Urban Westling

* 1956

  • “In part, it was like a small social security system, that was started from Stockholm. Because we with the Foundation, we used the official channel of Tuzex. It was something you had in Czechoslovakia to get hard currency. And there were shops, Tuzex shops, where you could buy things that were not available to people. The rate was I thing one to five, meaning that the money was worth much more in Czechoslovakia that what we could buy from the official Tuzex representative in Stockholm. This company was in Göteborg on the West coast, it was a person called Sven Persson. In Swedish it is almost like a fake name, because it sounds like a fake name. But it was a company name. The money was channelled through this official contact. They supplied us with Tuzex coupons that could be used in Czechoslovakia. It was rather complicated. It had to be stamped with a rubber stamp, I think with his signature, rubber signature. After some time, when this was quite a big operation, this company actually sent us the stamp, so we could use it ourselves. In the office. Strictly confidential, of course. They actually offered to split the commission. So we got half the commission as well. This money, these Tuzex coupons, were send from Sweden together with a postcard, so that the recipient could send it back as a receipt.”

  • “I have been to Czechoslovakia, well Prague, maybe fifteen times. But travelling with material maybe half a dozen times.” “We had this hidden compartment in the petrol tank and maybe something else. And sometimes we had it just in a bag. I remember at one occasion giving out a pack of Marlboro when we were passing the border. To make it a little quicker. I have one memory of buying a simple duplicating machine in Stockholm. The old type that used only blue colour. The copies were just in blue. It was a rather small machine and you just rolled it by hand. But I had to dismantle it in order to make it fit. And I had a bad feeling. Maybe they never could put it together again? Because we didn´t have any manual and there were lots of small parts. I never heard what happened to that.”

  • “It was very different. I can remember things, when visiting Prague, like the smell of coal in winter. We didn´t have that in Stockholm. I didn´t even understand what it was, first. But obviously, it was coal. It was rather grey, the whole scene. Not that easy to find department stores. There was I think one department store at Václavské náměstí. Behind the curtain. You had to know it was there. There was no big shopping window, you had to go behind the curtains to go inside this place. I remember these small sandwiches that I used to eat. Very nice small sandwiches, very cheap, that you could buy in bakeries. You could see them in shop windows. I did so because the menus were not in English, it was difficult to order anything. So I used to eat these things, these sandwiches. I remember also when we stayed at this hotel, 1979, when we met the new spokespeople of Charta, we stayed at this hotel called Na Moráni, it was rather a simple hotel and outside the rooms, we saw they collected the old soaps so we understood they will use them to make new soap. Which was a little odd, but probably the way it was.”

  • Celé nahrávky
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    Praha, 01.02.2023

    délka: 01:49:19
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Helping Czechoslovak dissidents did have an effect and Sweden stuck out in this way

Urban Westling arrested during a protest against the Soviet days in Stockholm
Urban Westling arrested during a protest against the Soviet days in Stockholm
zdroj: pamětník

Born in 1956 in Oregrund, Sweden, Urban Westling was influenced by the presence of Hungarian political refugees in his hometown during his childhood. His wife was a Swedish-born Estonian whose family had fled the Soviet occupation. In his youth, he worked as an activist in the Eastern Europe Solidarity Committee, took part in many protests and happenings in support of democratisation movements in the east of the continent, and was also arrested for this. As a trained graphic designer, he is the author of a number of emblematic posters and fliers from this period. He circulated a petition in support of the signatories of Charter 77, and over time he became involved with the Committee of 21 August because of his affection for Czechoslovakia, which he visited repeatedly. He was in contact with Czech dissidents and provided information to the Swedish and Western public. He smuggled books, medicines and technical equipment for underground printers into Czechoslovakia in hidden compartments in cars and by air. He was also active in the distribution of financial and material aid to dissidents as part of the activities of the Charter 77 Foundation. In 1991, he welcomed President Havel at the Foundation‘s office during his official visit to Sweden. In January 2023, he took part in a public debate on Scandinavian support for the Czechoslovak democratic movement, organised by Post Bellum together with the Václav Havel Library.