chapter11

February-June 1968

I
did not tell the Professor that I had never seen a picture of my father before meeting my Austrian relatives. Now that I know the truth, I understand why I was not loved as a child. I could almost forgive Maria for neglecting me. I was an accident, that was all. How can a woman love a child by a man who used her? Nowadays, people talk a lot about abortion rights, sometimes I wish I didn't exist, and most of the time, I am glad to be alive. Despite of it all, I thought that Varady was a brave man who fought against fascism.  For the first time in my life, I came around to the thought that it was brave of the communists to organize the anti-fascist resistance and I felt privileged to work in Prague. In the memory of the Comrades, I started attending meetings.  I also felt that the family in Vienna and the Dokumentationsarchiv deserved to know the truth about Adolf Schaden and therefore I made plans to travel to Austria once I saved enough money for a short holiday.  

Ing.  Zpovednic
á granted me two weeks off work to recuperate from my health-scare. I wanted to sort out a new accommodation but she told me that I could stay at the flat as these lodgings were part of my contract. Perhaps, I could put my name down on the housing-list and get a modern flat? I said that this was a good idea and that I would visit the housing department as soon as possible. A removal van came to pick up Irina's furniture and belongings, my former-landlady had left instructions to leave me with the furniture from the bedsit. I wrote a letter thanking her for her generosity as I did not have her address. I left the letter at the university with the Professor's mail. I visited my doctor's surgery in the Celetna street and after a week, my health had improved and I wanted to go back to work because I was bored and did not feel like travelling to Kostelec. I did not want to share my new-found information about my father with Nikola and Franci and I could certainly not visit them without them without betraying myself. The less they knew, the better it was for them.

When I came back to the university, 
Ing.  Zpovednicá  said that the Professor had written a positive reference for me; according to him I was 'efficient', 'organized' and 'polite'. I was appointed to a new job title which put me formally in charge of E111. I used to be an administration assistant, I was now an administration clerk. The pay-rise meant that with some budgeting I could afford the rent of the whole U Radnice flat and I was glad that I did not have to share it with anyone else.  The renovation of my flat kept me busy for a few weeks. I moved the furniture from the living-room part of the bedsit into what used to be Irina's living room. I made a few picture frames with cardboard and perspex and put my few postcards in them. I also used cardboard to make lampshades. In the kitchen, I had still neither fridge nor cooker, but the hot plate was sufficient. Above all, painting the whole flat off-white gave me an enormous sense of well-being. My colleagues at work seemed friendlier. Perhaps, my mood was picking up after all, and I felt this was a new start for me. Morning brought hope, evenings ended in peace.

At that time, I felt energetic and with an enormous need to catch up on things that I had missed. I went a few times to the Rudolfinum to watch to classical concerts. I heard 'Ma Vlast' by Bedřich Smetana and The New World Symphony by Antonin Dvořák. I also went to the theatre where I saw a comedy based on 'The Good Soldier Švejk' which reminded me of my own time in the army. I visited the puppet theatre where they played The Legend of Zaviš of Falkenštejn who married Kunigunda of Slavonia, widow of King Ottokar II. The play was adapted from the opera by Josef Richard Rozkošný.  One Sunday, I took a guided coach-tour to Kutn
á Hora, an hour away to the East of Prague. The town is famous for several reasons. In 1278, the catholic abbot of Sedlec was sent to Jerusalem by King Ottokar II. He returned with some earth from the Golgotha mountain where Jesus Christ was crucified, and he sprinkled it over the abbey cemetery. This made the monastery a desirable place for burials. During the Black Death of 1348 and the Hussite wars of 1420, thousands were buried there. From 1511, skeletons were exhumed and their bones were stacked in the chapel by the monks. In 1870, the woodcarver Frantisek Rint was commissioned by the Schwarzenberg family to put the bone heap in order - the result is that now bones and skulls are artistically displayed on the churches architectural features. It is impossible to forget one's own mortality and spirituality in such a place. This is probably why I thought that when I die, I want to be cremated and have my ashes scattered into the river. I do not fancy the idea of having a woodcarver messing around with my bones. For a devout catholic, being buried with other catholics in a consecrated place sprinkled with holy earth, this was the equivalent of having a sure ticket to heaven. In 1422, the Hussites, led by General Jan Žižka, rose against the Catholic church and captured Kutna Hora. The first protestants believed that each man can find God by themselves. This did not please the established church  and the Pope authorised several crusades against the Hussites.  The Jan Žižka brigade - amongst them a young Alexander Dubček - fought during the Slovak uprising of 1944 with the DAV and this is why the one-eyed general is still popular in public consciousness. 

On another of those cultural evenings, I went to see a play called 'The Memorandum' at the Balustrade Theatre. The title clicked with me in the same way as Švejk, because this was the story about an administration department where the clerks had to deal with the introduction of a new language called Ptydepe. I found it very funny in an absurd way. The purpose of Ptydepe was to take away ambiguous meanings of words. No more possibility of double-talk, the problem was that Ptydepe was so difficult that none was able to learn it. I thought that Vaclav Havel was very clever. He was courageous too because he was the director of a private theatre which was not exactly condoned by the state. Fortunately, in those days, the state was no longer dictating people what to say, but rather what not to say. Havel's plays just about straddled the fence. 'The Memorandum' was internationally well-received by critics and it was shown in New York.All this culture made me very exuberant but eventually it tired me out. My energy levels dropped again and with fatigue, anxiety returned too. I did not want to look incompetent at my job and I wanted the others in the basement not to think badly of me. This may sound like a contradiction, but this was a happy time. Happiness is not about having the perfect life, but being able to cope and finding peace of mind.
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