Alf Skjeseth

* 1952

  • “For me this possibility to get to know the democratic forces here in Prague and Czechoslovakia to learn was really sort of a political eye-opener. Because I really had a low understanding in my younger days for the importance of what we call individual liberal freedoms. I could see here what lack of individual freedom really is. What the costs are for society and for people. For example when we could see how the system could harass children for their parents activities. Or cancel academic careers to force people to feed animals instead of doing research and so on and so forth. So it was really an eye-opener or a wake-up call. To really take much more serious the importance of liberal freedoms. Such as freedom of expression, freedom of media, freedom of movement, freedom of gatherings. So I left politics and this left-wing party collapsed as well and I grew up.”

  • “These were not people easily available. Many of them had police behind them all the time. For example, Petr Uhl had police outside his door. He couldn´t have a walk in the park with his children without having secret police behind him. So there was some conspirative behaviour. I don’t exactly know, how these things were set up. We had for example scheduled an interview with Marta Kubišová, a female former artist, who were at that time the spokesperson for Charta 77. And I remember that one of the appointments was cancelled, because she had observed this surveillance agents around her. But after some days we got green light to meet her and her husband in a flat somewhere here. So I think these friends we got here, Michael Konůpek´s old friends, they had access to the inner circles of this network and we were totally dependent on them. We couldn´t speak the language, we didn´t know any persons. There were no mobile phones, no internet. Especially from the start, we were totally dependent on them and they trusted us, had confidence in us. I think we behaved so we deserved it. We were loyal, we were discrete, when it was needed. We made reports that reached them here, giving a fair and share picture of developments here on a broad scale, because it was not only interviews it was also reporting on what happened in social live, labour , education. Of course we had to often use sources without name and address.”

  • „At this time, one of the signatories of the Charta, Mr Michael Konůpek and his family came to Oslo. They left Czechoslovakia I think in 1977 or early 1978. He was interested in cooperation with Norwegian media to highlight the situation here, to contribute with more information and knowledge. And then, after a long meeting with Michael in spring, April maybe, 1978, we made a big interview with him, we printed the manifesto, and we planned to go here to visit Prague and try to find representatives of this new movement. He had very good contacts and we met many people. I travelled in May 1978 with a photographer, we stayed for two weeks. We had no money, so we stayed privately with Michael’s family for two weeks. Very generous, I must say, and very confident of them. And we got in contact with certain active people of the Charta 77 here and made a lot of, I would say, exclusive stories and interviews with dissidents and spokespersons and suppressed people. So that was the first and longest trip. We came home and printed big articles in the newspaper. Just a build up to the events in August 78, where there was also a lot of political activity. We met people who were not very well known with the Norwegian public but many of them were central people. We didn´t meet Vaclav Havel, he was more or less arrested all the time, but we met lot of others. We didn’t go only once in 78, we came again in 80, 81, 82, 84, not two weeks every time, but one week, five days. Over time I got continuity in contact with these circles and these people.”

  • Celé nahrávky
  • 1

    Praha, 01.02.2023

    délka: 01:40:16
Celé nahrávky jsou k dispozici pouze pro přihlášené uživatele.

I repeatedly went to Prague, met dissidents and organised demonstrations in Norway in support of them

Alf Skjeseth, Prague 2023
Alf Skjeseth, Prague 2023
zdroj: natáčení

Born on 1 June 1952, Alf Skjeseth grew up in the Norwegian countryside, but his interest in politics and journalism brought him to Oslo. His parents were involved in the anti-Nazi resistance, therefore he too had a fondness for left-wing ideologies. After the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact armies in 1968, when he was 16, he rejected the authoritarianism and imperialism of the Soviet Union. Like many of his generation in Scandinavia, however, he succumbed to the illusory allure of Maoism, and was one of the leading figures in the magazine Klassekampen (translated as Class Struggle). The manifesto of Czechoslovak Charter 77 appealed to him, and from 1978 to January 1990, as a journalist for this newspaper, he regularly travelled to the Czechoslovakia to interview dissidents and signatories of Charter 77 and to find out facts about life behind the Iron Curtain. He became perhaps the greatest capacity among Norwegian journalists for covering communist Czechoslovakia. He interviewed Marta Kubišová, Jaroslav Hutka, Vlasta Třešňák, Jiří Hájek, and Petr Uhl, among others, for the Western media. Thanks to his Czechoslovak experience, he broke with Maoist views. He also did a major reportage from Prague immediately after the revolution in January 1990, the last one during the floods of 2002. He visited Prague in January 2023 on the occasion of a debate, Support from the North, organised by Post Bellum at the Václav Havel Library.