Petr Kolář

* 1941

  • "Havel... It's sad that he died that early. He was no politician but he was a fair man. That's what's missing us most. Not politics, that would be doable. It's neither [German] Bundestag, nor the French parliament but it's tolerable. The worst thing is, this fairness, this is lacking, terribly so. [There is only] money and hunt for power."

  • “At that time, we were staying in Titograd, now its name is Podgorica again. We were a group, we moved around in a group. When we were done with climbing, we had planned three days for bathing at the seaside. So we went swimming but we couldn’t understand why those people there, when they found out that we were Czechs, they gave us such funny looks. Only the gentleman at whose yard we camped told us: ‘We’re sorry that you haven’t fought back, we Yugoslavians would fight.’ ‘What? What sort of fight?’ ‘You don’t know about it? You have Russians there!” On the twenty-fourth of August, three days after the occupation. I guess I was one of the last Czechs who would find out. I said straight away: ‘I’m not going back.’ I told it straight away to the group leader. I was shaking with anger, they even dared to call it brotherly help. As they did with the Hungarians in 1956. This hypocrisy is worse than the act itself. Lying to a person who cannot say: ‘Do not lie!’ That’s what I got from my dad, this attitude and character. At that point, I don’t care about my losses. At the end, my life wasn’t that bad when you look at it. Soon, I’ll be 80.”

  • „So I hit the road, I reached the Czechoslovak borders on Christmas Eve in 1989. There still was all that barbed wire, a German Shepherd was barking, a steel bar across the road. It was like a museum, for goodness’ sake. Obviously, I was bringing Václav Havel’s books, O lidskou identitu [For Human Identity], Dálkové výslechy [published as Disturbing the Peace in English], many other things, and the officer who apparently got stuck in the olden days asked, ‘So what are you bringing?’ He saw that my car dragged the rear almost on the road, so heavy it was. I replied: ‘So, if you have read the Jules Verne books, so, Two Years’ Vacations and such, it adds up. I’ve been collecting them for twenty years. I’m going to visit my family.’ ‘And what are you bringing, then?’ ‘Well, champagne, salmon and books.’ Again, an old time [i. e. Communist] officer took over: ‘And what sort of books?’ ‘Well, Václav Havel’s For Human Identity.’ ‘Show me. Oh, Václav Havel.’ He did what the French call yellow laugh. And at the same time, it was apparent that they [border control] were not ready yet because in the West, I would transport books which were impossible to sell because they were in Czech, but when I had more than three of them, I had to pay custom fees for them as if they were goods for sale. And I had over a hundred of volumes! They still did not have this notion of custom fees. So I arrived for the Christmas Eve dinner to Paskov and in my native village which meantime changed into a town, I was unable to find our house. I had to ask. So much had it changed.’

  • "So, in 1968, Prague Spring, they allowed me to travel to Yugoslavia and from there, I crossed the borders to Austria. For 22 years, I remained a refugee, an exilee. From the beginning, with no papers, I had nothing, I was wearing shorts and I had a backpack with mountain climbing gear. Ice axe, hammer, ropes, that's what I had, but no trousers, just shorts. So the beginnings were very harsh. Luckily, Austrians were used to it, shortly before, they accepted all those Hungarians so they had established a camp in Vienna, huge provisional camp for refugees and that's where I started. And from there, I gradually worked my way through the immigration police to the Jesuits. First they did not want me because nobody knew me in Austria. They made a background check here in Ostrava, in Czechoslovakia, and at the end, they let me stay.

  • „Já jsem tenkrát na rozdíl od těch mých spolužáků... Můj táta byl člověk velice zběhlý a malý začínající politik v Ostravě ve čtyřicátém osmém roce. A poslouchal jenom cizí rozhlas, takže my jsme neměli doma ani noviny, ani rádio, ani televizi, jenom večer vždycky: ,Uaaa, uaaa‘. Oni to rušili, tak to bylo slyšet ,Uaaa, uaaa‘ Máma vždycky: ,Prosím tě, už to vypni!‘ Ale on prostě byl informovaný. No, a já když se hlasovalo, tak jsem by"I, compared to my schoolmates... My dad was well-versed and an aspiring politician in Ostrava in 1948. And he only listened to foreign radio so we had no newspapers at home, no radio, no tv, only in the evenings, we would listen to that 'Oooah, oooah'. They jammed it so all we could hear was this 'Oooah, oooah'. Mom would always say: ‘Please turn that off…’ But, he was informed. And, I, when we voted, was the only one who abstended and suddenly, silence in the classroom. Well then, they left. And after that class, everyone started yelling at me: ‘Pretty please, why don’t you want the Soviet Union to help the Hungarian people?’ And I said: ‘Because in Hungary, it was the people who rose against the Communist government. I can’t see what helping those Soviets want to do there.’ ‘But it’s not true! It was not printed anywhere, they did not talk about it on the radio, what a nonsense, all the things you’ve been telling us!’ At that time, I realised that I was living in two worlds, one at home, one outside.“l jediný, kdo se zdržel. Tak najednou ticho hrobové ve třídě. Tak dobře, oni odešli. A na mě se pak po té hodině vrhli všichni ve třídě: ,Prosím tě, proč nechceš, aby Sovětský svaz pomohl maďarskému lidu?‘ Já říkám: ,No protože v Maďarsku je revoluce lidová proti komunistické vládě. Já nevím, co tam Sověti chtějí komu pomáhat.‘ ,Ale vždyť to není pravda! Vždyť to nikde nebylo napsáno, ani v rádiu se o tom nemluví! Co to vykládáš za nesmysly!‘ A tehdy mi došlo, že žiji v jednom světě ve svojí rodině, a v jiném venku.“

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I was not able to recognise the village where I had been born

Petr Kolář in 1968
Petr Kolář in 1968
zdroj: archiv pamětníka

Petr Kolář was born on the 7th of February in 1941 in Paskov at the foot of the Beskydy Mountains and from 1945, he lived in Ostrava. In the years 1955 – 1959, he studied at the Secondary Technical School of Energetics in Ostrava – Vítkovice. In 1959, he got a job in the Ostrava – Třebovice Power Plant. Between 1960 – 1962, he served in the army, then he worked as construction supervisor in the investment department of the Electricity Plant of Ostrava and Karviná. From 1964 on, he was taking evening courses at the Mining Academy (now the Technical University of Ostrava). In 1968, on the way from Yugoslavia, he emigrated to Austria. In Vienna, he joined the Jesuit order as a novice. In the years 1968 – 1970, he lived in the Sankt Andrä [Saint Andreas] novitiate, between 1970 – 1972, he studied philosophy in Munich. Between 1972 – 1974, he studed theology in Lyon in France, then he continued to study theology in the Jesuit Centre Sèvres in Paris. On the 5th of July in 1975, he was consecrated pries in Ellwangen. After his consecration, he was active in the community of Czech emigrants and later he broadened his scope and worked with other groups; he however remained active only within the area of the See of Paris. In the years 1979 and 1980, he devoted a year to special studies in Spokane, USA. After his return to Europe, he worked in the department of international news in the Radio Vaticana. In 1983, he returned to Paris. After the 1989 revolution, he returned to Czechoslovakia. For thirteen years, he worked in the Czech Radio and served as a priest the French Catholic community in Prague.