“I was literally trembling. He (František Gel) said: ‘You will go to the gatehouse, call number 326, I still remember it, because it’s the sports department, and they will come for you.’ The rules were that you could not go to the radio by yourself. As a guest you needed to be taken in by somebody. Office assistant Mrs. Čechová came for me. They did not have many external workers or internship students there at that time. With reverence I followed her to the paternoster lift and she led me into the department office. The department was led by Jaroslav Beneš as a representative of the working class – he was originally a chimney-sweeper. As for sports, he was a fanatic. You could just tell him Sparta – Slavia in October 1936, and he knew all the details about team players and goals. Apart from that, he was more of a chimney-sweeper, but he was a man of character. He even let this Pecháček work there as an extern, even thought people must have known that Pecháček’s dad was working for Radio Free Europe. They told me to sit down and I waited what would happen. Somebody felt sorry for me and they brought me a folder with letters from listeners. I opened it and there was a letter from a lawyer’s office that they were dealing with a paternity case and that the lady was not sure when it had happened, because she had had quite a great number of intercourses. But that allegedly both of them remembered that in the critical moment some ice-hockey game was being broadcast on the radio, and the reporter shouted in a mighty voice: ‘Goooooal!’ and in that moment the gentleman lost control for a while and what happened was what they didn’t wish to happen. The reporter of this broadcast was Standa Sigmund, and he was boasting about it for a long time afterward: ‘You know, Sparta fans and Slavia fans might get a fight because of you, but I – I take care that the mankind does not go extinct.’”
“(When reporting about the departure of Ceausescu’s flight) I said to my colleague: ‘Hey, I’m going to make an interview with Dubček.’ – ‘Are you nuts, you need to have permission beforehand for that!’ I said: ‘Screw them all, I don’t know what else to say in the report, I’m going to talk to Dubček. Guys, give me a longer cable.’ This can be heard in the report. I decided that for the first time in my life I would greet somebody with a loud ‘Labour be honoured’ (official communist greeting – transl.’s note) so that he would not tell me off straight away. ‘Labour be honoured, comrade secretary, we are doing a live broadcast for the Czechoslovak Radio, could you tell us your opinion about Ceausescu’s visit, in what ways was it beneficial?’ And he started babbling some terrible nonsense. Dubček has never been a great speaker, but now he just talked horribly. Oh my, I thought, he is tired and he must hate all these speeches, I should rather change the topic to something less serious. Since he was a football fan and he cheered for the Trenčín club, I asked him: ‘Do you plan to go to Trenčín on Sunday to see the first league match?’ And he started gibbering even worse. I thus ended the interview and only later I learnt that when everybody has left and flown away, there was a special flight arranged for him to take him to Kádár to Komárno and Kádár informed him that tanks will be arriving. Dubček knew that Kádár did not invite him just for nothing. That was why he was talking nonsense. His mind was preoccupied with something entirely different.”
“One day I came for my night shift, it was already in 1963-64 and at that time we already used foreign agencies AFP and Reuters, but we used them illegally. We were actually not even supposed to have them, but the Radio management approved of them upon pressure from Milan Weiner and the foreign department, because they insisted that they needed to be informed. But since this would cost too much money, we were connected to these foreign agencies illegally, with the Czech Press Agency being aware of it. Only one subscription was being paid, and we were forbidden to tell it to anyone. I came for my night shift at seven, we worked in twelve-hour day and night shifts, and in AFP I read that there was an attack on Kennedy. Officially, I was supposed to wait for the Czech Press Agency, the Czech Press Agency was supposed to wait for TASS, and the shift manager was to discuss it with the top management and wait for their decision. But something moved within me, something switched in my head and I took the message and walked to the broadcasting room to the inspector, to the woman who was in control of the broadcast and I asked her: ‘What have you there now?’ – ‘A concert.’ – ‘For how long?’ – ‘It ends in five minutes.’ – ‘OK, so we’ll inform about Kennedy in five minutes.’ The report didn’t say that he died. It only said that he was shot and taken to hospital. Karel Kyncl was thus reading it from the teleprinter at the same time. He read it in English and I read it in French. While he was calling director Hoffmann to ask him what to do, we broadcast it here and we were the first in Europe. I am the only living witness now, but I don’t abuse this to make it up. We were the first to broadcast about the assassination of Kennedy.”
“Jarda Šťástka, my friend and my broadcast technician, with whom I have broadcast together many times, was there. I called at him: ‘Hello, Jarda!’ He said: ‘Quiet! Don’t mention my name! Walk three steps behind me and don’t look back.’ Conspiracy by the book. He led me to the former cinema Scout, this is where the Theatre in Řeznická Street is now, and at that time the Czechoslovak Television had its studio there and they were producing fairy-tales there. I entered. Karel Malina was already there, he didn’t have it that far from Wenceslas Square, and then we were broadcasting from there all the time in pairs Věra Šťovíčková and Čestmír Suchý from the foreign department, and I and Malina from the sports department. There were more of these places, and we were the Studio Central Bohemia.”
“We had the Lambdas, and Lambda was an excellent receiver. Our work station consisted of many Lambdas in a row, and chairs and headphones leading to each. Each of us received an assigned frequency and we had to monitor it. Soldiers from other troops were listening to Morse code, which must have been driving them crazy, and what we were listening to was only slightly less crazy. We were listening to five-digit codes of absolutely incoherent letters. We have learnt the spelling alphabet of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and we were recording the letters into charts. Of course, it occurred to each of us that he would listen to Radio Luxembourg for a while. But one day somebody tried it and he thought that there was some interference and that there was no broadcast on that frequency, but the guy didn’t realize that this frequency was being picked up simultaneously at several places where it worked properly, and he was thus put behind the bars right away. Our task was to listen, and we would then hand in our records; I don’t know what was happening next, some officer somewhere probably assessed them and concluded that they were having a military exercise in Furth im Wald. It probably did serve for something. But they (Western soldiers) must have known that we were monitoring them, I would even say that they were including many false data on purpose and that our army was making absolutely nonsensical conclusions based on that.”
I wanted to become a reporter like Laufer already when I was a little boy
Karel Tejkal was born October 11, 1937 in Prague. He has been interested in sport, history and radio broadcasting since he was a little boy. After graduation in 1956 he went to study Czech language and literature and journalism. During his university studies he already began working in the radio‘s sports department, but later he found employment in the news department. He joined the Communist Party while he was doing his compulsory military service in the early 1960s. During the Soviet occupation in 1968 he was actively participating in the anti-occupation broadcast of the Studio Central Bohemia. In the period of the beginning of the normalization process he had to take part in an army training, where he contracted a serious case of hepatitis. He survived the subsequent political purges thanks to a long-term stay in hospital. He stayed in the Radio until 1976, and then he left of his own will. He found a new job in the company Sportpropag, where he became one of the key authors of the nationwide campaign Buď fit! (‘Get Into Shape!‘). After November 1989 he returned to the Radio and he served as the head of the sports department, then as the head editor of the station Czechoslovakia, and before retirement he was in charge of the program Dobré jitro (‘Good Morning‘) on the station Prague. He made significant innovations to it and greatly increased the number of listeners. Karel Tejkal is now retired and he collaborates with the magazine Vital. He has been awarded the Ferdinand Peroutka Prize.