VONS veterans meet to remember campaign against Communist repression
Thirty years ago, on April 24th, 1978, seventeen Czechoslovak citizens got together and decided to form an organisation called VONS – the Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Prosecuted. The organisation’s aim was to monitor and publicise cases of people unlawfully prosecuted by the Communist regime. Within a year, five VONS members – including Václav Havel, Petr Uhl and Jiří Dienstbier – had themselves been sent to prison, an act that received worldwide condemnation. On Tuesday former VONS members gathered for a seminar at the Senate to mark the organisation’s 30th anniversary. They included original member Jaroslav Suk, who was forced into exile in 1981 and now lives in Sweden:
What do you think VONS achieved?
“They broke the monopoly of information that the regime had. I think the most important thing was that [after VONS], nobody could say ‘I didn’t know’, as many Nazis could say. Many people who were in prison – their destiny was a little better. But mostly it was about breaking the information monopoly.”
What are you feelings now, 30 years since this organisation was founded?
Do you think there is enough interest in what you and Václav Havel and Jiří Dienstbier and the other VONS members did 30 years ago?
“It’s history, of course. It’s the same as in Great Britain – they remember their air force and so on. It’s part of history, and it’s very important to remember. As Václav Havel said today – continuity is part of identity. We must know what happened in history to know who we are.”