Anna Tesařová-Koutná

* 1933  

  • “Whenever I went, I was followed by two men or a man and a woman in a tram. House searches at every opportunity. I was accused of having stole a train engine power unit, which was in the storeroom and was lost. I weighted about four hundred kilos. Naturally it was hidden somewhere so that I could be accused of theft. I was taken to the police station and my fingerprints were taken in case I took part in the theft. It was pressure like this, I was called for interrogation at every opportunity… I can’t remember everything but it was very, very unpleasant.”

  • “At the time of Prague Spring, the censorship was rather loose. You could write almost anything. While in 1969, a law or a directive was passed that newspapers could print only authorised stuff. And naturally there was much news how the occupation hit the communist parties in the West, mainly Italy, where there was a very strong communist party, opposed to Moscow, but also France and some other smaller countries. Then people we knew – writers, intellectuals or just friends – were sacked from their jobs. Others kept drafting analyses of future development. And this type of information suddenly spread among people who were of the same thinking.”

  • “In 1969 we were strongly hit by the intervention against demonstrations. There were demonstrations. I did not take part… it was like… to walk into work with a black ribbon. I walked and had a black ribbon. But I was not present at the demonstration. My husband probably wasn’t there either. No, definitely not. It was against people. It was no longer our party.”

  • “The regional secretariat was occupied by soldiers. The house was full of them. But they allowed us to go into the offices. This lasted for two or three days. And there was some international agreement that they had to leave Brno a settle somewhere outside Brno. It was funny that on the very first day a group of young people gathered in front of the house and they shouted, “We’ll defend you!’At that time the communist party had the support of the people. Naturally it was thanks to Dubček and the popularity some – such as Smrkovský – had.”

  • “We got a job to do. For instance we stitched buttons on clothing. And then we loaded spring into watches. It was a very difficult job. There were bars over the window, the window opened into a closed courtyard and there was a shade over the window so the light in the room was very poor.I kept making mistakes. Only later they found out I was losing my eyesight. There I lost my eyes. Not literally, my sight worsened. They took me to an optician and was given glasses. Then I started working well. Although the norms were… We had norms on the volume of work we had to do every day. And though we strived hard and worked longer hours than eight, we never managed to meet the norm. Most of our wage, which was very low, was taken to pay for prison. The wage was thus paid to the prison and we received CZK 40 as pocket money.”

  • “Jaroslav Šabata also worked in the administrative structure of the Party, at first he was only an ordinary unpaid official, but in 1967 he became a secretary of the regional committee of the Communist Party and he really was a very charismatic and well-educated and persuasive person. He was also our family friend; another of my trusted friends from the Party’s secretariat was Mirka Černá and her husband, who was the secretary of the regional committee of the Communist Party. He did not reach the level of Jaroslav Šabata by any means, but he did what he could in order to rid the Party of those... Well, this Alfréd Černý, he was our family friend through his wife as well, and we would spend all holidays together, our children were calling them aunt and uncle, and he was dismissed from the Party, too, and when we had to leave the Party’s structure, he asked me whether I would be willing to transcribe texts for him. It was not yet called samizdat at that time, but they were kind of news: what was happening and where. Basically, it was critical reporting from the world, which included information on communist parties abroad, on the Communist Party in Italy, in which we laid our hopes a lot, on the French one… (What was the purpose of those texts, were they being sent abroad?) No, it was shared among us, among the reformists – you see, six hundred thousand of communists were expelled, it was a whole one third! The texts were thus circulating among those who had been expelled, and among ordinary people, too, one would pass it on to another person; I have to say that it was done on a large scale, it really was.”

  • “…he was released on 17th December. The following day, he went to pick up the car, which we had meanwhile kept in my brother-in-law’s house in Gottwaldov. He had an accident; he was going out of a tunnel and suddenly there was a blinding light against him. It ended well, although he crashed the car terribly, but he himself only had a head concussion and some injuries. They treated him in the hospital in Hradiště, I think, and he spent about two or three days there, and they released him in order to be at home on Christmas. He thus spent Christmas at home, meanwhile he was searching for a job, but our children told me, and Mirka Černá said the same thing, too, that he seemed weird, that he did not talk much. He was looking for a job, and on 4th January, or some time after the New Year, he was to start working in the Zbrojovka company. He thus went to work and then he has not returned... He has not returned and when our family reported it to the police that he was missing, they discovered that his briefcase and his personal belongings were found on the shore of the Brno water reservoir. They confirmed his identity from these things. He was simply missing. (And they did not find him?) Only in March, when the ice on the reservoir thawed. When they conducted an autopsy, they discovered that his hands and feet were tied with handkerchiefs or a shawl or something! Tied only with handkerchiefs, his own handkerchiefs, and his legs were tied with his own shawl, I don’t know. In private, the doctors expressed their doubts, but only in private. It was classified as suicide, with these doubts.”

  • “…the occupation affected us very deeply. It was such a fall from this illusion when we simply thought that… that it would really - perhaps it seems ridiculous now, but we really did think that this socialism with human face, it is a stupid term, it did not correspond to anything, and we believed that it was the path which led there. Well, this crime affected us very, very deeply. (Did it change your behaviour in any way, your attitudes, did you change your job?). Certainly, I kept my job until 1969, and then I left willingly. I did not let them fire me, I felt terribly ashamed that I was working there. And when the political screenings were conducted, I did not make it any secret that I condemned the arrival of the Warsaw Pact armies. (So they expelled you then?) Well, they expelled me, there were several levels of punishment within the Party. One could not just leave the Party. One had to be expelled or had his membership cancelled.”

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    V Brně v bytě pamětnice, 02.02.2015

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I want to be an honest and good person and have compassion with people

Anna Tesařová - Koutná after her return from the prison
Anna Tesařová - Koutná after her return from the prison
photo: Archív pamětnice

Anna Tesařová-Koutná, née Boháčová, was born March 24, 1933 in Železné hory. Her mother was a widow and Anna and her four siblings became orphans several years later. She grew up in a children’s home as well as in adoptive families. Anna did not pursue advanced studies and eventually she did a one-year course for secretaries, where she learnt typewriting very well. She was a member of the Czechoslovak Youth Union (ČSM) and later of the Communist Party as well. Anna lived in Brno and she married Karel Koutný, an officer of the Czechoslovak army. They had two children, Marie and Broňa. After the invasion in 1968, both of them willingly failed the subsequent political screenings and they were dismissed from the Party. Anna Tesařová-Koutná then began transcribing various pamphlets and texts which later became regarded as anti-communist. Her husband was sometimes helping her. They were both imprisoned for this activity after the so-called pamphlet operation in the early 1970s. A number of short and long prison sentences were issued in a large-scale court trial, which was held in several other cities as well. Karel Koutný was sentenced to one year of imprisonment and Anna to two years. Their children remained without parents and they stayed at home only with their grandmother. Karel Koutný died under strange circumstances shortly after his release from prison and Anna returned home only more than half a year after his death. Later she met Jan Tesař, a Charter 77 signatory and founder of VONS (Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Persecuted). She signed Charter 77 and she continued to devote her time to transcribing pamphlets and various texts, such as the edition Petlice. The continuous pressure by the Security Police (StB) forced Jan Tesař to leave the country. After both of her daughters had married, Anna went to France as well, and later she married Jan Tesař there.