Jaroslav Balek

* 1933  

  • “The last camp, it was with Eda Pachman at Frejštejn nad Dyjí. This was the so-called ‘wild-cows’ camp. Medusa invented that name. I had my own tent that my parents had bought me even before I joined the Boy Scouts. It was an A-type tent. Around lunch time, it was quiet in the camp and I was lying in the tent, beginning to nod off. Suddenly, I heard such a cracking sound and I saw that a cow had stuck its head through the canvas into the tent. The cow tore up the canvas with its horns. It must have been curious and as the tent was green. Medusa nicknamed the camp that way because he had the right to do so as he sewed it up.”

  • “Heydrich was killed in the bend next to our house. The story about his assassination involved a girl that had supposedly lent a bike to one of the assassins. It all revolved around that bike. A bike that was found in the street around the corner from our house, Slavatová Street. And we were living in Ludmilina Street. I have no idea if it really was the correct bike or what made them believe it was this particular bike. Nobody told us anything but in the morning, the next day, we pulled up the blinds and I saw Germans in uniform with machine guns on the house across the street. They were searching the apartments in the whole area. We didn’t know what would happen next. They were looking for the girl as they knew that a girl lent that bike. So my parents had to pull down my pants and prove the Germans that I was really a boy and not a girl. Well, they didn’t find anything in our flat. We had such a small room that we used to store things and by the time the Germans were already leaving, we saw legs underneath the bed – one of the SS-men got stuck underneath the bed. So we had to pull him out from underneath that bed.”

  • “It was my turn to do the cooking and back then, we had a simple pit dug in the ground that served as the refrigerator because it was cooler in the ground. I had to make some meatballs. I pulled out the meat from the pit and when I looked at it, I could see that it was infested with worms. The meat was literally teeming with worms. But it was on a Sunday and you couldn’t go to buy fresh meat, as shops were closed and we hadn’t made any provisions there. So I said to the doctor that there would probably be no lunch that day. But he said: ‘show me the meat’. He looked at it and said: ‘worms are made of proteins after all so it doesn’t matter’. He cleaned it a bit and cooked it. I was happy I didn’t have to look on. Today, it is fashionable to eat worms. That's why he was called ‘wild Soukup’, that doctor.”

  • “I came back to Prague two days later and I went to the report. There was one guy at the Foreign Ministry who was responsible for the vetting and he told me: ‘comrade Balek, you were chosen for a high post at the United Nations, we have to appoint you as an ambassador, if you could please fill in this questionnaires for me...’ And there, on top of the pile of the questionnaires, there was a questionnaire for the members of the Communist Party. So I said: ‘But Mr. Marévka, there will be nothing out of this, I’m not a member of any political party’. He was really shocked. He said: ‘You’re not in the party? For this position?’ That was in 1987. He continued: ‘well, now it doesn’t matter anymore, so fill it in anyway’.”

  • “From time to time, Eda Pachman needed to send some materials to the official scout headquarters abroad and obviously it wasn’t possible to send it via the ordinary mail, so I did that for him. Back then, I had a diplomatic passport being an ambassador and thus I would go here and there (...). I transported for instance rolls of microfilm and I sent it by mail abroad. I would put the recipient’s address on the package but I didn’t put the sender’s address on it, because you never knew. From time to time, I was called to report at the Ministry of the Interior. Every ambassador had his own officer they had to report to. Mine was a certain Captain Volek. And he would always ask me if I was in contact with some emigrants, or if someone was luring state secrets from me. Every time I intentionally forgot to mention somebody he asked me: ‘and didn’t you see this and that guy?’ It was clear that I was being kept under surveillance.”

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    Tábor, 12.08.2012

    (audio)
    duration: 56:46
    media recorded in project A Century of Boy Scouts
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Nobody can choose the world he’s born into

Jaroslav Balek
Jaroslav Balek

Brother Jaroslav Balek was born on April 26, 1933, in Prague. He spent WW II with his parents in Libeň and after the liberation of Czechoslovakia he became a Boy Scout in Prague 8, Kobylisy. He attended a few scout camps even after Scouting had been banned by the Communists. He carried on with his activities in the troop. He studied at the Technical University, Faculty of Civil Engineering, the field of water management. As a specialist in tropical hydrology and the hydrology of development areas, he worked alternately in different countries (Albania, Indonesia, Zambia, Canada, Moscow, Algeria) and in 1987 he became the ambassador to Kenya. He wrote several scholarly books, 200 articles and he described with a lot of humor his life-time experiences and stories in the book “An Agent in his Own Services”. Presently, he’s living in Tábor and he’s still an active old scout, a member of the 24th scout center north.