Richard Belcredi

* 1926  †︎ 2015

  • “At that time there was a campaign organized by Mr. Šling called Youth Leads Brno. For three days, young people and students were driving trams, holding positions in offices, and young communists took over the leadership of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. In the Communist Party meeting, which was presided by youth that day, it was decided that I was to go to a punitive camp, because my presence was causing disturbance to democratic youth. Well, one of the members of the Communist Party, who was my good friend, came to me and told me: ´Richard, please, get out of here. They want to intern you in a punitive camp. You’ll have about three days at most.´ Since I had been preparing for the possibility of escape if things turned bad, I quickly used one of the planned routes. I crossed the river Dyje (Thaya) near Landžhot and got to Austria. That’s how my odyssey in the exile began. I was twenty-three.”

  • “He took the newspaper which was lying there, tore a piece of paper from it and asked me: ´What’s your name?’ - ´Richard Belcredi,´ I replied. He wrote my date of birth, stamped it and signed it and that was my first identification document as a refugee which I began using for travel. My sister meanwhile married; by coincidence her husband was a Lobkowicz… I wrote to my brother-in-law in order to be able to leave Innsbruck, because with the document I had I was obliged to report in Innsbruck every week. When I went to report to Innsbruck for the first time, they told me: ´Fine, that's all right.´”

  • “I was working in Radio Free Europe until 1983. My wife died in 1982, and I no longer enjoyed doing this work, and thus I handed my notice and I wanted to do something else. I already had something arranged, but all of a sudden my phone rang: ´I’m inviting you for a delicious lunch.´ - ´Yes, I know you are.´ Tigrid: ´You’ll fly first class. You know that I pay in gold.´ He would always say: ´You come here, I need to discuss something with you.´ I asked him: ´What are you up to this time?´ So I went to see him. ´You know, I need somebody who can speak German so well that they won't know that he is an Ausländer, who will organize campaigns to help the dissidents.´ - ´Pavel, I just left Radio Free Europe, and I promised to myself that I will not be a member of some exile organization nor do anything for some emigrants.´ - ´But this is something completely different.´ Tigrid was able to talk anyone into anything. And thus I began doing it. We were sending refitted cars to Prague. The fuel tanks had been disassembled and they filled with books and magazines, and only a little container was left for petrol, which was why we had to stop for refueling all the time.”

  • “I was a victim of it, you know. Because it was my office which was blown up. It was at the time when my wife was seriously ill and I was on duty that evening, but the other editor came to me and told me: ´Richard, your wife is ill, go home. Nothing is happening today, anyway. We’ll manage by ourselves until midnight.´ As soon as I arrived home, the phone rang and somebody said: ´Christ, I’m so glad I can hear your voice.´ I asked: ´Why? What’s the matter?´ - ´Well, they just broadcast it on the Bavarian radio. There was an attack on Radio Free Europe.´ If I remember correctly, it was done by Romanians, and they set up the explosives right under the windows of my office, and the office was thus completely blasted to pieces. My secretary lost half of her face in the blast. The blast had to be so enormous that it slammed the editor against the floor under his desk. The announcer who was sitting there lost one of his eyes, and he was lying there unconscious. When he was coming to himself, they allegedly said: ´Richard, you fool, what are you doing?´ They thought that it was me. To put it short, my office was destroyed completely.”

  • “My parents and my little brother escaped to Austria right in April 1948, immediately after the communist coup. Father said: ´Please, come as quickly as possible.´ He had studied the Bolshevik revolution thoroughly and he knew quite precisely what had happened in Russia. He said: ´None of us stand a chance here. The only way is to go away.´ I told father: ´But wait, I would like to finish the university.´ Obviously, Mr. Šabata, later kicked me out from there, and so I had no other option. My second brother from Jimramov went to Austria. My sister was already studying in Geneva, and my eldest brother always said: ´One of us has to stay here. I will stay.´ He stayed there, he married, and they treated him terribly. When I escaped, they came for me the same day at four o’clock in the morning. But since I was already not there, they arrested my brother instead. He was then in the camp in Kunštát, and they treated him quite badly. The Bolsheviks persecuted him all that time. It is a tragedy and no one can blame him that he became an alcoholic as a result of it.”

  • “I was sending Bibles to Ukraine and to Russia. I was sending them mainly the Soviet Danube navigation company. They wanted money in order to be able to buy something, because the Soviet sailors on those ships were poor guys. They had caviar which they had stolen, and thus they supplied me with caviar. I even paid them for it. You can't imagine how much caviar we had at that time. The Bibles, which we gave them, were resold by them. I don’t think they were giving them away for free. We were giving them to them to distribute them there. But I am sure that they were selling them. Because to get hold of the Bible there, that was something extraordinary, and they knew it well for they were cunning.”

  • “In the following years we were having increasingly greater contact with the homeland. For instance, Havel would make a regular phone call and we would broadcast it through the PA system in the conference room for everybody to hear. Prague was still under the Bolshevik regime, but we were already able to discuss things with Havel over the phone.”

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    Brodek u Prostějova, 14.05.2012

    (audio)
    duration: 02:45:47
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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He is ours

Richard Belcredi as a young boy
Richard Belcredi as a young boy
photo: Belcredi, L., 1000 let rodu Belcredi. Brno, 2010. ISBN 978-80-254-7089-3

JUDr. Richard Belcredi was born in 1926 in Brno-Líšeň. He comes from an important noble family, which in 2010 celebrated its 1000th birthday. He spent his childhood in the chateau in Brno-Líšeň. In 1938 his father Karel Belcredi signed the declaration of patriotic Czech noble families which defended the interests of the Czechoslovak Republic and the integrity the state borders. After the Munich agreement and the subsequent German occupation this act resulted in his property becoming forcibly taken under German administration. Although the property was returned to the family after the war, it remained theirs only until 1948. After the communist coup d’état, all family members were forced to emigrate and all their property became confiscated. The only person to remain was his brother Ludvík, who was sent to a labour camp and who was being humiliated by the communist regime for his origin and property until the end of his life. Richard Belcredi settled in Munich, where he became a reporter for Radio Free Europe, and did this work for the following thirty years. In 1981, he luckily avoided the bomb attack at the building of RFE, which was carried out by Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, aka Carlos, on the order of the Romanian secret service. While in exile, Richard always fought against the totalitarian regime, and he served as a secretary of the expatriate community called Opus Bonum, which organized the well-known Franken seminars, and together with Pavel Tigrid and others he was smuggling banned books to the Eastern Bloc countries. He was able to return home only after the collapse of the communist regime after long forty years. For some time he served as an ambassador in Bern. At present he lives in the chateau in Brodek u Prostějova, which has been returned to him in restitution and whose last owner from the family was his uncle Gustav Kálnoky. His parents did not live to see the return to their homeland and are buried in Vienna.