“The male monastic orders were disbanded in 1950. One young Franciscan was not at home at that time and he thus evaded transport. He went to see the archbishop who advised him not to report himself, but instead go where he might be needed. He thus came to us under the Petřín Hill and mother Bohumila called me and asked me whether I had space in the boiler room; I worked in the office. I employed him in the boiler room and I wrote to the labour office and I requested to assign him to work for us. But I didn’t write them that he was actually a Franciscan and beside that, I wrote that it was his first job and that he needed an employment record book issued from them. They assigned him to me, I stamped his documents and he was thus covered. Of course he didn’t work in the boiler room; he served the Holy Mass, he was leading spiritual exercises and he was with us. I was also issuing him permissions for leave so that he would be able to move in the city freely.”
“When we then saw that Mother Bohumila was in danger and we knew that Mádr had been already imprisoned, we moved that Franciscan (Father Remigius) to Prachatice. I went to Prachatice as well and on 10th September they arrested Mother Vojtěcha here. In case something happened, we ordered Father Janča to put on a blue coat and go sweep the stairs and pretend to be an idiot, like our charges that we had there. But when they came for Sister Vojtěcha, he started running toward the forest and during his escape he ran directly into their arms because they had surrounded the house. I knew that they would arrest me because I knew that he had those documents that I had issued for him. They were watching me until 31st October. They kept summoning me to the office for the affairs of the church, because they still had some issues which were not clear to them after they had taken over the motherhouse. I was thus going by train to Prague all the time, and I had a strong feeling that somebody was watching my every step.” “Were you afraid of being arrested?” “No, I was not afraid… I somehow understood that I would have to go with them. When they (the nuns – transl.’s note) were there, then I would have to go there, too.”
“Sister Doloris was arrested with me. When they came for sister Vojtěcha, both of us were there. When the StB men presented their ID cards to us, she (Doloris) said that she would call Vojtěcha, but they ran after her. When she stormed into the nunnery, slammed the door on the hand of one of those Gestapo (sic!) men, but sister Vojtěcha was already coming to meet them. Sister Doloris was then arrested together with me, and they took both of us on 31st October.”
“I knew about everything. About Father Mádr, I knew about all of them who were hiding in our congregation house. I was copying The Word About This Time, not ten times, but many times. How beautiful it was! I think that it gave strength to many people, not just to me when I was copying it at nights. We were risking everything and I didn’t have to think twice about that.”
“From all of us, my time in solitary confinement was the longest. It was cruel, I don’t wish to anyone to experience it. If I were to choose between ten years in the prison in Pardubice and one year in the detention prison in Budějovice, I would choose Pardubice. I had to struggle with my faith... Who would have thought, to struggle with Christ? The nerves sometimes make quite a mess! When I came to the infirmary in Pardubice, the doctor, who was a fellow female prisoner as well, said to me: ‘For God’s sake! Which concentration camp did you come from?!” I weighted a little over 40 kilos. While in the detention prison, every evening I was getting a soup which contained so much pepper... and I probably developed stomach ulcers because of it, and so I would always pour out the soup. It was horrible. Sometimes I was shouting to God, but I am here... imagine that, I am a miracle that I am here!”
I am waiting for the day when the Lord tells me: Come…
S. Edigna Terezie Bílková was born in 1916; she died in 2012. She joined the Congregation of Sisters of Mercy of St. Charles Borromeo as a novice in 1938. She spent the Second World War in České Budějovice where she served as a nurse. She experienced the hardships of continuous duty especially during the Allied bombing of the city. After the war she took her eternal vows and she became a nun permanently. The congregation continued to function even after 1948, albeit under complicated circumstances, and only in 1950, after the communists had managed to eliminate the male monastic orders, they focused their attention on female Catholic orders as well. However, the disbandment of the Borromeo congregation’s house in Prague was postponed until 1952 mainly due to the lack of auxiliary nursing staff among civilian employees. (Although the congregation itself, as a female religious order, was not eliminated.) The pretext for the action was allegedly a need for workers in the textile industry. The congregation’s reputation was also further defamed due to the court trial with the mother superior, who was aware of providing a hiding place in the congregation’s house for Catholic priests who would have otherwise faced persecution. Sister Edigna was one of those who were actively involved in hiding these priests and this eventually led to her arrest. After the disbandment of the congregation’s motherhouse under the Petřín Hill in Prague she moved to Prachatice together with other sisters. Another priest, Father Rudolf Remigius Janča, had been already hiding there for some time. He was found and arrested by mischance shortly after. The other sisters, including Edigna, followed him a month later. She spent nine months in solitary confinement in detention pending trial in the prison in České Budějovice, where she nearly lost her life due to a serious illness. She was sentenced on September 16, 1953 in the court trial with Jarolímek and Co. to six years of imprisonment. Sister Edigna was released from the prison in Pardubice after one year (the time she had served in the detention prison was added to her sentence) when her punishment was commuted in renewed proceedings. After leaving the prison, sister Edigna lived in Určice near Prostějov for many years and she worked again as a nun, taking care of old people. At the time of the recording of the interview, ninety-two-year old sister Edigna Terezia Bílková lived in the St. Charles Borromeo Home in Prague-Řepy.