Zbyněk Bezděk

* 1918  †︎ 2015

  • "Several individuals who had already been more or less briefed on how and what to do, about the necessity to join the co-op, and who'd had the blue from the sky promised them. That's how things go. The interesting thing is that the smaller applicants, those who weren't farmers, say, but just owned a bit of garden, they joined first, they wanted to form a co-op. So it ended up with, say, half of the people saying yes out of apathy, and half saying no. And the half that said no had to be persuaded of the virtuousness of the endeavour. And what happened was that people got locked up. And all the hardships of unfulfillable instructions, supply plans, of forced conscription and taxing - they were being persuaded that it was hopeless. That they must join the co-op. So they locked me up for being against the socialisation of farming. They locked me up and they didn't release me till my father signed. That's how it was. Those were their methods of persuasion."

  • "There was a big old Lichtenstein barn by the estate and the partisans set fire to it, and that's why we were taken as hostages from the village. Political hostages. It was written down that if they continue their activities, we'll be arrested and taken away immediately. As political hostages we'd ensure peace in the village. And we [they? - transl.] arrived at around eleven o'clock in the night, I saw them there in that stream. And when they were going to lead my father away instead of me, I knew things were bad, and I crawled out. They sent Father home and sent me to the Gestapo in Šumperk. In the night, in a truck." (Q: "A why did they choose you?") "Well, they chose a person with a certain amount of influence or of some standing, so as to make him an example to the rest. It's understandable, psychologically, that they won't go around locking up the homeless, but that they'll take someone who has some influence, some support." (Q "How many of you did they take?") "Six I think, and I was the youngest of them. We arrived at the Gestapo station, that's opposite to where Cinema Oko [Eye] is in Šumperk now. Any time I go by I see it. That's where the Gestapo had their central. That's where they took us in the truck. They interrogated us and then locked us up in the penal labour house in Šumperk. That was next to the train station. Czech resistance activists were already being held there, Mr Bednář was there, the teacher. They locked them all up. From several villages. It wasn't only in Rovensko that the barns burned down, it was in Sudkov, in Kolšov. Where the big estates were and where the fires started, that's where they got their hostages from. And some of the hostages were later executed at the Bratrušovice shooting range. Jurka, Otevřel and a few others."

  • "The first thing they did was to set fire to the private barns and the cemetery. The Germans did it for signalling. When they were going to advance, they set fire to something so that they could move on. My parents were hidden here in the cellar until the battlefront passed over, and us young boys, we loaded two pairs of horses, loaded them with our most precious belongings and fled to this one big quarry in the forest, with horses and carts. The battlefront passed over, and the second day, me and my brother and the boys were there from the family, the second day they sent us an officer, to take us back from there. He rode up on a horse. So we mounted the carts again and drove back, and they shot at us from a cannon from this road here. We thought it was the Germans or something. Our horses bolted, the carts went crashing and this is where we got the last hit. A mortar shell. It killed the neighbour and broke our gate. And then we were home."

  • (Q: "How do you remember the soldiers of the Red Army?") "Hard to say. The women were in the most danger, or when they were drinking. That was unpleasant. I know we had our girls hidden upstairs. Boarded up. And they had a rope with them. If it came to the worst, they could escape through the window. They raped one girl here. Her father tried to defend the girl, so they shot him. The bloke shot him."

  • "That was the first thing they suggested. Inconvenient persons that are hindering socialisation will be sent to special military training. We'll make it a military matter, and that way it'll be law. As a soldier, you have to obey and go. Unarmed, to work." (Q: "And had you completed your military service previously?") "I had been in attendance. After the coup, I was in attendance at the officer's school in Bruntál. I'd graduated from the officer's school as I had matriculated [passed the secondary school final exams - transl.], and after military service I went home. And what happened was they demoted us. The inconvenient ones. As part of the persuasion process. So after completing that officer's school I was just a plain private. And I was sent to special training, where I spent five months."

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    Rovensko, 20.09.2010

    duration: 02:43:16
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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I lost faith in people. Everything was just a charade.

Zbyněk Bezděk as an aspirant at the officer's school in Bruntál - 1946
Zbyněk Bezděk as an aspirant at the officer's school in Bruntál - 1946
photo: archiv pamětníka

Zbyněk Bezděk was born in 1918 in Rovensko. His father was an important figure in the village and owned one of the largest estates there. Zbyněk Bezděk was expected to continue in the agricultural line, and thus prepared himself to take over responsibilities for the estate. For this reason he studied at the Economic College in Olomouc. In 1943, a barn full of hay was set on fire in Rovensko. To stop such an event from occurring again, the Gestapo took hostages from the village. Zbyněk Bezděk was one of them. He spent several weeks at the Gestapo stations in Šumperk and in Wrocław, where he was made to clear rubble after air raids. As the act of arson was not repeated, he was soon released. After 1948, the Communists tried to force the family into entering the local agricultural co-op [known by the abbreviation JZD - transl.]. To increase the pressure, Zbyněk Bezděk was called up for special training (i.e. VTNP - military forced labour camp) in Dolní Životice. He returned home four months later, by which time the estate was co-op property. He started work there, but in 1952 he and his parents were fired as kulaks. As part of the complete socialisation of the village, he was re-accepted into the co-op as an agronomist. At that point he was a long-distance student at the University of Agriculture and Forestry in Brno. He was still in touch with his friends in Dolní Životice, joined by a common enemy. In 1962, he and his friends were arrested and accused of enmity towards the state. As a result, he was sentenced to ten months of prison, of which he spent the first part in custody in Ostrava, the rest in Karviné. After his release he had to go back to the co-op, where every day he met the people who had testified against him in court. Diedn in 2015.