Ivan Hupka (1939)
“People should keep their eyes open. They have to be careful.”
Ivan Hupka was born on February 19, 1939 in Svätý Jur. His mother was a housewife and his father was a clerk. He had three siblings. When he was thirteen, his family moved to Dunajská Streda. Ivan attended the grammar school there and after the school leaving examination he enrolled at the Slovak Technical University. He finished his university studies in 1959 in Prague and became a specialist in the field of automobiles and tractors. When he came back to Slovakia, he got workplace admittance in the automobile factory in Nitra. Because of a long distance and complications relating to travelling he asked for a new place. He could work in the Research Institute of Occupational Diseases in the department of air-conditioning, but finally he got employed in Trnava where he taught at the Secondary Technical School of Mechanical Engineering for four years. He liked his work a lot but after some time he started to long for some more creative job. Therefore he attended the job interview in the Czechoslovak Television (CST), in Bratislava broadcasting studio, where he applied for the position in the youth editorial board. He managed to get this job and became a co-author of the program for young people called “Through the Eyes of Youth”. At the same time his wife Mária worked in the CST as a secretary at the department of documentary films production. In 1966 Ivan moved to the editorial board of the department of journalism and documentary films production as well. The events of August 1968 caught them both there. During the occupation period Ivan cooperated with the Czechoslovak Television staff and engaged himself in the production of its media coverage. At the same time he participated in the production of a unique documentary film directed by Kazimír Barlík and titled “In the Name of Conscience”. In the period of so-called normalization this documentary film has never been broadcasted. It was a fateful incident for Ivan. Soviet leadership and incoming government in Slovakia boded ill. Ivan recognized forthcoming danger and thus he immigrated to Australia along with his wife and two little daughters. Slovak judiciary tried them in their absence. They were given custodial sentence, so in case of coming back home, they would be imprisoned. Only after more than twenty years of living abroad, he and his wife Mária could return to their homeland as free citizens.
Editor’s Self-Censorship in Television Studio in Bratislava
“As for the censorship, it was hidden somewhere at the back of our minds. We were really careful about it. We knew what we could afford if we wanted to see it on the screen. Sure. If we had told too much or if something had been overstated, we could have been sure that the press supervision would have stopped it. I could say that no reprisals arouse from it, when they told: ‘I don’t want this here or adapt it somehow, or this should be edited.’ Sure. We did it but it was always the result of some agreement or discussion. Of course, if something was approved and if it was something new or fearlessly spoken, there was a great joy among editors. They usually told: ‘Wow, he could get away with it! It was really well done!’ So we had to think up not only the best material for our news, but also the way of its processing to make it acceptable.”
August 1968 in the Streets of Bratislava
“That period of time caught us in Bratislava. We went in the morning, just like my wife, Marienka, told you, we got up at five when we came to know what had happened there, that military troops arrived to Bratislava during the night. We found it out only in the morning. Thus we went downtown because we lived near the Holy Trinity Church under the Michael’s Gate. And there happened that incident with an army tank, etc. However, there is one thing I will never forget about. We were standing near Tatra where our studio or rather the whole television was located at that time. And when they opened fire on that church, the square was crowded, you know, there were thousands of people, so we could hardly walk among them. And when that firing had started everybody fell down. On the ground. It was a real humiliation.”
News Desk of CST Worked Illegally in the Period of Occupation
“Well, we couldn’t work. Certainly, we had to leave but we usually met in Luxor. Our editorial board along with our editor in chief. And we set us tasks of doing something in the given situation. People said a lot about the broadcasting, but somebody had to prepare all the news to be broadcasted. And we were one of the small crews that got the opportunity. We had a camera and cameraman as well and the like. My wife used to travel with me; we were assigned to the area from Bratislava to Dunajská Streda. It wasn’t simple at all because we never knew whether we would come back from that journey; it was really dangerous. Army tanks were moving towards us, so if they had wanted to do this, we would have fallen dead into the ditch. And as for the material, I had to tell that our driver was really scared, so I told him: ‘You know what? Get out of the car and I will drive the whole way. We must record all of it.’ Then I convinced him and finally we brought all the documents. And, of course, we weren’t alone there, but I don’t know what has happened with all the others or where they are now.”
Leaving Homeland without Saying Goodbye
“So we told ourselves that it wouldn’t have been wise to notify our parents or acquaintances about our departure. I met my sister at the tram station in front of Slovan. She got off the tram and I gave her some personal things which I wanted to send to my mother. At that moment I knew it was the last time I saw her but I couldn’t tell her anything.”
“The welcoming was really great. There were many people, just like some delegation, and they welcomed us as if we were some precious visitors. There were about twenty people. They came to Vienna. People of various ages came there, from the oldest to the youngest ones. So during the whole month we spent here, we were just moving from embrace to embrace. Actually it is still the same, it happens again every year when we are here.”
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.