Miroslav Masák

* 1932  

  • “As we would come back from Letná, we would be sitting at... It still had been at Laterna, I guess, we were still at Laterna magica back then I would say. So we would sit there and the two Václavs would come, Václav Malý and Václav Havel, who were the main leaders up to that day, and they would tell us that as they were drained both mentally and physically, they were quiting. They would ask us not to be mad at them, stating that they couldn´t go on any longer. For us, that would be a disaster, of course. Now, no one would talk about that. That was the most critical moment of the November revolution! Everyone would try to say something, but it would be useless. They were completely exhausted. And then Petr Miler would come, quite offended, and he would say: 'Maybe this time, on Monday, I wouldn´t bring the workers.' There were these strikes to be held on Monday. So our mood would drop even more. Then this three-member student delegation would come, blaming us that we had stolen their revolution. So there would be more. To our relief, the official student delegation would come shortly after that, stating: 'That´s nonsense, that´s not how it is.' So that would be the evening I couldn´t forget, as I would be telling myself how fragile the things really were. As if the two gentlemen would really give up, where would we be heading to?”

  • “One of the most important parts I would play was as Vašek Havel would decide that we would join the negotiations with the representatives of the government, him, Jirka Křižan and me. As the newspapers and the media would be telling that the army was on alert, and there would be concern that something might happen during the protests. So we would end up in Obecní dům, completely empty, negotiating with a three-member delegation of the army, and out joint declaration would calm thing down a bit. But let me add just one more thing. Later, as Husák would step down and Karel Urbánek would become the Secretary of the Communist Party, he would state during an interview that the tanks were ready to roll. We wouldn´t take it so seriously, but in fact, it had been quite a serious situation. We wouldn´t care about the militia men whom he would invite, but this thing with the army could get real messy, but luckily, it would all end up very well. And the general, Miroslav Vacek, who led the army´s delegation, would later become the national defence minister for some time.”

  • “There would be different kinds of events going on. Most of the time, we would end up naked, climbing the trees, 'merging with nature' we would call it. But what I would remember and what would be important, of course, were the so-called Václav´s logs. Such a log would be Václav giving a speech on a given theme, full of philosophical musing. It would usually begin around midnight, after some serious drinking, but it was always a blast. These might be my most intensive experiences. But there would be many events going on. There would be concerts in the barn, there would be many kinds of things going on. There would be The Plastic People playing and also others.”

  • “They would think of me from time to time. And I would, as I had noted in my book, I would even have had my personal investigator, Mr Capt. Pošta. And as I had been saying, maybe that even was his real name. Just a man with a potbelly. The interrogations would be quite stupid, but they were decent most of the time. But at one occasion, they would arrest me after I would go to Hrádeček where they would give me some package that I had to send to Vašek, who was in prison. And there would be a trial, but as the judge was a reasonable man, they would qualify it as a misdemeanour, not a crime. So from time to time, I was having these issues. At one occasion, they wold come to visit me in the hospital and they wanted to interrogate me. So they would interrogate me in the hospital and they would ask me, whether I was distributing Lidové noviny (The People's Newspaper), that was in 1988. And as I would go back to my room, the nurse would tell me: 'There was a man to visit you and he left something for you at the bedside table.' So Vašek Havel would come to visit me just at the moment I was being interrogated only few rooms away, and he would leave Lidové noviny for me at the bedside table.”

  • “During the secondary school leaving examination, there would be this committee, as you might know, with both teachers and the so-called representatives in it. The first one would be the Praha´s 3rd District Communist Party representative, the second one would represent the Socialist Union of Youth. And as we would go to get the results, there would be this recommendation for a college application issued by the committee cited in the school leaving certificate. Back then, we would do what we could, as we were young. We would sing, I played the trumpet, but most of all, we were sportsmen. I had been quite an athlete and we were also league handball players. So me and my life-long friend Vorlíček, we would apply to The Faculty of Physical Education and Sport. And as we would come before the committee, the... some words you would remember your whole life. As the Communist Party representative would say: 'You won´t be slacking at the Physical Education.' And I would know that he would not recommend me for The Faculty of Physical Education and Sport. And Mrs Lederer, our professor, would be quite happy about it, maybe, as she was a smart lady, so she would talk with us and she would say: 'Go study architecture, boys.' So we would agree without really knowing what it meant, she would cross out The Faculty of Physical Education and Sport, then she would put the architecture in there and she would send it to Praha, to the ČVUT.”

  • “We would tell ourselves: 'Let´s join the Montreal screenplay competition as well.' So we tried and we won. And of course ,there had been a problem, as all the professional screenwriters would be offended, as there was quite a lot of money in it, and they would go around, telling people: 'Some unknown youngsters from Liberec are going to represent our Republic.' Despite all the protests, we had been authorised to work on the screenplay. And to bring in some famous people, we would invite Pavel Juráček, Pepík Podaný and Václav Havel to work with us. They would all agree, and they would give us these offices at Václavák (Wenceslas Square), above the Práce Publishing House, so we would start to work on the screenplay. And we would write the screenplay, we would present it, they would approve it, but all the pressure, that was just insane. And they would comment on the screenplay all the time, demanding that we would make it more political, so me and Vašek Havel, we would go to see Galuška and we would tell him not to be mad at us, but as we were convinced that we were hampering the process, we had to resign.” - “And what was the nature of this pressure?” - “Well, the screenplay was based on several ideas. There would be culture, in the first place, of course, and education, and youth, but also humour. Later, as I had been to Montreal, I saw that the Americans would use humour as well, as one of the crucial instruments, but they would keep on telling us that we should have been emphasizing the benefits of socialism, of our economy and so on. And of course we would, to some degree, mainly Vašek Havel would do that, he would write the stuff, but that would be to much for us to take. So we would agree that it was just pointless. So we would just give up.”

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    ED studio Praha, 20.09.2019

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Life is just a fluke

Miroslav Masák in 1942
Miroslav Masák in 1942
zdroj: archiv Miroslava Masáka

Miroslav Masák was born on May 23rd of 1932 in Úvaly, where he has been living for most of his life. At the end of the Second World War, he couldn´t go to school, as nearby railway had been bombed regularly and the Wehrmacht would take over the gymnasium building. He witnessed citizens of Úvaly being massacred in numbers by the retreating SS units at the end of the war. For his whole life, he has been a sportsman – a league handball player, an athlete, a skier and he also had exercised at the All Sokol Rally. He was also a Scout Unit member and briefly after the war, he attended the Scout Jamboree in Poděbrady. Despite the fact that it could be said that he ended up studying architecture by accident, he had become one of the most respected Czech architects. Among his most well-known projects are the shopping mall Máj in Praha and shopping centre Ještěd in Liberec, residential complex Šanov in Teplice or the presidential office at the Pražský hrad (Prague Castle). He co-founded the world-famous SIAL studio in Liberec and also Školka, the unique postgraduate studio, which has been operating to this day. In the late 60s, he befriended Václav Havel. In August 1968, he helped to organise a non-violent protest against the Soviet occupation of Liberec. After the mass ‚screenings‘ that were the part of the ‚normalisation‘ process, he was banned from traveling abroad, he lost all positions in both public and professional sphere, but he could still work as an architect. He attended dissident meetings regularly, as well as parties and concerts at Hrádeček, Václav Havel´s summer house. He had been under constant surveillance by the Secret Police. In the mid 80s, he had been given a suspended sentence for a harmless misdemeanour as a punishment for his involvement in the dissident movement. After November 17th 1989, he was active in the Občanské fórum´s (Civic Forum) coordination centre. After the Velvet Revolution, he was the advisor to President Václav Havel for several years and he had contributed greatly to the Pražský hrad (Prague Castle) being opened to public.