"In Prague, physics was practically exterminated as several professors died in concentration camps during the war and so on. In Prague, there was no faculty of physics but only of mathematics and physics, which was dominated by mathematics. Physics was cornered there. Apart from physics, I was interested in the Soviet Union and so I decided to try and study there. I graduated from a Soviet high school in Prague - even though at that time, it was once again called the 'Russian grammar school'. After that, I found out some students were to be sent out to study in the Soviet Union."
"I was in Kremlin and saw all the Soviet cadres including Khruschev there, and interpreted for them. It was a sort of a political university. Then I saw the shaken structures across the Soviet Union. They didn't know what to think to do - how to act following Khruschev's 1956 speech. For me, it was a great experience even though I already knew many of those things from my Soviet friends. But now, I was able to see the impacts of Khruschev's speech first-hand in the individual republics."
"We tried to do the parallel culture, and to support the samizdat. There were tenths of books published by Havel, Uhde, Vaculík and another dozen of authors. Back then, samizdat production was done using a copy paper. One could write about ten copies at once using the thin paper. I came to realize that this was after all a dated technology and provided modern equipment to Czechoslovak writers. They were given computers and printers and were able to distribute prohibited texts in a more modern way. Before that, they had to re-write each ten copies."
"He felt the responsibility. For ten yearsm he was fighting on various fronts against fascism and so on. Suddenly, he realized that the regime he helped build, is dictatorial and unacceptable to him. He was very disheartened by that in the last years of his life. That is why he became one of the most vocal and serious critics of the communist regime."
"Two months after the congress, the chairman of the Swedish PEN club told me that Charter 77 would be receiving the Monismanien prize. I created a special bank account called Charter 77. Later, I renamed it to Foundation Charter 77. The money for the prize arrived there: 15 thousand Swedish crowns. That was big money at that time because one Swedish crown had the value of four or five Tuzex voucher and one Tuzex voucher was worth about five Czechoslovak crowns. When the money arrived, I began sending the spokespersons of Charter 77 small amounts of money - a thousand or fifteen hundred crowns - to see how it worked."
"There was the PEN International congress and its chairman asked me to obtain some message from Prague. I promised him to give it a try and called Václav Havel. We knew each other a bit - I knew who he was and he knew who I was. We met in Prague twice on some events. I told him I was with Pavel Tigrid and Gabriel Laub on a PEN International congress and asked him whether he'd like to address it. He told me to call him back the next day, which I did. I recorded a message from him that he read to me. We translated it with Pavel Tigrid into English and presented it at the congress. It made a big stir there."
I liked the Russians but not the Stalinist socialism
František Janouch was born on 22 September 1931 in Lysá nad Labem into the family of a medical doctor and a nurse. He grew up un Prague‘s Vršovice quarter. In 1943, his father was imprisoned for his work in an illegal resistance unit of several doctors. He was imprisoned in Auschwitz, Mauthausen and a labor camp in Austria. After the war, František attended a Soviet grammar school in Prague and then opted for studying nuclear physics in the Soviet Union. As a seventeen-year-old, he joined the Communist Party. In 1954, he graduated from the Faculty of Physics at Leningrad University. After that, he undertook a postgraduate course at the Moscow University where in 1959, he defended his doctoral thesis. During his stay in the Soviet Union, he changed his opinion of Soviet politics and became a radical reformist. Following his return to Czechoslovakia, he was the chairman of the Department of Theoretical Nuclear Physics at the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Řež. In 1970, he was expelled from both the Communist Party and his job for political reasons. In 1974, he was allowed to accept a work offer by the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences. In Stockholm, he collaborated with Czechoslovak and Russian exile personalities. In 1978, he established the Charter 77 Foundation, which had been sending money to support persecuted families in Czechoslovakia. In the 1980s, he launched his project Videožurnál, bringing Western news coverages to Czechoslovakia on video tapes. He was married to Ada, née Kolmanová, and had two children. František Janouch died on January 12, 2024.