The Hapal(a) surname


Jan Hapala (1816-1887)

Jan was a long-time teacher in the village of Velká and the founder of the Hapala family of teachers.

He was born in 1816 in Klokočí. His grandfather, Tomáš Hapala, was a reeve in Zbrašov. In January 1834, Jan joined the school in Velká u Hranice as an assistant teacher, where he helped Tomáš Kučera, the first regular teacher in the village. Jan was appointed a definitive teacher five years later. In 1878 the school had 70 pupils.

Jan Hapala taught for 50 years, and so on 26 June 1884, a celebration took place in Velká, the likes of which the village had never seen before. Jan Hapala received a silver cross of merit with a crown and was named an honorary citizen of the village. He retired in July and died three years later.

Jan and his wife Terezie née Vrbíková had nine children. The only one of the children for whom we know descendants was the son Frantisek. He also became a teacher himself, working among others as a management teacher in Tichá near Frenštát pod Radhoštěm. He married Kateřina Dadák, sister of Arnošt Dadák, founder of the famous agricultural magazine Milotický hospodář. All five of their children: sons Arnošt, Richard, and Vladimír, and daughters Marie and Božena became teachers. All of the adult siblings moved to Hranice sometime before 1910, where they lived in the same household on Kropáčova Street and worked in the schools in Hranice. Richard died on the battlefield of the First World War. At the end of the 1930s, the remaining four siblings moved to Brno. The other descendants, Zdeněk, Richard, and Milan, are discussed below.

Jindřich Hapala (1873-1925)

Jindřich Hapala in Sokol costume

Jindřich Hapala was born in 1873 in Hranice at number 200. He came from the Valsovice branch of Jakub Hapala. He was trained as a chimney sweep by his father and briefly followed this trade. For several years he worked in the court service at the Regional Court in Olomouc. Later he became an administrator of the regional office.

In addition, he was a falconer in Hranice in his youth and later a county executive of the Falcon in Olomouc. He was also a member of the first post-revolutionary city council and chairman of the National Unity in Olomouc. After the establishment of Czechoslovakia, he acted as a negotiator in the transfer of power from the Austro-Hungarian authorities to the representatives of the new state.

He died on 19 April 1925 at the age of 51. A street in the suburb of Olomouc was named after him. Its name can still be found on the city plans in the 1980s, the street later disappeared during reconstruction.

Zdeněk Hapala – Kopecký (1905-1971)

Zdeněk Hapala devoted his life to puppets, which captivated him in elementary school.

He was born on 25 March 1905 in Místek. His original profession was a teacher; however, due to health problems, he was unable to pursue this occupation. He became a clerk in Místek, where he also founded the Association of Amateur Theatrical Players. Before the outbreak of the war, he was active in the resistance. In particular, he illegally smuggled people across the border into Poland who were fleeing the Nazis from the encircled Czechoslovakia. Therefore, in 1939 he had to flee with his first wife Marta – via Poland to the USSR. In the Protectorate, they left behind their eight-year-old daughter, who had to spend the entire war hiding from the Gestapo with relatives.

Zdenek and his wife left the USSR for the Middle East and worked for a time in Jerusalem. There, Zdeněk founded the Bajka Czech Puppet Theatre, which performed for audiences of many nationalities, in Czech, Polish, and English. The purpose was primarily to lift the minds of wounded soldiers who were otherwise depressed. It was also the first Czechoslovak theatre in the Arab world.

After the war, he worked for several years for the Czechoslovak State Film in Prague. He then founded puppet theatres in his native Český Těšín, Žilina, and finally in Ostrava, where he was appointed director of the regional puppet theatre. Together with his second wife Blanka, he organized performances for children and discussions about puppetry in primary and kindergarten schools.

He added the surname Kopecký to his civil name when he lived in Jerusalem, after Matej Kopecký, a well-known Czech puppeteer (1775-1847). He was known among children as “Uncle Kopecký”.

Zdeněk Hapala died on 23 June 1971. Zdeněk was the half-brother of RAF pilot Richard Hapala.

For more, see Bajka, the puppet theatre of the Czechoslovak troops in the Middle East.

Richard Hapala (1918-1941)

Richard Hapala in RAF uniform.

Richard Hapala was a member of the Second Resistance, a lieutenant in the 311th Bombardment Squadron of the RAF in England.

He was born on 13 September 1918 in Staříč, Frýdek-Místek district. Shortly before World War II, the whole family moved to Brno-Řečkovice.

Before the German occupation, Richard Hapala went to England via Poland, where he became a lieutenant in the Czechoslovak RAF, specifically the 311th Bombardment Squadron. On the night of July 1 to 2, 1941, he participated in a raid on the French port of Cherbourg as a navigator of a Wellington. The crew consisted of six members, five of whom were rookies (including Richard as navigator) on their first combat flight, the pilot being Oldřich Helma. Unfortunately, the plane’s transmitter used by the English to identify their own machines (IFF – Identification Friend or Foe) failed. Therefore, on its return to England, the aircraft was accidentally shot down by a British fighter. All six crew members were killed. Richard Hapala was 23 years old and is buried in Salisbury, Devizes Road Cemetery.

In 1946, at the suggestion of Dr. Jaroslav Dřímal, then Director of the Brno City Archives, a street in Brno’s Řečkovice district was named after Richard Hapala. Surprisingly, its name was preserved even after 40 years of communism, which did not like the English aviators. In 2018, the city of Brno gave the revitalized Hády quarry a new name – Hapala Park.

Richard’s name is listed on the memorial to the victims of the war in the Řecko cemetery and also on a memorial plaque at Mendel University, where he briefly studied. The name of his father Arnošt, who died in 1943 in Brno (allegedly in a concentration camp), is also on the memorial in Řečkovice. Richard’s family also lived in Brno: his brother Arnošt, mother Barbora, uncle Vladimír, and aunts Božena and Marie Hapalová (both unmarried – retired teachers). Another brother, Zdeněk, lived in Český Těšín and was a puppeteer and theatre artist (see above).

Milan Hapala (1918-1992)

Milan was the son of Vladimír Hapala, a teacher at the tapestry school in Valašské Meziříčí. He was born in 1918 in Hranice. In 1938 he went to the USA to study, and after the occupation of Czechoslovakia, he stayed there, graduated from university, and earned a doctorate from Duke University. He became a university professor. He lectured at the University of Virginia and at Sweet Briar College, where he was an expert on Russia and Eastern Europe.

Students at Sweet Briar College who wish to travel to the Czech Republic for a study abroad program can receive a scholarship established in memory of Milan Hapala.

For more information, visit the Beloit College website.

Pavel Hapal (1969)

Czech football player and coach. Born in 1969 in Kroměříž. As a player, he worked mainly in Sigma Olomouc, Bayer Leverkusen (Germany), and CD Tenerife (Spain). As a coach, he worked also in Poland and Slovakia, where he coached the national team.