Josef Stehlík

* 1944

  • “I received a summons to the police, why had I said that the Communists were so and so back in Velké Hranice. I didn’t even remember that we’d performed in Velké Hranice. So I tried to get out of the country. I bought a package tour from Čedok [a famous nationwide travel agency of the time - transl.], I requested a foreign exchange permit and got a letter of invitation from my sister in Basel. The answer was always nyet, nyet, nyet, so I didn’t succeed until after ten years, in 1978, when I escaped and stayed here in Switzerland. Back in Bohemia I wasn’t allowed to work as a sculptor, but I arrived here on Thursday, and on Monday I started working as a stone carver under what is now my best friend, Ludwig Stocker. So I can work in the field I loved and continue to love.”

  • “Back then in Teplice they had a cabaret called KKK (Koenigsmark, Kučera, Kryl). Alex Koenigsmark and I were constantly in touch, we were supposed to perform there once. That’s where I met Karel Kryl, his songs were brilliant, no one knew them. We played Kryl’s songs in our theatre. Karel Kryl sang his song Bratříčku, zavírej vrátka [Little Brother, Close the Gate] for the first time with us in Ústí nad Labem.”

  • “[Q: Where were you on 21 August?] I was in Černá Voda. [...] We were there with our troupe, we performed there, then we got drunk, and the biggest joke of the night - they never even had a plane fly overhead - the biggest joke was: ‘We’ve been attacked by the Poles.’ We wake up in the morning, tanks all around, the Polish army. We drove to Prague still suffering from a severe hangover; we were at the Radio House, we beat at them, threw stones. Things were exploding - I didn’t date - but there were others who ran about with cramp irons, they punched through the barrel at the back, a second man put some burning newspaper inside. There were tanks on fire there. Then we set off back again, we were sleeping in the moving van, we went to the bridge towards the electric works [Hlávek Bridge - ed.]; suddenly, they started shooting. [...] No one was allowed to cross the river. Then one lady came up, saying she’d agreed with the Russian commander to let us ten cross the river. They led us across at gunpoint. [...] We showed them we had a moving van there and that we really did sleep in it, that we have a bed there. One [soldier] guarded us and spent the whole night patrolling around our moving van, so we wouldn’t escape or attempt some sabotage.”

  • “I started playing music and doing theatre when I was still at school; later I could think only of theatre. I founded the travelling cabaret show Kočka [Cat; but also an abbreviation of ‘KOČovný KAbaret’, the Czech for ‘travelling cabaret’ - transl.]. Each year [1966-1968] we spent the two months of the summer holidays touring Bohemia and Moravia, we did ‘Culture for a Bob’ [an approximation of ‘bůra’, slang for a five-crown coin, very roughly comparable in value to a shilling at the time - transl.], which was still quite a bit of money back then. The Russians came, that was a political cabaret, and that put an end to it. They confiscated our moving can, which we had converted for sleeping and performing. They took our instruments and sound system, which we’d bought for our hard-earned money. We just weren’t allowed to do theatre. [...] I was a thorn in the eye of this one culture boss in Karlovy Vary, who had a wonderful name - Joža Lokajíček [in Czech the name has a quaint, fairy-tale ring to it - transl.]. Lokajíček found out we were playing in Prague, so he [decided to] ban me from sculpting and the like. So we played in Brno and Olomouc. My brother and sister stayed in Switzerland, where they had been on holiday. I didn’t want to leave, I thought someone had to stay and do something. After two years I understood there was nothing to be done.”

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    Basilej, CH, 02.08.2014

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I can work in the field I loved and continue to love

picture from 1979
picture from 1979
zdroj: archiv pamětníka

The stonemason and stone sculptor Josef (Joža) Stehlík was born in 1944 into the family of a stonemason in Zlín. He grew up in Černá Voda, Skuteč, and Karlovy Vary. He studied at the Secondary Technical School of Stone Carving in Hořice. He did amateur and semi-professional theatre, in 1966-1968 he spent the summer holidays with the travelling cabaret show Kočka (Cat). He tried his hand at many jobs: entertainer, lorry driver, bookseller. He published caricatures in the magazine Mladý svět (Young World) in the 1970s. In 1978 he decided not to return from a trip abroad, he immigrated to his sister in Switzerland via Germany. He settled down in Basel and started working as a stonemason. He has worked freelance since 1984, founding Atelier für Stein - Stehlik. He also helps organise the cultural scene of the expatriate community in Basel.