Resisters of communist regime honoured in Prague

František 'Čuňas' Stárek, photo: Šárka Ševčíková

Sixteen people received official acknowledgement of their resistance to the pre-1989 communist regime in a ceremony in Prague on Monday.

František 'Čuňas' Stárek,  photo: Šárka Ševčíková
On Monday afternoon, 16 people – two in memoriam – were bestowed with official state certificates attesting to their resistance and opposition to Czechoslovakia’s communist regime.

Their activities are known today as the third resistance. The first resistance was against the Austro-Hungarian regime during WWI and the second was against the Nazis during the next world war.

The anti-communist resistance frequently took an armed form in the 1950s. However, toward the end of the four-decade communist period it tended to involve the illicit organisation of events and circulation of information.

The latter trend is represented by a number of those who received recognition on Monday, including one-time dissident František “Čuňas” Stárek. The Charter 77 signatory founded a samizdat magazine and was frequently the target of StB harassment.

“Always in the morning when I was still half-asleep and heard four car doors being slammed I knew that it was the StB. And it’s not true that people weren’t afraid – that’s just nonsense.”

A leading figure in the Czech underground, Stárek was in prison for the third time in November 1989, as he recalled in an interview for Czech Radio.

“A week after the revolution we were watching the news on TV in the common room when the news reader said, The president has granted amnesties. My name was seventh on the list. The whole room turned around and said, Christ, they’ve let you out!”

Also honoured on Monday was Čestmír Huňát. He was a founder of the group Unijazz, which continued despite being banned in 1984, and has been recognised for his work promoting human rights.

Kamila Bendová,  photo: Khalil Baalbaki
Kamila Bendová, meanwhile, received a certificate in acknowledgement of her support of the unjustly prosecuted and work in Charter 77. Her late husband Václav Benda was recognised in memoriam for the same activities and for samizdat publishing.

The certificates handed out by the minister of defence, Martin Stropnický, come with a one-off cash reward and also place recipients in a higher pension bracket.

Since the law on the third resistance entered the statute books, on November 17, 2011, such recognition has been bestowed on around 1,400 people. However, 2,400 applicants have been turned down.

Jakub Fajnor is a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence.

“The Ministry, respectively the Ethics Commission, most frequently rejects applications when the applicant’s activities don’t fall under the law on resistance and opposition to communism, or were not sufficiently intensive. In some cases, the person was persecuted by the communist regime but didn’t become active in the resistance.”