Stories of Injustice bringing testimony of communist-era persecution to schools

Stories of Injustice, photo: CTK

Over the next four weeks, at almost 600 primary and secondary schools throughout the country, pupils will come face to face with some of the victims of the communist regime. Using documentary films and interaction with real people who lived through it, the Stories of Injustice project attempts to shed light on a period that doesn’t even feature on the mainstream Czech curriculum. The programme is run by the NGO People in Need, and this is its fourth year. The organisation’s spokesman Filip Šebek explained more.

Stories of Injustice,  photo: CTK
“We want to show the students through the film screenings and mainly the discussions with the people who experienced those times what it was like, to show them what life was like during the parents’ lifetime, and to show them what an incredible disaster it was during the communist regime in Czechoslovakia.”

What has been the response, not only from the children, but also their parents, their teachers, politicians, the media?

“In general the response has been very positive, but of course each year we get a very negative response from the Communist Party. And unfortunately we still don’t have financial support from the Ministry of Education, which really surprises me. We were thinking they would be very happy with our project and would support it, so these are the only negative responses. Otherwise the response is very positive, from the children, from the teachers – they’re very happy to have the opportunity to tell the children what life was like at that time in Czechoslovakia. What most interests me is that some of the kids write to us and tell us that it’s strange that at home nobody told them about it. So this means something as well.”

That seems amazing to me. Does that mean that people here just don’t talk about the period? I’ve met some of the people involved in the project, like Jiří Stránský, and he seems committed to telling people about what happened in the 1950s and so on.

“You mention Jiří Stránský. He is one of the maybe three or five percent of the Czechoslovak nation who were really against the communist regime, and who were in jail, and so on. This kind of person will of course tell his grandchildren what it was like. But the rest of the nation – like 95 percent – they were silent. Imagine your child comes to you and says – ‘Dad, what was it like? I’ve seen a documentary at school about how terrible it was, how so many people were tortured and punished and sent to concentration camps. How was it possible? What were you doing?’ Of course you will feel ashamed if you were among the 95 percent of the Czechoslovak nation who really did nothing.”