“Basically, everyone had to participate in May Day parades. So you’d go to the meeting point, where you’d make the rounds of the important people like background profilers and directors, so they’d notice you’d really been there. Then every citizen bought the stuff they sold at the meeting places. Scarce bananas, scarce sausages, some better-quality rolls... When you made the rounds like that, you could slowly look to slip off home again. Sometimes you succeeded, sometimes you failed. Some of your colleagues who were better placed then began to keep watch on you. One time some - I think it was a teacher of Marxism-Leninism - caught me by the hand and said: ‘Come on, let’s go together.’ So I couldn’t escape, and I really did pass by the grandstand. We talked about that with my husband yesterday... The people around mostly raised their hands and shouted: ‘Long live Comrade Novotný!’ And I felt terribly awkward. I wasn’t able to raise my hand and shout. So I kind whispered: ‘Long live Comrade...’, but it was awfully unpleasant. Only very few people actually reached the grandstand because most people legged it into the side streets, or suddenly set off against the flow. So I think that the people on the grandstand didn’t have to stay there for long because the parade passed by very quickly.”
“I was phoning with a colleague who was staying in the United States in 1969 and who I was substituting for at the faculty. He asked me on the phone, and of course I could hear the bugging devices, several of them clicking away in the phone... He asked whether he should emigrate and whether people were being murdered on the streets here. So I told him: ‘I won’t answer the first question, and with regards to the second one, I can tell you there aren’t any murders, that at least I haven’t seen any murder on the streets - that they’d actually shoot someone on the spot.’ So then he returned from the United States, which was a mistake, and he said: ‘But you persuaded me to come back.’ So I told him: ‘You dunce! How was I supposed to tell you to stay there!’ But several people did do that, say Professor Záruba told his assistant, when he asked whether he should return from the United States, he said straight up: ‘Jirka, you’d be crazy to come back. Stay there.’ But I didn’t have the courage to do that due to having children.”
“There were three groups of people who worked there. There were experts, that was the lowest caste. Those were specialists in agriculture, civil engineering, geological exploration. There were really a lot of geologists there. The second, higher caste consisted of employees of the sales department. They had a lot of advantages, they had diplomatic status, they received special benefits. Then there were the people working at the embassy, those were people with special screening, that was a caste that we subordinates were not actually allowed to get in touch with. The very amusing thing was that the absolutely lowest caste of all were the wives of experts. Say, it happened to me one time that we wanted to get on the lift, and the head of the sales department walked up, pushed us two women aside and said: ‘What are experts’ wives doing getting in the way like this?! I take precedence.’ He got on the lift, the door closed, and we waited for the next one to come. So we were the lowest placed caste of all.”
I was phoning with a colleague in America, and I could hear several bugging devices clicking away in the phone. At that moment I couldn’t tell him not to come back here
Marcela Wallenfelsová was born in 1932. She has lived her whole life in a house in Prague-Dejvice. She was there during the war, when the Hitlerjugend and later Svoboda‘s army had their base of operations nearby. During the Prague Uprising the witness‘s house served as shelter for a group of rebels because they could use it to fire at the Fascist position. The Germans shot the house to bits with a tank, and Marcela Wallenfelsová and her family had to abandon the ruins of their home. She graduated from secondary school and went on to obtain a degree in geology and geography. She and her husband devoted themselves fully yo science, but they refused to join the Communist Party, which caused considerable complications for their work. Furthermore, her brother emigrated. She and her family spent several years in Cuba and Peru due to her husband‘s work stays abroad.