Marek Benda

* 1968  

  • “The first arrest, or rather the summons for questioning arrived before 28 October ’88, those were critical days, 21 August, 28 October, and of course, we were used to them putting Dad variously in custody even after his release. Say, when the Russian chairman of the Supreme Soviet visited Prague, they detained everyone - and on other occasions - so they wouldn’t do something. We were used to them summoning Dad and keeping him there occasionally for those forty-eight hours, or ninety-six, as they were wont to do when they would release him after forty-eight hours, as they had to, and then immediately arrested him again for another forty-eight hours - we were used to that. So Mum woke me up for school sometime before 28 October ’88, saying there was summons for questioning. I said, well okay, sure, that’s for Dad. What am I to do about it? It’s sad, but what can I do about it? But Mum said, wait up, it’s not for Dad, it’s for you! I said, what, for me? I have to go to school. No, it’s for you. So I came to the door, opened it with the chain lock on, and said: ‘Excuse me, I still need to get dressed.’ And Mum scolded me right there by door: ‘Don’t talk to them! No one talks to them at all!’ So I left for one of their offices with this strict sermon from my mum, where I kept repeating for three to four hours: ‘I refuse to reply because I might endanger myself or one of my relatives.’ So really only gave them my basic ID, and they sent me off after those four hours with the words: “Go on, get lost, this is useless. Your father’s at least fun, but you’re really terribly boring.’”

  • “Then came 17 November, so we met up there at three, it was to start at four. Someone there had already brought a loudspeaker, but it was borrowed from the American embassy, not that the sound was great. We wondered: How many people will come? Three hundred? Three thousand? That would be amazing! In the end, it was thirty [thousand], maybe more, it’s hard to estimate today. But we certainly felt it was an incredible amount. Because we had some agreements, we dramatically insisted on keeping to the original route of the march, that is, that we’d have the speeches there and then go to Slavín, not to the centre, to a direct confrontation. That was the first time I saw and experienced the student Růžička, alias Zifčák, who represented some independent students’ union and who declared that we were betraying the students’ interests by wanting to keep to the original route. And then I saw him again four days later, when it was clear what role he was playing in it, but just briefly. It was clear that things had taken a completely different course, not that there was some kind of student drama going on. We just knew there was some P. O. Box, where this one Růžička declared he stood for some independent students’ movement, that it was something we could connect to. And then we set off to the National Avenue, in the complete euphoria of the crowd, which headed - they didn’t let us into the centre, they led us along the embankment - but which headed down along the embankment, and really... that’s something I guess I’ll never experience again. Then perhaps at some demonstrations, like in Letná in eighty-nine, but I wasn’t even there much because I was an organiser or I was putting things together, writing speeches, something, so I wasn’t really there any more ever... The euphoria on the embankment, with the chanting, things like: ‘We’re dining at Prague Castle, who - if not us, when - if not now!’ which ended in the massacre in National Avenue, but the feeling that we were many, that already back there in Albertov, where we always had a bit of trouble with the unionists - where, by the way, Martin Mejstřík, who was later one of the main protagonists of the revolution, almost considered the one... he was there as a representative of the municipal... committee of the Socialist Youth Union, vice-chairman, and he say on the other side of the negotiations when the demonstration was being prepared, although I admit that he was one of the more reasonable ones in charge of these kind of things, but he was still a representative of the unionists. There was, I think it was Jasmanický, who spoke for them in Albertov, and he gave us a question, like, what can the municipal council of students do for the students, and the unambiguous reaction was: ‘Stand down, stand down!’ So it was clear there that it was really turned against the regime, that it was against the existing structures, that it wasn’t just some kind of gathering, and that made it highly euphoric. We would hop off home to give regular reports, to phone them off, and when we left Palacký Square, came home, dictated the report, returned therefore to the end of the march, while before we were at the head, now we came to the tail, just like before, when it was the other way round, when we led the crowd out of Albertov with my brother, when we told everyone: Turn left, respect the traffic signs. That time we ended up at the tail, then the march turned towards the centre, so we were at the head for a while, and it alternated through the course of the event. Then we came back from National Avenue twice, and we bypassed the police cordons via one of the side streets, there and back, then we had the feeling that it was blocked, that nothing was going on, that it was dissolving and people were off home. So we went home to report the next phase of things, and within an hour people started coming out from there variously beaten, bruised, that it was... that the euphoria had been followed by a massacre. And I remember that late at night Dad uttered this prophetic sentence, which I remember many more times in later years. He said: ‘Well, it’s clear that it’s begun; the problem is that the opposition isn’t quite ready yet.’”

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    Praha, pracovna , 06.11.2017

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Man is free but responsible

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zdroj: Archív pamětníka

Marek Benda was born on 10 November 1968 as the first of six children of Václav and Kamila Benda. He was strongly influenced by his family upbringing, especially the clear Christian focus and his father‘s political activities. The latter became most notable after 1977, when his father signed Charter 77 in reaction to the trial with The Plastic People of the Universe and was later imprisoned. In 1988 Marek Benda began his university studies, but in autumn 1989 he started his political activism as a co-organiser of the famous manifestation in Albertov on 17 November and subsequently as a member of the central strike coordination committee of students. In 1990 he co-founded the Christian Democratic Party (CDP; not to be confused with the Christian Democratic Union - trans.), which was chaired by his father Václav Benda. In 1992 he was elected chairman of the CDP parliamentary group. When the CDP merged with the Civic Democratic Party (Civ Dems) in 1995, he decided to accept membership in the Civ Dems. In the years 2002-2004 he failed to defend his parliamentary post and worked instead in the Department of Government Agenda at the Ministry of Informatics. In 2004 he was re-elected as a parliamentary deputy in the Czech Chamber of Deputies. In 2006-2010 he served as chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for the Constitution and Law. He was the sponsor for the new Civil Code and for the State and Church Property Settlement Act.