Publisher calls time on leading Czech-language newspaper in US


An era has come to an end with the demise of Americké listy, the leading Czech-language newspaper in the United States. Its publishers Petr and Vera Bísek have decided to call time on the bi-monthly publication, which succeeded a paper started in the mid 1960s by another Czech émigré, Frank Švehla. The couple, who are in their late 60s, live in New York state but are currently visiting family at a village near Plzeň. On the phone from there, Petr Bísek explained why they had taken the decision to close Americké listy.

Petr Bísek
“Several reasons, not necessarily in this order…We are pushing on in years [laughs], we are over retirement age. We have grandchildren on both sides of the ocean. And we want to give a new generation space to start something new, more modern and internet related, etc, etc.

“Also there are other things that we would like to pursue. We wouldn’t want to get into a situation where the new generation is not interested in what we produce.

“I say there is an art to leaving, and as I see it in this country, the Czech Republic, many politicians of my age refuse to step aside and make room for a new generation. And I wouldn’t want to be in the same bag as them, so to speak.”

When is the last issue coming out?

“It came out a month ago.”

I’m sure you’ve had many regular readers over the years. What has their reacton been to the closure of the paper?

“It is difficult. Not all but the majority of our readers are of the older generation, and they don’t have internet. It is a difficult situation…because they are very disappointed. We kind of told them over the last couple of years that we were thinking about ending this important and quite demanding era of our lives. But some of them really weren’t ready for it. So we are now struggling with the question of how to make up for the disappointment.

“Briefly, we are here visiting with our son in Ejpovice…to clear our heads and decide what’s next. One of the ideas was to publish a printed Americké listy once a month, but we might not do that. I might focus on the internet, which is not easy to do well. Either we do it well, or we don’t do it at all.”

You’ve been publishing Americké listy now for 20 years. What’s your own feeling now that time in your life has come to an end?

“Well, it was quite a challenge [laughs]. It changed our lives and our lifestyles drastically. It was quite demanding, but also gratifying to see that we can serve, we can do something of value.

“There was a kind of vacuum after the Velvet Revolution, after November ’89. Our predecessor Frank Švehla had a stroke IN November 1989. The original Americké listy ceased to exist and there was a vacuum of information, there was no internet, only phone calls. That’s why and when we stepped in. It was challenging, but very rewarding.”