“The Beatnicks and the New Testament – that was my thing.”
Svatopluk Karásek was born October 18, 1942 in the family of a government ministry official Petr Karásek, who was briefly imprisoned after February 1948 and then allowed to work only in manual positions, and Doubravka Karásková, born Černíková, whose family had evangelical tradition. As a young boy, Svatopluk was influenced by the beat generation culture, which inspired him to search for his own path in life. Later, New Testament entered his life. His mother also passed on to him the love of humour and comedy. After elementary school in Prague-Smíchov he began studying at a school for gardeners in Děčín. After he was dismissed from this school for the second time, he transferred to the school of viticulture in Mělník, where his life-long friendship with Vráťa Brabenec began. After that he studied Komenský‘s Evangelical Theological Faculty, where he was admitted at the second try, also owing to the help by professor Hromádka. The faculty was relatively conformist, but the students were searching for new ways of sharing their faith and organizing various artistic happenings. Unlike some of the older generation of theologists in the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, Svatopluk Karásek and his friends rather aspired to link their faith with the milieu of artists, and they did not perceive a need to participate in reforming the social and political affairs so keenly. A turning point for Karásek came only with the death of Jan Palach and the Russian occupation. In 1968 he began his service as a pastor in his first post in Hvozdnice. However, after a conflict with the state secretary for church affairs he had to leave the flourishing congregation and he was transferred to Nové Město pod Smrkem. After repeated problems, his state approval for pastoral activity was cancelled. Financial problems followed. He eventually found employment as a castellan on the Houska castle, where he spent several wonderful years with his wife Stáňa and their children. Then he received an invitation to the underground movement, and he has not left this community till his emigration. One of independent communities was established in Houska. Frequent visitors included pastors from the New Orientation, like Miloš Rejchrt, Alfréd Kocáb, or Jan Šimsa. He replaced his sermons to a congregation with biblical lyrics in his songs. Repercussions of these activities came in 1976 when he was arrested. The district court in Prague sentenced him together with Ivan Martin Jirous, Pavel Zajíček, and Vratislav Brabenec to eight months of unsuspended sentence for riotous conduct. A wave of solidarity followed the trial and at the turn of 1976-1977 it materialized in the founding of Charter 77, which he signed with the first wave of signatories in Ječná Street in the flat of the Němcová family. This year also marked the beginning of his new career as a window-washer. Their family lived together with Martin Jirous and Juliána. He participated in meetings of evangelical pastors - Libštát, and with his family they often visited various underground communities, e.g. in Řepice, he was also a frequent guest of meetings in Ječná street. His having signed the Charter 77 brought about constant pressure from the police and the state system. He eventually consented to a repeated offer, and under a so-called Asanace program he moved out of Czechoslovakia. After difficulties in an Austrian refugee camp he and his family arrived to Switzerland, where he was accepted as a pastor‘s deputy in a congregation in Bonstetten; five years later he moved to a large congregation in Höngg. He took part in various events promoting human rights, in meetings of the underground movement abroad and he also preached in Free Europe and in the Czech congregation of Přemysl Pitter in Zurich. After 1989 he was travelling back and forth between Switzerland and Czechoslovakia. His wife Stáňa had an established medical practice in Switzerland, and neither their children wanted to return. Svatopluk eventually kept commuting to Switzerland till 1996. In the following year, his spectacular ordination in the Salvator church in Prague took place. His life was however bitterly affected by a sudden death of his wife. At present Svatopluk Karásek is still active as a pastor in the Salvator church in Prague, he also brushed off his knowledge from the school of viticulture and he engages in wine trade as well. With his second wife Pavla they have two daughters, he also frequently visits his children who live in Switzerland. He considers the genuineness of living in the period of Charter 77 to be the most pure and free years of his life.