RNDr. Jiřina Marie Nováková

* 1945

  • „After our higher-ups left for Moscow to sign the protocol [ex-post invitation of the Soviet army to stay in Czechoslovakia] and then when they returned, there was a great demonstration at the Wenceslas’ Square and a speech of Dubček [Alexander Dubček, the First Secretary of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, at the time, the highest=ranking state official] sounded from the loudspeaker, just after they signed for the ultimate subordination and capitulation. My dad said that even Hácha in Munich didn’t sign anything this dishonourable and then he told us how the crowd chased him from the Museum [National Museum, at the upper end of Wenceslas’ Square] down to Můstek [metro station at the lower end of the square]. At that time, he thought to himself that he was not going to stay here with the Czechs. And at the beginning of September 1968, he and mom took a train to Switzerland via Vienna. Those who were arrested during the 1950’s had a certain experience with their fellow citizens. Not only about false accusations and show trials, it was the whole society, from preschool teachers to workers’ unions, those would send letters to courts with requests such as Hang those misfits and Fair punishments for everyone even though they had no idea who they [the defendants] were. And having this experience, dad said that he would not want to experience anything like this any more.”

  • „When I started school, the mistress did not forget to mention that my father was in prison. Then I changed school, both in the second and the third year. The teachers would always stress how dangerous an element I was. After WWII, there was a baby boom, we were more than forty in the classroom, six classes in a year, and the tables had to be pushed together so that all the children could squeeze in the classroom. And despite this lack of space, I had to sit alone at my table and nobody could sit even in front of me. At the beginning of the régime went into such details in order to paralyse the families with fear, to show everyone what would happen if…“

  • „I, when the armies stormed in here, was not in Czechoslovakia. I was on holiday in Italy and I just happened to be in Venice. I was there with my car and at that time, cars had plates at the back that indicated which state they were from. And I had that big CS there. And I parked by such a bar where I wanted to have my breakfast so I sat down and my car was just in front of the window. And a gentleman sat down to my table, he was having his breakfast aas well. And he asked: ‘You’re from Czechoslovakia?’ - ‘Yeah, I’m from Czechoslovakia.’ And he continued: ‘Well, your country is occupied.’ And there was a screen, a TV, and he showed me and I saw the tanks rolling through Prague and I said: ‘I know this, it’s old footage from after the war when the Red Army got to Prague in May 1945, it’s footage from back then.’ It looked exactly the same! And he said: ‘No, no, no, no, this is the newest footage!’ That’s how I learned about the occupation. I tried to call home right away but all the phone lines were already blocked so it was not possible. So, this was the 21th of August for me.”

  • „In 1970, detailed background checks of all university graduates started. Not of the Party members, they had been already checked. And everyone was invited for questioning individually, there was a committee, usually at the workplace, and there, those with whom you had drunk coffee and had gone for lunches together and took the same bus to work, so, suddenly they were questioning you. Everyone was asked the same questions: ‘What do you think about the arrival of the Warsaw Pact armies? What do you think about the leading role of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia?’ Everyone was asked one of these questions and then there were other questions, such about what’s your idea of your future employment and so on. And every one of those university students in Czechoslovakia were asked these questions. And suddenly you saw how the immense power of the people, how it was broken after the year and half of the [Soviet] occupation and everyone took it as a given, yes, so they come because it was inevitable and yes, the role of the Communist party, sure, certainly so. I answered this too, these questions, and I said that the Warsaw Pact armies, one cannot call it any other than occupation and that the role of the Soviet, the role of our Communist party, that it’s the result of the WWII. And over the weekend, this happened on Friday and on Monday, they handed me my notice. And then I realised that a the institute, nowadays it’s a part of the Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Prague, out of all the university graduates there, there were only three of us, all of them were women, I have to add. Only three women, three university graduates called things by their name. Everyone else were, like, broken even without any pressure, they did not have to.”

  • „And I would like to ask you about one more thing actually, did your mother tell some stories when she was in the French Résistance, against the Nazi Germany?“ „Erm, mz parents about it, they were there together and they never talked about it too much. And when they did, it was only when they touched the subject, when a situation arose and they compared it to France. For example, when they were in France, things were rationed, same as here. They had false papers so they did not get any coupons so they had to and they ate only what was there, and everyone around, the whole illegal organisation, did the same. So dad said that it was a big day when they got hold of a bag of flour, they mixed it with water, made pancakes, invited everyone and had a feast. And that there was a man in their group who was able, because all food had to be divided among them, and he could do it really fair. And [dad] said that they had one fish and I don’t know how many of them were there and I don’t even know whether dad mentioned it at all, but they had to divide that fish among more people and the guy cut off a bit with the head and a bit with the tail and divided the rest so that everyone would get a piece of equal value and the head and the tail were extras. And that the guy was very meticulous about this. I also remember, it was Christmas, we had an orange, at that time, oranges were available only at Christmas. And we had an orange and I peeled it and divided it into four parts, one for each. And dad said that he didn’t want an orange. He was in Spain during the war and for several weeks, they were encircled in some orange orchard and the only thing they had [to eat] was oranges. And he said that they tried to boil them, bake them, fry them, anything, and at the end, they had to give up and admit that they were the best like this, fresh and raw. And that he had oranges enough for the rest of his life. This way, I got to know their stories. And they never talked about this. Once I tried to touch the theme saying how courageous they were and dad almost yelled at me that it was no courage, it’s not done not to be active, not to participate, not to get involved. The whole upbringing of me and my sister was divided into two areas: this is done and this is not done.”

  • "So my parents and my sister emigrated to Switzerland. I stayed here and at first, it all looked amazing. It was an amazing time. The Czechs were fantastic, and in my naivete, I thought that it was their true nature and that they'll remain so great. I studied at the university, I wanted to finish it and the borders were still open, they did not close until a year later. And most importantly, at the time, I didn't expect my parents would never return. I thought that if they wanted, when the Russians would leave, and everything would return to normal, they could return if they wanted back to Prague and they would need a place to live. It was not that people here owned apartments or houses in Prague. The apartments were state-owned, and when you left them, you lost the place. I know that my peers have been waiting for ten or fifteen years for an apartment. So I knew I had to stay in that apartment so my parents would have a place to come. During that first year, when the borders were still open, I visited them in Switzerland twice. When I left the second time, it was on September 9, 1969, the situation had changed considerably, people were not amazing anymore, they started to found new party units etc... Father accompanied me on the airport and I asked:"Daddy, it's all so strange, do you think they'd close the borders?" And my father, my experienced father, who's been through so much, who escaped from country to country replied:" No, it not possible anymore."After an hour, I have landed in Czechoslovakia and in Prague, people who were no longer allowed to leave were sitting on suitcases. So I haven't seen my parents for eleven years. After seven years, I was allowed to visit my sister in Budapest."

  • “The whole time I attempted to visit my parents. On sisters, father’s, mother’s invitation, to attend sister’s wedding, you name it, I have tried it all. Everything was rejected. They required all those permissions, from the local Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, even though you were not a member, local ROH, even though you were not part of it, the library, that you do not owe any books; the director of the institute, everyone had to sign they agree with me submitting a request to visit my parents. When you had all these, you had to go to the branch of ministry of interior, which was responsible for this agenda, there you submit the request and they tell you: ”Come to pick it up on this date.” So you arrive on that datie, and they inform you the request had been dismissed. On the next day, I have already filed a new one. It continued for many years. And when it worked out with my sister and for the next four fruitless years, I attempted to obtain a foreign exchange pledge to Yugoslavia, where I could meet with my parents, I tried a trip from CSM, from ROH, even though I was not a member, it worked, they wrote it for me, trip with Cedok, Rekrea, all those institutions. Cedok gave me the permission: “Yes, yes, you are part of the trip.”, but then I didn’t receive the travel clause. They I became allergic to work, to the work environment, so I requested for a permission with Balnea, as a retreat for occupational disease, which was recognized: “Yes, yes, of course, you are on the first place.” Nothing. So I sat down and wrote a letter to then minister of interior, that I request a personal visit and I would like to know, when his inferiors do not allow me for eleven years to visit my parents, despite not having done anything against the state. After some time, I have received an invitation to the ministry of interior, but not the minister, but to the person responsible for this in the ministry. I came there, I already had my second child, which was at that time only few months old, and I said to myself:” They invited me to the ministry of interior with the knowledge of my family situation, it can be dangerous.” I took my son with me, because I thought, they’d tell me to give him into care of someone and I would be able to share someone bad had happened to me. However, it wasn’t necessary, nothing happened. I came to the office, there was this clerk saying:” You’re that one. You had complained.” “Yes, I complained”. And he said:”Just a minute.” He went to such a box, retrieved a thick file, desks tied on both sides, it was really full. I could not believe my eyes, it had a label with my name and date of birth. And I asked: “There’s so much of it?” He replied:”Well, you wrote something, we replied something, so it added…” He was quite talkative. He informed me, that on behalf of that complaint, the minister decided to grant me an exemption, that it is of course one-off, and that I would receive exit permission under the condition, that both my children would stay in Prague.”

  • „In 1968, I was on holiday in Italy during the invasion and my sister was in United Kingdom with our aunt, apart from our mother, the only survivor in Europe, and parents were there alone. At the beginning of September, on the 5th September, they left for Switzerland in advance with a year permission to leave the country and never returned. I was so surprised, when I asked my father, what lead them to leave in 1968, he replied, that at first, only mother wanted to leave and that he would stay, but she refused to leave without him. They went together, and he said, he was on the Wenceslas square on a large gathering, when Dubcek returned from Moscow. When the loudspeakers announced what had Dubcek signed, he spoke aloud, that not even Hacha had signed such disgraceful document. He said: “You know, the crowd chased me from St. Wenceslaus to Mustek. And I have realised, I can’t live in this country. “ He recalled, that when he was interrogated in Ruzyne, Czech nation wrote indignant letters to Central Committee of Communist Party of Czechoslovakia: ”Hang them, shoot them, bastards.” Thousands of letters from kindergarten teachers and agriculture workers. All signed such letters, even universities. The interrogators read those letters to him… who once against wrote, it was a just punishment and that the most just would be execution. He recalled all these and said to himself: “Well, so that’s the nation.” And he left. On the second day, he got the tickets and in two days they left.

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Ordinary human decency is enough

Jiřina Nováková, graduation photography - SVVŠ Botičská, Prague 1963
Jiřina Nováková, graduation photography - SVVŠ Botičská, Prague 1963
zdroj: archiv pamětnice

Jiřina Nováková, née Hromádková, was born on December 31, 1945 in Prague. She had a number of important ancestors in the family who helped shape the history of this country. Sigmund, the witness‘s grandfather, and his brother Jindřich Waldes were among the leading Czech businessmen. With diligence and discipline, they have developed from modest circumstances to the point where they have built up huge assets in Europe and beyond. In 1902, they opened the Prague factory for the production of haberdashery metal goods Koh-i-noor in Vršovice and based their success on the innovation of the production of patents. In addition, Henry was a generous patron and art collector, and at the same time caring about the education of his workers. Věra Waldesová, the witness‘s mother, was left-wing from her youth. During World War II, she became actively involved in the French resistance movement. At that time, she met Otakar Hromádek, the witness‘s father. After years of fighting in France against Franco, he was also active in the French resistance movement. The husband and wife Hromadkovi returned to Prague after the war in July 1945. The witness‘s father was a high-ranking party official, convicted in political trials in the 1950s and rehabilitated in the 1960s. In 1968, Hromádek emigrated to Switzerland, Jiřina stayed in Prague, graduated from the Faculty of Science and was allowed to see her parents after eleven years (a sister of seven). The influence of family upbringing is evident in Jiřina, she has always been and still is a brave person with an interest in public affairs. Since 1994, Jiřina Nováková has been trying to get back the family property built by the Waldes in Bohemia. The gruelling trial lasted 17 years and ended in a sad outcome. The former glory of the huge expansion of talent and diligence of the Czech Jewish family is lost. From 1996 to 2007, she was a witness in the broader leadership of the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) political party