heard there were big demonstrations in Prague against the occupation. I left everything immediately, packed my stuff and ran to the station, where I took the first Parisian Express. I had no money with me, so I told the conductor that I was going to save Prague. She replied that everything was all right, and that she would make sure no one else checked on me. From the main station I went straight to the horse statue, where there was a horde of men in helmets and batons. So I turned it straight down to a pub called the Fruit Market. Today there is already a house, but there used to be a park with a pub where we met. At that time, I met Quid [Machulka] and some other people there. We had two beers and decided to move to Zpěváčků. We took tram number nine past the Children's House and drove through the mouse hole to Jungmann Square. Right by the statue we overturned one of two tram carriages. We agreed with everyone who stood on the back platform to help us. But we flipped it wrong [pause] ... or we flipped it right. But then it happened that Quido ran away and I was caught. It was summer then and I was wearing Vietnamese, shorts and a T-shirt. They grabbed my long hair and pulled me to Bartholomějská police station.”

  • “When the Soviet troops arrived in 1968, I went over the bridge to the radio. At that time, broadcasting still worked. I hid in barricades of furniture and saw the burning tank and the military with my own eyes. A little earlier we even went to Hungarian cultural institute and watched the National Museum being bombarded. We stood in the middle of Wenceslas Square at that time, but we did not dare to go any further, because we knew machine guns were firing. Then we managed to get up to the radio where I called my mom. I was under eighteen then, so I had to call home that everything was fine. In the end, I couldn't get home at all because the soldiers were guarding all the bridges. Someone had taken me across the Vltava by boat. Exactly a week later, their army made a crew at the U Vlasty pub, which was then in our street Na Belidle. We occasionally met our friends in front of our house. Two soldiers walked past us and I just said something inappropriate. I was dragged straight to the crew and my dad had to save me. He ran there only wearing underpants and a bathrobe. It would have turned out very badly if he had not come for me.”

  • “I went back to the pub where I met my friend, Ivan Tlusty, the sculptor. He told me: 'Tomorrow I'm going to Berlin to make statues. As you got fired, don't you want to come with me? We have a homeless apartment, where we can make sculptures. ' So I thought, 'Well, that's good, let's go.' I told Alice at home that I was fired and that I had to earn money for my children. In the end it was a total vacation for me. Our studio was in a homeless squat. It was the first department store after Hitler in Berlin. They can't demolish it because it's all made of reinforced concrete, so the artists got hold of it. In the end, we totally abandoned the apartment because we were just drinking ouzo and beer at the Greek. We had fun making sculptures. Meanwhile, there were some girls and somehow [pause] again… I was about forty-two back then. Then there was an opening, an exhibition, and then we returned. I got paid with the marks at that time, it was no euros.”

  • Full recordings
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    Praha, 06.11.2018

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    duration: 01:45:44
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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    Praha, 13.11.2018

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    duration: 01:45:25
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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    Praha, 20.11.2018

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    duration: 01:34:34
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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No politics, just music!

Vladimír Smetana
Vladimír Smetana
photo: Dobová: Jan Ságl, II. Beatový festival, 1968;

Vladimír Smetana was born on 12 October 1950 in Prague. While attending a bookbinding school, he met the poet Quid Machulka. Together with other classmates they listened to foreign radio and read beat poetry. They were naturally drawn to the steps of the National Museum, where all the Prague rebels gathered at the end of the 1960s. Vladimír soon became acquainted with Milan Knižák, who introduced him to the structure of the „Aktual“ movement. Around the same period, he became the prop of the band The Primitives Group, around which the underground base has already been created. He also worked as a stage technician for the bands The Plastic People of the Universe and DG 307, in whose first line-up he was even a drummer. At the end of August 1969 he actively participated in demonstrations against the Soviet occupation, for which he was arrested, tried and imprisoned for several weeks. In 1973 he moved together with people around DG 307 to Seeberg Castle in Ostroh in West Bohemia. A group of „máničkas“ (anti-establishment rebels with long hair) lived here for almost half a year in a unique community arrangement. After the imprisonment of several members of the bands The Plastic People of the Universe and DG 307, followed by the establishment of Charter 77, Vladimir Smetana retired due to family reasons. During the Velvet Revolution he actively participated in the so-called garage meetings on Czechoslovak Television, where he was employed as a prop. From the mid-1990s he worked in the same job for the commercial television Nova and actively traveled abroad. He spent several months in the Berlin Art Squat. He is currently the operator of the Smíchov Gallery PZ, named after the poet Pavel Zajíček.