Otakar Veverka

* 1956

  • "To this day I still regret the word 'peaceful', it shouldn't have been there. I don't like it anymore, we didn't create peace, quite the opposite. There was a certain hope in me at the time that if the word 'peaceful' was there, they wouldn't come after us like that, which of course wasn't true. That came about because in 1987... I can't remember now what year we started JazzStop, I'm not sure [JazzStop magazine started in 1987]. And on the anniversary of the Republic, we were picked up by the State Security. In the morning at five o'clock the State Security burst into my guardhouse, pulled me out in my boxers and took me to the police station, and luckily they took my things with them. And there was the interrogation. And among other things, the question was asked what I was planning for December 8th [1988] this year. And I wasn't planning anything at all. I wasn't even thinking about it. But when it was suggested to me that something should be happening, well, I came up with the John Lennon Peace Club. I wrote up a basic statement and I went to Peter Uhl to have him look at it. He says: 'Yeah, good, I like it. And who's in the club with you?' And I said: 'Nobody, just me.' So I got in touch with Heřman Chromý and Standa Penc and I said: 'Here's the basic statement, do you want to go for it?' Well and they said yes. And that's how the John Lennon Peace Club was formed."

  • "I don't know how, if it was with somebody else, but I thought that there is Baba ruins and that there is a meadow there and that we will do a concert there. And I said that's great. So, we spread the word and people spread the word amongst themselves, so of course the State Security knew about it. And I knew that they would have it surrounded and that I probably wouldn't get there at all. So, I didn't take the subway, which was a great idea. I took the tram, and then I walked on foot through Bubeneč, I took a detour around that station, and I walked there, so I got there. There were two of us there - me and Olda Janota were playing. It was only on the spot that I found out he was going to be there - and great, he's a great musician. I played four or five songs, he played four or five songs, we took turns like that, we played for about half an hour and suddenly it all started coming together from all sides. They were hidden in the bushes, we were playing in the middle of the cops! So, there were State Security men, cops, suddenly they started running out of the bushes, cars were coming down. Now, of course, they immediately took me aside and put the others in rows and collected IDs from them in a bag. Then they picked me up and took me to the police station in Dejvice in Čkalova Street [V. P. Čkalova]. And I was gaping like a fool, because there were another 300 people there. 200 or 300 were near Baba ruins and another 300 was there. And it was only there that I found out that they had the subway and the trams lined up, everything on Kulaťák [Vítězné náměstí]. And as the people were getting off, they immediately picked them up and dragged them to that Čkalova Street. They also arrested a lot of people who had no idea about anything."

  • "I was really angry at the regime, what it was doing. So, I wrote the very harsh songs, at least I think so. And apparently the State Security thought so too. Because those musicians, like Vláďa Merta or Vlasta Třešnák, they did great things, I love their songs, but they didn't go so directly into the thing, they always went in a roundabout way. Whereas I gave it bluntly. State Security men are bastards and that's it. So, the State Security men weren't happy about it. And we all from that time know that the people in the Charter were being watched, so of course when I started associating with them I had to be on wiretaps and CCTV. It didn’t take long and... I don't even know how they first found out about me. I vaguely remember my first interrogation, but when exactly was it? Sometime in 1979, I'd say, probably in the spring. But otherwise, as I say. I was straightforward in those songs. Nowadays I'd probably do it a little differently, not so direct. But at that time, I felt the need to call things what they were. I didn't have any complicated metaphors to describe what was going on here, but I was very blunt. The truth stands naked in the street."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 24.03.2022

    duration: 02:01:51
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Praha, 26.05.2022

    duration: 02:10:41
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 3

    Praha, 14.07.2022

    duration: 01:08:21
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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The truth stands naked in the street

Otakar Veverka in 2022
Otakar Veverka in 2022
photo: Post Bellum

Otakar Veverka was born on 27 August 1956 in Gottwaldov (now Zlín). He was a bookworm since childhood. He found his way to poetry, from which it was only a step to his first musical experiments with the guitar. He found his roots in folk music, which became a powerful weapon in the fight against communist totalitarianism. In 1976, he started the compulsory military service in Janovice nad Úhlavou, from where he defected and was sentenced to six months imprisonment, which was extended to a full year after the prosecutor appealed. After his release from prison in early 1978, he moved from Gottwaldov to Prague for work and became acquainted with the dissidents around Charter 77. At that time, he also began performing his songs on smaller and larger Prague stages. The persecution by the State Security (StB) intensified to such an extent that he spent a total of more than 30 days in a pre-trial detention cell during the three months from May to August 1980. Due to his insufficent earnings at the time, he was then sentenced to eight months imprisonment and a three-year ban from Prague for neglecting his maintenance obligations. After his release, he became close to the underground in his hometown and helped to found the Society of Friends of the USA (SPUSA). In 1984, at the request of the chairwoman of the Czechoslovak Socialist Youth Union (SSM) in Gottwaldov, he performed at the Sokolov Political Song Festival, where his anti-regime lyrics caused a huge stir and disapproval of the state apparatus, and in 1985 he was again sentenced, this time to five months’ imprisonment in Stráž pod Ralskem. After his release from the third imprisonment, he founded the magazine Jazzstop together with Jiří Gruntorád and Luboš Rychvalský in response to the condemnation of the members of the Jazz Section. On the anniversary of John Lennon’s death on 8 December 1988, he founded the John Lennon Peace Club together with Heřman Chromý, Stanislav Penc and others. During Palach Week in January 1989 he was arrested and imprisoned again. From Vinařice Prison, he headed directly to the Civic Forum Coordination Centre after Husák’s amnesty for political prisoners and became part of the Prison Commission, which improved the living conditions of Czechoslovak prisoners and ensured the supervision of human rights. Later he became a journalist and interspersed his journalistic career with positions in various government offices. In April 2006 he left for Cambodia, where he stayed until January 2021. Today he is no longer involved in music, having played his last concert on 15 September 1990. He claims that his critical lyrics are no longer needed in a democratic society.