Karel Petráň

* 1957  

  • “One must accept the fate as it is, where it is and how it is. You must be able to move and be valid and fight where you are. It is no important where you are. That is why I never strived to obtain the blue book and to avoid the military service on health grounds. I told myself that I would go to the military, there would be many people and it would be an opportunity for me. And it was like this. I met amazing people there. I met people who were interested in books that I smuggled there. I smuggled Exupéry in and they fought for it. While I was in the military service in Písek, I even saw the film Little Prince. It has been filmed many times, and I saw this beautiful version, I think it was a French film. Oddly enough I saw it while I was in the military. But what fascinated me in the military service, and what confirmed that I made the right decision to go there, was the library — such a library, as we had in Vimperk, was inaccessible in the civilian life. Such treasures! A whole collection of poets maudits. I could borrow Kerouac and things like that. I cannot really understand how it was possible. I got access to such books… Magnetic Field — a beautiful book, then absolutely inaccessible. All our surrealist poets, Jindřich Štyrský and similar stuff.”

  • “I got in touch with some Eva Vidlářová, an actress in Divadlo na provázku, Brno. Her house was searched and my letter was found. They did not hesitate to drive from Brno here to Stříbro to interrogate me. Until then no one offered me anything, in a return. Then, however, captain Skála from Brno offered me to collaborate with them, suggesting that then I would have no problems. He added that my file was large already, that they had watched me for some time and that they had left me alone intentionally to have more meetings monitored. But he said this was no problem — he wasn’t offering me the cigarette yet. Naturally I refused vehemently. I would have never accepted it, because I would have thrown my whole life away.” “In the military there were the professional soldiers who were absolutely stupid. But then there were those who, you could see, thought about things. It happened to me once that during a routine random search my box was searched. I have my tape player and tapes we listened to over weekends. They were taken aback. I had all of my books there. One of them realised that these were kind of strange books. They seized everything, including my tape recorder. The political commissar summoned me, he was Slovak. I can still remember his words that had he known what a kind of person I was and that I had forbidden literature there, I would have ended up in prison. My luck was that it was the end of my military service. It had another happy end though. When we were departing and went to the station in Vimperk, the officer, Novák was his name, arrived there and brought me the books. ‘Interesting indeed, I am happy I had a chance to read these books, he said’. I don’t know how honestly he meant it but it was a good happy ending.”

  • “You didn’t see the end of it. You couldn’t see when the regime dies. We were doing something but the regime didn’t collapse. Rather the contrary, every moment they arrested someone, took away, brought outside the city. It was difficult, it didn’t have any progress. I was becoming more and more desperate. Then, fortunately, people started gathering in Prague for various important anniversaries. It always started with August 21. There were demonstrations in the Wenceslas Square. I always went there, I couldn’t miss anywhere since I saw that something was finally happening. That you had an outlet for your resistance, that you could say you didn’t agree. But you were being checked all the time — where were you going, why were you going there. You said you went to Koruna in Wenceslas Square for a meal, but in a while no one believes you. They noted it down and when they found out you were there for every demonstration, they had names and everything was clear to them.”

  • “I wanted to contribute actively to the release of political prisoners. I disagreed with people being imprisoned for their political opinions in a country which signed the Helsinki Treaty, the Civil Rights Treaty etc. In short, international agreements that the country signed but in practice it was different. I wanted to help political prisoners, I wrote letters to various people and I wanted to work with the Committee for the Protection of Unjustly Prosecuted. Instead of a reply from those people I was summoned for an interrogation at the police. There I was met by a captain Skála from Brno and subjected to a lengthy interrogation which was typical: at the beginning you were offered a cigarette, at the end it was implied you might not go home.”

  • “I was between fifteen and eighteen, when I started to have problems in my life. There were two study programs for electricians in Budeejovice — one with the final exam, the other without it. I was then transferred into that program without the school leaving exam. When I went to the exam in Pilsen, I failed. I arrived at the exam in a denim jacket with a U.S. flag, long hair and a crucifix on my neck. They asked me whether I knew what a proper dress was for the exam. I responded that I had expected some questions to answer, but not questions regarding my look and clothes. They told me that I had half an hour to have my hair cut and to change my clothes and that I could come again. So I told them to get stuffed with their training certificate and went home. It had a lucky ending though because they sent me to assemble pillars in a field. All my schoolmates were — as a reward — at the seaside in Bulgaria and I was assembling pillars, as a punishment. In September, the director of that school came to see me and signed my training certificate without any exams.”

  • “I got in touch with some Eva Vidlářová, an actress in Divadlo na provázku, Brno. Her house was searched and my letter was found. They did not hesitate to drive from Brno here to Stříbro to interrogate me. Until then no one offered me anything, in a return. Then, however, captain Skála from Brno offered me to collaborate with them, suggesting that then I would have no problems. He added that my file was large already, that they had watched me for some time and that they had left me alone intentionally to have more meetings monitored. But he said this was no problem — he wasn’t offering me the cigarette yet. Naturally I refused vehemently. I would have never accepted it, because I would have thrown my whole life away.”

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The top secret police officers were unlikely to be affected by any cleansing

Karel Petráň
Karel Petráň
zdroj: archiv Pamětníka

Karel Petráň was built on May 19, 1957, in Planá near Mariánské Lázně, since his childhood he has lived in Svojšín, in the Sudeten part of the West Bohemia, where his parents moved after the war to work. His mother worked in the agricultural cooperative, his father in the Svojšín mine. As a child he served as a minister in the Svojšín churn, took interest in religious faith and formed his own opinion about the totalitarian regime to which he refused to surrender. He moved in the circles of independent music and spread among the fans punk and foreign music. He trained as an electrician, had a family after the military service, helped the chartists to distribute Infochs and became a member of the Jazz Section, whose activities he transferred from Prague to Tachov region. He organised around himself people of similar outlook, organised concerts of semi-illegal bands and even established his own formation in which he played the guitar. He tried to return young people into the church through big beat music. In the late 1980s he regularly attended anti-regime demonstrations and signed Charter 77. When he wanted to join actively the activities of the Committee for the Protection of Unjustly Prosecuted (VONS), he was interrogated by the Secret Police and it was offered to him to become an informer, which he refused. In the revolutionary time of 1989 he established the Civic Forums in the Tachov region. In 1990, he was a member of the civilian commission which carried out cleansing in the police. He joined the Christian-Democratic Union and served on its national committee in 1992. After the merger with Civic Democratic Party (ODS) he left the party and took part in the local political live in his birthplace. He became the mayor of Svojšín in 2003.