* 1924 †︎ 2017
“No grub. When we came there the first day, we didn’t get anything. Not until the next day in the morning, we got black chicory coffee, a slice of bread. At noon it was turnip, soup. As yellow as chicken soup, seeing how it was brewed from the beet. In it we had four or five beet noodles, one tiny potato, a piece of bread. The same in the evening. Watery food. I got dropsy from it, water on the knee. And I didn’t even do what the other blokes did when they didn’t have enough - they added in cold water to have more of it in their stomach.”
“Go wash. You pulled at the shower, rust. A squat toilet. Dirt, stench. You opened the door, and before you knew it you were full of fleas. Really dreadful, fleas everywhere, dirt. The women had it the worst. If you caught twenty fleas a day, that was great. And loads of bugs. There was nothing to wash oneself with. When we wanted water, we had to take this kind of cart. There were no horses, so we hitched ourselves on to it and pulled it to the Lužnice [River] to get water for washing. When we wanted to lie down, we first had to take out our head rests and mats, sweep it up there, burn the contents of the mats and stuff them with straw. But we weren’t there for long. Until 5 May. Some two or three weeks.”
“There in our house in Veveří, those used to be lodgings for a [military] company, and there would be some four hundred of us there. We were crammed in there like rabbits. Two sleeping on one bed. I was lucky that I was sleeping together with my father, but when they took him away, I slept alone for a short while and then with someone else. Dad, because he had experience from the war, he said: ‘Cleanliness, hygiene. As soon as you get lice, you’re done for.’ I had one set of clothes. A sort of pink shirt. While it was still warm in the autumn, and the warmth lasted a long time in that year of forty-three, I washed it in the trough every day. Especially the collar. That’s how I slowly learnt how to avoid getting ill.”
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First they shaved off our hair and hairs and painted us with kerosene against lice
Stanislav Bodlák was born on 24 April 1924 in Uherčice. In 1940 his barely seventeen-year-old brother Miloš left to England to become a pilot of the 311th Czechoslovak Bomber Squadron of the RAF. A German decree ordering the arrest of all family members of illegal emigrants caused Stanislav Bodlák to be imprisoned in 1942. He spent several months in the prison on Pod kaštany Street in Brno, before being placed in a prison camp in Svatobořice in March 1943. There he met with his mother and sister. His father was taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he died on 14 April 1943. His brother also died during the war. He was killed in an aviation accident on 1 January 1945 in the north of Great Britain.