“I could not fit in among the rich. They were the typical ´golden kids,´ precisely the type that Škvorecký or Klíma write about. They exaggerate it, it was not so bad, but still, these ´golden kids´ were there. And it was people like them who looking down on me because the stockings I wore were mended. On the other hand, I didn’t fit in among the children of lower officials, either, because I still kept trying to get somewhere else. That’s why I didn’t feel well in Humpolec.”
“One day, the Ministry of Education discovered that in Olomouc, where I was teaching Polish literature, the number of lecturers somewhat exceeded the number of students. They found out about it ten years later, well, it did take them some time. They declared that this was no longer permissible and ordered half of the lecturers to be dismissed. It made sense, there was no evil intent in it. But still, the consequences for me were bad. There were five of us. The Polish lecturer had to stay there. The dean said: ´Half of the Czech lecturers, that means two people. Perhaps it would be possible to save one, but one still has to leave.´ And there was I, who was a woman, a nonpartisan and inconvenient, because I did quite a lot of publishing activity. I am convinced that if one wants to achieve something, one has to do something, to write and publish. So it was me who was to be dismissed. If they had been at least a bit honest, they could have told me that there was simply no place for me and that I would be able to earn my living elsewhere, which was true, because I was also a translator, and they could have at least given me a good reference and just let me go. I would have accepted that.”
“Czechs had the right to be angry at that time. There is a lot of injustice happening in the world, we know that. We need to understand what can be understood. I know that when there is some injustice done, it brings forth another injustice. If Germans acted badly, nobody can expect that they would then be treated kindly and with courtesy. Unfortunately, the world is like this, but people need to be aware of this and defend themselves however they can.”
“We obviously knew about the concentration camps. Germans claimed that they didn’t know about them. I don’t know to what extent it was possible not to know. What I also don’t understand is when some Czechs claimed that they didn’t know about the prisons in Mírov or Leopoldov. There are some things that people do not want to know about, but this is not to be tolerated, because people are obliged to know.”
“I was really to be expelled from Charles University. People in Humpolec even claimed that it had already happened, they even felt sorry for me already. I was terribly unhappy, but before leaving at least I wanted to go to the lecture of professor Krejčí for the last time. I was sitting next to Mařenka Strádalová, the name probably does not tell you anything, but at that time there was a group of people at the faculty centered around Jaroslav Kohout and Jasněna Rónová, who were a right-inclined social democracy. I was sitting next to Mařenka and she saw how unhappy I was and asked me what was wrong. I told her that I was to be expelled from the faculty. Her mom was working in the Slavic Institute. She told me: ´Look, they will not do anything to me yet, but Karel Krejčí had told my mom that if I ever needed anything, I should ask him.´ The poor girl later got imprisoned. Karel Krejčí was still an influential person to a certain extent. Mařenka made me go with her to the first floor and she knocked on the door of Krejčí’s office. I mumbled that I was to be expelled from the faculty. He told me to keep preparing for my exams. He was kind to me, although I haven’t even known him personally.”
Nowhere are the birch trees as beautiful as in the Highlands, but I was not able to live here
Hana Voisine-Jechová was born April 19, 1927 in Humpolec. Her father was arrested at the end of the war and deported to Terezín where he died. She graduated from the Faculty of Arts of Charles University, specializing in Czech, French, and Slavic studies. In 1948 she married the lieutenant of the Czechoslovak army Vladimír Jech. After completing her M.A. study in 1950, she worked in the State Pedagogical Publishing House in Prague. In 1955-1969 she was teaching Polish literature at Palacký University in Olomouc. At that time she also began translating from Polish and preparing for her habilitation examination. In 1962 she submitted her habilitation thesis in the Slavic institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in Prague. She was however not successful, because just before taking the examination she was forbidden complete her study. She eventually successfully defended her thesis at the University of Warsaw in 1966. In 1969 she emigrated to France for the first time when she was invited by the Sorbonne to teach comparative literature there. In 1972 she also successfully defended her post-graduate doctoral degree there. She was also offered the position of a visiting professor at the university in Tours, where she lectured until autumn 1973. Upon insistence from her family which had remained in Czechoslovakia, she returned to her homeland in autumn 1973. The following period was very difficult, since she and her husband were both without jobs. Three years later she went to France again at the request of the French government. She lost her Czechoslovak citizenship, she was forced to divorce her husband, and her mother had to emigrate with her as the Czechoslovak authorities required. She began teaching comparative literature and Czech studies in Tours and at the Sorbonne. Her greatest success was the establishment of Czech studies as an independent field of study at the Sorbonne in 1982. In 1984 she married professor Jacques Voisine. Her research activity focuses mainly on comparative literature of Slavic literatures. She collaborates with the International Comparative Literature Association and with other research centres in France, Poland and in the Czech Republic. Apart from academic works she also publishes fiction books.