Zuzana Brejcha

* 1953  

  • "We used to go protest and the biggest protests started when the Charter 77 signatories and people from the underground arrived. Back then, I started living with Pavel Landovský who introduced me to those people. That took place in 1982." - "When Charter was published, did you take notice of the opposition?" - "Naturally. My dad followed everything closely. I then hadn't lived at home anymore, and so I was primarly having my Austrian life. In 1977, I brought home my first serious boyfriend who was Iranian. So, I even had relations with the Iranian community in Vienna. It was all quite fragmented. But I attended Czech cultural evenings, I went to my parent's place when they invited someone interesting for dinner. So I used to go there. Though since I studied a film school and had to do a lot of work there - make movies and write scripts - I was quite busy. In 1977, I began working as film editing assistant, so a lot was happening."

  • "It was 10:30 in the evening. I was reading a book and the light above my bed was on. Someone hadn't liked that. About twenty tanks were parked at Palackého náměstí, guarding the bridge in case there was a counter-revolution. Most likely, someone was bothered by the light in the fourth floor. Nobody had ever given an explanation. They began shooting, first to the children's room and then into the whole apartment. They targeted specifically our three windows. They riddled the apartment with bullets and we had spent the night on the other side in the hallway next to the toilet. Then we spent three days in Žižkov in the film archive. When we returned, we found holes in all the walls, plaster all over, curtains burned down, windows smashed, paintings nailed to walls by the bullets. My bed got 27 hits."

  • "I realized what was his sacrifice while he was at his deathbed in a hospital. We knew he was dying and not going to make it past the weekend. We stood around his bed and instead of saying important things, we were talking rubbish. I was just complaining about what I had been doing - my director etc. My dad gave me a look and said: 'Yeah, right, but you're making movies.' And then I realized, he made a great sacrifice for us. We were always provided for and were doing well. We never heard him say that he made sacrifices for us. He would do anything." - "Did all in your family handle the emigration well?" - "Handle the emigration... If I were to be strict, I'd say I hadn't handle it well myself. It consists of two things. The first one is learning the language, getting used to the environment and integrating in society. The second one is that inner feeling. Once a refugee, always a refugee. I know different people feel it differently. For instance, when I was given money by the Austrian Chancellery to make a movie which I shot in Slovakia, I was wondering why was I getting Austrian money to do that. In spite of being Austrian - and feeling increasingly so - I still feel that I'm a refugee."

  • "What was shocking is that I returned into pretty much the same thing. Nothing had changed there in the meanwhile. Those shop windows with a few meat tins and doves of peace, Brezhnev and Lenin hanging above it as 1 May decoration. All stayed the same, nothing had changed, and this made an impression on me. Few people realize that Russians were present in Austria up until 1955. Vienna was divided into four pieces, and so was the country. In 1968, however, there was normal capitalism. It was thirteen years after the last Russians had left but the Austrians made good work here in the meanwhile. In 1982, there was normal life, as it is today."

  • "It doesn't make any sense today but we had been sitting at home. My dad would go to work, studying chemical formulas of paints and varnishes in the evenings. He had a pile of papers that he had to learn by heart. We stayed at home, went out only to buy things and listened to Austrian Radio - the 3rd station. They used to play modern songs all day long. Those were the same things we used to previously listen to in Radio Free Europe but in better quality. Instead of starting a course of sorts, I hadn't been going anywhere. My brother would at least go to the Philips factory. I sat at home. Then sometime in the spring, dad said he'd enroll us in a school. I was fifteen, and so had no obligation to study further. But dad found a grammar school nearby. We lived around the 18th district and had a normal apartment. My dad found a school nearby. One day, we went there to enroll. I still hadn't spoken German. It was in the spring and I recall going to the principal's office and dad talking to her there. I don't know what they were telling each other. Then dad said she asked him whether I spoke German and he said I didn't. She replied that it would be a problem and how should it be resolved. He promised her that I'd learn German very quickly."

  • "Once a refugee - always a refugee. I was wondering how to explain it because our emigration was in fact a luxurious one. Our dad always provided for us, we never had financial issues even if dad left a comfortable life behind. We had acquaintances who produced movies, my dad worked alongside Werich, Trnka, Karel Zeman and similar people. Then we escaped here and started from zero. It sounds superficial but fact is, we were suddenly foreigners who hadn't known whether to turn left or right after leaving their house. The loss is terrible. Perhaps to some people it didn't matter but I think it is a wound that tends to stay open. The fact that I still recall our old phone number in Prague, that is a fragment of my original identity."

  • Celé nahrávky
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    Vídeň, Rakousko, 25.02.2018

    délka: 03:34:58
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Memory of nations (in co-production with Czech television)
Celé nahrávky jsou k dispozici pouze pro přihlášené uživatele.

Once a refugee, always a refugee

Zuzana Brejcha
Zuzana Brejcha
zdroj: archiv Pamětníka

Zuzana Brejcha was born on 8 August 1953 in Prague into the family of Vlasta and Bohumil Brejcha. Her father worked as a script editor in the Barrandov film studios. In 1956, he was forced to hand his notice due to political reasons. He then worked as freelance script writer, collaborating closely with Jiří Trnka up until 1968. The same year, Zuzana was admitted to a grammar school after which she intended to study film science. However, the August 1968 Soviet invasion in the course of which their apartment was riddled by bullets, forced the family to emigrate. In October that year, they left for Vienna where they were granted asylum. Zuzana‘s father found employment as manager in the company of his Austrian friend, and he never since returned to making films. Zuzana graduated from a Viennese high school and in 1982 graduated from a film university in screenplay and film editing. From the very beginning, she was in touch with the Czech community living in the city. She had attended the Sokol sports club and her father was a founding member of a cultural club gathering Czechs and Slovaks. In 1982, she visited Prague for the first time in fourteen years, which initiated a search for her lost identity. For a year and a half, she had been dating the actor Pavel Landovský who introduced her to people from the Czech underground living in Vienna. In 1983, she met Václav Havel in Prague, which made her a person of interest to the secret police. She had spent the November 1989 events in Prague but never returned to Czechia permanently. She worked as a freelance film editor and she makes documentaries on Roma-related topics.