Ladislav Vavřík

* 1958  

  • “There used to be the Fotosalon Vítkovice being held in Ostrava. And its main theme would be 'Man and Work', for example, or 'Man and the Environment'. Often, the photos exhibited would deal with the topic of labour in the Socialist society. Sure the selection would reflect the era, but photographers from up to twenty-four countries would exhibit their works there. It had been the first time we were exposed to pictures from abroad so it was like this miracle of sorts. Looking at some of the photos, I have been wondering how come they weren´t banned. The exhibition had been funded by Vítkovice and it took place all over the Ostrava House of Culture (Dům kultury města Ostravy). It had been organised by people like professor Beran, or Ján Šmok. They were able to create this little isle of freedom so we could get a glimpse of life beyond the Iron Curtain. They were be able to organise maybe fifteen or sixteen annual exhibitions. And we, as the local photo club members, would go there every time and wonder.”

  • “'What have you been doing there, guys? I thought I´we lost my mind,' a combine operator would ask us in a pub. As we would erect those fake trees. There were these poles we would erect and fasten them with ropes. It looked like two umbrellas pointed against each other. And by doing that, we could make a tree covered with snow or with leaves on. We would do that to confuse the enemy in case of a air-raid. Because afterwards we would fire a missile the estimated survival time of our unit would be around three and half minutes. The enemy plane would answer our fire with another missile and we would be annihilated. So our estimated survival time had been set to three and half minutes.”

  • ¨I was at the signal box and I saw that on the marshalling yard there was this group of men staring at a control panel. Either someone would throw the switch in a wrong direction or there was a malfunction as there were two trains going against each other. And one of them was carrying these so-called 'Veronikas' (Torpedo cars) which were huge cigar shaped tanks for transporting molten iron. And suddenly, there was this hellish creaking. As 'Veronikas' would flip over and the iron would pour on the railway. Molted iron would soak into the ground as they would find when they were trying to dispose it. That was quite a big deal as even the metal production in Vítkovice had to stop because of that. But fortunately there were no consequences as they wouldn´t lock anyone up or so. In the end, the army had been trying to blow that mass up so it could be taken apart. But the railway would just jump up a bit and the shock-wave would break all the windows around. Iron would pour even into the cable wells. It destroyed just everything, so in the end, we had to build a new yard.”

  • “The Beseda House´s café and restaurant used to be almost in our backyard, and various official events would take place there. On one occasion, marshal Malinovsky came and he was surrounded by these kids with bandannas. But as he would pass another crowd of children without them, he would chose me and and tie one around my neck. And these children of communist officials would be so upset that they would complain at home. That´s how we have been living back then. After school, the more important things were happening in the backyard, all the games we used to play there. And often there would be this horse cart coming to the café to bring out the sewage. The whole backyard was uneven and full of puddles. There was this considerable deal of wretchedness in it.”

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There was this considerable deal of wretchedness in it

Ladislav Vavřík in summer of 1975
Ladislav Vavřík in summer of 1975
zdroj: archiv pamětníka

Ladislav Vavřík was born on May 21st of 1958 in Ostrava to a family of Sudeten-German heritage. After graduating from a secondary technical school as an electrician, he started his compulsory military service. He had been assigned to a secret missile site in Southern Slovakia as a technician, as at that time, the USSR had been trying to match the pace with the NATO states in the arms race. In the 70s and the 80s, he had been working with a crew of electricians at Vítkovice Foundry (Vítkovické slévárny). There, he also joined the local Communist Party (KSČ) organisation, being its member till the Autumn 1989 Velvet Revolution. In the late 80s, he took photography lectures at the local People´s School of Arts taught by František Řezníček. He witnessed the Fotosalon Vítkovice, the legendary festival of photography, and after the Revolution, he started to organise his own show, the Photographic Gathering (Setkání fotografů). In the 90s, he graduated from the Creative Photography Institute (Institut tvůrčí fotografie) in Opava, and was a co-founder of the Ostrava Club of Photography (Ostravský fotoklub). Since 2000, he has been running The Photography Closet (Kamrlík fotografie), a shop offering photographic film material, as well as equipment for its processing.