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Exposition "We're not alone here" (2020)

In connection with the 22nd Czech-German Cultural Days, an exhibition on national minorities in the Czech Republic is being shown in autumn 2020 in Dresden, Dippoldiswalde, Sebnitz, Ústí nad Labem and Litoměřice The following 12 personalities were portrayed on large panels and in short videos.

The exhibition was designed by the Prague association Post Bellum o.p.s., which manages the contemporary witness archive Pamět Národa. The texts and pictures below were part of the exhibition. The links below the portraits of the individual persons lead you to the Contemporary Witness Archive Pamět Národa. where you can find more information about the biographies, pictures and videos.

Eugenie Číhalová (Djukovová, *1944)

Eugenie Číhalová (© Post Bellum)
Eugenie Číhalová (© Post Bellum)

She is one of the descendants of the emigrants who came to Czechoslovakia from the former Russian Empire at the beginning of the 20th century. Her father Jevgenij Feofilovič Djukov, an officer in the White Army, studied medicine in Prague thanks to the so-called Russian Aid of the young Czechoslovak state. After his studies he set up a practice in Smíchov and met Erika Kaprasová, who worked as a midwife's assistant in Radlice. After their marriage they worked together and soon Eugenie was born and a year later her brother Vladimír. After the war, the father barely escaped being taken into Soviet captivity.

Eugenie trained as a nurse and after two years in the hospital under Laurenziberg in Prague she was able to start her medical studies at Charles University. This was during the loosening atmosphere of the 1960s, which ended with the invasion of the Soviet Army in August 1968. Eugenie joined the protests and travelled with her boyfriend Jiří to Yugoslavia, where they got married in 1969 at the embassy in Zagreb. They decided to return to Prague, although Eugenie was not allowed to continue her studies. On the recommendation of MUDr. František Kriegel she found a job as a laboratory assistant and later as a specialist assistant in the Institute of Clinical and Experimental Surgery on the premises of the Thomayer Hospital. Later it became the Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, where Eugenie still works today.

For her, the photos of President Masaryk and her father symbolise the Czech Republic, because she is grateful to both of them for her living here. "I am grateful to President Masaryk for the fact that, thanks to his Russian aid campaign, Czechoslovakia welcomed emigrants from the Russian Empire who were fleeing from Bolshevism. My father was one of them."

More information at Pamět Národa

Le Quang Dao (*1965)

(© Post Bellum)
(© Post Bellum)

He came to Czechoslovakia in 1984 as a student. The Socialist Party of Vietnam had sent him to train as a machinist within the framework of the cooperation of the socialist countries, and on his return he would pass on his knowledge. Le Quang Dao comes from a small village north of Hanoi.

His family lived through the long years of war in poverty - the period of the Second World War, when Japan transported food from its country, the fight for independence from France and the protracted war with the USA. "I experienced terrible things during the American air raids. Next to our village was a fertiliser factory which was also fired upon. We hid in the school under the benches. Many people died then," he remembers. Because of the catastrophic shortage of food and the poisoning of the area by chemical agents, his mother lost six children, Le Quang Dao was born as the seventh.

Thanks to his excellent academic performance, he attended an industrial school, was accepted as one of the best students in the educational programme to support Vietnam and travelled to Czechoslovakia. He was to return after seven years, but fell in love with a Czech woman, married in 1992 and remained in the Czech Republic. Initially he traded in textiles and today he runs a restaurant and performs Czech folklore on guitar. For him Václav Havel symbolises the Czech Republic.

More information at Pamět Národa

Fedor Gál (*1945)

Fedor Gál (© Post Bellum)
Fedor Gál (© Post Bellum)

He was born at the end of the war in the Terezín ghetto, where his mother and elder brother were imprisoned at the time. The Jewish family owned a large estate in Slovakia. Fedor never met his father, who had participated in the Slovak National Uprising. After the uprising was crushed, the Gáls were interned in the concentration camp Sereď (Sereth). From there the father was transported to Sachsenhausen and died at the end of the War on the death march. The mother survived the war with her young sons and returned to the family estate, which she tried to cultivate again. In 1948, however, the communists nationalised her farm, so she went with her children to Bratislava (Pressburg), where she worked in the waste collection camp until her retirement.

Fedor Gál worked as a worker in chemical factories. He also graduated in chemistry, but later devoted himself mainly to sociology and forecasting and worked in several research institutes. In November 1989 he actively joined the Velvet Revolution in Bratislava and co-founded the political platform Verejnosť proti násiliu (Public against violence). For a short time he was active in Slovak politics.

After the collapse of Czechoslovakia, he moved to Prague, where he lectured sociology at Charles University. Together with other associates he was involved in the creation of TV Nova. He also founded the publishing house G plus G, which mainly publishes books on minorities, otherness and events of the Holocaust. In the last decade he has been involved in documentary filming, making four long films and twelve short documentary film essays. In the Czech Republic, he visits small cultural enclaves such as the pub U vystřelenýho oka (At the Shot Out Eye) in the Prague district of Žižkov (Zischkaberg).

More information at Pamět Národa

Vjačeslav Iljašenko (*1959)

Vjačeslav Iljašenko (© Post Bellum)
Vjačeslav Iljašenko (© Post Bellum)

He came to Czechoslovakia out of a sense of adventure. He wanted to know what it was like to live abroad. Vjačeslav grew up in Kiev and went to Lviv (Lviv) to study graphics. Lviv was for him Europe in the Soviet Union. After his studies he became a graphic artist in a publishing house that published communist-ideological propaganda literature. After two years he therefore began to dedicate himself to his own works and at the same time gave art lessons in Kiev.

In 1986 he experienced the accident in the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl. He could never come to terms with the fact that the Soviet authorities at that time kept quiet about the catastrophe and did not warn the inhabitants to stay outside. "The explosion was on 26 April and as late as 5 May nobody knew anything about it. The children were outside at the worst stage, taking part in actions where they painted the pavements even though they should be at home," recalls Vjačeslav. Later, some of his friends and acquaintances died as a result of the radiation.

In November 1989, he enthusiastically followed the turnaround in Czechoslovakia. In 1992, his wife, who had Czech ancestors, and he decided to take the opportunity to resettle in Czechoslovakia as part of the repatriation of Czechs from Volhynia. They settled in Police nad Metují (Politz an der Mettau) because they had heard that the area around Náchod was very beautiful. They never regretted it. Vjačeslav worked as a designer and ran art courses for children. He is the author of a series of pictures in church buildings in East Bohemia. Today he gives art courses in his own studio. At the same time he organises programmes for tourists.

What he appreciates about the Czech Republic is its openness and connection with other European countries, which for him is symbolised by the vine.

More information at Pamět Národa

Ida Kelarová (Bittová, *1956)

Ida Kelarová (© Post Bellum)
Ida Kelarová (© Post Bellum)

She discovered her Roma affiliation through the music that her father Koloman Bitto, a versatile musician, introduced her to. His domain was the double bass, but he mastered several instruments brilliantly. "My father and his whole family denied to the depth of their soul that they were Roma. With them, it was a huge taboo," says Ida Kelarová.

She was born in Bruntál into a binational marriage - her mother came from a Slovakian family from Uherský Brod and
the father from a Roma family from Horné Saliby in southern Slovakia The family moved repeatedly due to the father's engagements. Ida grew up in Vrbno pod Pradědem (Würbenthal), Prešov (Eperies) and Opava (Troppau) and then studied piano and violoncello in Brno at the Janáček Conservatory. After graduating from JAMU, she began to play at the Brno theatre Divadlo Husa na provázku in 1975. There she discovered her voice when she had to replace her younger sister Iva Bittová in the musical "Ballad for Bandits".

In 1982, at a theatre festival in Denmark, she met her second husband, an Englishman, who moved to Brno to join her. Because of the constant persecution and surveillance by the State Security (StB), they decided to move to Wales, where the sad news of her father's death reached her. She then played her first solo concerts abroad with Roma songs and began to run voice and singing workshops.

In 1995 she returned permanently to the Czech Republic and founded the Mezinárodní škola pro lidský hlas (International School for the Voice of Man). In recent years she has devoted herself to Roma children and youth in the singing ensemble Čhavorenge, which performs the songs of her partner Desiderio Dužda. She was the first of the family to break with the taboo of Roma descent.

For her, being Czech is symbolised by the lime tree that grows in her garden.

More information at Pamět Národa

Eleni Mikušová (Stambolidu, *1938)

Eleni Mikušová (© Post Bellum)
Eleni Mikušová (© Post Bellum)

She came to Czechoslovakia thanks to the state-organised aid programme for Greek children who had lost their parents in the civil war. Her father, Moisis Stambolidis, had fought in Greece with the partisan units. The mother fled with her and two other siblings before the civil war to
Macedonia, where she gave birth to a fourth child She then went back to Greece to fight and find her husband. But they never met again.

Eleni and her three siblings remained in Macedonia, abandoned, hungry and penniless. In 1949, the social welfare office sent them by train to Czechoslovakia, where the siblings were accommodated in different children's homes, each in pairs. There they spent the next fifteen years.

In 1951 her mother came to Czechoslovakia, settled in Jeseníky (Eastern Sudetenland) and with the help of the Red Cross found her four children. "Neither my sister nor my brother recognised our mother. Only me. It was very moving.we were happy to have our mummy back.we all cried," she remembers.

Eleni worked in the Eastern Sudetenland in various trades, welding chains and building settlements. She moved to Ostrava (Ostrava), where she worked
as a tram conductor and met her husband. They got two sons and the young family a flat in Havířov. As the eldest, Eleni helped her younger siblings and her children and grandchildren all her life, trying to form a family she had never known even in her childhood.

The school where she learned Czech and acquired her education symbolises Czech culture for her.

More information at Pamět Národa

Hong Nhung Nechybová (Vi, *1940)

Hong Nhung Nechybová (© Post Bellum)
Hong Nhung Nechybová (© Post Bellum)

She moved to Czechoslovakia to live with her husband, whom she had met in Vietnam in 1958. Vladimír Nechyba had flown to Vietnam as a technician for a Czechoslovakian expedition to conduct geological explorations, and Hong Nhung welcomed the expedition as an interpreter in French. They became a couple a year after they first met at the airport. Secretly, because girls who were with Europeans had a bad reputation in Vietnam.

After three years Hong Nhung became pregnant when Vladimír Nechyba had just returned to Czechoslovakia. His plan to take the pregnant Hong Nhung with him did not work out because she was not given a passport. After his departure she went through the worst time of her life. Because of the relationship
with a European, she was despised, even by her own family. It took a year and a half before she was able to leave for Czechoslovakia with her daughter Růženka.

One month after landing in Prague, the wedding in Teplice (Teplice) followed, which caused a sensation. At that time there were only three mixed Czech-Vietnamese marriages in Czechoslovakia. Hong Nhung was finally able to start building up a family and environment, which was not easy for her because she did not speak Czech. Her husband also frequently travelled abroad, where he took part in geological research. They had several opportunities to emigrate, but decided to stay. Over the initial difficulties and many misunderstandings, she took a liking to Czech
Culture and humour.

For them, the symbols of Czechity are Charles - Charles IV, Karel Schwarzenberg and Karel Gott.

More information at Pamět Národa

Klement Neugebauer (*1937)

Klement Neugebauer (© Post Bellum)
Klement Neugebauer (© Post Bellum)

He comes from the village of Neratovice in the border region, where his family had been farming for generations under the difficult conditions of the Orlické Mountains. From his childhood he remembers one Czech in the village - the policeman. His parents raised six children and, like the majority of the inhabitants of the village, ran a small farm.

There was no electricity in the house where he was born, but they had a small radio, through which they learned about the annexation of the border area in October 1938 and the German occupation in March 1939. His father was not a supporter of Hitler and therefore looked forward to the end of the war. For the inhabitants of Bärnwald, however, this was tragic. After the soldiers of the Red Army, who raped and looted, came the members of the so-called Revolutionary Guards. They mercilessly tortured the Germans and executed some of them.

The guarantee of an acquaintance of the father protected the family from expulsion. They returned to their looted house and the father dug up the hidden trumpet, which had been handed down in the family for generations. For Mr Neugebauer, this trumpet symbolises his childhood in the Czech border region: "I have many memories of my father teaching me to play it.

Klement did an apprenticeship as a bricklayer and moved to Most, where he started a family. In distance learning he finished first the secondary school in Děčín (Tetschen) and then the Technical University in Prague. He worked his way up to the position of a site manager in the building construction company, but because he refused to join the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ), he was transferred to the cultural sector. As an inspector of monuments and nature protection he supervised the implementation of the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Most. He then moved with his family to Benešov, where he continued to work in the cultural sphere.

After the Velvet Revolution he was able to see his brother again, who had settled in Germany.

More information at Pamět Národa

Maria Pekařová (*1938)

Maria Pekařová (© Post Bellum)
Maria Pekařová (© Post Bellum)

On 30 May 1945 she had to leave her birthplace Brno and set off on the so-called Brno Death March with her mother, aunt, grandmother and brother Karl. She was born into the family of František and Marie Pekař Both parents came from mixed marriages and German and Czech were spoken at that time. The father worked as a tram driver for the municipal transport company and the mother was a qualified tailor, but managed the household. In Brno they lived in the house of the father's sister Mimi, who was married to the lawyer JUDr. Evžen Popelka.

During the death march to Austria the Popelkas played a decisive role for the family. Marie's mother, when the march stopped at Pohořelice (Pohrlitz), took the opportunity to protect her children by giving them up for adoption to sister-in-law Mimi Popelková. "Mother signed that she was, so to speak, breaking away from us, that she was sending us to her aunt and that she could raise us in the Czech spirit," recalls Pekařová. In 1948 the family miraculously reunited in Brno. The mother was one of the few who received official permission to return to Czechoslovakia, as was the father, who had been deported to Romania by the Soviets.

Marie was unable to study, so she did an apprenticeship as a tailor. She married and moved with her husband to the Sudetenland for some time. After five years the family returned to Brno and after some time even to their former home. Marie worked as a crane operator for thirty years and raised two children.

The Czech Republic symbolises Brno for her, where she spent her whole life with a short interruption.

More information at Pamět Národa

Věra Roubalová-Kostlánová (Lomská, *1947)

Věra Roubalová-Kostlánová (© Post Bellum)
Věra Roubalová-Kostlánová (© Post Bellum)

"We were a small family, without grandmothers and relatives. We never talked about Judaism," recalls the Prague-born woman, who was only
learned of her ancestry at the age of sixteen. Both father and mother came from Jewish families and survived the war together in England.

Both were convinced communists even before the war. In the 1950s, the father was a party functionary and a Jew and was imprisoned for six years for political reasons. Therefore Věra spent part of her childhood in a children's home. In the 1960s, she was in contact with student activists during her studies. She protested against the 1968 invasion, took part in the student strikes in autumn 1968 and helped organise the funeral of Jan Palach.

Together with her husband Pavel Roubal, they raised four children and signed Charter 77. They were subsequently subjected to harassment by the State Security and were ordered to leave the country, but did not give in. They helped to produce and distribute banned books, Pavel joined the Association for the Protection of Unlawfully Persecuted Persons (Výbor na obranu nespravedlivě stihaných) and Věra was one of the last three spokespersons for Charter 77.

Today, she works as a therapist and dedicates her practice to, among other things, people with traumas caused by the Holocaust and their transmission to the next generation. Due to her difficult childhood in the 50s, she is aware of the importance and obligation to help the weak and to care for
they care for them, and so she also devotes herself to migrants and refugees.

For her, being Czech symbolises the longing for democracy, as shown in the past in Charter 77 and now, for example, in the movement Milion chvilek pro demokracii (One million moments for democracy).

More information at Pamět Národa

Béla Szaló (1951-2018)

Béla Szaló (© Post Bellum)
Béla Szaló (© Post Bellum)

When he came to Prague as a student, he did not speak a word of Czech and did not speak Slovak very well. Born in the town of Nové Zámky in southern Slovakia, he spoke Hungarian at home and attended a Hungarian grammar school. Although he had Hungarian nationality, he did not visit Hungary for the first time until the age of ten. Travelling was not easy for him and his family under socialism.

Part of his studies at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering ČVUT in Prague was an intensive language course and he quickly acquired Czech. Despite the difficult beginning, he found his home in Prague in the end. He describes his student years here as the best time of his life. Here he found a wife and started a family.

Although the marriage was divorced, Béla remained in Prague. This is also because he likes dumplings and beer, which he chose as a symbol of being Czech. He devoted his working life to power engineering - first he worked for the company Energoinvest and later he moved to the General Directorate of Czech Power Companies.

After November 1989 he participated in the establishment of the Association of Hungarians Living in the Czech Republic and became its chairman for two years. He fondly recalls the enthusiasm and sense of togetherness with which they organised the first Hungarian ball in Prague at that time. His commitment to his work in the new energy company prevented him from participating in the association life for some time, but six years ago he started to get involved in the activities of the association again and became the chairman of the Prague organisation. Apart from organising cultural and social events, it is also dedicated to the care of graves of Hungarians who died at different times in history on Czech territory.

Béla Szaló died in December 2018.

More information at Pamět Národa

Stanislav Tišer (*1957)

Stanislav Tišer (© Post Bellum)
Stanislav Tišer (© Post Bellum)

Since his childhood, he had a tendency to defend the weaker ones when they were attacked and was always good at fighting. He comes from a Roma musician family from Plzeň (Pilsen) and is one of eight siblings. At the age of 15 he started working as a worker in a brewery.

When young people attacked his brother for fun, he fought with them. On that occasion the boxing coach Karel Beran noticed him and invited him to his club. Boxing became his life. He moved to Prague and was accepted into the national team. In the weight category up to 54kg he was a boxing champion and won numerous titles in his 25 years of participation in boxing competitions. Seven times he became Republic Champion. At the same time, during the socialist era, he fed on illegal money exchange and moved in the milieu of currency pushers and the underworld.

In 1990 he entered his last boxing match and decided to end his career. His life took a radical turn. He founded a boxing club in Prague. There he not only teaches his protégés how to box, but also explains to them the dangers of spending all their time on the street instead of learning, working and pursuing their interests. "Some say they see me as a father or uncle, but I don't like that. I just try to help them and show them how to do it so it doesn't go wrong," he explains.

With his boxing gloves he represented Czechoslovakia, they helped him to gain recognition, but thanks to them he also learned to stand up in real life in the middle of Czech society.

More information at Pamět Národa

Logo EUThe exhibition was supported with EU funds from the Small Projects Fund in the Euroregion Elbe/Labe.