Central Europeans reflect on life before the fall of the Berlin Wall
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Jana Jamariková

The secret police asked me to be an informer at my job

Bratislava, Slovak Republic, 2007
Slovak English

Jana Jamariková , Architect, Artist, Teacher

My brother “escaped” from Czechoslovakia in 1966. I also wanted to go and experience this freedom. When he left he told me that he might never come back here again. It was a long good bye. Only I knew his secret. He went to Scandinavia and then to America. I stayed here, as I was feeling responsible to my parents. For me, the best thing about the revolution was that I was able to see my brother again.  

In 1968, before the Russians invaded, there was a feeling of freedom. Life was getting easier. More free. When the Russians came, they broke our dreams. The hope that the Prague Spring brought to us was gone. Many people were killed. We were afraid that we would lose our lives.      

In the 1970s and ‘80s I had much work. I was happy designing buildings and interiors of spas. In my work I experienced some freedom. Creative freedom. My inspiration was nature, the organic forms in nature. This period of socialist architecture was less structured then the 1950s and ‘60s. I was beginning to design buildings outside of Czechoslovakia in Belgrade and in Japan.   

Left: Interior of Building designed by Jana Jamariková. Right: Jana Jamariková working. 
Photographs by Martina Martinčeka

The secret police asked me to be an informer at my job. I said no and because of this I became officially “unfit” for certain jobs and travel. This destroyed my life. They took my passport and I could not longer travel outside of Czechoslovakia for my job. It felt like I was in prison. Now I have the freedom to travel, but no money. It is another kind of prison.

Bratislava has changed since the revolution. There are many new buildings all looking all the same. The inspiration is missing. Developers do not care if the buildings add beauty to the city.  

Many of the same people are still in power. They call themselves a democracy but they are the same communists as before. Now they just care for money. Since the revolution ended people are caring for money and big houses and expensive cars.  I am just teaching and sometimes making art. I find some happiness in making art, in my daughter and walking in nature.

This interview was in English and Slovak with the aid of a translator
Photo by Janeil Engelstad   

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Ideology Suppression Revolution Freedom Hope Values Identity