"Comrades, it's not a fact, it really happened!" - a new project maps the absurdities of Communist Czechoslovakia

Jaroslava Moserova

"Comrades, it's not a fact, it really happened!" - that is just one of many absurd phrases recalled from the days of Czechoslovakia's Communist regime: nonsensical decrees, statements, slogans, and citations that reveal the absurdity, ineptness, and general intellectual decline of the period. Elements now recalled in a new project launched by Senator Jaroslava Moserova in conjunction with the Foundation of Czech National Museums and Galleries, striving to save such relics before it's too late. According to Senator Moserova: those who remember are only getting older and dying out, and clearly there is an urgency for proof of the absurdities of Communism to be complied and retained while there's still time. But, the motivation is manifold: since 1989 institutions in the Czech Republic mapped the crimes of Communism but missed the tragi-comic aspect of the regime - absurdities that would have caused those who despised the regime to snicker under their breath, to laugh behind closed doors, but also to weep.

Ian Willoughby spoke to Mrs Moserova and began by asking her if she already begun compiling material for her ambitious project:

"Well this is a start...I found out it's high time that this aspect of the totalitarian regime has really not been presented, nor documented, and that it's so important because I think that young people detest lies, hypocrisy, falsehood, more than anything else. And the unbelievable low intellectual status of the powers that were..."

So it will be in the form of personal testimonies...

"Personal testimonies, but we shall also welcome some documents from institutions."

Earlier you mentioned that you're a translator of course and that you had problems with some translations. Could you give us some examples of words that were banned?

"Well, for instance a book by Dick Francis called 'Banker' couldn't be called 'Banker' in Czech. Then I had a film produced which is called 'Killing with Kindness' and we had great problems finding a title because we found out 'Truth' was forbidden, 'Lies' was forbidden, many words simply weren't allowed for films or books."

Why do you think young people need to know about the absurdity of the Communist era? Maybe they should be allowed to just move on?

"Because young people have a very strong sense of justice, and I found out, to my amazement, that some of them think that maybe an injustice is being done to the past regime. So, they had better know what it was like, how it distorted peoples' mentalities, how it forced people to hypocrisy and lies."

I sometimes get the impression that sometimes people think Communism was a little bit funny, or kitsch, in a way...

"It was not fun at all. You may find some stories which make you laugh, but the whole thing was destructive for everything. It was really destructive - the suppression of Truth was destructive."