Ludvík Hradílek

* 1960  

  • “To reach the meeting point, we needed to climb approximately five kilometers up the hill. We met down below the Sněžka mountain, close to a signpost. There was a border guard there along with five Polish guys sitting around at the resting area. Five sympathetic, smiling Polish guys who had exactly the same backpacks as we did – big blue ones with iron buckles. In the bodyguard’s sight, we placed our backpacks next to theirs and sat down. Then we exchanged a few words with them, to make it look like we just met by accident. They had some alcohol with them, so we had a drink, too. In the end, I took their backpack, put it on my back and went off. But that backpack! It must have weighed maybe 30 kilos, it was stuffed and I wasn’t able to carry it!”

  • “Suddenly, a border guard jumped out of a bush and said: ‘Stop! Who are you?‘ – ‘We are Czech tourists.‘ – ‘You are not allowed here!‘ We told him we knew it but we wanted to make a shortcut. He wanted to see our IDs. I showed him mine and then he wanted to see Saša Vondra’s, too. And Saša told him he didn’t have one, which of course caught his attention. ‘What do you have in your bag?‘ the border guard asked. So, he took a look and said: ‘Books, huh? Okay, go.’“

  • „The secret police came and they were so many that they could not even fit in our kitchen, so they had to stand outside. That was around 6 a.m. Our kid started crying, so my wife went to change the diapers. While doing that she secretly packed leaflets from Czech children in the diapers. She also yelled at them to take off their shoes, which they indeed did and it was a sign that it would not be all that serious after all. They said they came to see Mr. Vondra. We told them he wasn’t there, so they asked where he lived. We came up with him living in our kid’s room. So, they went to the children’s room, there were three children, one of them crying. I told them I had to feed the chicken. I went to the shed, took my negatives and threw the whole box over the fence to my neighbor’s. That was the only thing I was worried about. There were negatives from all the issues of Revolver Revue, which could have cost me.

  • “In 1984, Ivan Lamper came to Prague, invading this bunch of people with his grim face. So, we decided to start a magazine. Oriented on literature, big, printed on cyclostyle, not written by hand anymore. I was some sort of an exception in this group. I had a job – meaning some sort of an income – I had a passport, I had a driving license and a car. All the others were artist and had the ‘blue book’ – a document relieving them of military duty due to alleged mental illness. They lived out of disability pensions or some ad-hoc jobs. And since I had a camera and a darkroom to develop photos, they asked me whether I was interested to do some shoots for them. So I was in touch with them since the very first issue.“

  • “Instinctively, I went to the other side, there were almost no signs. I keep going and suddenly, all around me there were walls and reflectors shining from all sides. I came right in front of the prison entrance! All the policemen who were previously standing at the junction and doing regular guard stopped right behind us. And the three people I had in my car were totally drunk. I thought that we were totally screwed. I had a cyclostyle and I was going directly to Leopoldov prison. They asked: ‘Where do you travel from, guys?‘ – ‘Hungary.’ The wanted to see passports, took a look at them and asked what were we carrying. I opened the trunk and immediately, they asked what was in the bag and opened it. I was scared to say it was a cyclostyle, so I said it was a graphic press. ‘Aha, and where did you get that?’ – ‘I bought it at the flea market.’ – ‘Do you have any receipt?’ – ‘No.’- ‘And where did you get the money for it?’ – ‘A friend had lent me.’ I started to get lost in my own lies. ‘That is interesting, take it out. And what do you have there next?’ One of the guys had a huge camera in the trunk. Peripherally, I saw how the drunks were swaying out of the car, leaving me behind alone.”

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    Praha, 07.04.2017

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I was the dissidents’ driver

Ludvík Hradílek in 2017
Ludvík Hradílek in 2017

Ludvík Hradílek was born in 1960 into a religious family. After successfully completing a high school of art carpentry in 1981, he married Tereza Muchová, with whom he moved to a house in Buďánky, Prague. Thanks to his wife, he became acquainted with the local dissident group from Košíře and Malá Strana, which included the Topol brothers, Alexandr Vondra, Ivan Lamper, and others. Together, they started to publish the samizdat Revolver Revue in 1984, with Ludvík being in charge of picture-taking and obtaining technical equipment. He was the only non-artist in the whole group, and he had a stable job, a house, a passport, a driving license and a car. On several occasions, he went on missions abroad for the Revolver Revue. During these trips, he met dissidents from Hungary and Poland. In 1988, he took part in a secret meeting with members of Polish underground, taking place in the mountains, during which they would exchange samizdat and other publications. Throughout 1989, he took part in a number of protests, worked intensively on publishing the Revolver Revue and became among other things the last signatory of Charter 77. Following the Velvet Revolution, he worked as a photographer for the Respekt weekly. At present, he works as a photojournalist for the online news portal Aktuálně.cz.