František Beneš

* 1928

  • “We corresponded with that Bartoš man. We had a good relationship, Hruškers and Lanžhoters from Moravian Slovakia. We asked right off the bat, perhaps he had more information, we wondered what the politics were actually like here [in Czechoslovakia]. Well, he said: ‘Well, boys, it’s fucked up here,’ he wrote, ‘it’s fucked up, go get yourselves a life in Canada.’”

  • “The way it was after that February, it was a complete catastrophe. Well, and then there were elections, right after that February, sometime in the summer. And that was a united candidate list. Those were Communists, and if you didn’t want to vote Communists, well you could throw in a blank ticket. Except the blank ticket wasn’t any use, no use at all, it was just some kind of protest. Well, and we boys had just passed twenty about then, so mostly we all voted blank tickets. The boys back then had a bit more spunk.”

  • “My brother, he wanted to get into Canada. He even applied to get permission to leave. It was possible to do that, but it was of no use anyway. They didn’t let anyone go. But you could apply for it, it was something like that. Well, so they denied it to him, so he reckoned stuff them, he’d make himself a cart. So he made a cart, but he only drove it as far as Břeclav. It broke down there. Now what? It took him a day before he decided to escape by himself. Except that he had to leave his wife and children at home.”

  • “There was one rumour that started up in Hrušky, that I had helped someone escape, but I had nothing to do with it. People were just running away, so they did, that’s it. Except that someone had supposedly seen me somewhere, and this got out in Hrušky. And it was making the rounds there, and they were starting to watch me and follow me, and so I reckoned things weren’t looking very good. I felt it was tightening up around me, that I didn’t have much space left. So there was no choice, I had to get up and leave. Well, and also, I was supposed to start my army service in about a week, I was to be in Orlová, near Ostrava, and there weren’t anything but mines there, those AECers [forced labour corps]. So I added one to the other. And I came to the conclusion that I had no choice but to leg it.”

  • “The water was cold, so we undressed, wrapped our clothes up, and crossed the Dyje [Thaya] to the other side. They would’ve, if they had seen us there on the Dyje, they would’ve shot us dead. Because it was all dark everywhere, only the Dyje glittered with light. It was a pretty wide river. Luckily, we crossed it. Well, and we were resting on the other side, and I was playing around, that Gajda had a sub-machine gun, so I was playing around with it, and I remember Gajda taking a bullet out of his pocket and saying: ‘This one’s for me, this bullet.’ Well, and really, some three weeks later they waited for him there, and that was the end of him. Whether he shot himself, or they shot him, I don’t know.”

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    Dům pammětníka v Hulíně, 24.04.2014

    duration: 01:11:26
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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When it comes to it, I was always lucky

IMG_1033.jpg (historic)
František Beneš
photo: archiv pamětníka, pořízeno při návštěvě pamětníka

František Beneš was born on 11 November 1928 into a smallholder’s family in the South Moravian village of Hrušky. He trained as a mechanic in the nearby town of Břeclav. He experienced resistance activities in Hrušky during World War II - paratroopers from the CLAY-EVA drop hid there, under the command of Antonín Bartoš, who later organised the activities of agents and border guides after 1948. After 1948 almost 50 citizens of Hrušky emigrated, including František Beneš. Rumour spread around the village that he too was into the illegal border crossings, and so he decided to make himself scarce. He was in a group of ten people, who were taken over the borders to Austria on 17 September 1950, by an acquaintance of his and agent from nearby Lanžhot, František Gajda. After staying at various refugee camps, František found his way to Canada, where he lived until 1991. In 1970 his younger brother Vladimír also attempted to escape. His plan to take his wife and children in a home-built tank was foiled by a malfunction, and so only Vladimír himself reached America. His family was not allowed to join him until 1977. František Beneš returned to Moravia in the early 1990s. He now lives in Hulín.