Helena Syrovátková

* 1948

  • "Then in 1989, well, it was like that, it was a bit of a euphoria, that people actually started going to the so-called capitalist foreign countries. At that time, it was no longer a capitalist foreign country, so we already went to Vienna with a library, for example. Or, with one more daughter, we did the Benelux and England. Well, those were the first tours when you actually went without accommodation. It was for three, four days, sleeping on the bus. Yes, we always slept on the bus, in the morning we drove somewhere, I do not know, to Amsterdam, we were in Amsterdam all day, then we got back on the bus, we slept on the bus, possibly in some parking lot. So those were the first years where we actually tried to take advantage of that."

  • "My mom and sister were somewhere on vacation, I was home alone. I don't know if planes flew at night, I don't remember, because I sleep quite soundly. So in the morning I woke up to go to work, I turned on the radio, as I always do. Now I was preparing breakfast, washing up and so on - and now I kept hearing from the radio: 'Come help the radio! Shoot us! Help us!' So I listened for a while and thought to myself: 'Well, what's going on?' There was a fight over the Czech Radio. Well, I thought, he's kind of weird. Somehow I didn't pay much attention to it, I got dressed, I lived in Libeň, I went to the station to wait for the tram - and instead of the tram, a tank arrived. So only then did it dawn on me. Well, we had fun. So I walked to work because the trams weren't running. Some newspapers were already published, some were already printed at night, I don't know if, well I don't know, only really like two pages, it was already distributed among people. We tried to talk to those soldiers, because of course we had Russian at school, so we agreed with them. Well, they had no idea where they were. They were young guys, maybe sixteen or seventeen years old. We talked to some of them, and they started crying, saying that they hadn't been home for a long time, that they hadn't seen their mothers and that they didn't know where they were, that they had been ordered to go somewhere. And that they are here to free Prague from the counter-revolution. And we told them all that there is no counter-revolution here, that we don't need to liberate. However, they couldn't explain it somehow. So I continued, I went all the way to the National Library, which is relatively far from Libeň. Well, the shooting already started there, because there was shooting on Klárov and on Charles Bridge. So there was our Mr. Boss, the director of our section, so he closed all the windows there and sent us home, saying: 'Go home quickly.'"

  • "It was very strange for me in the fourth and fifth grade, of course we got bad notes for not having a pioneer scarf. And it was very strange to me that when I brought the note, I don't know that I had, that I got a bad grade, or that I was disruptive, or that I was, so my mother always got very angry. And when I got a note that I didn't have a pioneer scarf, it went completely smoothly. Only after a long time did I find out that my mother hid the pioneer scarf from me in the morning. And when I remembered it, of course she gave it to me, yeah. And when I didn't have it ready and forgot it, she didn't remind me, so she deliberately hid it somewhere so I wouldn't find it."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 14.11.2022

    duration: 01:21:19
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

A tank arrived instead of a tram

Mrs Syrovátková
Mrs Syrovátková
photo: archiv pamětnice

Helena Syrovátková was born on October 9, 1948 in Prague. Her father, a member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ), volunteered as a miner, was injured and died while working in Ostrava. Helena had a younger sister who suffered from muscular dystrophy, so she had to help take care of her throughout her childhood. In the 1960s, she began studying medicine, but did not finish school and began working at the National Library in Prague. On August 21, 1968, she went to work on foot from Libeň, trying to talk to the soldiers she met on the way and convince them to leave. She got married in September 1968, had two daughters in the 1970s, and divorced soon after. At work, she had to pass standardization checks and refused to join the Communist Party several times. At the time of the Velvet Revolution, she took care of her sick mother and sister, so she watched the events only vicariously thanks to her daughters. After 1989, she started traveling to Western Europe. In 2022, she lived in Prague.