Jan Broj

* 1932

  • Jan Broj

  • Jan Broj reciting his favorites poems

  • "I can tell you, even if man were made of iron, he could not stand to see a healthy man of 49, who always tried to do well to all the people, leave the world in such a way. I already mentioned his relation to Christianity, to faith, and his last words under the gallows were that he commended his children and wife to Virgin Mary, (crying)that he had never harmed anyone, and that he was dying for wanting to be an independent farmer on independent land, and that he would also become one. These were his last words. Even after the long fifty years, these are still very painful memories, I apologize, I can´t help it."

  • Our family received a telegram on May 22nd in the evening, at seven o’clock, saying that my father’s last wish was to say good-bye to the family. Since it was in 1950, and there was not even a single car in our village at that time, we had to go quickly to Rokycany, and find a taxi there to take us to Prague. There was my mother, us, the children, and we stopped to pick up our uncle, a priest who lived in Prague-Žižkov in the St. Anna parish, and together we arrived to Pankrác at about 2 a.m. It was nothing nice, they allowed us only 20 minutes to say good-bye. Father was in a small cell, there was a table two metres long, so we could not even touch hands or kiss him. His courage, I would like to have the courage he had, to die so peacefully for freedom, for his nation. Our farewell was only symbolical, during these two years we already become accustomed to various hardships, and we had to endure this as well.

  • “You know, farming is beautiful work, but it’s also hard. You have to curse it ninety-nine times in order to praise it once, and the praise has to compensate for all the bad things that happened before. I always say that we need to learn from our history. If you imagine this is happening three hundred years after the Kozina’s revolt… Take Kozina, for example, as he was saying farewell to Plzeň, to his family and to all the Chodsko region and Western Bohemia. When he was standing under the gallows, he was not saying good-bye only to his wife Hančí and his children. He says there: ´Come, my little children. May it please God to let you live long and see the struggle, for whose sake your father is dying now, accomplished.´ He did not bid farewell only to his family and his people. He was also bold enough to speak right into their face: ´My people, my heart feels sorry for you, yet it serves you well: you lived like manure and bowed your heads.´ And that was it, everybody was looking at him, but not a single person did anything to help. This is the human manure, and that’s something that we ourselves have to clean from our midst.”

  • I experienced the currency reform in ´53 as a soldier in Plzeň. We were in Bory, I worked in the automobile unit, so I commuted by tram almost through all of Plzeň to the garage at the other end of the city. In the morning the tram arrived to the main square, but it could not continue further. The streets were full of Škoda factory workers who swarmed the city and started a riot. I think this was my best experience during those 27 months I served with the hard labour technical squads. What a currency it was! In the evening president Zápotocký declared our currency was stable, and in the morning it was all gone up in a smoke. There were huge demonstrations and mob meetings. They called firemen in there. They did not have water canons as they do now, but they pulled out hoses instead. Before they could start pumping water through them, the crowd cut their hoses with knives and the firemen were no longer of any help. The mob spread to other streets. The building of the Regional court had massive oak door. How to break in? They pushed the doorknob, tried to strike against the door, but it did not move an inch. Then suddenly a group of guys showed up, and they took wooden sleeper beams that were laid under tram tracks, and ran against the door with those beams. I don’t know how many of them were there, but they smashed the door open, got in, and there were papers and documents and busts of politicians flying out through the windows. One ´savage,´ probably not even realizing what he was doing, stroke a match, and suddenly there was a blast of fire fling through the street. Someone might have got burnt rather seriously. It took the police all day to take control of the situation, obviously they also arrested some people.

  • "When my father was saying farewell to his brother, uncle Eduard collapsed there in front of his cell. There was a table two metres long, so they could not even touch hands or kiss each other. My father was only looking at him. At was towards the end of our allotted time, so I lifted the uncle on my shoulders and carried him out from that corrider to the courtyard, where he revived a little bit. His nerves simply could not handle it. This happened during our last visit at 1:30 a.m. between 22nd and 23rd May."

  • We were not to know that my father would be executed. Only since our uncle, a priest, was living in Prague, he somehow got this idea to go to the Pankrác prison and ask about his brother. There they told him that he was sentenced to capital punishment and that the case was already closed. Had it not been for this visit, we would have never learnt about it. At the beginning of May, there came a letter from the prison, that all letters and visits to prisoner Stanislav Broj are temporarily suspended. How often were you allowed to visit him in the Bory prison? How often? Every prisoner had some job there. Depending on how he managed to comply with the set norms for the required amount of completed work he was allowed to receive visitors as a form of reward. So we came to Plzeň one day, and father told us that he was transferred to a different position, to picking feathers, and there the norm was much higher. ´If only they had given me a pitchfork, a spade or a pickaxe, I would not have problems meeting the norms. But me and picking feathers…´ So you can’t say that there would be two visits per month, or something like that. Sometimes we managed to get some package to him, to ´smuggle´ it in somehow, when he was in the Pankrác prison and when I went to Prague. I arrived to the Pankrác prison and asked the guard, he seemed to be an amiable chap, if I could speak to my father. He looked into a book: ´Yes, you can.´ So the visit was not planned but we could meet the father. For visits there was a special room, there was always one guard present, he could hear every single word you spoke. He also determined the length of your visit. You were not eighteen yet, could you visit the prison unaccompanied? Yes, they never looked at my ID. When we went there the last time to say good-bye, they let my brother in, too, he was only thirteen or fourteen.

  • “Obviously they would not give us his body. So what did we do? The caretaker of the Ďáblice cemetery was a friend of our uncle’s; at that time there were more burials than there are today. He came to my uncle and told him: ´I received a list of persons we are to bury in this cemetery, and there is the name of some Stanislav Broj. Wasn’t he some relative of yours?´ So that’s how we became the only ones who knew where father’s burial place was. In Ďáblice, the method they used in such cases was that they dug a large hole, placed ten coffins in there, covered it with a layer of lime, and put some wooden boards on top. Then another ten coffins, and so on… - Urns? – No, they used coffins. – So he was not cremated? – No, he was buried. – So one such hole would then contain thirty coffins. After it was all covered with ground, they would put a stick with a numbered sign in there, and that was the only way to identify it. My father had number seventeen. It was the seventeenth hole, there were about thirty-one of them. We would go visit this grave every year, decorate it with flowers, candles, …No one else was taking care of such graves, it looked almost like a jungle, all grown over by grass, we always had to cut some of it to be able to get there.”

  • Full recordings
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    Březová (Hořovice), 20.08.2006

    duration: 03:04:47
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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I can´t imagine life without work in the fields. As long as I am able to climb into my tractor without anybody´s help, I would like to do it

Jan Broj in 50s
Jan Broj in 50s
photo: archiv pamětníka

  Jan Broj is the eldest son of Stanislav Broj, a former deputy of the Czechoslovak People’s Party in the National Congress during 1946-1948. His father, a farmer from the Rokycany region, was executed in 1950 for alleged organization of a revolt in the Plzeň-Bory prison. Jan was only sixteen when his father was arrested and executed two years later. In 1952-1954, Jan served in the PTP, the hard labour unarmed technical squads (nicknamed “black barons”) as part of his military service. At that time in 1953 he was also witness to civil unrest in Plzeň following the new currency reform. Till 1957 he worked with his brother on the family farm in Volduchy, afterwards circumstances and the advancing collectivization forced them to join the JZD (Unified Agricultural Units). A year later he moved to Březová in the Hořovice region, where he has been living till today. After 1989, Jan began to work as an independent farmer again, became actively involved in politics, and was on the Czechoslovak People’s Party’s ballot to the parliament. In 1990-1992, he served as an advisor in agricultural affairs to president Václav Havel.