Václav Sokol

* 1938

  • "I know I met Patočka in the corridor in Břevnov at the time, and he was so... you could see he was nervous, and he said, 'You know, I'm waiting for them to come for me.' And I didn't really know what was happening. And then the... because there were... there were housing seminars in Břevnov [in their house, where Patočka was also living at that time], which I know in a rather negative way because there was a corridor that went... there was a central heating boiler, and my father used to heat. So he would go to the boiler, and there were always a lot of shoes there. And he always kicked one of the shoes. But we didn't care about it, and neither my father nor mother, much less my mother, were involved. But they were very friendly with Patočka. And he always–when he came back from some interrogation–he would come and sit there, and we would drink tea, and he would tell us about it, and it was very nice, but unfortunately, it didn't last long. Until... the interrogations became more frequent, and then he... he wasn't in good health, and then he couldn't stand that one interrogation, and then he died in the hospital at Strahov."

  • "My father was a good at learning languages before the war, so he knew a fair amount of Russian. So he could talk in particular with the captain, who was Ukrainian. And they got along with my father, so he was there [at their house] several times, and my father would talk to him. And even then, he was finding out that it wasn't so simple with the Soviet Union. This captain was Ukrainian, so he was getting a lot of information. That the idea of Papa Stalin in a white dress hugging those little girls– that it wasn't all true. It had already been said there. It's strange that the man wasn't afraid, but who knows..."

  • "Soon after he returned [from a business trip in America], my aunt, his wife, came in, horrified that Frantík had been arrested and accused of utter nonsense. But the way they were doing it– so it was one of those big monster processes which were supposed to... Because, of course, the suspension of the production processes during the war, but even afterwards, meant that the factories started going bankrupt. And they needed somebody to blame, and this was one of those groups. There were about eight of them, and it was a big trial, and our uncle František got a death sentence at first, but then they changed it to life imprisonment. And then they gradually reduced it over the years, so he only served about eight and a half years."

  • “Then I attended the primary school at St Margaret’s, it’s some kind of Anglo-German business academy now. And then we also went to church. As a boy I served at the altar for many years, so we spent a lot of time in the monastery garden, roasting potatoes, cooking soup... But then came the breakpoint, in 1948, when they locked up Opasek and evicted all the monks. We knew Opasek very well, he was one of my father’s friends, and I think that he baptised my brother. We liked him, he was kind and spontaneous, jolly, and I would say ‘unparsonlike’. We liked him, and suddenly one day at school they called us all to the gym hall, and our civic education teacher was telling us with an affected voice that weapons had been found in the premises and that those goody-goodies had been planning to kill us off, but that our vigilant police force had protected us. I knew from home that there was something odd going on, I couldn’t imagine it at all, it didn’t make sense. But on the other hand I was just a little boy, we had a nice teacher, and to a certain degree I trusted the school. I was brought up that way, and I couldn’t imagine that someone would lie to me.”

  • “Somehow I found myself in the centre of Prague, I could hear shooting, so I went to the Radio Building. There was a barricade there, a lorry stood crosswise and one tank was burning. The broadcast building was closed and some soldiers were trying to get inside from the side. And people were calling at those inside the building: They’re going at you from the side! And we stood there, and when the machine gun started firing, we legged it off up the street. It looked like the fighting was pretty tough there at the time.”

  • “Dean Boštík was an interesting person, he had a wonderful collection of paintings. And because there is a tradition of Nativity scenes in Ústí nad Orlicí, he wanted to commission some nice Nativity sculpture for the church. And [art historian Josef] Cibulka got him in touch with Jan Zrzavý, and Jan Zrzavý said yes, he would make the Nativity. Except it took an awfully long time. Zrzavý said that he needed some sculptor who would make him the hands and feet for the figures, that he didn’t know how to do that. So various people tried making hands and feet for his figures, but he wasn’t satisfied. In the end the dean ran out of patience, and at that point the family said: ‘Our Vašek will do it.’ So I set myself to work with great pleasure, and I took quite a different approach to the whole thing. I had it finished and delivered to Ústí nad Orlicí within three years.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Úvaly, 21.11.2014

    duration: 03:46:26
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha , 13.01.2023

    duration: 01:53:59
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 3

    Praha , 27.01.2023

    duration: 02:21:17
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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Historical photo
Historical photo
photo: Historical - witness archive, contemporary - VF

Václav Sokol is an artist, graphic designer and typographer. He was born in Prague on 19 September 1938 into the family of the well-known architect Jan Sokol, who acted as headmaster of the School of Industrial Art during the war. The witness completed a secondary art school (1953-1958), but his “bourgeois and Catholic origin” barred him from studying at university. In the years 1959-1967 he worked in the National Literature Memorial, and in the years 1971-1990 he was employed first as head of promotion, then as a graphic designer, and finally as a gatekeeper in the national enterprise Road and Railway Constructions. Since the 1990s he has mostly been working as a graphic designer, illustrator and free artist. In the years 1993-1999 he was active in the bi-weekly magazine Architekt (Architect). He helps prepare the typography of books (Triáda publishing house, Divadelní ústav - Theatre Institute) and he writes articles on visual art for Katolický týdeník (Catholic Weekly), Perspektivy (Perspectives) and Revolver Revue.