Petra Novotna

Born 1982 in Trebic, Czech Republic
Petra is studying for her PhD in Private International Law, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic. She is working at the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg. (Last updated 2013)

"Zdenek Splichal from Moravske Budejovice" (2001)

"It is normal to forget bad life experiences," writes Czech student Petra Novotna, "but the forgetting was worse than I thought." At the beginning of her researches into life under communist rule, the 25-year-old from Trebic, a southern Czech city with 38,000 inhabitants, ran into a lot of resistance. "History is like a book," she concludes, "but many people seem to prefer to simply rip pages out of it." This is how the law student explains the broad disinterest among her peers in recent Czech history. In her contribution, she describes the search for an appropriate witness as the greatest obstacle to her work. "The question was, is there anyone at all who is prepared to participate, to remember unpleasant things, too, and to tell me about them?" Through the intervention of an employee of Trebic's city archive, Petra Novotna finally encountered Zdenek Splichal, who wanted to talk about his life with her. The farmer's son had experienced political persecution in his family: After a show trial in the 1950s, his father was sent to prison and through collectivisation, the family's agricultural business was taken over by the government as so-called "people's property." It was important to Petra Novotna to append an epilogue to this story of oppression through the communist system; in it she describes the life of the eyewitness since 1990. According to the student, even 50 years of socialism were not enough to destroy the strong family traditions of the Splichals. After the "Velvet Revolution" of 1989, her interviewee succeeded in regaining his family's property and linking himself to his ancestors' agricultural traditions.

For her contribution, "Zdenek Splichal from Moravske Budejovice," Petra Novotna, received first prize in the Czech History Competition of 2001, under the theme of "Alone against the authorities: opposition to the totalitarian regime in Czechoslovakia, 1948-1989."

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