Alexander Bachnár

* 1919  †︎ 2019

  • “Then, to dishonor us even more, to repress our human dignity, they took us the green military uniforms and gave us dyed blue uniforms with round hats, from former seafarers of the imperial-royal monarchy of Admiral Horthy. In order to differentiate us in the street, so that everyone could see, that Jews were coming. Similarly, the Roma people had brown uniforms as we had the blue ones.”

  • “As members of the Communist Party we lived in the belief that everything, that the party did, was right. We were taught, that Die Partei hat immer Recht. Sometimes even when we had the feeling that this was not the case, we persuaded ourselves that the Party was right, because we didn´t want to admit the scepsis. We actually approved what was happening. We did not realize the impact for further development of the country, society and the republic ... There were demonstrations against the Democratic Party, buildings which belonged to so-called bourgeois parties had been occupied, a lot of people escaped abroad, especially officers of the Democratic Party. I remember a trumped-up escape of Ambruš, which the State Security took control of. We did not recognize what was happening, we thought it was right, and the skepticism came only after the first processes with Slánsky and col. That was when we found out it was all wrong. We came to know that the accusation reports and Slánsky´s testimony were almost identical.”

  • “The camp in Nováky was a phenomenon itself - there were three buildings surrounded by barbed wire and at the entrance to each building there were at first brutal guardsmen, later on a bit nicer officers. Even though we slept on bunk beds with little tossed straw, and used to have perhaps only some warm soup for lunch, the prisoners themselves had created out of this camp space with fairly rich material and even richer cultural life. Different workshops were formed there - upholsterer's, locksmith's, turner´s, dressmaker's, hat-maker's, even a workshop where volleyball, tennis or ping pong nets were produced. Exclusive pieces of furniture for ministers of the former government were manufactured there of a very high quality. An elementary school was founded there. It was approved by the Ministry of Education, when Sivák was the minister. He was one of the nicer and democratically oriented representatives of the Slovak government. I don´t remember his attitude towards deportations, though. I as a school director even had my own room. Every Sunday at ten children came to my place. Children came, I had also a gramophone there, and I have always been a fan of classical music. We used to have concerts with discussion - I offered them tea, biscuits, rusks... For example, when I taught them about Hussites, I played them Smetana's Ma vlast (My homeland). So they could link together historical facts with the emotions. Those children, who survived, told me that at my lectures they learned how to listen to the music.”“The camp in Nováky was a phenomenon itself - there were three buildings surrounded by barbed wire and at the entrance to each building there were at first brutal guardsmen, later on a bit nicer officers. Even though we slept on bunk beds with little tossed straw, and used to have perhaps only some warm soup for lunch, the prisoners themselves had created out of this camp space with fairly rich material and even richer cultural life. Different workshops were formed there - upholsterer's, locksmith's, turner´s, dressmaker's, hat-maker's, even a workshop where volleyball, tennis or ping pong nets were produced. Exclusive pieces of furniture for ministers of the former government were manufactured there of a very high quality. An elementary school was founded there. It was approved by the Ministry of Education, when Sivák was the minister. He was one of the nicer and democratically oriented representatives of the Slovak government. I don´t remember his attitude towards deportations, though. I as a school director even had my own room. Every Sunday at ten children came to my place. Children came, I had also a gramophone there, and I have always been a fan of classical music. We used to have concerts with discussion - I offered them tea, biscuits, rusks... For example, when I taught them about Hussites, I played them Smetana's Ma vlast (My homeland). So they could link together historical facts with the emotions. Those children, who survived, told me that at my lectures they learned how to listen to the music.”

  • “These letters, which I have for more than 51 years, are from the times of the Uprising, from my children, girls, students of the school in Nováky. They were at that time in Banská Bystrica and took every opportunity to write me. When someone from our unit came to Bystrica, they sent the letters with him. One of the most tragic and paradox moments was, that these children did not know what it was to live in freedom. They came to the camp in Nováky as small children; they did not know that there was another way of life. 'Dear Mr. Director, we finally got an opportunity to write you. I'm in Bystrica, imagine where I got! There are also Vera, Magda, Tomáš and Baba, and they are in the surrounding villages. Today also Ružena, Judith and Ivko arrived.'- all three of them died in Kremnička - 'Mr. Director, it´s even impossible to say how we had suffered for these two weeks…' They wrote me how much they were bored, lacking books, how it was impossible for them to adapt to the city people and how they enjoyed situations, when they met someone familiar from Nováky. For me those letters were very strong and encouraging even till now. Baba, who was mentioned in one of those letters, lived in Israel. She died last year. With each of these children also a piece of me disappears ...”

  • “Our unit, the unit of Major Zorič, occupied the village Skýcov. This village was in fact all the time Czechoslovak, Germans didn´t come there. Its citizens treated us excellently. Then we received an order to cross the front and unite with the Red Army. At that time our unit was already of a huge size with about 600 members, as a brigade. We were supposed to cross the front near Orovnica and Nová Baňa over the river Hron. It was on March 16th when Hron was overflowing with ice floes. The Red Army prepared a bridge for us, which was 10 cm under the water, so that Germans couldn´t see it. Unfortunately, we missed the bridge and went about 100 meters further, where Germans already waited for us. Allegedly someone betrayed us. They began shooting at us, many of our people died there, many drowned themselves because they jumped into the water and only few managed to swim across the river. The staff as well as the reconnaissance patrol crossed, but we were in the back, my platoon of app. 35 people, who were expected to secure the crossing from the rear. Those who went in the front got into gunfire while we were still up on the hill. Our reconnaissance patrol managed to swim across Hron within app. 60 meters. We went back to Skýcov, but it had already been burnt-out, when we returned. Germans arrived there right after our departure and the only what they left were 6 houses, presbytery, post office and four houses. It all burned down. When we returned, we could still see the smoke.”

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    Bratislava, 08.06.2018

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    v Bratislave, 03.03.2015

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    duration: 01:31:47
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th century
  • 11

    Bratislava, Slovensko, 30.07.2018

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    duration: 03:24:03
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th century
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Tougher conditions a man goes through, more he is able to give out

current portrait
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photo: Martina Fiamova

Alexander Bachnár was born on July 29, 1919 in Topoľčany in the family of a craftsman with many children. As the only one of his siblings Alexander studied at the grammar school, at first in Nitra, later in Prievidza. He graduated in 1938. Since his high school he was active in a left-wing oriented illegal movement focused either on Zionism or communism. Before the 2nd World War he studied at the Pedagogical Academy in Bratislava, however, after the Slovak State was formed, he was unable to take exams and receive his diploma. In February 1940 he was drafted into the army and ended up in the 6th Labour Battalion. He got from the Eastern Slovakia to Svätý Jur to work on building the Šúrsky Channel, where he met with the group of Alexander Markuš for the first time. In June 1942 he was escorted to the camp in Nováky. Here he firstly worked in a stone pit, and later was employed as a school´s director. Nevertheless, he further proceeded with his illegal activity. In August 1944 after the speech of Minister Čatloš they took over the camp and left to a partisan unit staying in the nearby mountain Vtáčnik. As a commander of this partisan unit he took part in several important battles - near Baťovany, Turčiansky Sv. Martin, Nová Baňa and Krížna. He finished near the village Skýcov in a Major Zorič´s division and he was demobilized near Badín. Only his father and one sister survived the war. After the liberation he moved from Topoľčany to Bratislava. He worked in various editorial offices. He inclined to the Dubček-reformist wing of the communist party and in 1969, considered to be an antisocialist element, he was expelled from the party.