Augustin Bubník

* 1928  †︎ 2017

  • “Unfortunately, apart from the collection camp in Jáchymov there’s also Camp L, which included the death tower. That’s a kind of dome. They towed impure uranium right up to its top floor, and this ore fell down through the crushers and screens until only pure pitchblende came out at the bottom. But all the dust everywhere - it was pretty much a department for the extermination of people. You could endure it for three weeks, a month - that was it. The lungs couldn’t take it. They’d people with harsh sentences there, people with life sentences and those they wanted to get rid of because they’d attempted to escape or something of the sort.”

  • “The Communist lawyers prepared us for the possibility that me and Modrý might end up on the rope. Those four sections were made precisely to that end. A month before us they had hanged Horáková. We were afraid they would herd in Communist rowdies, just as they did with her, and they’d shout: ‘Hang them, kill them.’ On the first day of the retrial they only questioned Boža Modrý and me. It took the whole day. But there wasn’t a single person in the court room. Just the journalist from Rudé právo, Mr Švadlena. In the evening they stuck us into our cells, and the next day they brought everyone in. The high court judge Dr Krug began proclaiming the sentences: Modrý 15, I 14, Konopásek 12, Kobranov 10, and the rest got eight, six, so altogether it was 77 years.”

  • “After the verdict they loaded us on to a bus escorted by police cars. The bus had blackened windows so no one could see who they were taking in it. They took us to Bory, and the whole big charade began anew. Šafarčík and all the wardens beat us blue with batons, they shoved us into our cells, and the criminal regime began. We worked with straws, cleaned the goblets they’d looted from castles. Suddenly we heard ‘Goal!’, because there was an ice stadium next door. That heart me deep down in my heart. I thought to myself: by what cause am I sitting here when there are boys playing hockey over there.”

  • "I started doing summer training with the boys. They were at a training camp. So I called them together and started chasing them around the lake, they have this resort there. They ran round the lake, then a kind of uphill slalom with medicine balls, and most importantly the goalkeepers, I put up four planks of wood - a goal - and I had the boys shoot at them and the goalkeepers would say: 'But Mr. Bubník, why?' To which I said: 'Just you watch why! Suit up!' Suit up, in summer! So he put it all on, it had these football boots with hard tips, so he wouldn't get hurt. And then, look at that - you've never seen such a thing! Like a cannonade! Those boys learnt to goalkeep all right! You've never seen such a thing! That came to an end and, but suddenly they had me coaching all over Finland, a fortnight here, a fortnight there, three weeks another place - I travelled the whole of Finland in that way, even out in the countryside, and everywhere I came I explained in English the methods of summer training. They always invited all the coaches and the young boys who stared at me all goggle-eyed, but who when the season started, and I could see for myself, as I was doing the rounds again when the ice started, I travelled around and I saw that they were doing everything exactly how I showed them to. The things I had learned at school from Kostka, what I had learned in Bratislava from Laca Horský. That helped me so much! Then when the national team was playing, all the coaches came together and we discussed things. Up came the first championship in Vienna, so off we went and started to play. Ours [the Czechs - transl.] was a fantastic team, line-up: Nedomanský, Golonka, Nadrchal, Suchý and the Holíks. Well, that was a great team! They played, the Finns-Czechs played on a Saturday morning from eleven o'clock. I chased the Finns out into the park at six A.M. and had them running, warming up, while our champion team sat down for a morning coffee and then went straight to the changing room. The match started, and when I explained them the strategy: 'Look, boys, you have to deal with him like that, and with that one, with Nedomanský, you have to keep to him at all times, he mustn't touch the puck...' My, they were attentive, so much that suddenly wham - nil one, then nil two in the second third, then it was down to one two in the last, though I can't remember who scored, and then Melikonen (?) broke through and finished it at three to one. Well, you've never seen such as what happened then! How they scolded me! Spat on me! The only one who came to me afterwards was Mr. Pokorný, the man who had sent me off to Finland in the first place, Himl's deputy [Himl - head of the Czech Sports Union, ČSTV - ed.], he came up to me and said: 'Mr. Bubník, you've managed a fantastic political achievement, the Finns will never forget what you did!' And I said: 'Yes, but do you know what it'll be like at home? The broke my wife's window, she couldn't go shopping, the car was smashed...' And I could show you, I've got a briefcase at home full of anonymous letters, postcards with: 'Traitor to the nation! Back in with you, you should've stayed in the locker...' Grandmas, workers' and miners' societies. I've kept the lot!"

  • "And we played all around Prague, we played here at Admira in Prague 8, we played in Toušeň, we played in Černošice and in Zbraslav, and I remember like it was this day how we juniors beat Zbraslav on the River Vltava. The Vltava was frozen over, a lorry took us there - there were no buses in those days, so we went by truck, under the canvas. We walked down from the bank to the playing field on the Vltava, and Zbraslav was a very strong team at the time, adults - we were playing adults, and their team was looking to move up to the higher category, and we beat them! You just couldn't imagine what the people on the bank, on the river, they didn't want to let us up to the wooden cabin where we had our shoes and everything. Just imagine that, no one believes this when I say it, but it really did happen that when they didn't want to let us go, our supervisor, Mr. Zábrodský - old man Zábrodský [father of the hockey players Vladimír and Oldřich Zábrodský - ed.], and Mr. Pokorný, he was Míla's father [hockey player Míla Pokorný - ed.]. The two of them took all the shoes and put them in a car and the car drove off and we skated down the Vltava from Zbraslav all the way to Štvanice! Those were horrendous frosts at the time and the Vltava was frozen over and there were no dams like there are now. So we skated along one after the other and we got all the way to Štvanice, where we took our skates off and skipped over to the cabin in our socks and that was that. It was unique, I can remember well. Of course, then we skated in all sorts of places, we played on ponds."

  • "Well, and Jirka Macelis who had had a son born just two days earlier said: 'Boys, come on, we'll go to the good old pub...' There was a pub close to the National Theatre, owned by the brother of Zdeněk Ujčík the player, that was Mirek Ujčík, he had this little pub which we used to go to. So that we'd meet there and celebrate the occasion. So okay, we trickled in one by one, and we were all there at last, suddenly we hear from the radio, the cable radio, at about quarter to seven, we hear the presenter Edmund Koukal tell the whole nation how the hockey players were so enlightened that they did not fly to London for the championship because of so and so. That really got us angry, me and Vašek Roziňák, and we phoned into the radio right from the pub, we phoned Koukal and told him: 'Look, Mr. Koukal, if you want to know the truth, come meet us in Pstross Street...' To which he said: 'No, boys, I won't come there.' So then the boys came and we drank and there was alcohol all over and everywhere, and there was this accordionist and this piper, and now we started swearing. We swore at the regime, we swore at the establishment and at Kopecký, at the government, that we wouldn't let them clip our wings, that we want to be free, and every now and then Vašek or I would run out onto the small square and shout things. And when things were at their best, when the place was absolutely roaring, suddenly these two men got up from their table and grabbed me and Vašek Roziňák and said: 'You're coming with us.' We didn't know what was going on. Suddenly up rushed Zlatko Červený, the goalie who was supposed to step in for Bóža [Bohumil] Modrý, as Jirka and Červený were close by, so he caught one of them and said: 'What're you holding for!' and gave him a punch that knocked him down under stove. The second one pulled a pistol and whistled and in a moment the pub was full of policemen... There was a van waiting for us out on square, so the noose was all ready for us. They had prepared things, they had known where we would meet, what we would do, that we would probably provoke a reaction like this. We had pretty much all been there, except for Vladimír Zábrodský, he didn't come. They took us to Bartholomew Street [police HQ - transl.], from there they took us soldiers [he was in compulsory military service at the time - ed.] to the headquarters here on Small Side Square next to St. Nicholas, where they had the army Defence Intelligence, and from there they moved us two days later up to the Small House on Castle Square, which was the disciplinary military prison, into the infamous Small House and into the hands of Suchý, Lípa, Pergl, they did all sorts of things to us there... the investigation began there: why had actually done that, why had we been swearing when we had the utmost support..."

  • "When we were there in the year 1947/1948, it was all okay. But afterwards during the Olympics, then just before the that we were at the Spengler Cup, and already at that time, after February, there were lots of club chairmen fleeing the country, same as the president of LTC Praha, the hockey player Josef Maleček, and various others. And all of them pressured us so much already then in Switzerland, they wanted the whole team to stay abroad and to play as the Czechoslovak emigrant team, or exile team. And they offered us huge contracts, not only in wages but also in player transfers. So we knew that we would be in for good times, but all the same we pondered on what would happen if we didn't return, what would happen to our families, our parents,the players' wives who had children here. Well and in the end the main spokesman for the team this whole time was Vladimír Zábrodský. Vladimír Zábrodský was a fantastic player whom I admired for all he was capable of achieving, but who otherwise was a man who knew no limits when it came to money, who wanted more and more and more, and I remember when we used to play abroad, that when they gave us food money, so for instance us youngsters were supposed to get twenty-five franks food money, so they gave us just five franks and he kept the rest. But us youngsters couldn't say anything, because then they wouldn't take us next time, or they'd fire us from the team. So in the end we were glad. So he was a man who really wasn't honourable in anything. And in this case he was also negotiating something of the sort, and when he wanted much more money than the rest because he also represented the country at the Davis Cup in tennis, so he wanted a contract not for ten thousand, but for fifty thousand. Well and when we had the meeting this one day and the gathering of players voted on what to do, then more players were for returning home than for going abroad. But he had promised the emigrant group on the first day that he would talk the team into staying, if his conditions were met. But I guess they weren't met, because he also voted to return. At which point the team drove off from Davos to Bern to our embassy, though just before our departure from the hotel in Zurich we left behind his brother Oldřich Zábrodský and Dr. Sláma - those were the first emigrants of the team, they stayed in Switzerland. There career didn't end. So that was kind of the first conflict we had, the first discussion that took place after we returned, at the ministry of interior and most of all at the ministry of information, because at the time sports was under the heading of minister Václav Kopecký. He was in charge of education and sports and that was were everything was discussed. State Security certainly knew about it. Everyone was talking about it. We were even lauded greatly for being so enlightened as to not let ourselves be talked out of returning. The whole affair came to an end and the 1948 Olympics began." [Editor's note: The said negotiations of the emigration of the whole team did not come about until during the Spengler Cup towards the end of 1948.]

  • "We arrived at the airport and we received our clothes there. We had everything prepared and we were checking in at the airport, with all our stuff, not just for hockey but also whatever we took with us, and we were waiting for the plane to leave. Suddenly a group of men came up, the management, that we should leave, as the plane was having some problems and it would take two hours, so that we should go to the cinema or something. So we got up and went to the cinema, watched a film of some sort and came back in two hours and they called us together and we saw the plane was standing, everything was there ready. Suddenly these two men came up and started talking and telling us how the English had refused to issue visas to two reporters, to Mr. Procházka and Mr. Laufer, and that the malicious English radio station BBC wants to exploit that and doesn't want these reporters from taking part in the world championship, because they want to broadcast our matches through the London radio so that our worker's nation would be forced to listen to these broadcasts and so forth, and so we should sign this proclamation saying that we're forfeiting the world championship for reasons that the English government has behaved dishonourably. And Zábrodský did the rounds with this, as Zábrodský always was the spokesman for everything, good or bad. Well, and so he came to us with this and of course told him to go to hell with that, what do we care about some reporters, we've never flown with reporters. Because we were supposed to fly on the 11th of March already, that was a Saturday, and the championship started on Monday the 13th. Reporters never were part of the team no matter the destination. So we - what do we care about some reporters. So when no one signed the thing, they took counsel and came back after a bit saying very well, they would try to figure it out somehow and that we were given leave and we can go home now. Us from Prague went to Prague, the boys from Brno, at the time that was Vlastimil Bubník, Václav Bubník, and then we had players from Budějovice, that they should all go home, that we'll meet on Monday morning, but not at the airport, but in Tyrš House, which was the headquarters of ice hockey. Well, we were amazed. They held us there for two weeks, we couldn't even go buy toothpaste, nothing. When we were at the hockey stadium in Kladno, we weren't even allowed into town. Me and Radek Kobranov slipped out one time, and it ended up almost that we'd be fired from the team! And then suddenly they said: 'Go home...' So we went home. The boys went to the football on Saturday first, on Sunday we spent the day out in Prague, and we met up on the 13th of March at nine in the morning, thinking that it would everything would be resolved at Tyrš House, that we'll go straight to the airport, and that was still enough for us. We'd arrive at two, the match was from eight, so we'll have to make do without a practice session, which is why we had wanted to be there sooner, so that if we had flown in on Saturday, we could practice on Sunday, we could practice on Monday, even though we knew Wembley, we knew the arena. But it was a matter of, what do they call it, acclimatization. But we arrived at Tyrš House, well, and suddenly we saw who was waiting for us there, mayor Truhlář was there, the top officials of Sokol were there - because it was all headed under Sokol, the Czech Sports Union and everything - and suddenly we saw that all the top brass were there, and presumably they were with State Security, from the ministry of interior, and to put it shortly, they started the same old song, that seeing as we hadn't decided at the airport, so now they'd give us another... and enlightened as we are, we should now decide to forfeit the championship. But we set to on them, Vovka Kobranov, Vašek Roziňák and me, saying it wasn't true, that it's a lie, that they're cowards and why don't they tell us the truth and so on. And they said: 'Why? This is the truth.' And now imagine that all of a sudden I pull out a piece of paper where both of the reporters received their visas on Saturday! We had found it out for ourselves on the Sunday, because we had gone to the British Information Service that was on Trenches Street, where the stamp shop was, now there's a bar there, the one where they threw a grenade under that one chap's car. That used to be the British Information Service, and through this British Information Service, we had found out on Sunday that the visas had been issued. So we phoned Laufer's home to ask why he hadn't arrived on Saturday if he was supposed to fly with us. No one answered, neither Procházka nor Laufer. Simply put they were forbidden to take part in the matter in any way."

  • Full recordings
  • 9

    Praha, 09.01.2009

    (audio)
    duration: 04:14:32
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 10

    Praha, 10.07.2014

    (audio)
    duration: 02:46:16
    media recorded in project Sports Stories of the 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

We were punished as a warning to everyone

Bubnik orez 2.jpg (historic)
Augustin Bubník
photo: natáčení Eye Direct

Augustin (Gustav) Bubník was born on the 21st of November 1928 in Prague. As a child, he joined the hockey section of LTC Praha (a successful Prague sports club). At eighteen years of age, he was accepted into the premier league team. From 1947, he became a member of the national team, in 1950 he was the highest scoring player in the hockey league. He was on the national team that won silver at the 1948 Winter Olympics in Saint-Maurice. During a trip to Davos with the LTC club towards the end of that same year, the players were being persuaded to emigrate en masse. After much negotiation the team cast a majority vote deciding not to emigrate, and they all returned to Czechoslovakia. The golden era culminated in them becoming world champions in Sweden in 1949. However, they were not given the chance to defend the title in England the following year. A petty excuse (refused visas for radio reporters) meant that instead of flying to London, the team was forced to sign a proclamation stating that they gave up their place at the championship of their own free will. In this hopeless situation, the team met at a birthday celebration of the son of one of the players in their favourite Prague restaurant U Herclíků on the 13th of March 1950. Harsh words were spoken against the newly established communist regime in reaction to the deceitful radio broadcasts on why the team was not participating. But that was exactly what State Security were waiting for, and with massive police assistance the hockey players were all arrested, Augustin included. At a non-public trial with fabricated charges in October 1950, Augustin was convicted of espionage, high treason and subversion of the state, and sentenced to fourteen years of prison. After serving time in Ruzyně and Bory, he ended up in the uranium mines of the Jáchymov district and later on in Bytíz. He was released on the 23rd of January, 1955 thanks to an amnesty of president Zápotocký. He returned to hockey, but the regime did not allow him to fully develop his career. He played in lower leagues, ending up in Slovana Bratislava. He then decided to try coaching. He studied at the Faculty of Physical Education and Sports of the Charles University in Prague. During the late 1960s he managed to move to Finland, where as the coach of the national team he played an important part in improving the local hockey. When the Finnish team beat Czechoslovakia for the first time in 1967, he bore the brunt of hateful reactions at home. In 1969, he left Finnish hockey for family reasons. He acted as coach for various teams both foreign and domestic throughout the 1970s. He was officially rehabilitated in 1968, but he did not receive full social recognition until after 1989. Augustin Bubník passed away on April, the 18th, 2017.