Ing. Pavel Franěk

* 1946

  • “As I had been dealing with this Napro Company from Lausanne, every time negotiations were over, we exchanged small gifts. I used to give them gut glass ashtrays. And they always came with this box of various Swiss chocolates. And they were saying: 'Chocolate is quite bad in Czechoslovakia, so take this, so your kids would have some chocolate.' So I would take the chocolate, of course, and I would share it with my family. I had two children. It had also happened that we would exchange gifts while dealing in Prague (Praha). After it was over, they usually gave me a bottle of whiskey, sometimes there were two bottles. And there was this rule that you had to report such a thing. As people working at my office had to report to me. So if I would get two bottles, I had to give one to the ROH (The Revolutionary Trade Union Movement) and I could keep the other one. I usually let the people working for me to keep all of it, we just filed this report. But of course, if there were some gifts of value, especially the Austrians were doing this, giving golden coins, like those Austrian thalers, you had to hand it in.”

  • “I saw that, I was there while it happened. And the black market had been the natural result of the planned economy. So they would bring bananas, and the central storehouse for Central Bohemia where bananas were left to mature was in Prague's Sixth District (Praha 6). The Fruits and Vegetables (Ovoce a Zelenina) National Enterprise. And there was this man in charge, I knew him quite well, maybe he's dead by now, he had been supplying Ovoce and Zelenina shops and several other supermarkets with bananas. And if he couldn't be sure that he would get this kickback from a shop manager, he just wouldn't deliver the goods and maybe would rather let it rot. And there were toilet paper shortages, that's true. Indeed. As we didn't manufacture it. Only later, after a paper mill in Harmanec had been built. But most of the good smanufactured in Harmanec had been exported. As it was an export article, you could get foreign currency for it. So there was a lot of profiteering going on almost everywhere. This informal economy, the gray economy. As the people were divided to those who had foreign currency coupons, the so-called bons, and those who didn't. So they were those illicit moneychangers standing in front of every Tuzex shop selling the coupons underhand.”

  • “Many of my friends did well in business, they were able to amass quite a huge fortune, in terms of several billions. And maybe I would also have joined them, if I did have two sons, not two daughters. But I was 44 years-old back then and I knew all the pitfalls. And after all, I had some standards after what I had been doing. I didn't want to get involved in such semi-legal activities. Like Babiš, as he had to go through this, this semi-legal stuff. As Babiš, after he came to Prague (Praha) from Slovakia, as he found out that he couldn't build a career there, he bought Zemědělské zásobování a nákup enterprise, and there was this huge loan involved. But he had courage, he was a hard working man, and he also employed a lot of people from Koospol. And he tried so hard that in the end he had succeeded, as his business was based on phosphates. As before that, he had been working as a Petrimex enterprise representative in Morocco, a country that had been huge in phosphates. As Morocco had it covered, more or less, and he had excellent business connections down there. And as he founded Agrofert and begun to import, he had this huge credit. So he took out a loan form a bank, Československá obchodní banka I think, and he had to pay them in ninety days. So he got the goods which he brought to the Czech Republic, sold it and payed his supplier after ninety days. And in most cases, he managed to sell it in ninety days. And when he had to pay the Moroccans, he already got the money so he could pay them. Every supplier abroad would like to do business with such a partner.”

  • “As I understood it, the regime change in 1989 was just a change of scenery. So after I came home, I told my wife, who had been working as a teacher: 'Well, Květuška, now we will finally get rich. Can you imagine something like that?' My wife said: 'Well, I am not sure if I can.' So I got rid of this burden that was working at the Foreign Trade Enterprise, as it had been quite complicated. Especially with the people, who were the greatest burden. So I got rid of that. And I started working at a freezing plant, thinking that I would entertain myself with making frozen foods. As I learned to love fish and the whole food industry. So I had this clear idea and I had also these suppliers from the Federal Republic of Germany, who had lost customers, of course, as the Foreign Trade Enterprise ceased its activities. Flamingo Fish from Bremenhafen, this Mr Düring and his son, who were just great and they still are, I believe. And I had this idea that I would make this product, 'fish fingers', as they would call it today. Back then, I advertised it as 'fish portions'.”

  • “I used to meet Jan Palach during his first year at the University of Economics in Prague. As he had been living in a hall of residence at Jarov where he shared a room with Láďa Dolejš, my future colleague. And every time I came visit Láďa, Honzík was there. He didn't go out much and he didn't have many friends. And he had books by Dostoevsky on his table, on his bedside table and in the bookcase which was just as simple as in any other room. And when we had to read books by Dostoevsky at school, I found them very hardy, difficult to read. And he was so thorough that he read them all, I even noticed that he had Crime and Punishment. And he made notes and underlined some passages. There's this other thing by which we are connected. Like every student back then, he wanted to go abroad during holidays, of course, to do some voluntary work. And he signed up for this fruit picking in France, for strawberry picking in Southern France. The Student union of labour and services did this back then. And above it there was AISEC, which served as the union of students from trade schools and universities of economics, so you could travel abroad without that much trouble. And due to his limited English, Jan Palach had been offered an opportunity to go to the Soviet Union to cultivate the land. And it wasn't so pleasant to go to such a place, of course. But he insisted he would go, so he got the approval, they gave him a ticket and he left with this group of volunteers who decided to cultivate the land and create this vast and fertile kolkhoz fields.”

  • “Later, as I had been sent to the West, I was paid partly in Crowns and partly in foreign currency. So in Germany, for example, they gave me 3000 Czechoslovak Crowns to pay my rent and charges at home, of course, and also to spend when I came back for holidays. And I deposited the amount in the foreign currency to this Tuzex account, to cover my stay abroad and also to save something up. As far as Germany was concerned, I didn't save much. In Ethiopia, the situation was quite different. As they were watching if a given employee or a delegate had been depositing enough money to his Tuzex account. As if he didn't save up via Tuzex and he was just buying foreign currency he could use freely, it was a signal that he most probably didn't expect that he would ever come back to the motherland. So they kept an eye on it, in Polytechna enterprise, to name just one. So while I was there, this woman from the office ordered me to ask why one of the employees didn't make regular deposits to his Tuzex account. This actual person I knew, so I called him. And of course, there was this contribution they had to pay to Polytechna in local currency, ten percent of their salary, in my office at the trade department. And you had to pay to Polytechna. As Polytechna needed funds to operate. They had been paying me this regular contribution, so I told him: 'Honza, listen to me, man, have you been saving to your Tuzex account?' And he said: 'Well, I wasn't really saving.' - 'And why didn't you save?' - 'I was buying stuff here...' - 'What kind of stuff?' And he had been buying ivory. And as Ethiopia was a land of gold, as they were mining gold there, he had been buying these things made of gold and expensive furs.”

  • “I started to pay attention to this as late as in 1970, 1971, as I was nominated to such a committee in Prague´s Seventh District (Praha 7), as a student and Party-member-in-waiting. They just announced that as a fact, without even talking to me, that I was supposed to be in such a committee, a screening committee in fact, in Prague´s Seventh District. The head of the committee was comrade Mohoritová, Vasil Mohorita´s mother. You know who he was, I presume. Throw Mohorita out of the gravy train, we have seen that. And Mohoritová was indeed this ugly, frightening person. She led all the screenings in Prague´s Seventh District, where the Trade Fair Palace had been located and also four Foreign Trade Enterprises. And she led this committee dealing with local Communists. And those people were, of course, experts in their fields. There were even party members with some experience abroad. And she assumed that she just had to expel them from the Party, no matter what. And everyone spoke in a quite decent manner, but she behaved like a true inquisitor. I was sitting there while it happened and I just couldn´t interfere... If I tried to speak up – and later, I met many of those people professionally – there was no chance of me doing anything about it. As Mohoritová was this truly ruthless and cruel person, swiftly expelling people from the Party without mercy.”

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After the 1989 revolution, I told my wife: Now we will finally get rich

Pavel Franěk in 2019
Pavel Franěk in 2019
zdroj: Studio Paměti národa.

Pavel Franěk was born on March 27th 1946 in Znojmo. His father came from a family of ardent Communists while his mother grew up as a daughter of an affluent farmer and hotel owner. In 1951, Franěks moved to Prague (Praha). In 1965, Pavel Franěk graduated from an eleven-year school (today´s gymnasium type school). From 1964 to 1966, he did his compulsory military service and joined the Communist party in 1966. After that, he had been admitted to University of Economics in Prague (Praha), graduating in 1971. Since then, he had been involved in foreign trade. He had been working in paper manufacturing industry, at the Czechoslovak Chamber of Trade, at the Ministry of Foreign Trade and at the Koospol Foreign Trade Enterprise. He had been representing Czechoslovakia in Ethiopia, Indonesia or the Federal Republic of Germany. After 1989, he had been working at the Ministry of Tourism and Trade and at the Ministry of Regional Development, being involved in the process of privitization and also in European Operational programmes. He also started his own business in trade and tourism. In 2019, he has been a KSČM (a successor to the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia) member and was living in Prague (Praha).