PhDr. Jan Vodňanský

* 1941  †︎ 2021

  • “This is an unforgettable thing that I met the first censorship, because I wrote a stanza on the death of marshal Stalin and meanwhile Klement Gottwald died, so I wrote another stanza and called it Two Blows. The editors of Pionýrské noviny thought, ah, to kill two birds with one blow! Eventually, they excused by a letter saying this was not the best thing to publish.”

  • “I went, still in the uniform, for the entrance exams for the Faculty of Arts. The orals were chaired by professor Milan Machovec, who addressed me ‘comrade engineer’ in front of all the famed philosophers. He browsed through papers and said, ‘You are twenty-six, you should have a family, build a flat in a cooperative and you want to study with us? Daily study? Don’t you think it strange?’ I gave him my sharp look of a tank battalion soldier and asked him, ‘What is it that you imagine when you say strange?’ This did not happen to Milan – we later became friends – never before, so he gave me the ‘you-have-here-a-madman-do-whatever-you-like-with-him’ look and left. I was examined and passed the test of questions hurled at me by the famous Kosíks and Michňáks. He returned, they sent me out and when they invited me in, he was altogether different. They told him that I was accepted and he told me in a kind voice of a psychiatrist, ‘Look, comrade engineer, here you write that you want to make a living as an external contributor to the radio, so there is no need to insist on the daily form of your study. You can come to the lectures, but you would also have to take physical education, exercise for the Spartakiad etc.’ So, eventually I opted for the form of extramural study.”

  • “Petr was more or less a serious person and when he called me, he said in a kind of matter-of-fact voice, ‘You see, Mr Šrut gave me a text by you, the one on Yago and Desdemona, I will set it to music and sell!’ So I formed an image of a two-metre tall producer with a bull’s neck who composes stuff occasionally but mainly sells the music. After about a half-a-year of contact over the phone we arranged a personal meeting in front of Klášterní vinárna by the National Theatre. It was a nice summer evening, I went for the meeting and was looking for the producer who will eventually sell me and there was nobody. Time passed, couples passed by and suddenly I noticed there was this young soldier, who did not have exactly a merry face, so I took up my courage and asked him whether he was Petr Skoumal. He was.”

  • “It took five hours and they read from reports that came. They read to me a report that I called on 200,000 Soviet dogs to run loose and tear their masters. And I had to smile, because it was nicely composed from what I actually said on the psychology of dogs. At that time there were those notices like “no entry” with a picture of a dog. And I said that psychology is in fact a part of cynology and that psychology is a science on dogs. And I stood up and performed my commentary, there was not a word on Soviet dogs. And it was interesting that someone listened to it in the adjoining room, some higher boss, who suddenly rushed in and asked, ‘Why is he standing?’”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha , 04.05.2016

    duration: 04:09:23
  • 2

    ZŠ TGM Praha 7, 23.03.2017

    duration: 01:54:46
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

The boy has overpressurized brain with thoughts, Mrs Vodňanská!

photo: archiv pamětníka

Jan Vodňanský, born on June 19, 1941, is a singer, poet, lyrics writer, actor, who made himself famous namely through joint performances with the composer Petr Skoumal. His father was an officer excluded from the Communist Party in the early 1950s, which had an impact on his cadre profile. Despite this he managed to graduate from a grammar school in Korunní street and to get accepted to the Construction Faculty, Czech Technical University. After an extended study, during which he already performed, he worked as a designer for a short time. Soon he started working with the radio and in the mid 1960s he met the composer Petr Skoumal. They first performed on Prague’s text-appeal scene, then interrupted their partnership for two years due to military service. During it he applied for study of philosophy and history. The partnership renewed in the spring of 1969, when Gustáv Husák came to power. They made three shows by 1973. In 1974 Vodňanský and Skoumal had to leave the Činoherní club and some performances were banned completely. What followed were Vodňanský’s interrogations at the State Police, non-accepted offers of cooperation and oddly enough, the permit to travel to the U.S. to visit Voskovec in 1976. In 1977 he married and signed Charter 77. At the end of the 1970s, the duo Vodňanský-Skoumal was without a stable job, in the early 1980s they were ordered to separate. For a short time they rejoined after 1989. Since mid-1980s he could officially perform as an author of performances for children. In the 1990s he lectured philosophy at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University, and promoted the Internet.