Vojen Syrovátka

* 1940  

  • “When you became a political prisoner your family was either moved out, into a village or to the border, since the expanding apparatus of the Ministry of Interior needed many flats. This was the way they got them. Or when the flat was a bigger one, they halved it and moved a Ministry employee into the other half. This was our case. We lived in Dejvice in a four-room flat, there was a kitchen with a room for maid. They left us two rooms, the other two were occupied by a Secret Police family, then another. We got along quite fine with the latter. We had different opinions. Me and my mum guarded our mouth when speaking to them, especially while my father was in prison, but otherwise we got along well. My mum had no need to bring hatred into our life. When my father returned from the prison the Secret Police officer had to complete his secondary school education. He had terrible problems with maths. And my father gave him lessons, while voicing openly his opinions. And the officer held him in such a high regard that when my father died after years, he came to his funeral.”

  • “The workshop I worked in, it consisted of former self-employed persons or their apprentices, who had been in a dependent position in a workshop and dreamt about being independent one day. I recall an accident when one of the craftsmen got really drunk. They drank often. This was after the deaths of Stalin and Gottwald and there were still their pictures on the wall. They called these pictures ‘corpses’. The man who got drunk rose his eyes, saw the corpses and went berserk. The corpses were for him the symbol of his unhappiness. He had already bought tools, was about to start his own business and they thwarted his plans. So he threw a hammer and paint cans at the corpses. It was a quite good performance.“

  • “When I passed the school-leaving ‘maturita’ exam in 1960 I went to the HR department in my company and asked for a recommendation for the university. It was not possible to apply without a recommendation then. They refused, saying they thought I would apply for a technical college. They would have supported that, not theology. I said I wanted to apply for theology anyway. And they said: ‘Look, if you apply without our recommendation, you won’t be accepted. And if you apply without our recommendation, we will learn and will fire your mum.’ Mum had about a year and a half to go to be retired. I thought something very indecent about them, something I will not repeat. And I said I would not do it and I would have to go to the military service anyway. So I went to the military.”

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I signed Charter 77 and the Church considered me a saboteur

Vojen Syrovátka, polovina 50. let
Vojen Syrovátka, polovina 50. let
zdroj: archiv pamětníka

Vojen Syrovátka was born on March 8, 1940 in Prague. His father Václav Syrovátka was an active member of the anti-Nazi resistance and after 1948 joined campaigns against the communist regime. He was sentenced for these activities and spent fourteen years as a political prisoner in labour camps and prisons. The teenage Vojen felt acutely the absence of the father in the family. He found help in the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren in Prague-Dejvice, which he started attending at sixteen. It was here he found friends and developed an interest in religion. He trained as an electro engineer. During work he studied a grammar school and then was accepted to the Evangelical Theological Faculty, Charles University. It cost him much effort since his employer refused, for four years, to provide him, the son of a political prisoner, with the recommendation, a necessary condition for being accepted at the university during socialism. In the seventies he worked as a parson in Rumburk and other districts of the former Sudenteland. He signed Charter 77 and met the dissidents. He was often interrogated by the Secret Police. After 1989 he co-founded the Civic Forum in Rumburk. He served in the Diakonia’s board and contributed to the building of an old people’s home in Dvůr Králové. He has become one of the most respected members of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren. Since 2010 he has served as a parson in Vilémov.