František Mikloško (1947)
“And November 1989 … in my opinion, it was a Biblical miracle. It was something like the breath of God, as it is written about in Paradise. It means that the Word of God was proclaimed and this system collapsed.”
František Mikloško was born on June 2, 1947 in Nitra into a Catholic family. In his youth, he was often a witness to his close acquaintances being taken to prison or otherwise persecuted by the communist regime, what actually made his anti-communist conviction even stronger. After passing the leaving examination at the secondary school of construction in 1966 he started to study mathematics at the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Comenius University in Bratislava. There he met many activists involved in the secret church, especially Vladimír Jukl. He became a member of a religious group and got involved in the structures of the secret church, in the frame of which he used to organise spiritual retreats and build up groups among students. He successfully completed his studies in 1971 when he also started to work at the Institute of Technical Cybernetics of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, where he engaged in numerical mathematics. At the same time he devoted himself to activities of the secret church and he was successful at establishing religious groups among students. The 1970s were a period of quiet work and effort to build up the widest network of small groups possible. He also got involved in various activities of the Fatima community, which was established by several members of the secret church. In 1980s, his activities also included organising mass pilgrimages, which were open anti-regime events. However, these activities of the secret church didn’t escape the State Security’s notice. Therefore, František Mikloško couldn’t avoid being interrogated and monitored. In 1983 he was dismissed from the Slovak Academy of Sciences and he found a job as a labourer. The second half of the 1980s was marked by the decline of the communist regime. In this period, František Mikloško was actively engaged in all the important activities of the secret church; he also intensively participated in preparations for the Candle Manifestation, which was held on March 25, 1988 in Bratislava. He spent the first days of the Velvet Revolution in the courtroom, where he supported Ján Čarnogurský, whose trial was taking place those days. As a representative of the Catholic dissent, he was requested to take part in the movement called Public against Violence, which was being formed at that time. František Mikloško stayed at the top level of politics even in the post revolutionary period. From 1990 he was a member of the Slovak National Council (SNR) and the National Council of the Slovak Republic, where he remained until 2010. In the years 1990 - 1992 he served as a Chairman of the Slovak National Council. In the period of 1992 - 2008, he was a member of the Christian Democratic Movement. Twice he ran unsuccessfully for the position of President of the Slovak Republic.
1970s – The Period of Quiet Work
“Vlado Jukl had a motto, what should be our motto, too, ‘Face the masses!’ It was the communist motto, and even he meant it similarly. If there hadn’t been thousands of us, the communists wouldn’t have been afraid of us. If there hadn’t been a crowd of people, the communists would have cleaned us up during the only night. And it was of a huge importance that in 1970s we managed to work in silence and establish small religious groups.”
Personal Contacts with the Pope John Paul II
“One evening an absolute twist occurred. Then, we met Vlado Jukl in my flat in Dúbravka, I remember I had a radio made in the era of the Slovak State or in the era of the first republic at home, it was from my granddad, so that evening we listened to the Vatican Radio. And when it was said in the Vatican Radio broadcasting that we had a new pope, it was in October 1978, and when his name was uttered and we realised it was Karol Wojtyla, Vlado Jukl started hugging us and said, ‘You can’t imagine what it will mean for us.’ Silvo Krčméry used to visit Cardinal Wojtyla in Krakow and they really clicked, so the new Holy Father took a fancy to him. Later, I was at a private dinner. Ján Čarnogurský with his wife, Silvo Krčméry and I were with the Holy Father at the private dinner. It was in 1992, I think in autumn, and there I witnessed the Holy Father’s relationship with Silvo. When we came there, it was endearing that we didn’t understand each other very well, even though our languages are very similar. Then, Jano Čarnogurský switched to a local dialect of Zamagurie region and all the language barriers were suddenly gone. Silvo was like in ecstasy during the dinner. He was always telling something to the Holy Father about the drug addicts and his activities with them, when in one moment Jano Čarnogurský touched his hand and said, ‘Don’t heckle,’ he meant that he shouldn’t have interrupted Holy Father’s speech. ‘Well, let the Holy Father say something again,’ but I understood him, we all did. Silvo spoke Slovak with Polish suffixes and I noticed the Holy Father taking a long look at Silvo, then he smiled and said, ‘Silvo, Silvo.’ Simply said, Silvo who spent fourteen years in prison and who sacrificed his life for the apparitions at Fatima, which was the Pope also devoted to, was his matter of heart.”
“We used to meet on Sundays but every time in someone else’s flat. We met to pray; there weren’t holy masses. We had evening prayers and we used to sing at the end of them. Usually we sang such nice orthodox songs in Russian language. And also we gave reports. At first we referred on what had happened in Church at home as well as in the world, and everyone came with some news, let’s call them rumours, and then with the news from the domestic and foreign political stage. I can say that in 1989, when I entered the politics, we weren’t absolute laymen, we had already been experienced and we had known the political events and work with people. Thus we weren’t laics when I entered politics along with Ján Čarnogurský, and it was only thanks to the Fatima movement.”
Psychological Ways to November 1989 – National Pilgrimage in Velehrad and Candle Manifestation
“I consider the mass with the cardinal Casaroli to be the high point of the events then, it has already been described, I think it was the minister Válek who characterised it for the first time and said, ‘We have underestimated the situation and in Velehrad we got a hit below the belt.’ The state power representatives even didn’t move. Simply, as soon as they said no, what actually was their means of manipulation, whistling and shouting resounded and they didn’t move. The last thing I remember was that they stepped back and said, ‘Enjoy the feast,’ and went down of the podium.
A lot of people were there and simply, the state power was suddenly motionless. It was a psychological twist of the situation. The second turning point before November 1989 was the Candle Manifestation. There were not as many people as in Velehrad, but we managed to resist, or actually, I didn’t because I was in prison then, but people endured everything there. They were being drenched, beaten, but finally they became the moral victors. It means that it was the second time that something changed in people’s minds. Everything was broadcasted on the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. These were special experiences from Velehrad and Candle Manifestation, the experiences from throughout the Czechoslovakia. It was possible to come to the square, withstand the physical attack and become the moral victors. I think these were the psychological struggles leading to November 1989, when the squares in the entire Czechoslovakia were spontaneously crowded with people.”
My Year 1989
“The year 1989 was quite tiring. At least I perceived it as a tiring time. We were constantly being interrogated. The State Security entered into the events really sharply, you know, I was constantly monitored. There were many trials with people arrested in the Candle Manifestation, during which we had to be in the remand centre called Februárka. We were interrogated there for seven, eight hours. And they took turns, it was very tiring. Whenever I left my house, they suddenly appeared, the car with the investigator stopped by me quite demonstratively and he said, ‘So what, Mr Mikloško, where are you going?’ And I knew I would go nowhere, so I went back home.”
The Events of the Velvet Revolution I.
“The first big moment of November was the gathering at Wenceslas Square, where so many people came that the square was overcrowded. Something similar happened in Bratislava on the Hviezdoslav Square, where Kňažko and Budaj gave speeches, and mainly Kňažko was in the lead due to his strong voice, imposing personality of a really notable man and excellent rhetorician. He was a really manful and strong person. Later, the first huge gathering took place on the SNP Square. It was the first time when Bratislava was full of people, there were about one or two hundred thousand people, a huge mass of them. There people requested Čarnogurský’s release from prison and there people agreed to move to the Palace of Justice after the end of the demonstration. Then, somebody said, as I came to know later, that if such a huge mass of people had started to move to those narrow streets, it would have been risky and they really didn’t want to make any mistake; however, people came to tell us that the SNP Square was crowded.
Those days I visited the flat of Ján Langoš, which was a place where something was still going on. On December 10, 1980, for the first time in my life I met Václav Havel in that flat, who was spending some time in Slovakia at that time. We were sitting there, it was before November 1989, and he was preparing for some announcement. I know Boris Zala was there too, at that time he was a left-wing social democrat, then Janko Langoš, but I can’t remember the others. Obviously, also Janko Čarnogurský was there. We were there on those days of November and it really was one of the key gatherings. I think Boris Zala and Janko Langoš were present there; Fedor Gál came for a moment as he was in his typical motion, and I am sorry, but I can’t recall the other people, but I know that we discussed the request from the Czech side to call our group the Civic Forum. Košice and dissidents from Košice or activists also requested us to join the Czech part and have the same name, to transform it all to one Czechoslovak Civic Forum, to create one huge force fighting against communism and I know that then, at the gathering in Langoš’s flat we decided to disagree and create a parallel structure, and thus we established the movement and gave it the name Public against Violence. So there was the base of what was later transferred, there the basic coordinating committee or the future coordinating committee decided that we would not have the name of Civic Forum, but rather the Public against Violence.”
The Events of the Velvet Revolution II.
“It is necessary to say that the first person who came to the podium and who was a member of the Public against Violence from its very beginning was Ľubo Feldek. As a member of the party he announced at the podium that he surrendered his identity. I remember that actually he was the first person doing that, a famous poet, a translator, an author of fairytales for children. Then, in a sort of poetic spontaneity and intuition he said there wouldn’t be peace in Czechoslovakia until the fourth article of constitution would be in force, because the leadership of the communist party was confirmed there. I know that the Czech side responded to it, asking us not to hurry the events because it was a motion that could be so fast and dangerous to handle it. In my opinion, Czech people had some complex from 1968 somewhere in their subconscious mind, so this happened many times. We received messages from the Czechs, ‘Don’t push it so hard.’ I don’t remember the occasion, but I know my friend Peter Zajac once told me, that in one moment Václav Klaus said, ‘Gentlemen, now we have to defuse our action, moderate the situation.’ However, the Slovaks went to it and used it as one of the conditions in the general strike. And then one thing happened. It was like some kind of a fairytale event because on November 27, at night, it was Monday, the general strike of the Civic Forum and Public against Violence was declared in the whole Czechoslovakia. And on Sunday, November 26, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Slovakia held meeting in Bratislava. It meant that huge authority wasn’t only some politburo. Early in the morning, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Slovakia passed a resolution which resounded in the whole Czechoslovakia in the morning. It was the request of the Communist Party of Slovakia for repealing the fourth article of constitution on the leadership of the communist party. And I think it was a detonator because only after that, everything started and the Slovak communists suddenly resolved to do such a thing.”
To the Question of Post Revolutionary Purge of the Communists
“In November 1989 there were five hundred and eighty-three thousand members of the communist party in Slovakia. And let’s assume that each of them had a wife and some children. Along with the family members, there were about one and a half million people, I would say, anchored in that structure, people who held key offices in judiciary, police, prosecutor’s office, army or in the management of enterprises. I remember the time after 1990, when our government had already taken power. One of the ministers from the Christian Democratic Movement was under an immense pressure to substitute the director of a huge enterprise for somebody else. And he responded, ‘Gentlemen, as soon as you show me a person who was not a communist and who knows how to manage the factory with twenty thousand employees, I will do it in a minute.’ Once I was present at a meeting in Nitra, when suddenly there was something not right. The thing was that a director of one enterprise had to be dismissed, but I have to admit that suddenly I saw people who hungered for power there, who actually weren’t communists, but something about their behaviour really bothered me. Then, I came on the Public against Violence’s meeting and I said, ‘Excuse me; I know there is nothing bad about removing communists from the managerial posts in enterprises and the like, but do we really know who wants to get there? Do we know whether those people, whom we consider to be right for those posts, are not the same careerists and unscrupulous people who just didn’t have chance or didn’t want to be members of the communist party, but whose nature makes them usurp the power and do everything to reach their aim?’ The experiences like these came from all over Slovakia, so we in the Public against Violence movement issued an instruction: ‘Stop any changes. The elections are about to come, so let everything go the normal way.’”
Question Mark over Slovakia
“It’s the twentieth anniversary of the fall of communism and I can say that a very interesting youth is growing up here. The youth, that has no complexes, no frustrations, it is the European youth. They naturally speak foreign languages, travel abroad to strengthen and improve their knowledge, they study or work there.
I ask whether there is a sort of generation feeling, generation appeal, not only in a horizontal level in the sense of desire for a better life, which is perfectly fine, but rather in a vertical level, in the sense of certain desires, certain troubles, controversies, which exist in this society or which generally exist all over Europe and maybe all over the civilised world. Anything similar hasn’t been here yet and it is so strange to ask whether something similar to this generation will ever be here.
Twenty years after the fall of communism it is necessary to say that certain question mark hangs over Slovakia. It is a question whether we will be able to fight for our way to inner confidence, inner self-knowledge or whether we will become a bit plebeian. It means that though we will be going on well, we will need somebody to show us the way, to govern us and to uncover the horizons for us. This is the time of great challenges. Now, the generation born after the fall of communism has grown up. They are twenty years old now and should somehow express their basic intention of what they want to do in this country, but it shouldn’t be just the desire for a higher standard of life, consumerism, because we can see that this philosophy precipitated the entire world into the huge crisis and nobody knows how it’s going to end.”
The story and videoclips of this witness were put together and published thanks to the financial support of EU within the programme Europe for Citizens – Active European Remembrance.