Surviving images of Warsaw-pact invasion displayed at new exhibition
The climate in Prague in the spring of 1968 was one of liberalization and reform. Laws were passed to abolish censorship and cultivate ‘democratic socialism’. As communist Czechoslovakia opened itself up to the West, the USSR looked on with increasing disapproval. On the night of August 20, Soviet-led troops invaded Prague to bring an end to the reforms. Some of the photos of the turmoil that ensued have just gone on display in Prague.
One of the photographers exhibited is Libor Hajský. He was a junior at the Czech Press Agency in August 1968. Most of his negatives were seized and destroyed following on from the invasion, but a few iconic colour prints remain:
“I was just lucky to survive. Because here we have one of my photos, which is of two dead men. And I was about two metres away from them, and then I took a step back and a truck crashed into them. Someone at the top of the hill had released the truck’s brakes. I took a photo of an overturned tram which was being used as a barricade. And the Russians were shooting from behind this tram and right beside me, three people were shot dead. So I was lucky to survive. It felt like a warzone, it really did.”
“I took these photos because it was a very special time for me, and then I forgot where I put the negatives, and then finally now, these photos can be exhibited.”
“To be honest, I don’t recognise any of the scenes depicted here, because I was locked away either in a TV studio, or in a military bunker. I only gradually got to see these images and learn about what happened in Prague that day. I didn’t experience these scenes, I was never out on the streets. I was either broadcasting on television or in that bunker.”
‘In the End, the Tanks Came’ presents amateurs’ snapshots alongside professionals’ photographs. What they have in common is the harrowing story that they tell, and the fact that they survived. The exhibition runs until July 25, at the J. Sudek gallery in Prague.