“I guess they suspected me of some collaboration because I had to leave Olomouc in ’80. I was not summoned for interrogation, probably nobody told on me or they could not find a reason, but I had to leave. It was Christmas 1979 and Father Nerychel, the new parson, was celebrating the holy midnight mass. I read a sermon during the mass. The St Mauritius Church was packed during the mass; there was a church secretary, Dr Engliš, upstairs. I read a sermon; I think it was quite ordinary, with nothing really provocative. But then, in the vestry, I asked Jan Kouřil from Olomouc to read the prayers of intercession. I don’t remember if he was an altar boy or a lector; he was there with his father. Jan took it as a challenge. He read the prayers of intercession that I gave him, and in the end he said: ‘Let us pray For Father František Lízna, Father Rudolf Smahel, Mr Josef Vlček, Mr Adámek and all the others who are in prison.’ The entire church says: ‘Please hear us.’ They say the church secretary upstairs ran to the choir gallery to see who said it and what happened. The holy mass went on and finished. I came back home after the mass and Father Nerychel called me over the intercom, saying I had terribly upset the church secretary with the intercession. I said, ‘Wait, I did not write or read the intercession.’ ‘Well, the church secretary is convinced that it is your job and you will pay the price. They will withdraw you state consent.’ I said, ‘Well if I lose my consent I will do another job. What can I do?’ The result was that while I did not lose my state consent I had to leave Olomouc.”
“Of course, when you are going in there you are scared. I was no hero. I always say that it was easier being a hero in Prague than elsewhere. When they picked you up in Prague and took you to the StB in Bartolomějská Street, Radio Free Europe and Voice of America would cover it instantly, the same evening. But when you got lost in a village, nobody knew. So, every time I went, I would always tell some friends where I was going so they knew if I didn’t come back. You know, if I was detained or whatever. When I first went there in Frýdek-Místek, the StB resided on the sixth or seventh floor in a new tall building. The StB man Měrka came downstairs and picked me up at the reception; the receptionists called him because they didn’t know where to send me. Then they moved the sheet and saw it was from the StB. So, he came to pick me up and took me to the fifth floor by lift. Then he would lead me to the seventh floor through three bars he had to unlock, open and then close and lock again, making a lot of noise doing it. It was intimidating from the very start. He wanted me to realise that the bar could stay locked when I wanted to go back. That was unpleasant, of course. Then he put me in a room and had me wait for a half an hour or an hour. They had a semi-permeable glass there, so they could see me but I could not see them. They watched how the person behaved. I would always grab my rosary and pray all the time. I tried to stay calm as much as I could. When they interrogated me I would always answer with one word. Yes. No. Yes. No. They asked me: ‘Can you put a sentence together?’ ‘I can.’ ‘So why won’t you?’ ‘I am answering questions. You ask, I answer.’ ‘You are a Salesian.’ ‘I am not.’ ‘We know you are.’ ‘Why are you asking me if you know?’ On and on like that. They never got much from my ‘yes’ and ‘no’. The worst thing was when people started talking and thought they would deceive the police. That was very wrong. The police were always able to take something from it that they could use against you or others. It was not easy for them with me. It was never easy for me either, of course. I was scared every time, but thank God it always ended well.”
“Then the raid went on. People were in detention and interrogated all the time. There was no knowing who would be taken away next. One day, I visited my parents briefly and came back in the morning. When I went to the church, to the confession booth, at about half past five, Ms Janýšková was waiting for me; she was Tonda Janýška’s mum and she told me that Father Kupka had been arrested and taken away yesterday. I saw the circle closing; they were closing in on us. I got all the books and samizdat that one was not supposed to keep at home. Then I would carry it all to St Mauritius Church all night; organist Antonín Schindler advised me to hide it in the back of the organ. Not in the machine, but in the very rear; there is some crawlspace there. So I took it all there and it stayed there until the revolution. At this point, I would like to say that Mr Schindler was accused of being a StB collaborator. I want to defend him; I don’t think he was. If he was a collaborator, this would have been the easiest opportunity for him to get some credit with them. He could have given them a tip. This never happened. So I doubt that he collaborated, personally. Well, I managed to hide everything there; it took me until the morning, and I thought it would be a pity if it were lost.”
They would tell the StB on me but I hold no grudge with any of them
Josef Jančář was born in Těšov near Uherský Brod on 22 May 1951. His father had a blacksmith shop and his mother ran a small farming operation until the communists seized everything in the late 1950s. Young Josef took part in protests after the Warsaw Pact invasion and the self-immolation of Jan Palach. He studied for a priest in Litoměřice but, having completed his second year, was forced to join the army and served in Týniště nad Orlicí, guarding ammunition storage. He would secretly meet Father Minařík, a Carmelite to whom he later swore his monastic vows. While still in Litoměřice, he and other theology students disseminated Charter 77 and other samizdat literature. Bishop Vrana ordained Josef a priest, and his first parish was the St Mauritius Parish in Olomouc. He continued disseminating samizdat there. He was forced to leave Olomouc two years later. Josef relocated to Hranice and got under StB surveillance. Since he was still active in the ‘underground‘ church and worked with young people even outside the church, he was relocated to Frýdek-Místek. In addition to surveillance, he underwent lengthy interrogations by the StB. Once again, Josef had to leave the parish and relocated to Frýdlant nad Ostravicí. This is where he experienced the Velvet Revolution and worked until 1994. Then he left to study ecclesiastical law in Rome and stayed there for fifteen years, working as an attorney general. Having returned, he worked as an ecclesiastical judge.