Mgr. Václav Vacek

* 1946  

  • “Because we were kept like this, you know, like a dog by its kennel. You mustn’t travel too much as a chaplain. Either you get leave from your boss, or you don’t. Some places it was almost like some penal institution - Pardubice was awful. Go home to visit your parents - pending your boss’s permission. Go buy something in the town. A veritable penitentiary. And because I was cheeky and they tried to re-educate me, I was a chaplain for six years, until the age of thirty-six. And when you have to ask permission to buy a pencil as a thirty-six-year-old man... not that I did... I have my pride. The boss knew, but we’re all lords here, right. But I did it pretty much illegally or without his knowledge. I didn’t accept this system completely. But if you want to do something, if you want to join that resistance against evil, that’s like our ancestors in the war, that’s what you do. It’s your meaning of life, end of debate. But I wouldn’t want it to sound pompous.”

  • “I received a summons to the State Security station. I was received by First Lieutenant Letocha. He underestimated me, he thought he had me in a fix. He didn’t even have a partner, usually there were two of them. He said: ‘So, how are things?’ The usual kind of... And I said: ‘Let’s not beat about the bush! You called me here about the money, right?’ You see, there was a law against manipulating with foreign currencies. ‘Well, and where did you get them?’ I’d made up a story. I said I had been in one monastery, which I’d visited, and I slept - you know how when you’re outside and you don’t have a place to sleep, the best is to sleep in a graveyard because no one goes there. That’s not true any more, people here steal even the various ornate crosses and so on now, but beforehand even drunks didn’t go there, because they were afraid. I really had slept in the graveyard, and I made up a story about a foreigner coming there. He started looking around, and I was there packing up my sleeping bag. He spoke Czech because he was a Czech who had emigrated some years ago, and he found that I was a priest and so on. And he asked me to celebrate a Mass for his deceased parents, and he gave me a hundred dollars - that’s the story I made up. I said: ‘Listen, I brought home hard currency, and you’re investigating me.’ I yelled at him: ‘How dare you?’ That’s important, to shout at them. ‘If I were you, I’d never let any of our people abroad because we’re like beggars. I didn’t even dare buy an ice cream because I didn’t have the money for it. I saw rich people leaving leftovers, and I got by with the bare basics for food. So, I brought home some foreign currency. What do you think I’ll do with it? I’ll go exchange it and buy something for the bons [voucher currency for luxury goods, the only way to legally spend foreign currency in Communist Czechoslovakia - trans.]. I actually brought some hard currency into the country. And you shouldn’t care less if I used it to buy condoms or whatever!’ I berated him. And he completely failed his task because he didn’t get round to breaking me at all. Of course that was why they’d summoned me. I had broken the law, I could have really ended up in jail for that, so they could pressure me to sign up for collaboration. The suggestion never came. So my experience is that you have to be aggressive with them.”

  • „I worked with youth and they knew quite a lot, so they´d call me to interrogation. I was shaking so much, I was afraid they´d see it and my heart was beating up in my throat and I was afraid they´d hear it. Somehow I was getting myself ready. Jesus said that when you come to interrogation, you should not worry much and leave all fears behind. I was coming out of there full of joy I did well. I went there several times more. Once I happened to get a trip to Yugoslavia for my parents. I visited them and because they lived very humbly to be better off I took about hundred and twenty dollars. I stayed with my parents but then I took a detour along the coast all the way to Kosovo and visited the cloisters. I returned back by train. At the border two secret police men came into the carriage and told me to come with them. I had so much luggage and as they searched one, I quickly put the money in it. They took it an searched it again and found the money.“

  • “I came to [Česká] Třebová, that was where I was interrogated for the first time. Well, and they elected... a Pole was elected pope. I jumped four feet into the air because I had been to Krakow, to Poland, repeatedly. And I had actually never met Wojtyla in Krakow, but I did meet his colleagues. Those were journalists from Tygodnik Powszechného [Universal Weekly] and the magazine Znak měsíční [The Monthly Sign]. Fantastic people, immensely clever, with a great understanding of things. In fact, they were in the first free Polish government - one was minister of the interior, and the other, Mazowiecki, was prime minister. Those were people whom I knew, splendid, remarkable. There, and now Wojtyla was the pope! I got cheeky, so I said: ‘Mr Secretary, so what do you say about the new pope?’ He gave them the willies. The Central Committee of the Soviet Union in Moscow sat in meeting because Wojtyla, he knew how things were here. And I said: ‘Well, it’s a success for the Socialist bloc, Mr Secretary, isn’t it? Another blow to those warmongers.’ He was flabbergasted, of course. And I was cheeky like that. You can imagine how encouraging that was for us.”

  • “[The regional Church secretary, a Communist official - trans.] attended the Easter services. He praised me, you can imagine, praise for such a person... And he said: ‘Look, you’ve proved yourself, and we’re counting on you for the post of bishop in Hradec [Králové].’ I roared out with laughter. He said: ‘No, wait, don’t laugh. It’s all been negotiated in Rome and so on.’ I said: ‘Mr Secretary, that’s tough luck. You know, you were upright about it, so I’ll be upright as well, okay? Look here now, Bishop Tomášek... You yourself say that he’s old and that he can’t think straight any more. So he’ll retire. And you know that there’s that new pope now, Wojtyla. Things have changed a bit, even in the Church. There, and I’ll tell you something. When Bishop Tomášek ends, I’m going to Prague. Hradec is too small for me. And then I’m off to Rome. Just so you know.’ He gaped at me open mouthed. You know, I’m showing off right now, I could also tell you of the times when I was scared, when I was frightened. That wasn’t any feat of heroics. There was just nothing else left for me to do. But the interesting thing is that he said: ‘But hold on, if not you, who do you suggest? Who would you suggest for the diocese? Who else?’ Yeah right, sure I’m going to tell him that... But I knew of some people. Later I realised that some people assented to that. And so they were promised something. Perhaps they didn’t even have to sign anything. They [the Communists - trans.] were clever. So the way they did it was that they just said they were counting on you, who else. You have a career here. The temptation of power is the greatest of all temptations. And then you’ll be ordained a bishop. The next day they’ll stop by and say, this and this, no discussion. You don’t even have to [sign collaboration - trans.] because you’ll be bound in other ways.”

  • „The priests were trying to figure each other and when I was in Česká Třebová, I knew a great guy, a Jesuit named Karel Dománek, and my mate Josef Kordík. I was inspired by the information about the Charter and said that´s just what we need. That was the same as Václav Malý said, who I was friends with. So it is possible there were more sources, but I did not know he is also in. We began to write information on church, rewrite it and multiply it. It was connected to Ota Mádr and others and then I got amongst the consultants of Tomášek, where there was a representative of each diocese. Oto Mádr, Zvěřina, Tomáš Halík and more. So it was a big thing and we were charged of another criminal activity.“

  • “The Church Information contained a manual on how to behave during interrogation, how to behave during a house inspection. And that was a big help. Because they came along, started a conversation, and asked about all kinds of things. They asked about inconspicuous matters. I could come up with another example, I wrote in my book - imagine that they call a seminarian and ask: ‘So, how do you like it here?’ And there were the girls from the teaching school from across the road, and they looked at you, and what: ‘Do you like girls? And we’ve heard you have nuns doing the cooking for you - what’s their cooking like, is it edible?’ And a naive, trusting person will say: ‘Oh yes, they’re great cooks, you know. They get apricots from the bishop’s garden, and they make them into jam all through the summer, as a treat for us, etc.’ - ‘And what did you have for lunch today? And yesterday?’ He tells them. And the next day they invite another colleague and tell him some seemingly unimportant things: ‘Well then? How did you like the apricot dumplings yesterday? And what about this? And this?’ The man, trembling, thinks: ‘They know everything.’ We naively gave them lots of such inconspicuous information, which they abused. So I knew how to approach an interrogation. None of that.”

  • “I served in Lipoltice, that’s a village between Pardubice, Heřmanův Městec, and Chrudim. And I had a neighbour who was a talented man, he wrote poetry. But these people couldn’t follow their calling. I’ve no doubt he would have achieved some Church position in normal times. So he joined that collaborationist association, Pacem in Terris [Latin for ‘Peace on Earth’ - trans.]. He was a functionary of some kind, he wrote fervent articles lauding the Soviet Union. And it happened that on the day of [Leonid Brezhnev’s] funeral, he was standing in for a colleague in Přelouč, Josef Pohorský, at a funeral. And standing by the grave, while conducting the rites for the deceased mum of the local people there, he said: ‘Well, of course, this is a sad moment as we lay your mother to rest, but just imagine, in Moscow today they’re burying Comrade Brezhnev, the greatest son of the Soviet Union and the greatest Russian.’ The people were aghast. Me, if it I was my mum, I’d have her unearthed and buried again. That’s how those poor sods who collaborated and cooperated [with the regime - trans.], that’s the kind of state they got themselves into, when they said things that demeaned them in our eyes.”

  • „My shooter was an idiot with six grades of the basic school, who on his own initiative connected the spotlight with a machine-gun in order to be able to shoot at night if we were under attack. That how you get brainwashed. It was crazy for me, as I was helpless and no one believed me. I told myself that if we were in action, I will make some kind of an incident as a loader with a machine-gun, I will climb out of a tank and go amongst people and a lieutenant will shoot me for not following orders. I had no other choice. I could not shoot my own people, so I was ready. I wrote a good-bye letter to my parents. I was afraid, but know I had to do something.“

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Letohrad, 19.01.2016

    (audio)
    duration: 04:15:06
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha, 03.11.2016

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    duration: 02:12:23
  • 3

    Praha, 25.01.2017

    (audio)
    duration: 01:50:13
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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I was inspired by information on the Charter, I thought that was just what we needed.

Václav Vacek in 1950s
Václav Vacek in 1950s
photo: archiv pamětníka

Václav Vacek was born on 11 August 1946 in Dolní Čermná. His father spent several months in Nazi jails for resistance activities. During the witness´ childhood a communist regime sent his father to jail again in a construed process. Václav Vacek therefore could not study the veterinary school he dreamt of and trained as a toolmaker. During his employment he studied the secondary school distantly and gained a working scholarship to study the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in Prague. In the capital he regularly attended masses in the church of virgin Maria before Tyne and was having ideas about becoming a priest in future. After the obligatory army service he began studies at Theological Faculty in Litoměřice. He passed ordination in 1975; then he was active in catholic samizdat, cooperated with Oto Mádr, Josef Zvěřina and Tomáš Halík and became one of a consultors of the cardinal Tomášek. As a suspicios person he undergone several interrogations of the State Security, but he worked out a way of not succumbing to their pressure. After the fall of communism he tried to clean the catholic church from former regime collaborates, but met with a lack of will to change the status quo. He currently works on the parish in Letohrad.