The Prague Post Online

Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Making time stand still
East Bohemian baker campaigns against daylight-saving time

By Kate Swoger

Every morning, without an alarm, baker Stanislav Pecka wakes like clockwork at 3 a.m. But twice a year the clock by his bed plays games with the clock in his head.

Each spring, after daylight-saving time artificially pushes time ahead by an hour, the east Bohemian man examines the clock expecting it to tell him it's 3 a.m. It says 4.

In the fall, when the clocks are turned back, Pecka thinks it's 3 a.m. but the clock tells him 2.

And he doesn't adjust overnight.

Over time, the confusion so upset the 51-year-old Pecka that he made it his mission to abolish daylight-saving time, not just for his own sake, but for all those whose bodies reject man-made interference.

"Stress is what this is all about," Pecka explained. "[It's] too much for people to handle."

Pecka has been tirelessly campaigning against daylight-saving time almost since it was adopted here. The then-communist nation began using the practice in the wake of the 1979 energy crisis.

He noticed that early-bird commuters seemed wearier on their way to work while bleary-eyed children headed to school in the dark.

He concluded that daylight-saving time is an energy-sapping imposition.

It was one thing when the time change was imposed for a six-month period -- vaguely in tune with human biorhythms -- but when daylight-saving time was extended to seven months in 1996, it was just too much for Pecka. "It gave me a real fright," he said.

That same year, Pecka ran a losing campaign for a Senate seat on the issue.

His latest effort to repeal daylight-saving time is directed at President Vaclav Havel. In February, he wrote the president a letter asking him to throw his weight behind a constitutional appeal.

Havel has declined, his office responding that the issue lies outside the president's jurisdiction.

Gathering support
Pecka has also made various appeals to Civic Democratic Party (ODS) leader Vaclav Klaus and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is of Czech origin. He has complained to the Supreme Court and the European Court for Human Rights -- to no avail.
Time saving, a history

  • 1784 - Benjamin Franklin writes a whimsical essay suggesting the idea of changing the clocks in summer.
  • 1907 - Englishman William Willett campaigns to set clocks ahead 80 minutes in four jumps of 20 minutes during the spring and summer.
  • 1908 - British House of Commons rejects a bill proposing clocks jump ahead one hour in spring and back in the fall.
  • World War I - Australia, Great Britain, Germany and the United States adopt daylight-saving time to conserve fuel.
  • World War II - Some nations advance clocks for an hour for the duration of the war. England puts clocks ahead for two hours in the summer, one in the winter.
    After the war, despite protests from farmers, ultra-Orthodox Jews and people with sleep disorders, daylight-saving time is gradually adopted in many Western nations.
  • 1979 - A six-month period of daylight-saving time is introduced in the Czech Republic.
  • 1996 - Summer time period extended to seven months in the Czech Republic.
  • Today - About 70 nations worldwide adopt daylight-saving time in the summer.

    Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, wires, U.S. government's Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement

  • While Pecka has garnered little support for his campaign in official circles, he's not alone in his sentiments.

    Farmers traditionally oppose daylight-saving time, as do those with sleep disorders and ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel who recite Slikhot penitential prayers in the early-morning during the Jewish month of Elul.

    But the discontent extends further.

    In 1947, Canadian author Robertson Davies wrote, "As an admirer of moonlight I resent the bossy insistence of those who want to reduce my time for enjoying it. At the back of the daylight saving scheme I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves."

    Less articulate perhaps are masses of sleepy-headed malcontents prone to complain each spring when they lose an hour of rest.

    Pecka would like an audience with both chambers of Parliament and the Cabinet to speak on behalf of anti-daylight-saving-time Czechs. He'd also like to see citizens vote in a referendum on the question.

    Whether his demands are ignored or gain a thorough hearing, it is almost certain that his efforts will not stop the change this year. Clocks are due to spring forward one hour March 25.

    -- Petr Kaspar contributed to this report.

    Kate Swoger's e-mail address is

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