Gone. The SND has recently lost Director Dušan Jamrich (right) and Opera head Juraj Hrubant.
Although Jamrich was not mentioned in the dozens of speeches delivered to a rainy evening's throng of some 20,000 on Námestie SNP, his dismissal underscored the urgency that had brought SND to announce its strike. Ladislav Chudík, a well-known veteran of the Slovak stage, told the Associated Press after the rally that the strike expressed "our moral support for Jamrich." Another Jamrich ally, world-famous opera singer Peter Dvorský, announced on October 17 that he had resigned from SND, largely in protest of Jamrish's dismissal.
Ironically, the man who insisted on tactful diplomacy with a culture minister bent on affirming direct governmental control over SND had become a veritable persona non grata. For Jamrich, director of Slovakia's premier cultural institution, the issue between the state and SND was a professional, not a political crisis.
"We were all colleagues [to Jamrich]," said Darina Porubjaková, an SND repertory director. "It was no secret that he several times appeared at cultural events where figures with various political backgrounds were present, but everyone respected him, because he always respected anyone with different political or artistic views. With any kind of director or with any kind of actor, he was always professional. He always said, 'I'm trying to do my professional best,' and this was true also of politics."
Spokesman for SND's strike committee Stefan Bucko observed the same about the strike. "Many times we were called 'anti-nationalistic'," Bucko told The Slovak Spectator, "In other words, we didn't love our country. But for example, Jamrich loves this country and has always said so."
Officially, Jamrich was canned for embezzling state funds. In an interview with the state Slovak news agency TASR the day he dismissed Jamrich, Hudec implied that Jamrich had absconded with over 25 million Sk from a public fund intended to construct a new national theater. In the interview, Hudec ominously ruminated that Jamrich's "future cooperation" with the Ministry had been "in doubt."
But among Jamrich's colleagues, there was little question that the decision to fire him was based on his disclosure of the history behind Jamrich's and Hudec's seven-month private correspondence on the government's right to intervene in SND's internal affairs.
Jamrich displayed immense diplomatic reserve, according to Martin Porubjak and Porubjakova, both SND reportory directors. In January, Hudec sent a letter to Jamrich informing him of two new statutes that would give the minister the power to personally appoint and dismiss any SND employee, while dividing the SND Drama Ensemble (Cinohry) into two. Jamrich withheld the letter from SND to avoid inflaming the theater, but requested in a letter that Hudec explain the new rules. "Jamrich didn't tell the theater because he didn't want to upset us," Porubjakova said. "But he didn't want to provoke the culture minister" by disclosing the letter.
When a briefly-worded letter came from Hudec five months later ("saying basically, 'the rules mean what they say,'" Porubjakova said), Jamrich held a meeting to disclose Hudec's earlier correspondence, and admitting that his efforts to negotiate with the culture minister had attained, in Porubjakova's words, "zero results." Still, Jamrich pleaded with SND not to go public with the matter, in hopes that negotiations with Hudec might yet bear fruit. Thus restrained by Jamrich, the Cinohry signed a private letter to Hudec protesting the ensemble's division.
On July 4, a second meeting was held at the theater, following a rumor that Hudec planned to fire Mikulik during SND's summer vacation. SND wrote a letter to Hudec protesting Mikulik's rumored dismissal-though once more, on Jamrich's insistence, the group agreed not to discuss the matter publicly.
On July 22, Mikulik was fired. Jamrich then publicly revealed the secret he had kept first to himself and then within SND for seven months. "His presentation was very well-prepared and rational," said Porubjakova, "if not entirely neutral either, because [the mood of] the time was not exactly neutral."
Jamrich's subsequent dismissal came as no surprise. "He was absolutely correct in his dealings with the ministry," Porubjak said. "But [it] was not effective," Porubjak continued. "He was very correct in his contacts with the Ministry, as he was also with the Theater. It could be said that his correctness to both sides was equal, but the result of this correctness was the same: he was fired."
The day after the rally, SND's newly appointed general director, Miroslav Fischer, offered three reasons for Jamrich's dismissal in a letter to SND's strike committee chairman, Richard Stanke. Parroting Hudec, Fischer voiced concern that Jamrich had absconded with state funds, and claimed that Jamrich had worsened "a tense situation" when, in July, with the Ministry's abrupt dismissal of SND's artistic director Peter Mikulik, Jamrich encouraged SND's drama ensemble (Cinohry) to disrupt SND's scheduled performance season. Finally, the letter claimed that Jamrich had, "in opposition to a valid statute of the Theater," taken personal control of Cinohry rather than name a new artistic director to replace Lubomir Paulovic, who resigned in disgrace when SND actors and actresses refused to recognize him.
Porubjak and Porubjakova were both outraged and amused by the letter. In the first place, said Porubjakova, the state's investigation of the missing funds had not been formally concluded; second, Jamrich, far from fomenting open resistance to Hudec, urged calm and restraint among SND employees. Third, it had been "Jamrich's duty" to act as artistic director after Pavlovic resigned.
"He practiced tolerance," Porubjakova went on. "He was always the kind of person who said, 'You have to see both sides.' Actors are citizens also, and he knew this, and respected them as both. Sometimes I would say he acted like a man of the 21st century, or perhaps of a time when people with different views could work in the same theater and feel safe."
"He lost some of his idealism, maybe; you'd have to ask him. He seemed to me a little bit naive, if we can talk about being naive in a very nice way, in that he believed right until the last moment that rational argument would prevail."
23. Oct 1996 at 0:00 | Tom Reynolds