Petr Dohnal

* 1960

  • "It was interesting that many of these 'post-revolutionaries' or even dissidents showed up to be collaborators with the StB when these materials had been revealed. I have to say it was very surprising and painful because we trusted these people a lot. One technician cooperated with us a lot and mediated our contacts with the dissidents. So after that, we found out that we were under a lot of control. Then some cooperation turned up with Radek Bartoník [the first director of the theatre after 1989]. But I don't know exactly. It was kind of bitter when you saw that you had a lot of people around you that you trusted, and suddenly there's this StB thing and it turns out that maybe they were informing on some things. So I guess we were under control, because the theater was very visible."

  • "That November 24th, when the Communist Party Central Committee resigned, that was the turning point. It was expected that the People's Militia would show up and disperse the assembly in front of the theatre. We totally underestimated this, because one of my colleagues had a father-in-law who was a high-ranking officer. We were informed that some groups of People's Militia and perhaps soldiers were preparing themselves somewhere in the vicinity of Pardubice and wanted to intervene. Fortunately, this did not happen. And it happened on November 24th, when the Party Central Committee resigned. And since then, the staircase of the theatre has filled up three times more than previously, and many have become great revolutionaries. And it was interesting to see how those who had warned us about this whole thing started to come forward, they wanted to speak out. And all of a sudden we who were there at the beginning started to move away from the main event. We said, 'Well, that's the way it is, the revolution eats its children, most of the time.' That's exactly how it had happened here, on a small scale of course.

  • "I knew that there were those State Security officers who came to us and told us not to do anything, and that was probably the last impulse for us to start doing something. We started to organise meetings in front of the theatre, on the theatre's staircase. At first, just people who weren't so well-known had been coming there, but later, well-known people from the opposition had begun to show up, whom we knew to be organized in such a way, they would just join in. We founded the Civic Forum. Things started to get wild in the theatre, because not everyone agreed with the changes that were happening. But we, as we were young, we would just carry on, we formed this kind of action committee, we would oust the director of the theatre in fact, we basically took over the management of the theatre, with all the consequences we could have possibly faced. We attended a few meetings of the Communist Party's district Committee, where we just told them that things had to change. We all wanted some changes, but we didn't know exactly - what kind of changes. We wanted freedom, we wanted to travel, we wanted some kind of liberation, but we each saw matters a little differently. It was an interesting period, there was a lot of discussion. We had some people coming up to us saying, 'Don't be silly, you guys are going to make a terrible mess of it all, we remember it from 1968, and you're going into something that's going to be a terrible mess if it doesn't work out. And there's no indication that it will.'"

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    Hradec Králové, 26.09.2019

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We were afraid that the People‘s Militia would disperse the gathering in front of the Theatre

Petr Dohnal during the general strike in front of the Pardubice Theater, 27 November 1989
Petr Dohnal during the general strike in front of the Pardubice Theater, 27 November 1989
zdroj: Archív pamětníka

Petr Dohnal was born on 20 November 1960 in Pardubice. He never met his biological father and took his stepfather‘s surname. His mother was a nurse. At the age of thirteen, he performed at the theatre in Pardubice for the first time. He graduated from the Secondary Vocational School of Chemistry in Opatovice. After graduation, he was accepted at DAMU (Academy of Performing Arts in Prague). He worked at the State Theatre in Brno and at the Oldřich Stibor State Theatre in Olomouc (now the Moravian Theatre). In 1987, he took up a permanent engagement at the East Bohemian Theatre in Pardubice. In November 1989, he was one of the initiators of the Velvet Revolution in Pardubice. Despite being threatened by the State Security, he stood at the birth of the local branch of the Civic Forum. The staircase in front of the Pardubice theatre had become the centre of the revolutionary events. Together with his comrades, they went around factories and schools to acquaint people with current events and explain the political situation. In 1999, Petr Dohnal accepted the position of director of the East Bohemian Theatre in Pardubice. In addition, he founded his own dubbing studio. In 2016, he was awarded the Medal of the City of Pardubice.