As a child, Josef Platz experienced the liberation of Dejvice in Prague in May 1945 and the invasion of the Warsaw Pact armies twenty-three years later. “The first time the Russians came as rescuers, then they came a second time, they looked exactly the same, but we didn’t welcome these soldiers, I was afraid of them. When I was walking home, they stood with their machine guns drawn and asked where I was going. I was walking with my daughter in a pram between the tanks at the time and I have to say it was terrible,” he recalls the days of August 1968.

This experience choked out any positive feeling for the Soviet Union and the Russian language in Josef. Moreover, the subsequent normalization purges deprived his wife, journalist and writer Eda Kriseová, of her job. Joseph had to support his family on his own. After graduating from the Academy of Performing Arts, he was unable to find a job and could only work at Czechoslovak Television as a freelancer. His wife was prosecuted more severely by the normalization regime because she was involved in the dissent.

In 1981, he became the director of Studio Kamarád, a popular TV show for children. He says the regime’s supervision was not as strict with programs for the youngest viewers. But he was bothered by the pervasive hypocrisy he encountered working for television. There was a different way of talking over a beer after work and a different way of talking in the programs they produced.

“I feel guilt and will feel it all my life that I didn’t fight with a gun in my hand against communism, but it’s not in my nature. My wife did it for us both.”


In the spring of 1968, people in Czechoslovakia were alive with hope. The communists had promised the abolition of censorship, the restoration of private farming, and much more. But the comrades in the Soviet Union were not pleased. The desire for freedom could infect other countries and peoples in the Eastern Bloc.

On the night of August 21st, the people of this country were awakened by the roar of planes and the rumble of tanks. The armies of the Soviet Union and other communist Warsaw Pact countries had invaded our country. Defenseless people ran into the streets, stood in the way of the tanks, tried to speak with the occupiers, threatened them with their fists. It was all in vain. Our People’s Democratic Army did not defend this country. The Soviets deported the leadership to Moscow and forced them to surrender. With the exception of Frantisek Kriegel, everyone – President Ludvík Svoboda, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia Alexander Dubček, Prime Minister Oldřich Černík, and others – submitted. During those August days, the Soviets killed 137 people. Czechoslovakia became an occupied country for the next two decades.