My childhood, I think, was good if not the best. My father worked as a baker in Prague 7 for the Hampl company. My mother, at first, knitted stockings, at that time there were no silk ones. She had three knitting machines to knit stockings for clients. The table with the machines was standing by the window so that my mother could see me in the street because in front of the window there was a young acacia tree. My mother bought a box from a grocer selling yeast and put sand used for washing up into the box. She placed the box with the sand under the acacia tree. I played there and she always checked if I was in my place. Once I managed to set out for a trip and I walked all the way to St Antonín church. Well, that was a stir! My mother lost her son!
That was a shock! We were born Czechoslovak, our religion was Czechoslovak and now Czechoslovakia was gone. That was when I saw my father cry for the first time. He was not a legionary but a soldier serving the Emperor until the very end of the war, yet he was a revolutionary, a patriot. And the Republic in its very last days.. Today, nobody can imagine what it meant for us. The Czechoslovak Republic, it was the hub of the universe. And as the proverb says – pride comes before a fall. We were so proud of it. Everything revolved around us. Czechoslovakia – it was as though our country had won first prize in everything.To be a Czech, it meant something, but only for us.
After some time, the regulation came out that all the people born in the year 1921 should go to the Reich to work. We were afraid but it was not bad. The Germans accepted us more or less as workers. They blamed us that we came voluntarily, because for one Ausländer, I mean a foreigner, one German had to go to fighting at the front. That´s why they were not happy to have us there. And it took them a long time to believe that we were forced to come. Yet the relationship between the Germans and the Czechs was, I´d say, astonishing. Peace and quiet, nobody calling the others bad names, they went to pubs together, to play football, what the German had to do, the Czech had to as well. There was no difference between the workers. And when we finished work, we were free, we could go where we wanted – to the cinema, to see girls, to play football. We saw, for example, the Bartered Bride at the German National Theatre at Unter den Linden. It was both serious and funny because German women farmers were dressed as SudetenGerman women. They were wearing long green skirts and black aprons. And Mařenka? She was dressed as a Polish countess. She had a crown on her head, a pearl one, and high red boots. What a far cry to look like the Czech Mařenka!
As long as you have your dreams, there is something to look forward to
Stanislav Čáslavka (born 1921) looks back at his long life with humour and gentle kindness. Despite having certain literary ambitions and talent, he did not complete his education in the way he would have liked. He completed his apprenticeship as a locksmith and a metal worker. He was disadvantaged in the field because of a physical disability: to fall suddenly asleep any time, under any circumstances. During WWII, he was forcibly sent to the German Reich for work but he managed to escape twice. He remembers the Totaleinsatz, Czech slang for ‘total deployment’ in the work corps, without a hint of bitterness. After the war he met Galina from Ukraine who had spent four and a half years in the Auschwitz concentration camp and had managed to flee from the Death Train Transport. They spent their entire future life together in Roztoky where Stanislav was a chronicler and a contributor to the Odraz, the local newspaper. He later worked as a guide at the Roztoky chateau.