PhDr. Jan Urban

* 1951

  • "We had an incredibly beautiful childhood, until I began to realise, that no everyone was so well off as we were. I remember we were a part of the strange supply system, which the party established for the tops, household 109. Mum always called the strange phone: ,Here´s the household 109, comrade, I would like this and that‘ and in two hours two comrades in blue or white coats came and brought anything from Swiss cheese to oranges and I had no clue othes cannot get the same stuff. I remember such first surprises, which were not even rational, when I saw an old lady, who was searching the garbage bins, I felt weird that they did not lock her up… Then I began to understand there are some defeated classes and some blunders. And when I began to talk about those things with my dad he took it with reall difficulties. Later, as a disident and a chartist, he told me and for that I will always keep him as a real character, he said: ,Well I wish to think that I never hurt anyone, I can even think that I helped a number of people, but I was a part of a killing machinery and there is no plaster for it.‘ I will never stop respecting him, as he never tried to excuse himself at all."

  • "My first interrogation, well it was not quite the first, but a reall big one, it took eleven hours. I was a beginner, so I talked a lot and only in the end I realised that was exactly what they wanted. They asked me, why I did not sign and whether I am against socialism and I took a very long time to explain how I study and feel as a socialist and human equality and Kriegel is a fine man and I know him from childhood, those people, and that everything is nasty and the 1950s cannot came back, before I realised that I am putting a puzzle together for them and it was the first and the last time I told them anything and I feel ashamed for it until today. Eleven hours later they let me go and I was terribly proud, that I forced them to re-write a protocol and finally I dictated them a formulation to note down about socialism and I don´t remember whatnot…"

  • "And then we flew to Moscow, I had a car from the travel agents, they drove me to the hotel, where I left my luggage and drove off to the address. I had a heavy blue coat with secret pockets and stuff folded in them, which could not be found during a usual search. I had the only one address in the middle of blocks of flats at the end of a metro. So I got there, it was terribly depressing - filthy smelly block of flats with metal doors all painted, I rang the bell of Lev Timofejev, a disident, a prisoner, a writer, the door opened, and when I said who I am, a revolution broke out. Everyone began to scream and hug me, as suddenly I was the only one from the Eastern block, who managed to get through. The Pols had their passports taken, Hungarians could not pass the borders, and even within the Soviet Union they were locking people up… In the flat there was the cream of the Soviet disent, there was the later Georgian president, the real cream. We were travelling for three days, they were driving me around, it was a big scandal, the KGB was disrupting it so it all moved to the flats, everything was probably wired, there were the provocateurs following us all everywhere, a meter behind us a volha was driving, at the entrance of the block of flats they put a maringotku s komínkem a s kamerou… And I was successfully slandering the regime and organisers from the press club Glasnosť did something very wise, the last evening they took me to Andrej Sacharovov´s house."

  • Full recordings
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    UNYP - Malé náměstí, 11.11.2015

    duration: 02:50:52
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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The country is mine too!

Urban orez.jpg (historic)
PhDr. Jan Urban
photo: Archiv pamětníka, Ivana Čepková

Jan Urban was born on 27 March, 1951 in Hradec Králové as a second out of three children. His father cooperated with resistance during war. Jan attended basic and middle school in Prague-Letná until 1965, when his father was appointed an embassador in Finland. In 1967 and 1968 Jan had study scholarships in England. After graduation in 1969 at Russian-Finnish lyceum in Helsinki the family came back to Prague. He studied philosophy and history at the Philosophical Faculty, Charles University in Prague and finished studies in 1974. Then he and his wife Elena moved to Prachatice, where he worked as a teacher. In January 1977 he refused to sign a collective statement reprobating the Chart 77, and he was immediately thrown out of his job; later worked in manual professions. At the beginning of 1980s he moved with his family back to Prague and worked at the Prague Construction Company. Also he was meeting with the circle around Chart 77, which he also signed and functioned as a connection between the members and abroad. In 1988 he co-founded the Eastern European Information Agency and worked as an editor of samizdat Lidove noviny. On 18 November, 1989 he helped starting the students´ and theatremakers´ strikes and co-founded the Civic Forum being his spokes-person. In 1990 he led the Civic Forum into elections and after winning he left the politics. He worked as a journalist in Lidove noviny, as a war journalist in  Bosna and Hercegovina, published a magazine Transitions, shortly worked in the Czech Radio. He is an author of three books and a theatre play and also shot a documentary. He gives lectures at the University of New York in Prague.