We were under permanent surveillance in Czechoslovakia; they knew everything about us, but no intervention came. The communist nomenclature, held in power for twenty years by the Soviet tanks, remained alone while the new generation of cynics was eager to grab its posts, relying on Gorbachev’s reforms to paralyse even the most conservative regime in Central Europe. Originally the authorities completely refused to allow us to shoot anything, explaining that “it was not in the state’s interest”, but the second terse application, stating that we would film the Charles Bridge, the Lucerna and Wenceslaus Square, went through. Perhaps foreign currency for a few official shots did its job. But we stayed one day longer than we’d declared, and we had arranged the prohibited part of the shoot, i.e. the dissidents. We were filming Vaclav Havel, and Milan Simecka arrived at Havel’s place from Bratislava. In the afternoon, we went to see the group involved with the samizdat monthly Obsah, where we met Ludvik Vaculik, Ivan Klima, Milan Uhde and others. For safety’s sake, we sent the finished material out of the country through a courier before we left, so that we could only show the harmless panorama of Prague at the borders. We were only reprimanded for extending the declared length of our stay by one day, and that was it. We then made up for the lack of interviews from Czechoslovakia by holding interviews with those in exile, but we did that in the free world. Another source of material was the samizdat series entitled Original Video Journal. Its views of a cleaning woman, the former clinical psychologist Jarmila Bělíková, who was sacked merely for having signed Charter 77, told the viewers perhaps more about the nature of the regime than some interviews would.

Jacques Rupnik


Václav Havel

Václav Havel20. 1. 1988 | Prague, Czech Republic

Playwright, writer, essayist and thinker, human rights advocate, one of the first three spokesmen of Charter 77, a leading figure in the Czechoslovak opposition to totalitarian communist power and a political prisoner. In November 1989, the leader...

Zdena Tominová

Zdena Tominová21. 7. 1988 | London, United Kingdom

A Czech writer, translator, dissident, after the arrest of members of the Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Prosecuted in 1979 also one of the speakers of Charter 77. As a result of persecution she and her entire family were forced to...

Milan Šimečka

Milan Šimečka20. 1. 1988 | Prague, Czechoslovakia

Czech and Slovak philosopher and literary reviewer. He graduated in Czech and Russian literature from the Faculty of Arts in Brno in 1953 and worked as an assistant at the Comenius University in Bratislava, where he lectured in Marxist philosophy at...

Jiří Němec

Jiří Němec1. 1. 1988 | Vienna, Austria

A Czech Christian philosopher, clinical psychologist, translator, editor, initiator and signatory of Charter 77, the husband of Charter 77 signatory Dana Němcová, with whom he had seven children. Having begun his studies at the Medical Faculty of...

Heda Margolius Kovály

Heda Margolius Kovály10. 1. 1988 | New York, USA

Czech translator and writer. At the beginning of the Nazi occupation, she married the lawyer Rudolf Margolius, with whom she was deported to the Lodz ghetto in 1941 and further to the Nazi extermination camps. It was a miracle that they both...

Jiří Menzel

Jiří Menzel18. 1. 1988 | Prague, Czechoslovakia

Film director, actor and writer He graduated from the Film School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. His very first feature film made him one of the most important representatives of Czechoslovakia’s New Wave of film in the 1960s. Closely...

Jiří Sláma

Jiří Sláma28. 1. 1988 | Munich, Germany

Economist After finishing grammar school, he enrolled at the University of Industry and Chemical Technology in Brno (1945–1949), from where he switched to the Faculty of Economics at the University of Political and Economic Sciences in Prague...