Hilda Bartáková

* 1928

  • "Towards the end of the war, young boys had to go to the front. My father was very unlucky back then - he had his leave, as he was fully deployed, in opencast mine. But his leave was coming to an end, so he reported it and that was a big mistake. Three days before the end of the war they gave him a uniform and he had to enlist. And he got captured, and we didn't hear about him for almost a year. He was imprisoned in a camp and we didn’t know anything about him. Finally, about nine months later he came back. Then he told us about what happened to him. They were starving in the camp, the only food they had was the beetroots. There was also typhus. My sister was captured too. She worked for the Red Cross, she worked in the infirmary, she was also on leave, and when she enlisted she got captured near Frýdek. She was kept in a camp for one month, they were under the open sky with the soldiers. Then they took her to Romania, so she was in captivity in Romania and then they took her somewhere beyond Moscow. But I don't know where exactly. She was in captivity in Russia for three years. She's no longer alive."

  • "I invited him to come to our place for lunch. And he accepted. And I'm so grateful that I got to know such a great person. He was locked up in that little fortress in Terezín. They had a truly hard times there. He was in the Resistance, the National Resistance, and someone betrayed him. And three men from the Gestapo interrogated him. He was a German teacher, and a truly nice person. Intelligent and clever. He told me that three men from the Gestapo interrogated him, that they beat him to tell them names of the others. They said they'd beat it out of him even if they had to kill him. He was already half dead, when a lady came and said that the roast was ready. They were roasting a duck, so the three Gestapo men left him and went to eat. The roast duck saved his life. And then two fellow prisoners carried him out. He was in the hospital in Bulovka and he showed me the deep scar on his back that a small fist could have fit. It's too sad to talk about what they experienced."

  • "They survived in that bunker. It was solid. Then the Russians came. My sister was a bit chubby and the Russians raped the women. And they put a gun to my sister's chest and she said, 'Go ahead and shoot me.' Guess what, he didn't do anything to her, he didn't even rape her. She survived, she was so brave, she wasn't afraid at all. I had a similar experience, when they put a machine gun to my chest. My knees were shaking so much, you can't imagine. We had to run from home too. We were in the woods, and then we stayed with a farmer. We slept in a barn there, and they had a scale for the animals, and I slept in the scale where they weighed the pigs. I felt safe there. I slept in a hay. And when we were walking back home, my mother tore some white cloth and put it around our left arm to let others know that we were surrendering. And that's how we went back home."

  • "In the war, we had rations there. There was a great need, I must say. In Germany we got one for the sixteenth milk, but diluted milk. My dad was at work, he had to enlist, not for the war, but for work, so I was alone with that mother. It wasn't that easy. We went to pick ears, and you had to look like mushrooms in the woods."

  • "And it was like that. It wasn't the republic yet and we were welcome here, but from the German side it wasn't official. We weren't allowed to. And we went. I always say that I came to Bohemia through a green meadow. I mean, when those who were free here were at home on vacation, and one student took me with him, and we went illegally across the border, and I didn't speak Czech yet, and he always said... we went on foot, through the forest, at night, so what. He was also a Lusatian Serb and studied here. And he took me with him."

  • "Then I lived here in Prague in a Lusatian-Serbian seminary. We all spoke Lusatian-Serbian. They studied here because they didn't have a chance to study in Germany and the Lusatian Serbs could study here in the Czech Republic. And also in Rumburk and upstairs there was a grammar school and And I actually got here not as a student, but as the au pairs going out, so girls and boys came here from Lusatia for work, and I was in a family near Charles Square in Příčná Street, with two small children. And then they didn't have the money anymore and I stayed here in the Czech Republic, so I went to the employment office and here I was employed in the canteen of the Ministry of Fuels and Energy."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 09.02.2022

    duration: 01:32:33
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
  • 2

    Praha, 29.07.2022

    duration: 02:07:18
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

In Hitler’s time, the Germans wanted us dead

Hilda Bartáková (en)
Hilda Bartáková (en)
photo: Archiv Hildy Bartákové

Hilda Bartáková, née Bartsch, was born on 3 July 1928 in the village of Diehmen in the south-eastern part of Germany, the so-called Upper Lusatia. She came from a mixed marriage, her father Johann was a Lusatian Serb, her mother Amálie was a German. The family with six children lived on a small farm. Hilda’s mother died in 1934 and her father remarried three years later. During the war he was fully deployed. He had to enlist three days before the end of the war and was taken prisoner. The Second World War greatly affected the lives of all family members. Hilda’s sister Elsa spent three years in Soviet captivity. Her sister, Marta, lived through the end of the war in Berlin, where she took care of children hidden in an air-raid bunker during the bombing of the city. Hilda, the youngest of the siblings, stayed with her stepmother in their village. She recalls being humiliated by her school teacher because of her partly Slavic origin, the bombing of German cities and its consequences, and the situation in war-torn Germany. At the end of April 1945, she and her step-mother had to go into hiding as the retreating German army fought the last battles with Red Army soldiers around Demjan. In 1947, she illegally left for Czechoslovakia and began working as a domestic helper, governess and later as a confectioner in the factory canteen of the Ministry of Fuel and Energy. In the early 1950s, she returned to Germany for a short time. The Lusatian-Serbian Institute for Speech and Literature was founded in Leipzig and Hilda took a job as a secretary there. In 1956 she returned back to Czechoslovakia, married Jiří Barták and settled in Prague. She raised two children with her husband and then worked as a secretary at the German Democratic Republic Embassy until her retirement. She is a widow, and at the time of filming in 2022 she was living in Prague.