Radio announcer Vladimír Fišer “the voice of 1968” dies at 81

Vladimír Fišer, photo: Khalil Baalbaki

Vladimír Fišer, the legendary radio announcer who in 1968 announced the news of the Russian-led invasion of Czechoslovakia has died at the age of 81. A popular radio personality Fišer excelled as a talk show host, a presenter of radio plays and a dubber artist, but in the minds of the Czech people he will always be remembered at “the voice of 1968”.

Vladimír Fišer, photo: Khalil Baalbaki
August 21st of 1968 was to have been a routine evening duty for radio announcer Vladimír Fišer. The only special thing about it was that he was aiming to celebrate his 34th birthday with colleagues on the night shift.

“The girls said so when will we drink to your health Vlad and I answered patience, patience everyone. I will read the news and midnight and after that the celebrations can break out. But then, about an hour before midnight, Mirek Zázvorka from the newsroom rushed in and told me that we’d been invaded.”

Vladimír read the announcement of the invasion several more times, urging people to wake up friends and family and stay close to their transmitters, before the broadcasts were interrupted and the radio building on Vinohradská filled up with Russian soldiers wielding Kalashnikovs.

It was the darkest chapter of his life at Czechoslovak Radio where he spent 40 years. He recalls that even as a child he knew that he wanted to be a radio announcer one day.

“I would play at being a radio announcer. I would lock myself up in the toilet and I would repeat the news I had heard on the radio, trying to ape the announcer as best as I could. My mum and grandmother would listen behind the door and say - what is the child up to in there?! So that’s how I started training for my future profession.”

Czechoslovak Radio building, August 21, 1968, photo: archive of Pavel Macháček
Vladimír joined Czechoslovak Radio in 1953 – he was handpicked together with two others out of 1,400 candidates. His first day at work was a dream come true. “This is your break Vlad, no matter what, you mustn’t spoil it. You MUST be good”, he said to himself. He was. In the years to come he was one of the most sought-after radio hosts, hosting evening and morning shows and appearing in numerous radio plays. Soon he was also working as a dubber, doing voice-overs for Czechoslovak Television and Czechoslovak Short Film. His contract with the radio ended in 1993, but he continued to freelance. Among the many roles he dubbed to perfection was the arrogant TV host Kent Brockman from the Simpsons.