Josef Borsik

* 1940  

  • "I had to go to school. We arrived in August and already in September I had to go to the 1st class although I was 9 years old. It was already a Czech school. But I also had German schoolmates – the Grunsts and the Adlers – and many other girls who went to the same class. I started my schooling in Anger Gasse, the oldest school in Aš. There lived a caretaker and Mr Kršňák, the headmaster, and there were classrooms which were heated. There was an enormous tiled stove, and when it was cold, we had to heat it up. As older kids, we were on duty to do this and look after it. The stove gave up enough heat until late in the afternoon. I liked being at school but we were divided into classes. It was - I don´t want to say it – a selection. My wife because she is half Czech and half Slovak, her Czech father came from Nepomuk and her mother from the Tatras, they met in Brno. She came from the Baťa factory and he brought her here. We went to the same school, but she was in the A class and I was in the B class. So, with me there were the Gypsies, Zoli and Petrník, and some German schoolmates, and the A class was strictly Slavonic. She doesn´t realize it, doesn´t admit it, but that was how it was then. Of course, the dominant position of the Czech element was significant because they were the officers who worked here in the First Republic as the police, they were bank and post directors. They were Czechs sent into the German environment. They were not German but these state servants who gave salaries. Otherwise, the Germans stood aside and the Czechs returned after the war to the same posts they had held before. That was strange. But then the year 1948 changed everything."

  • "Of course, there was this problem here with the border. It looks as if these 60 years were strange, but they were actually awful. We don´t realize it. After 1951, the whole Aš was surrounded by the state border with an electric fence. Here was the border zone. Soldiers were given guard houses to patrol, each every 200m, so that the guards could see each other. Then there was a fence of three-fold columns with barbed wire and with electric power in the middle. And this was along the whole western border. Imagine how horrid it was. Access to Aš was impossible. Before, it was a free city. German girls from Selb and Hoff used to come here to work in textile factories, and our girls went to work to the Selb porcelain factories. And suddenly the border was closed and there was only one way of entering Aš, from Hazlov. There was a military guard standing there, they had a guard house and a barrier, and whoever came had to show documents. When he/she didn´t have a stamp with permission to enter the border zone, he/she couldn´t. This was the border zone, it was closed. Right next to the border there was a forbidden zone and all the houses built within 200m from the border had to be demolished. Imagine that during the war they built a new town quarter “Nový svět“ and all these new houses had to be demolished when the border zone was created. Bulldozers came nad cleared the area making the border zone so that nobody could escape, and they built this ridiculous fence which was demolished only in 1989. I have somewhere here..I made myself a crown of thorns from this barbed wire fence, which I helped to tear down in 1989. Until then, everything was closed up so that you couldn´t go either here or there. I didn´t realize this as a child that we were so restricted. When somebody wanted to come to us, relatives from Slovakia, they had to have an official document first from us, then from their side saying that they were Slovaks and really the relatives of our Anička, and all this nonsense. Everything was under control."

  • "When they started nationalising everything in Romania and made collective farms, they, of course, confiscated all the fields, we weren´t even allowed to harvest our grapes because the fields were guarded by armed Romanians. Naturally, we were frightened. What I also remember is that a car arrived. We had a new fence made of boards right then, it still smelled of fresh wood. We liked this a lot. There, the fences were made of sticks, there were no forests and wood was expensive. My brother left for Bohemia in 1947 because of the transfer being done. Some 3 and a half million Germans had to leave the Sudetenland and suddenly there was no substitute for them. For example in Aš, only 20% of the original inhabitants remained. Then there were reemigrants, and the Czechs who came from Plzeň and God knows where else. Suddenly, the gate opened, the car hooted, which was quite an unusual thing for me. I ran out quickly and there was a Tudor, or who knows what it was, a Czech car and two people. A man in a leather coat and a woman heavily made up, which surprised me a lot. They tried to recruit us, the people who lived in Slavic regions, the Czech and Slovak villages. They were telling us what we´d have and what we wouldn´t have. And they managed to persuaded my brother. He came to Aš. He was apprenticed as a shoemaker. When he came here, he was already an adult man born in 1929. He was able to run a shop and do shoe repairs. There was a post office, of course a German one, and he was given a “national administrative position“. And later he bought the shop. But then the Great February came with the same result as in Romania. Everything was nationalised."

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    v bytě pamětníka v Aši, 24.03.2017

    (audio)
    duration: 01:18:59
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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All things bad are good for something

Maturita portrait, Aš 1959
Maturita portrait, Aš 1959
photo: archiv pamětníka

Josef Borsik was born on 31st October 1940 in Jamu Mare, in the Romanian Banat. In 19th century, his Protestant ancestors moved to another part of the then Austro-Hungarian Empire in search of a fertile land. There, in the German little town, Josef spent a nice childhood.When he was 9, in August 1949, his family moved to Aš in Czechoslovakia. Josef witnessed the change of the former wealthy, industrial German town into a Czech, devastated, closely checked border outpost. After the maturita at the local secondary school, he was not admitted to further study at the Academy of Fine Arts (AVU) but he has kept his interest in arts all his life. After a lucrative period when he worked in uranium mines, he, out of sheer enthuasiasm, accepted the post of the Aš Museum director. He initiated many local cultural events, both in the Museum and the town. He organized art exhibitions, Photographic Workshops or created a register of stone crosses of Bohemia and Moravia, to name just a few.