Miroslav Čvančara

* 1934

  • “Cinemas were nationalised, no exceptions. We weren’t the only ones affected – many other cinema owners, including ones who remained truthful to the nation throughout the war and even maybe worked in the resistance movement. It was just mercilessly taken away from them. When President Beneš signed the decree, it included a clause to the effect that the people would be compensated. But that never happened and the President never checked if the clause was ever observed. So, we got nothing; after all, the Minister of Culture was communist Václav Kopecký and he had no interest in giving anything to anyone. Then February 1948 came, and nobody ever even spoke to us afterwards.”

  • “Back when the film rental still prospered, my brothers got the idea in 1934 to run a cinema business, and so they opened the Republika open-air cinema in 1934. In total, they operated 10 cinemas from 1934 to 1945. Those were predominantly small cinemas; in Prague, there was the Republika and Pod Táborem, and Kačerov later on. In the neighbourhoods that were joined to Prague only later, whether that was Měcholupy or Kolovraty, they also operated a cinema in Jankov ner Votice, in Bříšťany, and Dohalice in Hradec Králové. At the time, silent cinema was on a demise, so it was usually that the local Sokol organisations asked the Čvančara brothers to provide the sound equipment and then run the cinemas. It was, however, sub-licenced by Sokol because Sokol held the licences for 45 per cent of all Czechoslovak cinema facilities. They were compelled to organise under certain auspices. But the Nazis forbade Sokol in 1941 Sokol, and since most of the cinemas’ names included ‘Sokol’ – Sokol Dolní Měcholupy, Sokol Malešice and so on – the ‘Sokol’ bit had to be deleted.”

  • “And I know that I was with the carriage in the courtyard and I see these pairs of airplanes flying in the direction from Smíchov. They were at a significant altitude, leaving those condensation trails behind, so I saw more of those trails than the airplanes themselves. And my father was at the first floor window watching and said: “Wow, look, they're dropping some packages, those are flyers, right?” And suddenly there were terrible loud bangs, everything was shaking. I grabbed my little sister, and ran, not to the basement, by instinct, I don't know why, I ran to my parents to the first floor. The balcony windowpanes were shaking so much, almost about to crack. Banging, rumbling. And I didn't know, I have to say, my wife, a dressmaker apprentice at the time, she was at the corner of Resslova street and Charles Square. The building received a full blast, luckily they were in the basement, it collapsed and they found themselves in complete darkness and it wasn't until several hours later that firefighters dug through to them from the neighbouring building’s basement and dragged them out.”

  • “As soon as Britain and France declared war on Germany, all films from these two countries were immediately banned, with no exceptions. Which I know because I would come to the cinema all the time, right. So my father and my uncle who ran the summer cinema… well, they would have to in any case, it gets colder in September, you can't just sit outside like that, they would have to shut the cinema down themselves, but after that they never reopened again, however they did rent cinemas outside of Prague so they ran that business because they had to make a living somehow. And this rental shop that we had here in the building, that's no longer there in the courtyard, that one specialised in exceptionally valuable films, from the silent film era, and right at the end of March of 39 the Gestapo showed up and confiscated all films that either featured anti-war or anti-German ideas, whether it was Švejk or others, or contained Jewish themes, like Golem, for example, or they had Jewish actors or authors. They seized all of that, brought it to the Reich film archive in Berlin, and that later ended up as spoils of war of the Soviets, who then took it to Moscow. So those movies must still be there somewhere to this day.”

  • “I remember for instance the 1945 New Year's, there was this gentleman walking down the street and suddenly he dropped dead and people carried him into the courtyard entry of this house. They obviously had no idea who he was, right, so people kept coming to take a look at him, and so later… that was a little experience of mine, they later carried him into the recruitment building and put him on a table. And I had, since Christmas, it was a rarity, a box of coconut biscuits. And I was so looking forward to savouring those on my birthday, in January 1945, that I would finally open the box. And they put the dead man on the table where I had the cookies underneath. And then I couldn't touch them, I was bothered by that. I couldn't eat them afterwards. I've always had this sort of phobia of the dead.”

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They confiscated both the anti-war Švejk and the Jewish Golem

Miroslav Čvančara
Miroslav Čvančara
zdroj: Witness' archive

Miroslav Čvančara was born on the 14th of January 1934. His father and uncle owned several cinemas and a film rental shop. After the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was declared over Czechoslovakia the shop‘s films with anti-war or Jewish themes were confiscated, after the war they even lost films that came from enemy countries. By the end of the war, Miroslav witnessed the bombing of Prague. In summer 1945 his father‘s business was seized as a part of the ongoing nationalization. Miroslav Čvančara joined the Scout movement after the war. He spent his whole life working as a technician in film laboratories.