Josef Bábek

* 1941

  • “Dad didn’t want to join the cooperative. He was against this whole parcellation thing and against everything that went on. Maybe he listened a bit too much to Free Europe. And he still thought that someone would help us, that our the Allies won’t leave us in the lurch. He was against the parcellation and everything that went on here because he didn’t want it to end up like it did in Russia, or the Soviet Union as it was back then, with the sovkhozes and kolkhozes. Those were kolkhozes, kollektivnoye khozyaystvo. He didn’t want us to end up like that. Well, but it’s hard to stand up to the power of the state on your own. He was a cow breeder, so they split up his fields all the way to the other end of the village, so he’d have it as far away as possible. They did things like that back then. They gave him the worst field, it was called the priest’s field, it wasn’t even manured or anything. And of course they loaded him with quotas for all the things he was to deliver. He couldn’t fulfil them, of course, and he didn’t, so they imposed fines on him. And when he ran out of money, they locked him up. He was convicted in Hradiště of failing to fulfil his quotas as a notorious slacker. Those were such times.”

  • “Then I was to go as a technician to Romania. A technician, now that’s someone who sits in the sales department and manages the assemblers in some way, the things around, and that’s where people meet up. They obviously sent a query to my previous work places. The ones from ČSAD were fine, but the manager from ČSAO, he wasn’t even supposed to get the memo. My head of supplies received it. He was quite a good bloke, a normal sort. But the manager happened to be there at the time and asked: ‘What have you got there?’ And he said: ‘An assessment of Bábek.’ – ‘Aha, well give it here.’ So he took it and wrote: ‘He participated in petition activities in 1968.’ And back in the Uničov Machine Works we had just such a numbskull, Zorek was his name, [local] chairman of the CPC [Communist Party]. And he was pretty sore about that year of ’68... But the interesting thing is that he was a awfully big Communist except when he retired – I know that because I had contacts in Libina and he was in Libina – he didn’t even pay his CPC membership upkeep stamp. He didn’t give a fig. Suddenly he wasn’t a Communist any more. The upkeep stamp only cost a few crowns. All of a sudden that great Communist Zorek didn’t even have the means to buy himself a CPC upkeep stamp. And back then that Zorek took matters in his own hands and said: ‘We won’t be represented abroad by such vagrants.’ Well, and I immediately found myself kicked out of the service [department] and in Komořany, that’s in North Bohemia, past Most, where I worked as an assistant riveter.”

  • “My brothers really manned up well and proper back then. We originally had some Germans lodged there with us. The Germans made a run for it, of course, because we were being liberated by the Romanians. The Russian forces didn’t go there, the Romanians liberated us. Well, either way, they came somewhere from the direction of the hills and down into the plains. Those are the Chřib Hills. Well, and the Germans retreated towards Kvasice. The River Morava is there, there’s a bridge there. Back then the Germans blew it to smithereens so the front couldn’t pursue them. The Russians then built a pontoon one instead. And when they had crossed the Morava, my brothers hung out the Czechoslovak flag. The Germans saw that, of course, they probably saw where they had stayed, and they were battle hardened, so they took pot shots at our house. Twice they missed, the third time they really hit us. They broke the whole roof. There was a big hole in the roof, of course. And the chimney was there, and the top part of it hung on just one brick and swung to and fro like this. We went to have a look, and the dust was swirling all around, the chimney held by a single brick. And that’s how the Germans left.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Litovel, 27.06.2018

    duration: 02:14:33
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Communists or not, we all lived here

photo: archiv pamětníka

Josef Bábek was born on 3 May 1941 in Nový Dvůr near Kvasice. His father Rostislav Bábek fought on the Eastern Front as a Czechoslovak legionary during World War I. After the war his father bought a farm in Nový Dvůr. In the final weeks of World War II, they were forced to briefly accommodate German soldiers at the farm - the Germans then shot at their house when retreating. After the war the family lost most of its savings in fixed-term deposits. The witness’s father was imprisoned several times for his resistance to the on-going collectivisation. In 1953, while he was serving his sentence, Josef and his mother were evicted from their home and deported to Topolany near Olomouc, where they lived in very poor conditions. Because his parents were then employed at the agricultural cooperative in Topolany, the witness received a good cadre report and was allowed to study at the Railway School of the State Labour Reserves in Olomouc. In 1960 he was drafted to compulsory military service and assigned to a heavy artillery brigade in Hranice, which was equipped with Scud rockets. After returning from the army he attended a secondary technical school in Zlín and worked at ČSAD. He switch to a position at ČSAO but was fired by his manager for distributing a petition during Prague Spring. He found employment at the Uničov Machine Works as an bulldozer assembler and serviceman for foreign customers. Before one work trip to Romania he was given a bad assessment from his previous job by the manager at ČSAO and was transferred to North Bohemia, where he worked as an assistant riveter. He was tasked with building a mine excavator in West Bohemia, after which he was allowed to return to the service department. He continued to travel abroad to build and service bulldozers in Spain, Argentina, Sudan, and Venezuela. After the revolution he bought the ČSAO premises in Litovel and started a company trading with work machinery, which he manages to this day.