PhDr. Jan Šolc

* 1938

  • “The election of Havel the next day, on 29 December, was unforgettable. That would be a lyrical story. I remember an Australian television cameraman approached me in the courtyard, having a camera over his shoulder, being alone, and saying if I could take him to Havel? I said: 'Look, I know Havel from such encounters that he would probably not recognize me on Wenceslas Square, but let’s try.' I led the reporter upstairs. So we walked under the balcony in the third courtyard, I showed them my MP identification card and they just saluted me as I walked him upstairs. There they showed me where Havel's office was. Havel was not present, but the secretaries allowed him to film, sit on his chair. That was such a major change! Unimaginable. At that time, a Western journalist wrote that at that time there was the greatest freedom of speech and press in Czechoslovakia. And the story proves it.”

  • “Well, she took me out of the area one morning, where I was wiping the hallway at six o'clock in the morning. A civilian, quite handsome, came and said to me, 'Leave the broom here and come with me.' I said, 'I don't know who you are. I can't go with you because I don't know you, and my commander is Captain Novak (sorry, it was someone else, it doesn't matter, it was only then in Frenstat). But he replied that the commander is ok with everything and I should come with him. He sealed the metal door and began showing me his diplomas, his photo albums, and convinced me that there was no cadre, that he was a worker, a lathe, and that the party had chosen him. And he said to me, 'What would you do if someone came to you during a walk?' I say, 'I would immediately report it to the commander.' 'Well, see, that's reasonable, so we should cooperate more!' And I refused. “

  • “German children also attended our class. In the beginning they were very shy, because their Czech was not perfect and they were afraid to stand out. But within a few weeks it was good, we made friends. In fact, we forgot that they were Germans afterwards. When we meet today after many years, I ask what feelings they experienced in the Czech school. They had to go to the town hall with their parents for food vouchers and were their Czech was examined. And if they didn't speak Czech well, the family didn't get any vouchers. A friend of mine, very rebellious and brave - she showed it during her schooling - told me that she refused to speak Czech at the town hall. Her brother threatened her with his fist in the office. And once they got no ration due to her - she refused to speak Czech. So, she remembered that Mom went to the fence in the evening - they lived here in a residential area in the basement - and people who knew about it, even Czechs, always brought her a loaf of bread.”

  • “It was already in December 1989, and suddenly I received a telegram. I was just working on the scaffolding and the night warden brought it to me. I was doing some installation work and I had two lamps there and it was about half past nine in the evening. He said: ‘The day shift forgot to bring you a telegram from the town.’ I tore the envelope open, and I walked over to the lamp and I read it. They wrote that the Civic Forum of Liberec and Jablonec - it was a revolutionary organization - appointed me to the Federal Assembly. All this was done from the bottom. I went to the pub U milionu. I went to eat some goulash, and there was a kind of a groove on the table and I placed the telegram there and I thought: ‘Man, what kind of a deputy will you be? What do you know about politics?’ And precisely this is the revolution. People who are not afraid and who are motivated and who know why, and they always just jump into it and they learn everything along the way. And so I went into the parliament, and I was the chairman of the defense committee and I did political screenings for 36 communist generals, and for about 700 people from the counter-intelligence agency, and I was traveling all over Europe and doing whatever I could in order to get this county into NATO. The President as well as the prime minister, and so on. I, an outcast who did manual work, suddenly became a politician. Well, I let myself get elected one more time afterward, and then not anymore. Then I returned to Liberec, to the university here. But Michael Kocáb, a great musician, he is still alive… They invited me to the Prague Castle, and they arrived for me in a limousine and they said: ‘If you agree, Havel offers you work in his Office as a director of the political department.’ For four years, and then I returned here. I taught at the university here for a while, and the life passed so quickly.”

  • “There was the war, and the war was ending and when the Prague Radio asked citizens to help, they informed that Germans were shooting people by the Czechoslovak Radio Building and executing people by the wall, and they were asking people to arrive there. Dad was at the mill at that time, and he thus got on a lorry, where there were already about twenty men. But he put on his first lieutenant’s uniform and he took his gun and off they went. And when the lorry rode uphill from Hrdlořezy, a man on motorbike overtook the lorry. He said: ‘The doctor needs to go back. Because Germans were moving towards Prague.’ To explain, the fighting ws already over everywhere in Europe, but only near Velichovky in the Hradec region, marshal Schörner had a million of well-rested soldiers and they were ready to destroy Prague completely. And when the advance units were approaching Prague, our people fought hard, because there was an armed SS division in Prague, and they were supposed to defend the Radio building. There was a great battle in front of the Radio building. And what the chairman of the revolutionary committee said had to be done, and dad thus had to get off the lorry and get on the motorbike behind him and the man took him back. One terrible thing happened: as they were entering Prague, this lorry got hit by a German panzerfaust. We were in Kyje near Prague, and when one of the witnesses arrived there to tell us what happened, dad walked away and he sat down on the patio and he was looking into the fields and he was thinking about all this. He did not come back into the room at all, and I wanted to go to him, but grandma said: ‘Leave him alone, don’t go to him, he wants to be alone now.’ He was thinking about the coincidence and chance. He has carried all these things with him since his childhood. And well, obviously, there was great joy. Russians arrived and the streets were full of tanks, and cordite, the gas, was flowing from the tank muzzles, and elderberry bushes were in bloom and people were awesomely happy. As a six-year-old boy, I saw the state flag for the first time. White and red and blue, when people were displaying it, and I was walking the street and counting how many flags there were.”

  • “Václav Havel was in Liberec on August 21, 1968. When the tanks arrived here. The Liberec city hall was under scaffolding at that time, and heavy stone blocks for from the wall under the windows were placed on the scaffolding. You can see the kind of stone panels which make the city hall building beautiful, and when the Russians were approaching at night on August 20, from the direction of Hrádek, those young guys who held watch, because they knew that the invasion was imminent, thus had their messengers closer to the border. As soon as they saw the rows of lights which were approaching the border and crossing it, they turned back on their motorbikes and rode to Liberec. They said: ‘Look, they are already coming!’ The boys who were guarding on the scaffolding got ready, and as the tanks were passing from down there from the theatre, and in front of the post office where they turned and rode into the town square, and they continued downward along those columns. And that was where we were standing. I was there with my wife, and a policeman with white hat was standing there, too, and he was to coordinate their arrival. Then there was also the well-known actor Jan Tříska, and an unknown, insecure man was standing next to him. And suddenly shooting from a machine gun was heard from the tank’s gun turret, and all the people in the town square dropped to the ground. They were like chess pieces, they just fell down. The machine gunner stood at the top of the tank and somebody from the people threw a piece of wood at them, because people were throwing at them whatever they could. Even wooden beams. And the tanks would smash it to pieces, of course. So it was a piece of wood about this large, and somebody grabbed it and threw it at the tank. As the machine gunner was standing in the tank’s turret, we could see that his face was completely black from all the dust, and suddenly he got scared as the piece of wood flew past him. I could see the white of his eyes, and he turned the machine gun down and he sprayed the city square… Well, it was terrible... We were crawling on the ground and the policeman led us, and he hid his white hat under his uniform so that he would not be visible as a target, and the shooter from the tank was not shooting at people, but he was shooting above them, only to scare them. We were crawling and I got to a telephone booth which was there, and the policeman yelled at me: ‘Don’t go in there, it will turn into a pile of shards and splinters! Go to that passage over there!’ We thus crawled into the passage, and my wife’s stockings were completely torn to pieces. We ran inside the passage, and there was an old man and he told us: ‘Come here, I will hide you in the coal shack here and I will lock the door to the yard. They will come to search the house in any moment, and they will not find you there.’ And suddenly this young indecisive man who was standing a little further away said: ‘But they are not shooting anymore.’ He went out to take a look and he found out that people were already getting up and that the tanks rode on and that it was calm out there. The man came back. He was Václav Havel.”

  • “Suddenly a western English fighter plane which had been hit crashed immediately behind our house. I could see it falling and hear the engine screaming and shrieking and suddenly a little white cloud appeared on the sky. And it saved the airman’s life. He landed in a field, but the Vlajka members were already rushing there. To explain who were the Vlajka (‘Flag’) members – it was an organization of Czech collaborationists who worked for Germans and who were members of the organization called Vlajka. Obviously, they arrived there because they wanted to win gratitude from the Germans, and so they arrived there first and they started beating the airman, and so on. But this was not allowed, it was against the Hague Convention, but war is war, there are no rules.”

  • “The armies soon began gathering at the borders, and the situation was tense. And, well, at night on August 21, that was the end of summer, somebody banged at the door at night. I was already in bed, but I went to open the door and there was our neighbor in a night gown and slippers and he said: ‘Russians occupied us.’ I asked: ‘How?’ ‘Well, open the window.’ Look at the sky. I could see a red line of heavy transport planes in the sky. I did not know that they were also bringing water, everything, weapons, and people. Well, so that was August 21, another black day in our history. Well, people started to respond, they were writing signs, and writing at those Russian tanks; perhaps you saw the pictures. But everything got back to the old tracks. Russians forcibly installed a government of people who supported them. I was a deputy to the school principal at that time and I was summoned for a political screening. That was a way how they wanted to break you or fire you. A political screening committee was present there: a police officer, some shop assistant from a newsagent kiosk, and then there were about two people from the school. They asked me several questions, I replied, and I would say the same thing today: The intervention was no brotherly help, but it was an occupation, and we will pay for it dearly in the world. For the way how socialism has developed in our country. They fired me immediately and then I went to work at a construction site as a worker for the following twenty years. My university education, which I was meanwhile able to complete in form of a distance study... Well, it was fine. As a Boy Scout, I simply did not have a problem with it. It was a wonderful Bohemian life, there were few of us, and we were travelling all over our country. I was doing installation work and welding, I learnt that quickly.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    v bytě pamětníka Jana Šolce v Liberci, 24.04.2017

    duration: 01:13:56
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
  • 2

    Liberec, 17.09.2019

    duration: 02:10:32
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
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What is important is to have a conscience

Jan Šolc in 1957
Jan Šolc in 1957
photo: archiv pamětníka

PhDr. Jan Šolc was born on November 25, 1938 in Prague. His childhood was greatly impacted by the Second World War. During the Prague Uprising on May 5, 1945, his father, who was a doctor, was ordered to return to Liberec for work reasons. He had moved to this city with his whole family. Jan has been a Boy Scout since his young age and he was interested in the events happening around him. His father was imprisoned for four years in the 1950s for alleged high treason and Jan was not allowed to study at a university. Fortunately, thanks to the political thaw in the 1960s, he was eventually able to do a distance study of Czech language and pedagogy at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague. He criticized the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and he lost his job as a teacher at elementary school and for the following ten years he worked as a construction site worker. Jan signed Charter 77. After the Velvet Revolution he was elected a deputy in the Chamber of the Nations of the Federal Assembly for the Civic Forum party, and later for the Civic Movement. He was the chairman of the defense subcommittee of the Federal Assembly and he was in charge of issuing clearances to army counter-intelligence service and army generals. He supported the entry of the Czech Republic into NATO. He lectured on ethics and rhetoric at the Technical University in Liberec. In the 1990s Jan worked as the director of the internal political department of the Office of the President Václav Havel for four years. He became one of the co-founders of the Ethic Forum of the Czech Republic.