Witnesses of Communism

Former disident Jiří Zbořil

Jiri Zboril was arrested with scores of others in June 1983 for protesting the last minute cancellation of a rock concert and participating in a spontaneous peace demonstration. He was convicted of “obstructing officials in the execution of their duty” and sentenced to six months in prison (but in the end he spent in the prison only a few days) In our meeting with Mr. Zboril, he gave us an account of his personal history under the communist era from his early youth to the current days.

Lessons learnt:

Mr. Zboril story was perceived as relatively controversial. In his story he was showing an interesting mixture of early rebellion and then quite long-lasting conformism.

At the beginning he was describing his rebellious youth but from his overall testimony one had to wonder if his acts and attitudes were not just a pose without actual context and belief. Also it was mostly small gestures or disobeying some norms (like wearing long hair when it was for- bidden for students by the communist regulations etc.). And later in his life he turned into a conformist. He is even now in retrospect appreciating some aspects of the Communist time like certainty of employment etc. His professional route might be similar to some dissidents (persons politically repressed by the regime in terms of denied access to university education and to certain job paths) as he worked for example in a boiler house. But in his case working in his environment was his own choice – he was not forced to it by the circumstances.

Former disident Stanislav Penc

Mr. Stanislav Penc is one of the important dissidents who has been promoting the civic rights of Czech citizens. He was explaining in detail his efforts in the last 20 years focusing on full disclosure of archives of the former communist secret police.

As the authorities have not been willing to make these files public, Mr. Penc managed to put together a big volume from these data and published them online. The databases contained the names of hundreds of thousands of people who had allegedly anything to do with the secret police (StB). Penc disclosed the databases in reaction what he considers improper work of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (USTR) and the subordinate Archive of Security Forces. Mr. Penc put the databases online in protest of the state’s handling of files on people with any connection to the StB.

Lessons learnt:
Mr. Penc experience and his fight for unrestricted access to the information about the communist machinery and it’s collaborators and informants show clearly that even 23 years after the fall of communism there is still not the will to make this information public and accessible. It appears that some political and judiciary forces prefer to keep it rather hidden. So, a full disclosure of these data is still to achieved. And it won ́t be easy.