My brave Russian teacher in 1969- 1971

I watched an interesting film  about Yevgenia Ginzburg a Russian Jewish dissident who spent more than 10 years arrested in Siberia in Stalin’s time. I didn’t know that her son was Alexei Aksjonov. I have a funny story about him.

In secondary school – I went in September 1968-I was in the humanities section, so the 4 final graduation exams were Czech, Russian, History and another foreign language + another  subject whatever we wanted.

Our Russian teacher  Mr. Knenicky was mainly a PE teacher,  but there were not enough hours, so he taught Russian. His parents allegedly came from Russia in 1922. Mr Knenicky, the teacher boycotted our teaching by bringing various Russian books, in Czech translation.

He read to us his Ticket to the Stars (1961). He read well, like an actor. He read us other things, too, but I remember what it was, Ticket to the Stars described live hippie like Russian teenagers. Eventually , the writer Aksjonov became a dissident and was exiled by the Soviet government.

Half a year before out graduation, the government decided, that instead of history, we will have Russian . Nobody was more worried than Mr. Knenicky. You can’t learn properly just by being read a dissident Russia book in Czech translations. We were not complaining. We were 15 at the time of the Soviet invasion in August 1968 and we hated the Russians with passion.

Our teacher was more worried than we were and tried very hard to make us catch up with the curriculum. At the exam , there was him, and 2 teachers from other schools. By the oral part of my exam, he kept kicking me under table when I made a mistake. I passed, so did everybody else. My other subjects- Czech, German and Chemistry were OK.

I have a feeling that the teacher went back to teaching just sport, Despite being Russian, but from anti-Communist background, and the fact that there was a lack of Russian teachers.

It was 1977 a time of worsening oppression . I went to medical school, and I haven’t heard from the teacher. I wonder what happened to him. He was brave. Was he re-arrested or exiled like Vasyli Aksjonov before ?

I am going to Prague for a month, and  I will try to look for him. I never thought about him before. He must be at least 83.But he was a sports teacher, and hopefully stayed fit. Maybe he emigrated, like I did.

We’ll see. But I would like to thank him. And tell him I recently bought the English translation of Ticket to The Stars  and read it with enjoyment.

He was one of the rare teachers in Communist Czechoslovakia who were brave and risked their careers by not repeating lies written in the curriculum ( school syllabus).

If I was a teacher, would I have done the same? I don’t know. I like to think I would, but you can’t tell if you are brave before you get not the situation requiring it. And Mr Knenicky was brave, and he was a good teacher.

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