"When the fighting started in Croatia between the newly formed Serbian autonomous region of Krajina and the Croatia militia, [Brno-based Lidová demokracija editor-in-chief Antonín Drobný] told me to go. And since then I have been to Yugoslavia several times and I have always written about it. It was extremely difficult because there were no e-mails and no mobile phones. So to send messages by e-mail, to find somebody who had some e-mail, was difficult. But strangely enough, each of the hostile parties liked the journalists because they were telling them their truth. So they let us send the e-mail from their offices. So much more difficult than writing the story was sending the story. We were like poor relatives there, because those journalists from the West already had satellite phones and other things we never dreamed of. We always took out a typewriter and wrote. Of course, it was also very dangerous and very sad. Because I perceived Yugoslavia as a country that I liked and where I even wanted to stay. Since 1987 I had suspected that something was going to happen there, but none of us could imagine what it would lead to. It was painful for me. I even got into situations where bullets were flying and it wasn't pleasant. I've had my life threatened twice. But far worse for me was talking to refugees and people who had lost everything. They believed in Yugoslavia, and now it's fallen down like a house of cards."
"In 1981, the famous Solidarity event took place in Poland and several of my friends were in Poland at that time. They brought back a whole range of materials which we distributed in various ways. Once we were singing something by Karel Kryl in Tyrš Park [in Brno] and we had the materials with us. Naturally, the police came there on some kind of tip-off. They took us to the police station and we all had Solidarity badges. We thought that was the end of us. We went to the police station completely resigned, knowing that we would get a heavy punishment. And the two policemen outside the police station said, 'We heard what you were singing anyway. We could make you problems, but go.' That was a situation that was completely on the edge, because if we had gotten to that police station and there had been a body search, of course, nobody at that school would have saved us."
“When we woke up in the morning and there was the radio announcement, the parents cried and said that everything went south. I found it extremely depressing. I also started to cry, even though I didn't really know what the occupation meant. Then you looked out the window and saw the tanks right on the Česká Street. It was an absolutely depressing sight. I don't like to remember it. Unlike my friends who were at the university at the time, I was at a young age. And so as a child, there was no way I could protest the situation."
The important thing is not to be an a priori enemy of someone who has a different opinion
Václav Štěpánek was born on 31 March 1959 in Dačice and grew up in Brno. His parents Ludmila and Vratislav Štěpánkovi were priests of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church. When he was eight years old, he watched the arrival of the Warsaw pact tanks from the windows of the flat on the corner of the Česká and Joštova Street in Brno in August 1968. After finishing grammar school at the end of 1970s, he studied Russian and Bulgarian language at the Faculty of Arts of Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Brno. At the university he was in contact with a circle of Brno intellectuals and Chartists. During the studies, he went to a study stay in Yugoslavia. He graduated in 1983. In the same year he started the compulsory military service in Lešany in the Central Bohemian Region where he cofounded army folkloric ensemble Radost. In 1986 he became the editor of the magazine Věda a život (Science and life) and a year later he edited an ecological magazine Veronica. He signed the petition Několik vět and actively took part in the Velvet Revolution in Brno. Since 1991 he worked in the editorial staff of Lidová demokracie thanks to which he went to the Balkans as a war reporter and informed about the then war conflict. In 2021 he lived in Brno.