Martin Fendrych

* 1957

  • “It was interesting when I came to Czech Ministry of the Inferior [in 1992]. The changes had not happened there. When I came there, I had the head of the office and it was a person who had been part of the State Security earlier. I told him that he would have to end and that I could not work with a person like this. And the former State Security officer started to cry. I had to get used to the fact that State Security officers came to cry in my office. It was strange. Often. On the one hand, they were directly people who were themselves part of the State Security, but also agents. I felt sorry for some of them, I did not for some of them. I had enough of weeping men there.”

  • “As a participant of demonstrations from 1987 to 1989 I definitely do not think that the whole think was a State Security event. It is an absolute nonsense. But as far as the participation of State Security officers is concerned, of course, they had their people in opposition, among dissidents and also among protesters. I remember that it was dangerous for us, that they employed their people who were supposed to provoke an action. For example, they wanted us to attack People's Militias or policemen. We realized that this danger was present. We counted on the fact that the resistance structure was infiltrated by State Security people. However, at the same time when you went to the demonstrations and saw what was going on there, it was clear that it was not a State Security event. They simply did not want it. The same way they did not want November 1989. Nothing of this is true. However, State Security officers always could appropriate some things. They could question them. This is the Russian-communist-state security-KGB style - to question everything. Everything that is questioned loses its value. Nowadays, you can see it really well in the way disinformation and hybrid warfare go on. To question democracy. To question the state that was established there. To question the fact that we belong to the European Union. It was the same with demonstrations and with 17 November 1989. They questioned it: ’It is not true that people themselves - but State Security officers worked on it.’ Nonsense! Absolute nonsense. State Security officers could not work on losing their positions.”

  • “Second experience like this happened during Palach Week. It was interesting. It took place in Wenceslas Square and this thing happened to me there. I do not remember anymore if it was Thursday - the task force came running there and they basically carried out a massacre. There were shoes lying on the ground, it was tough. I managed to avoid them. I was still in Wenceslas Square. Suddenly, I saw a little boy who was carrying a violin, he was coming from the violin lesson and he arrived at the Wenceslas Square in a bad moment. He was crying and wanted to get away from there. I took his hand and went with him towards one of the police cordons that closed it. They were standing there with visors, helmets, and shields. The boy was little. So I always lifted him up and said: ’Could you please let him through to the other side?’ And I went like this one by one [along the line of policemen] and nobody did anything, they did not react. Only the last one on the left took the boy and put him to the other side. So there were also some decent people among them.”

  • “It was the second culture for me and I considered it the fundamental one. Public culture, the official one, socialist one did not enrich me in any way. And culture was a solid foundation for my life. I wrote poems, novels that I tried to send abroad in many funny ways, we organised theatre and our own cultural events. Underground was fascinating because it gave you the possibility of free creation. It was what attracted me. For example, music of Plastic People of the Universe was highly original and enriching because it had no limits. It was not a controlled thing. Neither did they feel any great control over them. It was interesting how they thought and spoke - underground felt close to me in this. I also wanted to do what I wanted, I did not want to have any controllers over me. I found out that the official scene was completely closed for my writing. And in fact I did not really care. We were used to creating our things at home on our knees, people took them and we discussed them. Culture functioned completely naturally, the way it, in my opinion, should. In that sense, the second culture, the less official one remained really fundamental for me. Nowadays, when I write a poem, I am most pleased by the fact that we meet with more people somewhere, I read them my poems there and we can or do not have talk about them. It just works. The official structure, publication of work is nowadays burdened in a different way than it was during Socialism - it is burdened with money. It limits the culture, it directs it somewhere where it should not be directed, where it does not belong. And I think that it is a big problem. I am not saying that everything concerning the official culture is problematic. Nowadays, there are many great things there. But underground was a source of knowledge that culture is something that goes on between me and people around me. It is not what happens between me and my publisher or between me and my reviewer but it is the first-hand meeting.”

  • “I wrote novels and poems. I had a writing machine even in the boiler room. One day State Security officers came there for an inspection. I had some posters and leaflets there. The boiler room was closed, there was a metal door that you could not open from the outside. The State Security banged on it. I grabbed the leaflets and threw them into the boiler. Then I opened the door. There was a room where we slept and relaxed. Otherwise, we kept the boiler room perfectly clean. We showered it with a hosepipe. Brown rats sometimes came out of the sewers there. It was the only thing that bothered us there: brown rats and State Security officers. State Security officers came and started to check everything. There was a shelf and we had some books on it and Mirek Vodrážka brought some Kohout´s poems there. The poems by Pavel Kohout from the time when he was a communist writer. They saw the name Kohout, grabbed it (and said): ’Have a look, Kohout!’ And I said: ’So read it.’ The very first poem was dedicated to the Soviet Union. So they gave it back. Those were such amusing times.”

  • “It happened after the lectures. A State Security officer asked me once what we talked about. I said: ’The Stoics.’ [Stoic philosophers] They put me to the Volga car and started to interrogate me in the Volga. ’What did you talk about?’ - ’The Stoics.’ And he said: ’Don´t tell me that you talked about PE!” [The words “Stoiky” (Stoics) and “stojky” (handstands) sound the same in Czech – trans.]

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State Security officers would come to cry in my office

The wedding of Alena and Martin Fendrych on 6 October 1980
The wedding of Alena and Martin Fendrych on 6 October 1980
zdroj: witness´s archive

The publicist and former Deputy Minister of the Inferior Martin Fendrych was born on 10 January 1957 in Prague. Both his parents were persecuted by the communist regime and could not do their original jobs; his father, who had graduated from law, worked as a bus driver. At the end of elementary school, Martin won a competition to study at the lycée in Dijon, but he did not receive a recommendation from the street committee, so he studied at the Sports Grammar School in Přípotoční Street. The background of the Evangelical congregation in Střešovice and mainly the personality of pastor Jaroslav Vetter largely contributed to his spiritual journey. Having passed his Secondary-school leaving exam, he studied Air engineering at Czech Technical University. However, he left the studies after three years and he made his living manually - as a loader at the airport, a window washer, a hospital attendant at the Under Petřín Hospital or a stoker in a boiler room. He was friends with people with underground background and he was mainly interested in and inspired by underground culture in the 1970s and 1980s. He helped copying illegal Lidové noviny (People’s Herald), he also participated in spreading of samizdat Vokno magazine (Window magazine) and Revolver Revue. In 1980 he married his wife Alena and they had for children together. He started to work as a spokesperson in the Federal Ministry of the Inferior in 1990 and he became Deputy Minister of the Czech Minister of the Inferior Jan Ruml after the break-up of the Federation. He kept working as Deputy until 1997. He has been working in the media since that time, he has worked among others for Respekt and Týden magazines (Respect and Week magazines) and he has also freelanced for Czech Television and Radio. He has worked as a commentator for the news website until now. He has published several novels and books with autobiographical themes, such as Jako pták na drátě (1998), Samcologie (2003), Slib, že mě zabiješ: blogoromán (2009) and the newest one Šílenec (2021).