Antonín Wagner

* 1944

  • I think that the education of young generations is the most important thing we can do for the future. Myself, I fell for the charm of scouting when I became engaged in it already as an adult. Even though scouting is more than a hundred years old now, I believe it is a modern educational system which, through playing, giving examples and enhancing mutual cooperation, forms the character of a person. It cultivates the physical culture of one’s body, but doesn’t exaggerate it. It teaches diverse craft skills as well as skills how to take care of oneself and the other in crisis situations. If we take the near past into account, we can see that crisis situations can occur even in our modern times. When it happens, people are not able to react and take care of themselves. But the moral, spiritual education is more important, both as for our young generation as well as for adults. Every generation condemns young people because nobody tries to understand them. I can compare, from a certain distance, the children from 1945, 1968 and the kids of today. Children are always the same in terms of their nature. But they grew up in different times and that’s why it can’t be really compared. In 1945, the physical poverty, lack of food and money was omnipresent. In 1968, we could still feel shortages as there was not much of meat and the southern food was not available at all. And so children were naturally taking part in helping with the family business. They had no luxuries which we know today and so their parents needed them to cooperate. And it was a normal thing indeed. The children of today were brought up in luxury. They don’t even have the opportunity to physically help with something as there are not so many things to do in a flat. And the hobbies and organized free time courses and activities do not give them much. People are lazy by their nature so one doesn’t look for himself to be useful just like that. This is probably the biggest difference between the generations. Besides the spiritual education, our task is also to raise them to work, so that they enjoy what they are doing and are happy about the work that they leave behind themselves.

  • Two scouts from Horní Počernice from the 1945 generation were imprisoned. The Communists put them in prison when the boys were 18 and released them first when they were thirty two years old. One of them was Balšán, who is already dead, and the other one was Král. I don’t know whether he lives or not. Balšán once told me how they wanted to escape from Jáchymov, but changed their mind in the last moment. And it might have saved their lives. They had it all perfectly planned, but the runaways were mostly caught and shot dead. None of them returned to scouting. But our scout unit has its chronicle from Král. He told me that the police didn’t find it by chance when they searched his apartment when he was being arrested. What were they imprisoned for? I think it was for spreading anti-regime leaflets. They were part of a group together with Mr. Kožíšek who was in prison with them. His son still lives here.

  • My sister has a paper stating that she cannot study because of religious reasons. She was good at math and wanted to go to the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, but the dean wrote her that because she is Catholic, she couldn’t be accepted as it is not in line with the official thinking. We have the paper hidden somewhere at home. When my father was discussing the issue, he said that the dean would lose his job because of the letter. “You would definitely win”, he said, “but they will fire you anyway”. So she gave up and didn’t go there. She passed high school with straight “A”s; unlike me she was a top student. I didn’t feel about it that way, one just learned how to live with it. Just once, when I asked for a social scholarship, the ladies from the committee discussed it with me and explained me that we were so rich that it was a real shame to ask for the scholarship. They counted my grandmother’s pension and how many hens we had and kicked me out in the end, even though I had right to ask for it. My mother didn’t work, my father had a couple of crowns and we were five children. I took the decision as if it was no big deal. Even when I got into troubles, it didn’t bother me. I have always been rather cheeky so I always had an answer. For example, I have this amusing story from when I was at the military service. We were walking naked in front of a commission and some secretary started to discuss with me what happened really when Moses went through the Red Sea. It lasted for half-an-hour, with the naked line behind me. The guys were trembling with cold and I was having a chat. He had to show me that I was an idiot. But I think I managed to deflate him. I don’t even regret that I went through these things, because now I am glad that we live in these times.

  • Everyone did what he could. And it was a success even though it was all done under an enormous amount of pressure. It was beautiful and I am glad I could be part of it. The atmosphere in Rome – it was unrepeatable. Because Rome was a Czech place back then. On our way from Prague, we were accompanied by the Red Cross and the Order of Knights of Malta. They were waiting with refreshment on our stops, providing hot tea, sausages and food. When we arrived in Rome, we were welcomed by an organizational service that accompanied us through the city. The most beautiful moment was when they allowed us to park on the St. Peter’s Square for the last day. It was such an experience it’s not possible to tell it all. Among others, there was also a pair of old farmers, a brother and a sister from Chotěboř. Once we saw them sitting in a café, drinking wine and greeting us. They were so happy! It was a marvelous experience for them as they were persecuted for their whole life as private farmers. The square was overcrowded; there might have been sixty thousand people. We stayed in a cinema. There were three or four buses of us. Even though the days were beautiful, nights were rather cold as the cinema was not heated. Sleeping between the seats was not really comfortable so those who managed to get in the corridors were much better off. This applied to those of us who went there for the basic price. Others paid more and stayed in a hotel. Our place was around 40 kilometers from Rome. It was mostly thanks to bishop Škvarvara that we were allowed to stay there, although he didn’t do it alone. And the girls stayed in a monastery.

  • The scouts from 1945 were a different company. They were mostly former prisoners who were out for a little while. The amnesty was in 1960 and 1962 so they had been freed only recently. But they had such an energy that they managed to fill us with enthusiasm for scouting. I didn’t hear any complaint about being imprisoned. The motto of an adult scout is “to serve”. And they came exactly in this spirit. One of them was the leader of a forest school, Remišek, who was truly a great personality. He lost a leg in Jáchymov labor camp so he always hobbled when coming around. But he was an aristocrat, from a real noble family. And others were like that too. This is what fascinated me, and this is why I do scouting. These are totally different people. When I started again with scouting after 1989, some of the older scouts criticized us that we were doing it wrong. Then I learned who he was – an agent of the secret police, who collaborated all the time. I just said to myself: Well, you really have the right to say something. But I didn’t tell him anything . Those who didn’t do anything talked the most. One good friend of mine used to say: “The more one is old, the more you have to work on yourself so that you don’t turn into a grumpy old man.” This is so true and so hard. One should give advices, but only after being asked to. And he shouldn’t force his opinions to others. Because the times are different. Kids from the wartime, from 1968 and those of today can’t be compared because they were brought up in very different environments.

  • We organized the first visit of the Holy Father to Czechoslovakia. It was really interesting. Nobody of us knew what to do. In fact, not even the state knew what it was to going to be about as nobody had any experiences of that sort. Furthermore, there were assassination threats. Allegedly, there should have been the Grey Wolves from Turkey with long-range missiles. I was visiting the Prague committee of the whole organization team and I was just saying to myself: “Where did you get to involve yourself!” I didn’t say anything about what we discussed there because everyone feared there was going to be terrible bloodshed on Letná. We had free beds prepared in hospitals, even the military ones were alarmed. And on the spot, there were buses ready to transport the injured. It was really very serious. We were very much afraid. Everyone was also afraid of taking a decision upon something, so they said that they would act on president’s command only. At 4 pm, we received an anonymous call saying there was a bomb on Letná. It was supposed to start at half past four, so we just said: so what, let the Lord’s will be. There was clearly much less than a million people, but it would have been such a chaos anyway, that many would die in the stampede. And when I saw the snipers on the roofs, I thought it was going to be all right. We spent the whole night before the event on the place as I was responsible for managing the organizers for half of the Letná plains. It was really hectic but I made it and I am glad I was part of it because one will not experience a thing like this again. As a member of the organization team, I was present at all the visits of John Paul II. The two following visits were very different. The second one at the Strahov stadium wasn’t so good. The stadium is not built for that type of events. People were far away sitting on a tribune at huge distance from the pope. But the last one was really nice and done in a very professional manner. During the first visit, the police didn’t care about it much and the soldiers had their eyes only for girls. President Havel went there by foot and the crowd would trample him as everyone wanted to touch him and he came there without bodyguards. But my brother-in-law put together a group of firemen and made them his bodyguards, ploughing through the crowd and bringing him to his place. People also don’t know that before the ceremony of communion, a fight broke out in front of the altar because the journalists were pushing themselves in and the security guard didn’t know if there was some would-be assassin. The next visits were professional and during the last one, I could see that there was a totally different army. The boys were really fit to their job: well-built, polite, correct and doing their job as they should to keep order. Even though they were such people that cursed at them, they didn’t get stirred up. I was thinking that if this was the army, then it was a major change in just a couple of years.

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    Horní Počernice, 15.04.2013

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The more one is old, the more he has to work on himself so that he doesn’t turn into a grumpy old man.

photo: Rodinné album

Antonín Wagner also known as Seagull has been an active scout in Horní Počernice ever since being 18 years old. He was born in Horní Počernice during wartime, on 23rd August 1944. His mother was born in Vienna and then moved to Znojmo and then to Prague, where she started a ladies’ tailor shop. At the height of its boom in 1948, she was teaching six young dressmakers. Antonín’s father was born in Prague and worked in a shop until the war. After 1945, he started working in the Charity organization, from where he saw how the Communists crashed the Catholic Church. Thanks to the experiences of his parents, Antonín was aware of the political situation since being a child so that he understood he couldn’t talk about some things in front of certain people.He had troubles in school since being very young also because of his Catholic background. After finishing the basic school, he was “not recommended” for any further education. Only because of a lucky coincidence did he get a permit to visit the ninth grade. As the school had also a high school program, he could “illegally” finish his studies as no control found out about him. His sister was also persecuted because of her religious beliefs. The dean of the Mathematical-Physical Faculty explicitly wrote that the refusal of her acceptance was motivated by her Catholicism.Mr. Wagner started to engage as a scout in the second half of the 1960s. Even though he wasn’t raised as one, he and his friends were inspired by the attitude of the “1945 scouts”. They had a big natural authority and respect, because even though they suffered terribly in the 1950s, they never complained to anyone. In Horní Počernice, he knew two scouts that were sentenced to fourteen years in prison at the age of eighteen by the Communist regime right in 1948. All they did was spreading anti-regime leaflets.In 1989, Antonín Wagner organized several important events. As a member of the organizational committee, he arranged a mass tour to Rome where Agnes of Bohemia was about to be canonized. There, most of them slept in a cinema auditorium even though some paid more to be in a hotel. Some women stayed in a monastery. Being appreciated for his skills, he later helped with the organization of all three visits of the Holy Father John Paul II to Prague. His duty of a member of the crisis and international staff was to make sure that everything happened as it should have.Despite helping with the realization of these great events, he feels best when organizing camps and everyday activities for young scouts. He works with them on many projects in Horní Počernice. He hopes that the work with the young will help him avoid being a “grumpy old man”.