Second Lieutenant (ret.) Josef Bartošek

* 1947  

  • “They made a deal – my dad bought a tractor and my uncle a binder. They would help each other with this machinery. Obviously, my father did not have the money to buy a tractor, he hired-purchased it. When he entered the agricultural collective, they confiscated his tractor. But he still had to pay the installments, he redeemed it only in the 1960s. By that time, we had been long living in Fryšták. My father did not want to enter the collective but they forced him using various measures regarding supplies. He had supply the state with various things he produced. And they would set the rations based on the number of hectars owned. They set rations so high that it was impossible to fulfill them. For instance, the collective had a 50 % milk yield but a private farmer had to produce a lot more. And if he did not manage, he would have gotten tried. My father was convicted to a shorter time in prison – a couple months for not fulfilling the rations of milk supply which were in fact unfulfillable. That was one of the reasons for him eventually joining the collective. They used this method on everybody.“

  • “People were processed that way – in 1968, everyone was against the Russians and I suppose many people even against the Communists. In 1977 they were against the Charter 77 and then again in 1990… And those were always the same people who were here at one time and there at another, depending on how well they were processed, intimidated. I do not know who else had not signed it, I did not investigate. But I do know that during the vetting I was the only one from the factory who disagreed with the armies’ entry. Some friends then went to see me: ‘You know, I am obviously also against it but I did not have the courage to say it out loud because of my family, we could have been prosecuted. You are single and need not care.’ Such were the peoples’ stances – they were against it among themselves but when it came to official inquiries, they were not so brave anymore.”

  • “August 1968... We knew it could happen. But we did not really believe it, hoping it would never go that far. We were therefore taken aback by the situation of 21 August. During the night from the 20th to the 21th August, the alarm went off. All the company commanders and officers of the headquarters came to the barracks. But the alarm did not take place the way we were used to – grab everything, get in the cars and drive off. We had stayed at the company, not knowing what was happening. The commander came and informed us that the country had been invaded by the armies of the Warsaw Pact. Personally, I initially thought it was a training because they would start in a similar way. I waited for a couple minutes what would it turn into. After a while, I realized they talked about the Warsaw Pact armies and that it was not an excercise. We were not trained to fight our allies. But they were apparently prepared for it.”

  • “At that precise time, lieutenant colonel Šedina came for an inspection to our unit. So when the Russians arrived, he was there. I am saying that because he was a doer, a very energetic man. He graduated from military academy in Moscow, having a perfect command of Russian and it was not by random that he knew the commander of the tank battalion which encircled us. Indeed, the Russians were very systematic. During a previous joint training the Russian commanders came for a comradely visit. They visited the barracks, got to know our leadership as well as the size and equipment of our regiment. They simply knew exactly what was awaiting them here and that they had to face a certain superiority of tanks. Quite frankly, they were afraid of us and the problems we could have caused them. And indeed we did. Lt. Col. Šedina came to meet them, telling the Russian commander: ‘What is your business here? Last time you came as a friend. Now you are aiming your tanks at as?! Turn those cannons to the other side immediately!’ Perhaps the Russian commander was caught off-guard by Šedina talking to him from an equal position. Šedina behaved as the head of the unit even though he was not one at that time. His decisive stance took them aback.”

  • “And then came the year 1989. In the factory, everything was in turmoil. Protest events were being planned, and later the general strike was prepared. Some colleagues came up with the idea of me serving as chair of the strike committee. The workmen would put up posters, we also had a liaison who whas going to Prague. But the colleagues wanted someone of a higher rank, someone more respected to be the chair, so they approached me. We held an assembly in the canteen and I was formally elected chair of the strike committee. We organized a strike which helped bring down the communist regime. I did not remain chair for long. When the committees transformed into civic forums, I resigned. I had no intention to do politics, so another chair was elected.“

  • “I later spoke about it with Lt. Col. Šedina in person. Around 2010, as deputy mayor of the town of Holešov, I approached him in Prague when he received a commemorative medal. He told me that he told the Russian commander back then: ‘Look, if you don’t withdraw your forces, I will just wave my hand and panzerfausts will come up from all the windows. How will you then explain losing your tank battalion?‘ This took him aback, it made an impression. The barracks‘ gate was locked that day, althoug normally it was kept open. The commander ordered not to let the Russians into the barracks. And indeed, Lt. Col. Košan and Lt. Col. Šedina only talked to them at the gate. They told them they had no business there. The Russians later arrived once again and asked for some water. The commander rejected even this demand. He made it clear that they had been welcome here as friends, but not as invaders.“

  • “Some small amount of ammunition rounds was in the barracks. What did the other soldiers have, I do not know. I have gotten only a single package of rounds for my Scorpio submachine gun. I have had it sealed and should have only unpacked it in case of danger, based on my consideration. I cannot remember what the other soldiers had. A long time ago I spoke to a colleague of mine and he told me that he used to walk without ammunition. They were angry because they got no ammo. So I do not know who had it and who hadn’t, it’s been a couple years already. But the company of Gult and Müller which went to the woods was properly equipped with live rounds. The guys told me that some had live rounds even in the barracks. Jirka Müller said they had it spread on the beds. That he remembers well. I do not know. Sovadina in his books doubts me having the ammo at all. This made me angry back then. I went to tell him off. I told him: ‘What do you mean allegedly? I am convinced I had it.’ Dufek said that it was prohibited to distribute live rounds. That nobody had it, for sure.”

  • “Later, when the Několik vět (‚A few sentenes‘) appeal came up, I signed it. But at that time, things were already moving so fast, that it had proven meaningless. Irena Seifertová, a sort of a resistance fighter, gave it to me. At some point she got arrested by the police, having all those signature sheets in her purse. Someone must have ratted on her because they wouldn’t have arrested her at random. When they released her she flattered herself and told me: ‘I protected you with my own body. Are you at least a little grateful?’ The police knew she had it in the purse but she held it firmly and would not let them have it. Thanks to that I did not even need to go to an interrogation.”

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No Russian soldier set foot into our barracks

Graduate of Officer´s academy (photo taken after the invasion in August 1968)
Graduate of Officer´s academy (photo taken after the invasion in August 1968)
photo: Archiv pamětníka

Josef Bartošek was born on 19 September 1947 in Medlov near Uničov as the third child of František and Božena Bartošek. His parents moved to Medlov after World War II, receiving a homestead and land after the displaced Germans. In the 1950s with the full outburst of collectivization of agriculture, and based on the area of the fields they owned, Josef’s father and uncle were proclaimed to be Kulaks and convicted. The family then decided to move to Fryšták. Josef Bartošek attended a technical school in Zlín. After graduation he shortly worked at Czechoslovak Automobile Repairs in Holešov. In October 1966 he was drafted to do his military service with the 7th airborne division, 5th company. He graduated from an officer school with the rank of second lieutenant. At the time of the Warsaw Pact armies’ invasion in 1968 he served among other things as a guard of Holešov’s bank. In September 1968 he left the army and returned to Czechoslovak Automobile Repairs in Holešov. He did not pass the examination on his views towards the 1968 occupation, however, he was eventually not degraded. He got married in the 1970s and has three children. In 1989 he signed the “Několik vět” petition and in November of that year was elected head of the company’s strike committee. He remained in the firm until the 1990s. Later, he worked for three years as a technical administrator of Holešov’s  deanship, and then in Bullmen and Koltico companies. He became the head of Christian Democratic Party in Holešov and in 2002 - 2010 served as deputy mayor of the city. He is retired now but still works part-time. Along with his youngest son Marek, he administers the webpage of the Club of airborne veterans and participates in memorial events. He took part in the creation of a commemorative desk of the 7th airborne division and in the rehabilitation of the unit and its leadership.