In february 2016 we received this anonymous letter. The sender describes his fate: How he became a secret police informer without ever feeling like one. We publish the letter in a slightly shortened version.
My father died when I was thirteen. My mother got a job as a warehouser, and decided she would provide for me and my brother, until we graduated from high school. After that we would have to stand on our own feet.
The first lesson on the first day of high school I will never forget. Each of us had an application form to enter the Union of Czechoslovak Youth (ČSM) in front of us, and our new class teacher K. instructed us to fill it.
The second year began with an application form to obtain the Fučík insignia. Also, we had to read certain books, like The Darkness by Jirásek, The Knight with the Golden Star on his Forehead by some soviet author and Cement by yet a third one.
In our third year we entered the Union of Czechoslovak-Soviet Friendship, and I forget what we entered into in the forth year, but every year we were handing ind old papers and receiving new ones.
After finishing high school I got a job that paid 960 Kč per month. Girls got 660. In the autumn I was drafted for two years of military service. Brainwash on the theme of imperialism, the camp of world peace, Religion as opium of the people (Marx?) and so on and so forth. Warm shower once a week, no vacation, immeasurable bullying and humiliation.
During my second year of military service I began thinking about what to do afterwards. In a letter my brother told me, that he was going to study after high school and that he planned to find himself a student job on the side. So I decided to head the same way. At that time when someone wanted to study, he or she had to have a recommendation either from the never-sleeping eye of the party (KSČ – The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia – editors note), from the headmaster of his or her secondary school, from his or her employer (for distance learners), or from the unit commander when one was in the army. I obtained and filled in the application form and went to see the colonel Mr. V. He greeted me the question: “And have you, comrade H., considered entering the Communist Party?” No, I haven’t,” I answered. “Well, then do.” Three days later I came back. “So, did you think about it?” I answered: “In Rudé právo (state newspaper – editors note), I read that the Communist Party is the class conscious vanguard of the working class, something which I with my twenty years of age cannot be.” “Don’t worry, the party will help you.” – And why the fuck can’t the party help itself without me? I asked myself, but not him. One week later I was at colonel V. again. He waved two application forms in front of me and said: “Comrade H., if you sign up with us, I sign this for you,” and pointed to my form for the university. And because I was strongly determined to study and provide for myself at the same time, I pragmatically thought to myself that if a party has to get new members by blackmail, I shouldn’t have any scruples or feel guilty either. Then I signed. And so did he.
About three months after I started working, I was called up for military training in Milovice. Two employees of the secret service visited me there and offered me to work for them making economic analyses of Capitalism, the work might take place at some international organisation like the UN. They gave me a questionnaire, some thirty pages long, to fill in. Loads of questions, the last being: “What would you like to mention that we haven’t asked about?” I wrote that I would never want anything to do with weapons. One week later they came back and told me, they were sorry, but I wouldn’t work for them – the head recruiter explained that working for them is demanding and that the agreement must be unconditional. However, it seems I was still in good standing at them, which would turn out to be an advantage later on.
In august 1968 I’d left for a business trip abroad. Upon my return I attended a public meeting where I renounced the invasion of the army (invasion of the Soviet Pact – editors notes) as filthy and a violation of international laws. In May 1971 I was expelled from the Party and dismissed from my job. At that time it wasn’t allowed to be unemployed, one might face prosecution for parasitism. The factory “Armabeton”, a hat-factory, a sawmill and a number of other places had no interest in employing a political villain. Thus, I became a stoker at a wine-producing facility for 930 Kč per months plus a litre of white wine every Friday. I got fired one month later and then became a storeman.
Once at Wenceslaus’ Square I met a foreigner whom I knew from abroad. He invited me for a cup of coffee and a chat. He needed help because his task was to start a branch of his business in Prague. That’s how I was hired as a driver and translator, but first and foremost as an advisor in business matters.
After a couple of years the Administration of Diplomatic Services came to notice this non-registered Western company, and as soon as they found out about it, they started investigating who was working there. Thus, I was summoned for a meeting where they checked my reference letter file and blamed me for criticizing the occupation in 68. If I hadn’t done that, I could have been an chief executive by now, they told me. Nonetheless, in the end they did provide my ID papers with the required stamp, and I gratefully handed over a bottle of whiskey in return. (From then on I always came once a year, got a stamp and handed over a bottle in exchange).
Two weeks later I found a notice behind the screen wipers of my car. Due to an alleged infringement I was summoned to Bartolomějská (the head quarters of the secret police – eidtor’s note). That’s where I met M. who started our meeting by throwing the notice into the bin, whereupon he informed me that he was an employee of the Secret Police (StB) and asked me whether I was willing to cooperate. I asked him if that means I’ll be informing against friends when they tell jokes about Husák (the president of socialist Czechoslovakia from 1975 till 1989 – editor’s note). But that wasn’t going to be the case, he assured me. He told me that he works for a department that fights external enemies. I answered that I’m a patriot and would gladly fight an external enemy. Most probably the two of us had rather different enemies in mind. And so I signed some kind of contract with him.
From then on I met with the employee of the Secret Police (StB) once a month at a low-budget restaurant. We took turns paying lunch and beer for both of us. Originally, he was a forest worker from Šumava, later he’d become a border guard and then finally recruited for the StB. And he stuck to his words and never asked me for information about anyone. Instead he wanted to learn about economics. Every once in a while I also was allowed to travel abroad for work, but I never got permission to take any trips abroad with my family, not even to Yugoslavia.
Once during the fall of 1988 at one of our monthly lunch-discussions with the StB employee I non-intentionally came to express the opinion that the socialist state hasn’t much reason to fear any external enemy, but that its own economy is so weak and fragile that it may lead to a break-down at some point – much similar to when an old television implodes. Only one week later I was requested to attend a meeting at the head quarters. Besides from me and the usual StB employee two further employees were attending, probably supervisors. They asked me what my comment about the economy was supposed to mean? Where had I gotten this information form? When would it happen? I assured them, that these were only my own personal thoughts, which again were informed only by our own national media and the socialist education system. I really had no idea that within a year it would all be breaking down and that by then the StB employee would inform me that all my papers had been transported to a paper factory and leached out.
[After 1989 when the business Mr. H worked for had been closed] a banking executive called me and invited me to come by his office. He offered me a position as a chief executive for a subsidiary company for which he was also a member of the board of directors. After approximately three months he had me pay an invoice of 32.000 CZK for some IT services which I’d never ordered and also not received. He answered my objection by telling me that I should also order some “services.” A couple of month later another invoice, now for legal assistance, which also wasn’t ordered or received by anyone. So I quit.
This way of restoring capitalism in the Czech Republic is to none of my likings and so I founded a consultancy firm offering advice in how to establish companies.
Today I have become a believer. I don’t accumulate material possessions, I only buy the food I need or replacement for something that has broken. I enjoy going to the theatre, the cinema and attending concerts. I read positive literature, and my old-age pension is only slightly above average. I observe with worry the self-destruction of our society: selfish politicians and media players who with the help of constantly improving technology are cutting the branch under our planet.
Considering the people from my story who are still alive, I have chosen to stay anonymous.