Jaroslav Novotný

* 1939  

  • “I did my last report on August 21, 1969 during the first anniversary of the occupation. I went to Prague to prepare the report as I had done many times before, on the occasion of Palach’s funeral, for example, and during all those key events that took place at that time. Well, but I didn’t finish my report, because they arrested me as one of about three thousand people who got arrested that day. They had no more space for us in the prisons, so for instance in the prison cell where I was, which was intended for two people, there were sixteen of us, and we could not even lie down on the floor because there was no space. We spent some time like that there.”

  • “The trial was held several months later and I had prepared my defence… at that time I read Feuchwanger’s Goya, by the way, and there is a beautiful passage when he defends himself in front of the inquisition, and for me it served as a source of inspiration. I thought, I will defend myself like this: ‘You are the villains who have sold this country, not I. I was only speaking the truth, I have not written anything which would not have been true.’ I did not even know when the trial would take place, only one day before the defence counsel, a lawyer whom I had not seen during those past three weeks, came to tell me: ‘I am your defence counsel. Your trial will be held tomorrow and I will be defending you.’ I said: ‘Judge, I don’t need you, I will defend myself.’ And I told him how I had planned my defence. He said: ‘You are no John Huss to get yourself burnt at the stake. Huss did not have a wife and a son. You have a three-year-old son and so you will not let them burn you at the stake, but you will deny everything.’”

  • “Sending photos for exhibitions, that was the only thing that they could not forbid me. There was some international treaty which they were bound to respect. Of course, they opened every one of the packages, and they knew what was inside, and so on. They kept summoning me for interrogations all the time, and asking me with whom I was keeping in touch, and so on. I said: ‘You have just opened my mail, so what else do you want from me?’ Of course, if one wins at some photo salon, there is a custom that not only they send you a prize, but they also invite you to come to receive it in person, at your own expense. I could have traveled the world quite a bit like that, because I had exhibitions at about more than thirty countries, but of course I was never allowed to travel anywhere. And so we only communicated through post.”

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    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu The Stories of Our Neigbours
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Thanks to my work I felt that I was alive

Jaroslav Novotný
Jaroslav Novotný
zdroj: Pamět Národa - Archiv

Jaroslav Novotný was born on March 26, 1939 in the village Myslkovice near Tábor. His father died of a serious illness when Jaroslav was a young boy and he was thus raised only by his mother. Jaroslav spent his childhood in Myslkovice and he was largely of an introvert nature. The political regime assigned him to do his vocational training as a mechanical engineer, but he did not enjoy the profession and he did the job only to earn his living. He wanted to pursue theater and photography and he established his own theatre for which he wrote plays. He staged three premieres of plays, however, the authorities did not allow him to stage the fourth one. Later he began writing to newspapers, including his opinions in the articles and adding his own photographs to them - the StB persecuted him for his views, and Jaroslav eventually ended in prison. After a short time he was sent to detention prison in České Budějovice. When he was put on trial, he wanted to defend himself personally. The defence counsel told him: ‘You are no John Huss to get yourself crucified...!‘ Jaroslav thus denied all charges as he had been advised to do and he was acquitted. He enjoyed photography and his works were exhibited in photo salons all over the world, but he was not allowed to travel to any of the exhibitions abroad and the organizers were thus sending all the awards to him by post. Jaroslav also wrote nine books, out of which three were published, and apart from writing books and photography he also traveled with a circus for seven years.