RNDr., PhD Martin Šmíd

* 1970

  • "I guess you could say it was the last straw for people. For the hesitant ones. That if they're killing our children, it's really serious. But maybe we're over-dramatizing it, because if you think about what the situation was then: in Hungary it had already collapsed, in Poland it had already collapsed, in Germany the Berlin Wall was already coming down. So we were the last island, along with Romania, where it collapsed two months later. So I don't think it was a historical event. But maybe it accelerated things. Maybe it got people out on the streets faster than in those neighbouring countries where the process was slower."

  • "Then it was that Czech Television was coming and again, let it be denied. Editor Dumbrovský arrived. He wasn't as grey then as I remember him. He said they needed to deny the report [about the death of student Martin Šmíd]. I said, 'Sure, that's true. But I would very much like it not to sound like nothing happened. I'd just like to say that my colleagues took a beating.' And he says, 'I'll try, it's not up to me.' And now the filming started. I was so nervous. The footage is on YouTube somewhere. The way I looked when I was 19, I never want to look like that again. I had a chipped off tooth, there weren't plastic fillings for broken teeth back then, so it was obvious that I was missing a chunk of tooth. Plus, I was swinging nervously like that. And to top it off, they must have had some new camera - I remember the cameraman saying he was having trouble with it - they just shot it in black and white by mistake. And now he was asking me. I was trying to say my piece, the key piece. That caused another misunderstanding. They asked me, 'What did you say to being pronounced dead?' I said I didn't like it, but when I saw some of the wounded comrades, I thought, if someone had a weaker heart, they might as well have died there. And the moment I realised that, death reached for me. And they edited it out so that it was like, 'What did you say about it?' And the answer was just, 'Death reached for me.' That became almost legendary."

  • "I got home and there was a pretty scared dad saying what's going on. That the cops had been at our house asking if I was okay. And that my classmates were there asking if I was okay. And that's when we learned from those 'provocative radios' that it turned out that the intervention on National Street [ on 17 November 1989] had a victim, and that was Martin Šmíd, a second-year student at the Mathematics and Physics Faculty, which was fitting for me. And that's when a bit of a personal hell began, which was the harbinger of a long discomfort, a trouble that has dragged on all my life. That various relatives had heard and were now calling, then on the landline. It was as if we had a switchboard and someone was always calling to see if... My aunt from Jindřichův Hradec didn't have a telephone, so she had to go to the neighbours. Whoever we could calm down, we calmed down. Anyway, there were two Martin Šmíds in our year. I was studying probability, just mathematics then, the basics. The other one studied IT, it was called theoretical cybernetics then. And one thought that it could actually be him. On the other hand, it didn't make much sense to me, because he wasn't the type to go to a demonstration. So you didn't really know. Anyway, I don't think I really think about it at the time. Because the fact that a thousand relatives and acquaintances were calling out in dismay to see if I was alive and what was going on, that kept me emotionally busy enough so as not to deal with some of the political implications. There was just the big problem here. I don't remember who all took their turn with us. The StB [State Security] came in. My parents tried to get along with them somehow, to say something and not say much. And now there was the fear I was talking about. It's already blurred for me. Anyway, sometime around midnight the phone calls stopped. I tried to sleep, it could not very well."

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The „dead student“ rumor changed his life

Martin Šmíd in 2023
Martin Šmíd in 2023
zdroj: Post Bellum

Mathematician and musician Martin Šmíd was born on 2 March 1970 in Prague. His father Milan Šmíd worked as a television editor, his mother Jana Šmídová was a technical editor at Mladá fronta and later worked at the Svobodné slovo newspaper. From birth, he suffered from a visual impairment, achromatopsia, for which he and his younger brother Michal were educated in a specialised primary school for the visually impaired in Koperníkova Street in Prague‘s Vinohrady district. Later he attended a grammar school for visually impaired youth in Michle. He was interested in folk music, and while growing up in the late 1980s he began listening to radio stations Svobodná Evropa and Hlas Ameriky (Voice of America), and he also watched Soviet news, because Soviet television during the „perestroika“ period was more openly informative than Czechoslovak television. In 1988 he began studying probability at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of Charles University (MFF UK). On 17 November 1989, he took part in a demonstration on Národní Street. The following day, a rumour leaked to the foreign media that Martin Šmíd, a second-year student at the MFF UK, had died during a police intervention on Národní třída. The witness (and along with him a classmate of the same name) found himself in the spotlight, repeatedly having to appear on radio and television and deny the news of his death. He tried to speak to the media about the brutality of the police crackdown, but Czechoslovak television manipulatively edited his testimony. In the 1990s, Martin Šmíd finished his studies and worked as a programmer. Later he returned to the MFF UK as a postgraduate student and since 2002 he has been working at the Institute of Information Theory and Automation of the Czech Academy of Sciences. At the time of the covid pandemic he was involved in the creation of a mathematical model of the spread of the virus, and in 2024 he worked on a project researching the spread of disinformation. Martin Šmíd is married and has three children. Since 1997, he has been a member of the musical group Klec, which plays songs inspired by Jewish klezmer music. In 2023, he made his debut as a writer with the publication of his novel „By the Fruit You Will Know Them“, which he describes as a spiritual detective story.