Ing. Josef Bernard

* 1965

  • "We organized a debate at the presbytery for people from the Škoda factory about the Shroud of Turin. By the way, people were really interested in the topic. We had shown significant carelessness by having a phone conversation with the presbytery - but this line was obviously tapped. They got hold of me and some interrogations followed. But not to make a hero of myself - nobody had beaten me. It was an unpleasant pressure with them finding out about who was my girlfriend, that she studied a fifth year of medical school, and telling me that she may not be able to finish her studies. It was an ugly secret police pressure without physical intimidation. I - relatively sucessfully - acted like a dumbass from the Škoda factory when they asked me about the debate about the Shroud of Turin I had organized. I told them: 'What shroud? I have no idea about it. Did someone lose a shroud?' We had this sort of a conversation. I don't even know whether they concluded I was so stupid that I couldn't have organized it or whether they concluded I was sly and they had to keep an eye on me."

  • "I used to wear suspenders, jeans and a US t-shirt. It was May 1977. Of course, after the Charter, things were getting tight. We were being photographed on that very day. It was just completely random, I hadn't known about it. Suddenly: we're going to have a picture of our class taken! And so we did. I took a picture with the whole class and then again with three of my friends. I still recall them - Jirka Fleissig, Jožka Brůha and Pepa Důriškovič. I felt so proud in that t-shirt. When the session was over, my teacher called me out from the hallway, saying she had some things to discuss. And without saying a word, she slapped me twice in the face. She said that maybe I get some stars in my head now - my t-shirt was full of stars. And so she wanted to get me some extra ones."

  • "Then there was nothing else to do than to meet up. It was a group of some seven or eight people, I don't know exactly. Some of them were dropping out because a strike committee was to be created, as was the Civic Forum Škoda. By our own initiative, we founded it in someone's apartment. It was just after 17 November, Monday, I think, or perhaps Sunday. We decided to write a manifesto which we would then read out on the square, asking Škoda employees to join the Civic Forum. I guess if we hadn't done it, someone else would have. But perhaps only later and with more complications. I would also like to name Bohouš Röhrich here, a man of 1968 who actively opposed the regime and who was a role-model for me... And so we wrote a declaration. I had the honour to read it out loud in the square and address Škoda people, saying Civic Forum was founded and that all factories were coming together. Then, it went on like an avalanche."

  • "In 1968, I was just three years old. People say you don't recall much from that age, I have a good story to share because my mummy used to work at the mangle on one of the main streets in Planá, Dukelských hrdinů. I loved to go there because there was this peculiar scent, the machine was mysterious, creaking but smelling nicely and always making a beautiful fluffy laundry. I simply liked the place and used to visit my mum there quite often. Suddenly, I could see tanks and other armored vehicles arriving - and I was very happy to see them. I ran out from the mangle and began waving at the soldiers. I turned to my mum who was crying. I told her: 'Why do you cry, mum? The soldiers are here!' Or something of the sort. I still recall the event in the contrast of my childish naivity, liking soldiers and guns, and not realizing what was actually going on."

  • "My dad was one of seven children and one of his brothers emigrated in the 1950s already. He was also doing an apprenticeship in the Škoda factory, as did other two brothers of his. He used to go there carrying a wooden suitcase with his stuff. One day, my granny went to get coal from the cellar and while she was there, she found this suitcase. They didn't know what was going on and why hadn't taken this suitcase with him. Instead, he took a backpack and ran across the border to Germany. He crossed with another guy but later, they were not friends anymore. There was an affair with another emigré involved. He then moved to the US and later to Canada. I also recall he stopped writing to us. In the 1970s, he became completely silent. They searched for him via the Red Cross but I think the service didn't really work and was more just for the show."

  • "On the very day when I went to pick up the classical cinemy tickets, so that I could stamp them and sell them to people, I was also asked to present myself at the culture department of the municipality. It was across the street from today's memorial to the American army. Some clerk told me to go see him and asked: 'Are you organizing the debate with Mr. Foglar?' I replied: 'Yes, that is me. Everything is ready, posters are hanging out.' He said: 'The debate will not take place.' I looked at him: 'What do you mean? It has been announced, everyone knows about it.' I had the tickets to be sold in by bag there on the spot. I told him: 'We have a problem now. We need to print new posters.' He asked, why. 'Because I sold all the tickets. We have to print posters saying all the tickets would be returned and compensated for.' The guy left for five or ten minutes to the office next door. I recall another lady being present there, typing eagerly on a typewriter, showing how unpleasant I seemed to her. The guy returned after a while and said: 'Alright. Do that event. If there is any trouble, it is your responsibility.' I replied: 'Well of course, I am here to make sure everything goes smoothly.'"

  • "We tried to make such an evironment in the Škoda factory that we'd have ties to people who were waiting for some situation to happen, could be gathered quickly and were able to work on some action. Back then, we had no idea what action that would be and how would it be carried out. The respective groups in the various factories had this function, and then another one - distributing prohibited books and magazines. And since the print and distribution of samizdat was a big problem back then, we strived to locate copy centers in Škoda, where we could photocopy it. Within a couple months, we were able to get the girls from those centers on board. We had three places. One in the 'retreat', another in cogwheels and the third one by the main gate. We came up with an elaborate system where we would get the literature from Mr. Šašek, Petr Náhlík or Míra Svoboda and then photocopy it in large numbers in those copy centers. It was quite amusing because it was what they least expected. The regime was strict there and there was close surveillance over what was copied when. Us and the girls had found a way to bypass it, though."

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Freedom is by no means a done deal

IMG_20180710_0002 (10).jpg (historic)
Ing. Josef Bernard
zdroj: Dobové foto: archiv pamětníka, současné foto: sbírka Post Bellum

Josef Bernard was born on 30 May 1965 in Planá near Mariánské Lázně. As a child, he liked to read forbidden authors. He recalls the arrival of the Soviet tanks in 1968, despite being just three years old. As a fourteen-year-old, he enrolled to a vocational training in the Škoda factory. There, he was surrounded by colleagues who like him were inclined towards scouting. In 1988, he organized a debate with the scout chief and author Jaroslav Foglar, which was nearly prohibited by the authorities. Along with his colleagues, he printed and distributed forbidden authors among the Škoda employees. Due to another debate, this time about the Shroud of Turin, he was questioned by the secret police. He took part in the 1988 anti-regime protest in Pilsen. Immediately after 17 November 1989, he founded Civic Forum Škoda and presented its manifesto at a public event. He and his colleagues declared a general strike, after which his office was raided by the secret police. After 1990, he gave up on politics and made a career in the Škoda factory, serving as director general from 2010 until 2014. He then returned to politics, joining the Social Democrats in 2015 and being elected President of the Pilsen Region. He has two sons from his first marriage. He lives with his second wife Gabriela Grünová in the village of Nebílovský Borek.