Ing. Petr Uhl

* 1941  

  • "The arrest took place in such a way that I was on December 13 ... My partner was from West Berlin. I couldn't go abroad anymore. Husák, the presidency of the Central Committee, closed the borders because: 'What would it be like if I went to the border on a promenade with Anča as a walk. The border is not korzo.´ Since September 1969 I could not travel abroad, until then I drove freely. Sybille Plogstedt and I were in Paris. She had a mother in Berlin. Before Christmas, she wanted to go to Berlin to visit her mother and then return to Prague for Christmas. She left on December 13, 1969, and on the 14th, her mother, Mrs. Plogstedt, called me to say that [Sybille] had not arrived. So I went to the Main Railway Station, they sent me to Masaryk, where the railway police were. There, a man in a uniform called and said, 'I shouldn't tell you correctly, but yesterday, he said, at about 19:20, the StB was waiting for her and they took her off the train, took her away.' So I learned that, I will say, the cage has fallen. So I went home and spent the whole night looking around the apartment and burning everything I thought was dangerous in the stove. They then took several bags from the house search, which was the next day. I went to the police, to the UK, to the StB to Bartolomějská Street and I wanted an explanation of where my fiancée is. They let me wait for about two hours, then said: 'We will go somewhere and there you will find out.' And we went to Ruzyně. We went from Ruzyně to the apartment, where they did a house search. My mother asked, "What did my son do?" I was not yet accused, it was legally complicated, I was listed as a suspect in the crime of sedition. Major Váňa said, 'He is suspected of sedition.' My mother said, 'Of sedition? But I also disagree with what is happening here. I'm outraged too. ' - She took the meaning of the word completely differently. "So, gentlemen, you should lock me up, too."

  • "In the evening or the next day, Jirka Němec came and said, 'Why weren't you there?' So I explained it to him, it was a serious reason [Visiting Jaroslav Sabata, just released from the prison] He said, 'Well, but we'll meet again in two or three days, are you coming?' I said, 'You know I do.' He said, "I'll bring you a text tomorrow, we asked Václav Havel to write it, and we will discuss the text." This discussion took place on a street, we were afraid our flats are being monitored, which was true. "It is supposed to be such a manifesto, we want to establish a community." He really brought it in two days and we, when were hanging the diapers. In March, Saša Uhlová was born as the second child of Charta, the first child of the Charta was Kristýna Dienstbierová. She was born already in January. Of course, I count only the most active people in the Charta. We were in the attic, hanging the diapers, my wife had read it in the apartment before, and she told me in the attic that she thought it was very good, but she thought it should not be one speaker, but three. I said preliminarily that I know that they have fallen for Jan Patočka, Václav Černý and Jiří Hájek. And that they choose between them. And I'm participating in that selection. She said, "But there should be three, those spokesmen, to distract the StB. One person will be under a lot of pressure and in isolation. And it should be someone younger, I would mean Václav Havel. '

  • "The Charta experienced the most difficult period after our imprisonment in May 1979, 10 people I have already named closed. It was an attack on the VONS, but also on the Charta. Some people [from the Charta] agreed to end, interrupt their activities, wrote a statement on it, but they never issued it, and then it was forgotten, fortunately. This was the most critical moment in the summer of 1979. On the other hand, I was in custody at Ruzyně, I was taken to such a backyard for half an hour a day. There was a cubicle without a roof in the fresh air, maybe 3x5 meters. Once, it was sometime in June, I saw on wooden door, the walls were made of mortar and stones, so there was nothing to write on them with, but the doors were wooden ... Someone carved with a stone into that door: "12 new members joined VONS ´. I believed it and it was true, I was relieved. I felt much better. We all clung to whether Charta would continue, whether the sacrifice - imprisonment is a certain sacrifice, when one goes to prison and knows in advance that one can get there, and does it despite the circumstances- that it had a meaning, that it wasn't for nothing. It was the most critical period of the Charta, but I did not experience it personally. "

  • "Rumors were going through Prague that a student had been killed there. The rumor came to us in a very tangible form the next day. Drahomíra Dražská, who was such a slightly dark figure, was then investigated, but the military prosecutor's office learned nothing. They did not find out her true motives, except, as the Federal Assembly's commission of inquiry described, as suffering from chronic lying. Drahomíra Dražská testified to the Payne brothers, Petr Payne and Jan Payne, the brothers of the more famous Jiří Payne. They recorded it on a tape recorder. They came to our apartment, there were about 5-6 people, Petr Pospíchal, Honza Urban, my wife, me and others. They played us the tape and based on that statement... We distanced ourselves from that source, we considered it an unverified news, but we made an announcement, that a student Martin Smid was killed. I typed it on a typewriter in French, suddenly, someone from ADP called. I read it in French and said something about it, then we received a call from the Free Europe. I spoke in Czech about it there. Because they had it from two sources-AFP and me- which in fact weren't two sources, they published it. And thanks to Vaclav Benda, who's son studied at MatFyz, we came to the conclusion, that this information is most probably false.

  • "It was all the war tricks of the State Security. They had a lot of them. I'm sorry to return to the StB. She has long been the kind of institution I have met daily. Their trick - so that the viewer knows that they had different - for example, for example in case of Karel Bartosek, it was to buy a casket, transport it to the 4th floor to a rest area in their house and put the inscription 'Karel Bartošek', his date of birth and the date of that day as the date of death. And when his children left school and got out of the elevator, they saw it. Do you understand? This is nothing that can be punished according to the laws at that time, but also according to today's laws. But the secret police, the State Security, the secret service just shouldn't do that! They cannot do such things, if the reality should be at least reminiscent of life in a democratic state."

  • "Antonio Gramsci, who influenced me a lot, I read it in French and in Czech translation, because he was published in the 1960s, he wrote his whole work in the prison. I learned the motto from him: "Only the truth is revolutionary." That means, it wasn't true, but it wasn't false either, because I believed it is true, that thing about the student Martin Smid. But when I was released from the prison, where I was less than a week, and I came to Letná the next day, the first thing I did was that I apologized for the false information. I said that of course I considered it true. And the crowd - there were a hundred thousand people or how many - began to chant: "Never mind, never mind." So after this discharge, I have nothing to add. "

  • "Above all, I had been ostentatiously followed for three quarters of a year just before my imprisonment. It was a tracking mode that sometimes manifested itself by walking two meters behind me, trying to listen to what I was saying to who I was going with. Sometimes they jumped in front of me and photographed us. And of course they came, in uniform, a policeman asking for my ID card! To the man who went with me. "-" Did the people who met with you, they bothered them too? "-" They called them for questioning, for example. When I was officially followed, my wife told all the acquaintances we met, where we went to visit, that we would be happy to come there if they put up with the two gentlemen standing behind me, but not going inside. They respected the liberty of housing, they represented a "democratic state". Someone forgot about it and said, 'I haven't seen you in a long time, come in! You have friends with you, take them too. 'I said,' Don't be angry. They are not friends, they are members of the State Security, and they will stay here. '

  • "Those signatures were not signed on that paper, by no means. But on a special piece of paper on which it was written: 'I agree with the declaration of Charta 77 of 1 January 1977, signature.' I asked - and it did not pertain everywhere - that the signature was a signature, under the name and surname in capitals, I recommended that there be no academic degree, however this suggestion was not succesfull, it is another Czech custom that is driving me crazy. And I also recommended dating the signature, because of history. Only the ones I picked up are dated, it can be seen that they are from me, but it's not certain, these leaves were supposed to be gathered at Havel, the 29th or 30th [December 1977]. I didn't organize it, so I didn't know that 15 people would come in! Not only the seven with the cards.The problem was that Zdeněk Mlynář, who had three, he demanded that he wanted three [presumably papers with the text of the Charter declaration] that he had a large circle of excluded communists who will be interested in it, I want three, I had one with Komeda, one had Jiří Němec - and he said to me: 'I will not give it to everyone to sign, I will only give it to Magor from the underground.' I persuaded him to discount, and the other two were kept by artists, Havel ... they gave it to other people who collected the signatures, too. Otka Bednarova and Andula Marvanova and Jiri Dienstbier sr collected signatures for Mlynar. Andula Marvanova, I know abou that, no historian found out about that, they just were not interested. Andula Marvan said: "If you want, it will be saved and it will not be published. This is how we will mark it to not published and we will put it separately." 40 people agreed to that, I believe, historian Petr Blažek claims that 20 people. They put it in an envelope and drove it in the same car as the signatures for publication, and they were already rewritten. I don't know who they wanted to give them to, why they transported the papers? To themselves? So... Mlynar arrived an hour later, and he had three papers. I said to myslef: We are in danger. There were almost no excluded communists. The people, who were approached by me in Prague and Komeda in Brno, among them were a few excluded communists- e.g. Jaroslav Sabata, but the majority was not there. But Mlynar arrived an hour later, and he brough around 100 signatures from this environment. Then it happened when we counted the signatures with Pavel Blažek, he claims that almost half were from former communists, I told him: 'You know that Egon Bondy is one of them, that Bondy was KSC and that Vohryzek was in KSC until 1949? ' So we found about two more and it was exactly half, 121 former communists. "

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Londýnská 7, Praha 2, 22.09.2015

    (audio)
    duration: 02:17:13
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha, 07.10.2015

    (audio)
    duration: 02:11:38
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 3

    Praha, 18.10.2018

    (audio)
    duration: 01:02:54
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

I am a Marxist, and that is why I did not join the Communist

older photograph
older photograph
photo: PU

Journalist and human rights activist Petr Uhl was born on October 8, 1941 in Prague. His father greatly influenced him in his views, which tended towards a non-violent form of anarcho-communism or anarcho-syndicalism. Petr Uhl graduated in 1958 at the age of eleven in Londýnská Street in Vinohrady, and later studied at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Czech Technical University. He became acquainted with various leftist currents (Trotskyism, Maoism), but remained faithful to Marxism. However, he refused to join the Communist Party in 1963, concluding that the party was not reformable from within. He became involved in the Left Opinion Movement, whose leader was Egon Bondy. At the end of 1968, he founded the Revolutionary Youth Movement in protest against incipient normalization. A year later, he was imprisoned for his activities in this movement according to the paragraph of subversion of the republic. He spent four years in prison (1969-1973). Shortly after his release, he met his future wife Anna Sabatova and married her in August 1974. In December 1976, he participated in the creation of the Charta 77 declaration and in the collection of the first signatures. In addition, in April 1978 he co-founded the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Prosecuted, whose mission - unlike that of Charta - was to provide concrete assistance to victims of totalitarian persecution. He was imprisoned again in 1979, this time for five and a half years. In the second half of the 1980s, he was one of the main drivers of the publication of the Charta Information bulletin (Infoch). At the end of 1988, he co-founded the Eastern European Information Agency, which provided information on the activities and persecution of the opposition in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and Lithuania. After the demonstration on Národní třída on November 17, 1989, he was one of those who conveyed a false report to foreign media about the death of student Martin Šmíd (of course, believing that it was a true report). He was held in custody for six days, but was released in November 1989. From February 1990, he worked as the director of the Czech News Agency, and after the 1990 elections, he also sat in the Federal Assembly as a member of the Civic Forum. From 1992, he remained in ČTK as an ordinary editor, later he wrote for Jiří Pelikán’s Letters and the daily Právo. He has served as the Government Commissioner for Human Rights and in other government positions focusing on human rights and national minorities. He resigned after the election of Anna Šabatová as Deputy Public Defender of Rights.