RNDr., CSc. František Reichel

* 1938  †︎ 2020

  • “Although at the beginning we did not have the proper training, a guy who was a Seventh-day Adventist started [the military service] with us. His name was Petr Hrdinka and he was from Nezdenice, Nezdenice 82. He was a sincere believer and he insisted that he would not touch any work on Saturday since the Bible says so. That was something for the comrades: he was disrupting the battle-readiness of the unit on Saturday. We tried to talk him out of it. He knew that I was going to church as well, because I went whenever I could. ‘Petr, do you really need to do this, can’t you deny yourself…? It’s in the Bible, after all, that when you serve the sick…’ – because he really was on duty in the infirmary – ‘so can’t you just…?’ Or he was on duty as a so-called supervisor. He said: ‘No, I can’t.’ And when we pressed him, he said: ‘Look, there are enough of you, and so you can be on duty. You know that I can work on Sundays, so you can do it instead of me.’ But the superiors learnt about it and they were tough with him. He insisted that he would not touch anything, not even a submachine gun. In that case, that meant [the military prison – transl.’s note] Sabinov and five or six years of imprisonment for disobeying the order. He was willing to accept it. The comrades then called me and later I learnt that it was even escalated to the counter-intelligence unit. They told me that this guy was a dangerous element and that it was necessary to deal with it. They argued that we were one team and that we as comrades were supposed to help him get rid of religious prejudice. I don’t know why they turned to me, perhaps they suspected something, too, or perhaps because I was the oldest one there, and they ordered me to come later and report about it. They said that they were giving him four or five weeks, I don’t remember how much time, to return to a regular military regime. I was worried about it a bit, but then I got an idea. I thought it was a good idea. Since I was in charge of the medicine store, I was going to a pharmacy to replenish the supply of medicines. I went to the pharmacist and I asked her: ‘I would like to send a car every Saturday and we would come for our supply of medicines.’ I wrote the orders for him, I made him get into the car with a driver and the driver took him there. The driver then brought the list of orders to the pharmacist and I had agreed upon it with her beforehand that she would always allow Petr to sit somewhere in the back of the pharmacy and that at one o’clock they would return to the unit and we would unload the medicines there. It seemed to be doable, and when the comrades called me about three weeks later, I said: ‘It looks good, the comrade works on Saturdays and I gave him specific assignments so that I can watch over him and see to it that he is not idle. I send him to bring medicines and to replenish the medicine stock - we always order medicines for the whole week. Before, I had been going more often, but he is busy now.’ And then I went to report for the second time and I said: ‘Well, comrades, it works.’ And the whole operation was thus over. We were then practicing it in this way all the time.”

  • “The People’s Party… there is a great discussion about the state of the party at the time of the development of socialism, whether it was under Plouhar, or Žalman and the others. Sometimes it was regarded as part of the National Front, and thus it was considered a collaborationist party. But there were two sides to it. The whole political spectrum that was there. Most people were completely indifferent, they did not care for anything apart from repairing their summer cottages, they did not care for anything political. As for those who were communists by conviction, you could count them using one hand; they were careerists. It is the same as today, this does not change. That was normal. Then there was a group of dissidents and opponents, like Bishop Malý and others, who were causing troubles for them. And then there was a group, that was us, and I think that we were quite a large group, who had the opportunity to be in the People’s Party or in some other similar organizations and who had the opportunity to do something.”

  • “Then on 28th or 29th November people from our Party called me and said: ‘Look, the government is going to change and we would need you to serve as a minister.’ I told them: ‘Well, that’s fine,’ - just imagine it – ‘a minister for what?’ ‘For science and technology. Scientific and technical development. You got a day or two to think it over.’ As usual, I got up and went to see the Cardinal, and he told me: ‘Well, this is what I have always wanted’ – because he had been telling me all the time to remain in the central committee for some more time – ‘yes, go there.’ And my confessor told me: ‘Do not rush into any positions, but if you are to do something, then do it properly.’ And so I accepted it.”

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Give the emperor what belongs to the emperor – but there are limits to it

František Reichel
František Reichel

František Reichel was born January 27, 1938 in Prague into a Catholic and anti-Communist family. This caused him troubles during his studies. He was eventually allowed to study the veterinary faculty of the University of Agriculture in Brno. After graduation he did his military service, where he naively signed an agreement of cooperation with the counter-intelligence in an effort to protect a Seventh-day Adventist believer who was refusing to work on Saturdays. In 1970 he joined the Czechoslovak People‘s Party and in 1974 he became a member of its central committee. At that time he was organizing many lectures, trips, dances, and exhibitions for the Catholic community. At the same time, as a scientist in the field of veterinary pharmaceutics, he worked in the research centre of SPOFA (United Pharmaceutical Company), in the Agricultural Committee of COMECON (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) and he travelled. In the 1980s he was one of the organizers of the Sts Cyril and Methodius pilgrimages to Velehrad and he closely cooperated with Cardinal Tomášek. From spring 1989 he was preparing the pilgrimage to Rome on the occasion of the canonization of St. Agnes. At the end of November 1989 he accepted the offer to become a minister without portfolio for the Czechoslovak People‘s Party in the first government of Marián Čalfa and then during his second administration he served as the minister for science and technology. In 1990 he left the government as a result of the lustration process and he was active in the issue of restitution of church property.