Zuzana Wienerová

* 1944

  • "I remember us in America, my husband and I [are sitting] in front of the TV and the radio, and we are exasperated because our little republic, Czechoslovakia, was the last one. We were saying like, 'How is it possible that nothing is still happening there?' Even the Germans, the East Germans, who had started to flee, and the wall was torn down, and the Poles were more heroic than we were, but that was also during World War II. And there was still nothing going on in our country. Finally in the '89, it's called the Velvet Revolution, it was to a certain extent, but there were nasty... loathsome army and policemen who were beating young students violently and people who finally wanted that democracy too, like in the neighbouring countries, and it was a kind of violent coup, but it finally happened."

  • "And I was hoping [to return home] to some extent because I was so excited about my studies in psychology and I loved Prague and I loved my mum and my family and my friends. And Jan said one night over wine, 'We're not coming back,' and I said, 'What? Are you serious? Do you want to stay here for good?' And he said, 'We'll see, but we're not going back.' I said, 'Then they'll never let us go back. What about Mummy? What about our family over there? They'll be punished.' And he said, 'I hope not. I hope... But we're not going back. If you love me like I love you, you'll stay with me and we'll stay here.' So I was crying, it was hard for me, but the love for him was strong, stronger than saying, 'I'm leaving.' And I wasn't sure I would be able to manage it on my own, so we stayed. And then there were difficult decisions, difficult moments, when the Czech embassy told us, 'You have to come back, and if you don't come back, you´ll lose your Czech citizenship.' And Jan said, 'I knew it, and I am ready for it. And you're going to come with me and we're going to get through this.'"

  • "And then came the terrible sixty-eighth. And John immediately called the embassy and said, 'Please give me a visa, I'm leaving and I'm going to fight for the country.' And they said, 'Unfortunately, it's all over, it's over.' And now we were terrified, what about my mother, siblings, friends, what about his sons. But the border was open there. And we were ashamed, terribly ashamed. Just... On one hand for, even for... even though John openly said that it would be national suicide if they fought and defended themselves, really the whole army. But the army was with the government. But for Jan it was a second loss because he had enlisted in '39, went to fight, was willing to lose his life for Hitler [meaning against] and we surrendered actually, we were occupied. And now for the second time. For him it was very hard, difficult and he was... he had a temper, he was furious. Nothing could be done, nothing could be done."

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    Praha , 12.11.2022

    duration: 03:29:00
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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We were always starting over, I missed my mum, but I would never give up. You gain strength from difficult situations

Photo model for portrait by painter Lutobor Hlavsa, 1963
Photo model for portrait by painter Lutobor Hlavsa, 1963
photo: Witness´s archive

Zuzana Wienerová was born on 11 September 1944 in Prague. Her father, Josef Hložek, was a lawyer. He spent the end of the war in the Mauthausen concentration camp for documents forgery. After the war, the family got a beautiful large flat, but the year 1949 turned their lives upside down. Dad died prematurely from a car accident and mum Vilma had to take care of her three children. In addition, part of their flat was confiscated due to excessive square metres and the family had to share their home with tenants. One of them was Jan Wiener, a former RAF pilot and divorced father of two. Although he was 24 years older than Zuzana, they gradually fell in love and married in 1963. Zuzana began to study at college, but in 1964 she and her husband left for America, where they found a new home in Lenox, Massachusetts. Here they first taught at a boarding school run by her husband’s aunt. When it closed down in 1970, they taught at other schools, first in Arizona and then in Germany, returning to Lenox in 1985. During the Velvet Revolution, Jan Wiener immediately went to Czechoslovakia and took an active part in the events of that time at Václav Havel´s side. In 1990 he began teaching at the Faculty of Arts at Charles University and Zuzana and children would visit him. After the children became independent, the couple began to spend most of the year in Prague. From then on, Zuzana Wienerová worked for the International Department of Charles University with American students. In 2023 she was living in Prague.