Jiří Barteček

* 1954  

  • “My mom. Thank God. My sweet mother said to me: ‘Don’t go shooting anybody there.’ And I said: ‘Mom. If I don’t shoot someone within a hundred and fifty meters, I’ll have to go to the slammer for twenty-one days.’ And Mom said: ‘Well, so what! The slammer’s supposed to have people in it.’ And I said back to her: ‘But I’d have to pay for it. I’d have to be in the army for twenty-one more days.’ And she’s: ‘Doesn’t matter. If you were in the slammer for twenty-one days, or twenty-one weeks, or twenty-one months longer, it wouldn’t matter. I would visit you. You don’t want to live with the fact that you shot somebody, do you? So don’t you ever forget. You don’t want to live with the fact that you shot an innocent person. Make it twenty-one years; I’d still go see you.’ After that, everything was clear to me up there.”

  • “In the guard we had three flares. If someone crossed from the Czech side to Austria, you had to fire a red one. And if someone came from Austria, a green one. Or the other way around. I can’t remember. So then, boom! The red one goes off. Then boom! The green one. Ten seconds later, boom! Little parachutes. So there’d be light. I saw it all. The glare. Then the patrol came and had a bunch of parachutes. They shot them so that there’d always be one parachute in the sky so they could see what was going on. I was nowhere to be found. My dog was running around. They called for me. Nothing. They kept firing off the parachutes and searching. It was like being at the fireworks.”

  • “They ordered us to yell: ‘Stop! Hands up!’ If the person didn’t stop, we were to shoot in the air. And if they still didn’t stop, we had orders to shoot after them. One of those sergeant majors told us that dead men don’t speak. Meaning that even if I hit him, it would be okay. I think they wanted that. Just shoot to kill. The dead don’t speak.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Barteček Jiří

    (video)
    duration: 06:56
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Ostrava, 04.09.2019

    (audio)
    duration: 01:46:37
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 3

    Ostrava, 04.09.2019

    (audio)
    duration: 03:42:35
    media recorded in project Příběhy regionu - STM REG ED
  • 4

    Ostrava, 07.09.2019

    (audio)
    duration: 03:32:35
    media recorded in project Příběhy regionu - STM REG ED
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I had to escape. I couldn’t serve the devil’s system

Jiří Barteček at the end of 1970s
Jiří Barteček at the end of 1970s
photo: archiv Jiřího Bartečky

Jiří Barteček was born on 7 April 1954 in Petrovice u Karviné. He was brought up in a Catholic environment in a village on the border with Poland. In 1968 he witnessed the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact armies. He trained as a plumber and worked in track-safety division for the railways. Already during his apprenticeship, he had started planning his emigration; the first attempt via Poland on a fishing boat to Sweden, and then through Yugoslavia. These plans always managed to fall through. In October 1974 he signed up for the border guard in Malacky in southern Slovakia. He trained as a dog-handler and served on the border with orders to shoot to kill. On 12 September 1975 he swam across the Morava River at night and while on duty managed to take two civilians along with him to Austria. He spent time in the refugee camp Traiskirchen, near Vienna. In Czechoslovakia he was sentenced in absentia to twenty-six years in prison. In April 1976 he travelled to the USA, where he started a family and built up a construction company.