Jiří Zajíc

* 1951  

  • “Already during the first meeting at the Municipal Library (on December 2nd 1989) the question was raised who would even be allowed to enter and who won´t. As people of at least four kinds of orientation would be gathering there. The Scouts, who were active till 1949, who since then didn´t get in touch with children and the youth. Then there were Scouts who were active mostly from 1968 to 1970. They were in their full strength, and were elected on the third assembly in November 1968 – so they were the legitimate successors from that era. They were strong in numbers but many of them also didn´t get in touch witch children and the youth. And there were also us who were the Youth tourist clubs members, who were in the Brontosaurus organisation or in the Union for Nature Conservation. And those who were the Pionýr organisation members. We knew how the kids were like. And the last group – and there were only few of them – were those who strived to do Scouting illegally, without any cover, or people from the Scout Movement in exile. From their point of view – and also for the generation of 1948 – we had been tainted by working with children during the 'normalisation' and the 80´, in their eyes we were no true Scouts. Those who were working in illegality or in exile also blamed those who led the Scout Movement in 1970, considering them traitors. For them the fact that Rudolf Plajner and the leadership back then gave an order to join the Pionýr Organisation to save the children meant the worst betrayal. So there was a deep generational rift between those who knew how the children looked like and those who just thought they knew what should be done with them. And another issue was who betrayed and who didn´t. The Scouting Movement had been dealing with that the whole 90s.”

  • “I chose twelve boys from the group of twenty-four, the ones whose families I considered reliable, and in June 1971 we went to Nedrahovice to camp for the first time.” - “The families had to be reliable as it was still Scouting? - “As it was an activity that was obviously 'hostile' to the new regime. - “Because of your approach?” - “Sure. My approach wasn´t primarily a political one, I just tried to educate the boys so they would strive for the truth, for them to be honest, not to lie and help those on whom harm is being inflicted. In fact, to behave normally, which clearly meant to go against the regime in the time of the Normalisation. As back then, to lie, to back down and to ignore those who were being oppressed was considered 'normal'.

  • “Palach´s deed had a huge impact on you, I would imagine... “ - “An immense one. That´s why I can´t bear all the talk that it was meaningless. And most of all, when young people today would say – what had he accomplished? His accomplishment was, for example, that people like me kept telling themselves: “Yes, if he could do that, I couldn´t yield, I couldn´t betray.” That was the crux of the matter.” - “As an example of integrity and bravery?” - “As an example of bravery. He sacrificed his life for the cause. As for myself, I won´t self-immolate, but I also wouldn´t leave the children, for whom I had responsibility, and I would try to keep alive the hope for them, that our lives could be more honest.”

  • “In November 1968, we joined the student strike, being the first secondary school joining the protest. For me, it was a crucial turning point in my life.” – „Could you explain why? “– „As at that moment I went from my childhood straight into adulthood. We had great teachers at the secondary school, but the school authorities – Mrs Roháčková, the director, and the Communist party district chairman Kváča, they soon took on a new course, knowing that the times were changing. So as we came to them stating that we would like to join the strike which started at the universities, they refused, stating that that was out of the question. And as we insisted, they stated: 'Allright, go on, but we can´t take responsibility for the kids who will be here. That you have to arrange with your parents.' And they thought they´ve solved it. That was on Monday afternoon. And in the evening, there was a Parents´ evening. And our group decided that we would attend all the meetings and we would tell the parents. And indeed, we were standing there in front of the parents being just seventeen-years-old, telling them that there had to be a strike and why it was necessary. And most of the parents would support us. So since Wednesday, there was really a student strike. We invited Karel Kyncl, as his daughter Irena went to school with us, and Vladimír Ráž, Dana Medřická.... In short, we organised a two-day strike. As the seventeen-year-olds. We had the full responsibility regarding the school and everything that would happen there.”

  • “Drawing on history, I saw the importance of politics for life. And I saw a certain moral dimension of it, which many people haven´t been able to comprehend nowadays, I would say. The society is made by the means of politics, on every level that is important. What has been taught in schools, how the care for the elderly has been provided, how children would be brought up – everything that matters has been decided by the means of politics.”

  • Celé nahrávky
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    Praha, 04.06.2019

    délka: 01:42:50
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    Praha, 06.05.2019

    délka: 01:49:50
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Celé nahrávky jsou k dispozici pouze pro přihlášené uživatele.

To teach the children to cooperate and to develop their moral sense is more important than knots or Morse code

Jiří Zajíc camping; ca. 1975
Jiří Zajíc camping; ca. 1975
zdroj: archiv pamětníka

Jiří Zajíc was born on May 17th of 1951 in Praha. His father, Josef, worked as a geologist, his mother, Malvína, was a housewife who had also studied catechism. His family was Catholic with a critical stance towards communism. He got involved with the Scout Movement for the first time during the Prague Spring of 1968, when the organisation was allowed to resume its activities. After the Warsaw Pact invasion in August, he co-organised a two-day strike at a high school and joined the Scouts as a Cubs´ group leader. He graduated in Numerical analysis from Charles University´ Faculty of Mathematics and Physics. After the Scouts were disbanded in 1970, he joined tourist club TJ Sokol Praha-Krč with part of his group, where he continued to work with children in the spirit of the Scout Movement. He had participated in the activities of the illegal ‚Hidden Church‘ and had been organising Praha´s Catholic youth community. Since 1976, he had been working at the research department of Prague´ University of Economics Computer Centre, participating on the project of utilising computers in the educational process. In the late 70s, the Secret Police began to investigate his activities and planted an agent into the Catholic community, who was later exposed. Jiří Zajíc went through his first interrogation. Temporarily, he abandoned his activities associated with the tourist club and devoted himself to the ‚underground church‘, becoming editor-in-chief of the illegal Czechoslovak catechism workgroup. After November 1989, he had become a leading figure in the complicated process of renewal of the Scout Movement in Czechoslovakia. He founded and was the director of the Czech Radio´ editorial office covering the religious life in the country. He was among the founders of the Česká rada dětí a mladeže (Czech Council of Children and Youth), an umbrella organisation for the youth organisations including the Scouts, and later he was the director of its main office. Apart from being a high-ranking Scout Movement official, he also worked as a media analyst and a teacher, and published several books.