The interview with Herbert Kisza was conducted by Miroslav Vaněk during two sessions in Kadan, Czech Republic. The first interview took place on October 10, 2007 and the second on February 11, 2008. The interviews took nearly two hours together.
Herbert Kisza was chosen as a representative of intelligence as an artist. The interview was conducted as part of the project "Survey of Czech Society in the Period of Standardization, Biographical Narratives of Workers and Intelligence".
In the interview, Mr. Kisza mentions his childhood, studies at the School of Applied Arts, and how he managed to escape military service by having himself put in the psychiatric hospital. He tells of his attitude to Charter 77, which he did not sign in the end, though the secret service was watching him regardless since many of his friends and colleagues were signatories of Charter 77. Much of the conversation with Kirza is about traveling, even during socialism.
This interview is particularly interesting for the detailed information about life during socialism, the possibilities people had and the obstacles the regime placed them. Herbert Kisza was not a forbidden artist, but he was not supported, and in this interview he explains how he managed to continue with his work.
The interview with Jiří Gruntorád was carried out by Milan Otáhal in 2003 during two different sessions. The interview was conducted within the framework of the project “Elites and contra-elites during the so-called normalization period”.
The interview took place at the workplace of Jiří Gruntorád in the library Libri Prohibiti. Jiří Gruntorád wished that only Milan Otáhal asked questions because he was shy and not used to talking about his life. In both of these interviews, Jiří Gruntorád primarily talked about his dissent activity and answered questions about his private life, but only briefly, as he did not want to pursue this subject and did not consider it important.
In the first interview, he talks about his childhood, he mentions, importantly, that he never joined the Pioneer (was a youth Marxist-Leninist organization in communist Czechoslovakia. Although the organisation proclaimed to be voluntary, every child was expected to join from the age of six), although it was usual at the time, and was not even a member of the Socialist Youth League (Svaz socialistické mládeže) later. At the time when Jan Palach set himself on fire, which in his own words influenced him very much, he protested at school, for example, against the mandatory observation of Gustav Husák's speeches by turning his back to the screen. In the conversation, Otáhal and Gruntorad spoke a lot about Gruntorad´s history of dissent, his arrest, his memories of interrogations, his activities within the VONS (The Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Prosecuted), Charter 77, etc.
This interview is by its contect and detail the unique testimony of Gruntorad's memories of not only his involvement in dissent and activity in opposition to the regime, but also the opportunity to recognize the personal and private life of this well-known and important person of cultural opposition in the former Czechoslovakia, as well as his activities after the year 1989.
KOHI interviewed Shukrije Gashi in two sessions, on 14 February and 21 March, 2015. Gashi was born on 22 May 22 1960 in Pristina. A former political prisoner during Yugoslav times, she worked to promote peace for more than twenty years, and took part in around 400 cases of conflict resolution. Gashi studied law at the University of Pristina, and currently directs the “Partners Kosova Center for Conflict Management”.
In 1983, she was arrested and charged as an accessory to “the perpetration of criminal acts against the people and the state of Yugoslavia,” the official charges according to the country’s penal code, and spent two years in prison. Shukrije Gashi was found guilty of being a member of the then-illegal Albanian national movement, a loose network of small groups advocating the Republic of Kosovo. As a prisoner of conscience, she was given drugs, forced to work, and subjected to physical and psychological torture, which included being told that her boyfriend and fellow activist had been killed (which was true).
Gashi’s story is a young woman’s gripping account of determination (she was 21 when she was finally arrested after an adventurous escape from the Yugoslav secret police), in order to take a leadership role in the underground Albanian national movement. Gashi drew courage and will from her grandmother, a charismatic local figure who was involved in the “Campaign to Reconcile Blood Feuds” and national mobilization efforts – acts of feminism before the term was globally recognized. Because of their political opinions and activities, Gashi and other members of her family were under constant surveillance, which involved police harassment, pressure to change jobs, and difficulty to navigate the Yugoslav system, in which Albanian demands in Kosovo – for more autonomy and improved living conditions – were considered sedition.
KOHI conducted two interviews with Dr. Vjosa Dobruna, on 3 July, and 11 July, 2013. Dobruna was born in Gjakova/Đakovica. She works as a pediatrician and a human rights activist, and is a founder of the Center for the Protection of Women and Children, a Safe House for women in Gjakova/Đakovica, as well as the Women’s Center in Tetovo.Dobruna served as Chair of the Board at Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK), and as National Head of Department for Democratic Governance and Independent Media under the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Vjosa joined Kosovo’s diplomatic service in 2012 when she was appointed Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo to the Netherlands. She has received several awards, including the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights, the Alexander Langer Award for Minority Rights, the Edward Barsky Award for Courageous Physician, and the International Woman of the Year Award.
Vjosa Dobruna became a fierce advocate of women’s health and women’s rights issues during the Milošević era, when violence against Albanian women in Kosovo began to intensify, after she was fired from the hospital where she worked as a pediatrician in the 1990s. Her political activism began earlier however, when she supported prisoners of conscience, three of whom were her paternal uncles. Dobruna provided the detainees with finely ground valium mixed into sugar – one of the items allowed in prison – to alleviate the pain of torture that all detainees endured.
In 1993, Dobruna founded the Center for the Protection of Women and Children in Kosovo with other local activists who shared her disenchantment with the unwillingness of Albanian leadership to recognize that women were being victimized. She also collaborated with Italian feminists to raise funds and support in quite difficult conditions.
As a doctor and human rights activist, Dobruna’s role was crucial in treating and advising women across Kosovo before, during, and after the war. Like Shukrije Gashi and others, Vjosa Dobruna became a fearless leader through lessons she learned from her family: her grandmother, father, and uncle were active as partisans in the war against fascism, and three of her uncles served a cumulative twenty-five years in detention as Yugoslav prisoners of conscience.