Josef Cejpek

* 1944  

  • “That was a little wooden chapel, a spring, and that supplied the pond where the men would wash the horses on a summer evening, or the cattle would quench their thirst. Every house had a well, that offered some better quality for the horses.”

  • “Father already knew how he would do things here, he had a bee’s hive already built, he was building things up. Mother remembered how much sweat she’d left there. Two children, the cooking, the farm. The men were on the field and the woman had to tidy up and do everything. An injunction came in 1951, informing us that the area was going to be occupied by the military, and then they started placing the fences there. First evacuate, then they came in with some bulldozers, workers and auxers [forced labourers - transl.], and they started raising the village from the ground. We were mostly evacuated by then, but we were one of the last to go.”

  • “In those days flats weren’t provided by the houses authority or committee, you had to find one for yourself. They gave one offer, it wasn’t suitable, nothing came of it. Then there was one ruin that didn’t even have much of a roof, next to a former Evangelical church, here in Švermova Street No. 62. So they patched the roof with tar paper. The condition was that both parents would work in the forest. There were so many forests. In the meantime my parents saved up some money, and after a number of years, I was already attending school, they bought the house here at 227 Na potoku Street.”

  • “Only two or three families remained in Slavonice. It didn’t matter where they went, as long as it was cleared out so the village could be raised from the ground. There were more villages here: Leštnice, Kuní, Košťálkov. And they placed a no entry there, as it was the border zone, so it was forbidden. And Maříž had a border zone - entry only for those authorised. Those were two zones, one had a black sign and one a red. Maříž was a village designated for extinction. That is no one was allowed to change a roof tile or a window, no one was allowed to move in. They placed a bar on the road from Slavonice with guards there day and night, they had a permanent watch there and checked all entries into Maříž, and thus also into Leštnice.”

  • “Those are such memories that I wanted to get there, but it wasn’t legally possible. I didn’t dare go there in secret because they shot people for that. When you cross the wires, they immediately come at you on their cars or horses, the military. I never got there even though I wanted to. I only succeeded in getting there when the borders opened up.” (Q: “Did you recognise it?”) “Perfectly, everything. Which tree belonged to whom, where we lived, where the nut trees were. But I was afraid that when they had demolished it, well there had been a lot of cellars there, one for potatoes, one for milk, meat. And when they demolished it I was afraid that I might fall through somewhere. It had overgrown with moss and grass, and one step might have taken me plunging into a well or somewhere.”

  • “It was a hard life. I know that father didn’t fulfil the quota just once, and the cops came and blocked his shredder, because he hadn’t delivered his quota of grain, so they came and put a plug in his shredder, so that he couldn’t shred grain for his hens.”

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  • 7

    Slavonice, 18.10.2013

    (audio)
    duration: 01:09:42
    media recorded in project Iron Curtain Stories
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I was happy to be able to return

Josef Cejpek
Josef Cejpek
photo: Kreisslová

Josef Cejpek was born on 14 April 1944 in Boňov near Jaroměřice nad Rokytnou. His parents were among the many people who went to resettle the Czech border region after World War II. They appropriated an abandoned farm in Leštnice (German: Lexnitz) near Slavonice. The witness was only one year old at the time, and so he came to see the village almost as his native home. When the Communists came to power in Czechoslovakia, security was increased on the borders with non-socialist states. In 1951 a forbidden border zone was created along the state border, and this affected a number of the villages around Slavonice, including Leštnice. In December 1951 the inhabitants living in the forbidden zone were evicted. The Cejpeks were forced to find a new home further away from the border, and they settled in the nearby Slavonice. His parents were promised a flat in the town under the condition that they would take up employment at the Czechoslovak State Forests. Josef Cejpek attended primary school in Slavonice, he then learnt the craft of coachbuilder in Brno, completed military service, and got married. He was not allowed to return to Leštnice until after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. However, by that time almost nothing was left of the village.