Daniel Bútora

* 1967  

  • “It was quite obvious that we were going to discuss what happened in Prague, alleged murder of a student Šmíd. However, even back then it was clear, it was just a rumor. Evidently, something had to happen. The first discussions were mainly about the strike in Bohemia. There were strikes at Prague’s schools and we felt we also had to come out on strike. Then such a confusion of tongues happened. There were people, official representatives of the Faculty, the leading staff, subdeans and maybe the dean, too, who were deputed to solve the situation. They asked us, ‘What do you want?’ ‘We have to talk. We have to discuss, what should happen now. The things can’t remain the way they are.’ But it had a hitch. They were sent to discuss with us things only within their frame. ‘Well, we can talk together, but just with students. There are people present, who don’t belong here.’ There were people like Fedor Gál that we thought of immediately. ‘You are not students, nor teachers, get out! We can discuss anything you want, any problems that bother you in dorms, or so.’ This was such a starter. The students began right away, ‘Yes, it is really cold in the dorms, there is no toilet paper or clean towels.’ Figuratively said, just common problems. But we had to get over this very quickly. ‘No, we are not going to discuss whether there is toilet paper lacking or not. We want to talk about the change of the regime.’ ‘What do you mean by the change of the regime?’ ‘Well, we need to talk about the regime’s change.’ It was not so simple and it was clearer only for few. Many students would’ve surely rather welcomed the discussion about nonfunctional dormitories, about the needs of everyday life.”

  • “Although, there was one sign that became evident. Sometime in 1989, I can’t tell exactly, but I guess it was in March, the Czechoslovak communists got short of money and they stopped disturbing the broadcast of Radio Free Europe. It seems quite trivial, but the Free Europe had been broadcasting on medium waves since the 1950s. Today, very few people know what that means. But if you look at an old radio, it has so-called medium waves, not only the ‘FM’ but also ‘AM’. Opposite to those radio transmitters broadcasting from several huge broadcasting stations in the Western part of Europe, the East European countries, ruled by the communist regime, had different huge transmitters set on the same frequency. Whenever Free Europe broadcasted, the Czechoslovak, as well as other Soviet regimes, turned on their anti-transmitters to the same frequency, which disturbed the Free Europe signal. However, it was incredibly expensive. It cost way too much money. From a technical point of view, it used great electric power and it applied only to cities. So practically, it was impossible to listen to the radio Free Europe in Bratislava, maybe only sometimes, or it had to be tuned to another frequency. When we were at our cabin in Hodruša, there the signal wasn’t disturbed. We could listen to Free Europe anytime away from Bratislava. And I guess it was sometime in the spring of 1989, that the tapped-out comrades decided not to give a damn and not to disturb it anymore. They might have also been pushed by Russians or it was a move how to buy those people off, I don’t know. Simply, they stopped disturbing. Wow! I remember that the main program, Free Europe’s flagship, was Events and Opinions (Udalosti a názory) that was broadcasted always at six, at nine, at midnight and it was an hour-long. As they stopped disturbing it, I remember my brother and I lay down at home and listened to it for the whole hour. For me, the chance to listen to it was a little sign of wonder and freedom. It could be compared to Austrian television, which was possible to watch in Bratislava without problems, but it mostly referred to Austria and only from time to time there was broadcasted something little about Czechoslovakia. On the other hand, here in Free Europe, the broadcast was mostly about us and for us. This was another sign that something was going on. Although, even if something was going on, it said nothing about what was going to follow.”

  • “Talking about the risks… I started to realize the risks a bit more when I was about 18 – 19 years old. It was in time when I became more active in the Christian life. As an 18-year-old I was baptized and then I used to attend various Christian meetings and clubs during my study at the university. I attended small groups that were organized by Silvo Krčméry. Back then we used to have meetings and masses in different flats. I was probably a bit more afraid of this because these activities involved a greater number of people and the State Security, most probably, had monitored them much more closely, as they were considered a bigger threat. There weren’t that many dissidents. So, I would say, I was more afraid of this than of other things.”

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    Bratislava, 24.01.2019

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We live in a relatively decent society, however, at the same time we still feel, the Velvet Revolution needs to be accomplished

Daniel Bútora was born in 1967 in Bratislava. Before 1989, his father Martin Bútora worked in the sphere of independent sociologists criticizing the communist regime. His mother was the daughter of the communist poet Ladislav Novomeský. When he was eighteen, he was baptized and he often attended secret meetings and holy masses in private flats. After graduation, he worked as a stage crew for one year and then he started to study library and information science at the Faculty of Arts of the Comenius University. He was intensively interested in Easter Europe events after Mikhail Gorbachev became the head of the Soviet Union. He took part in meetings of different anti-regime organizations, which intermixed by the end of the 1980s. Thanks to his father, Daniel got to know Slovak dissidents. On November 13, 1989, he joined the demonstration for the liberation of the so-called Bratislava Five in front of the Palace of Justice in Bratislava. Following the events that happened on November 17 in Prague, Daniel was one of the students who led discussions with the Faculty representatives on November 20, in the auditorium of Faculty of Arts of the Comenius University. He was also very active in forming the students’ movement. As one of the student leaders, he cooperated with the VPN (Public Against Violence) on organizing protest demonstrations. In 1990 he stopped his uncompleted study, devoted himself to journalism and worked in VPN. After Vladimír Mečiar’s victory in elections of June 1992, he bowed out of politics. He moved to Prague, where he worked for the Radio Free Europe and he graduated from the Charles University. Since 2004 he lives in Bratislava, works as a coach of top managers, and is engaged in work with children and youth.