“There were no riots when the Sudetes were joined to the Reich. But when the Germans took Prague, that evening, when dusk was falling, some forty blokes, Henleinites, got together and set off. I was playing in the ‘foundry’, the old failed glassworks. We would go play there with other children. Most Czechs lived in houses which belonged to the glassworks. And on my way home I met them. One of them had a stick, the second a cudgel, the third a bullwhip... There was a house on the corner, with one street leading up-hill and another down-hill. So they split up into two groups and set off. When I came home, Dad said: ‘Why are you so scared?’ So I told him about the band of men I had met, and he said: ‘Oh, then they’re after us.’ Then we heard glass breaking, the moans of people being beaten, dogs barking... There was humpbacked man living two houses down the road. We could hear the blows, his screams, and their shouts of how they would straighten his back up. He died soon after. They didn’t beat us, but they turned the flat upside down in a moment. They cut up the straw mats, the duvets, threw the furniture on the floor...”
“Czech families started leaving the Sudetes. Often they fled only with the clothes they had on them. Mum had just returned from the sanatorium, and Dad was lying in bed with a fever. Mum decided that she couldn’t risk travelling with him in such a condition, and that she’d just take us to her brothers, to her native town of Radnice. But I later heard her talk with her brothers, saying she and Dad would try to come back later, when his health improved. I started watching her from that point on. I heard her say she would take a night train, while we would be sleeping. When she started getting dressed in the night, I jumped out of bed, clung to her like a leech, and threatened to run away, bite them, and so on. So Mum decided it would be wiser to take me back home with her. My older sister stayed there.”
“He was the bishop’s secretary for ten years. Then, when he was with the bishop going for some confirmation, he was arrested in Domažlice and he spent ten years in prison. Then he did hard labour in Silon in Planá nad Lužnicí, where he ruined his back. And then another ten years without state permission [to serve as a priest]. So he was only allowed to be with us nuns, and the parish was administered by the Reverend Stejskal.”
“Mum tried to earn some money. So for instance, she served in one pub in Duchcov, or she went to the mine to collect coal, and she dragged it by cart to Teplice seven kilometres away to sell it. There was a textile plant in Oldřichov, a weaving factory. The fashion with the Norwegian patterns was just starting. They didn’t have the weaving looms for it. So they made them one-coloured, and gave them to capable women to be finished up. The women sewed the patterns on top. Mum used to take me with her to the factory. There was one miss there, everyone only ever called her ‘preener’. Mum brought her two dozen of those sweaters, and she started yelling at her that it was all supposed to be one centimetre larger, and that she had to bring it back corrected in three days. When Mum came home in tears and told Dad about it, he advised her to just iron it over a wet rag. So Mum took it back the following week, and the reaction was: ‘Well there you go, and it couldn’t have been like this the first time?’”
“Then we also had a civilian boss here. He forbade us to go to church, for example. He said we had our own chapel, so we shouldn’t take up space for the pilgrims. He was a former church secretary in retirement, and they put him here to keep an eye on us. When it was rebuilt here, we weren’t allowed to manage it ourselves. The Border Guards stationed in the barracks here in Libějovice were tasked with watching us. One soldier told me they were watching us mainly so that we didn’t get any training. So I told him: ‘Well that’s bad then, because just yesterday we had fire safety training.’ We knew about it. That they were tasked with writing down the cars that appeared in the vicinity, even by the graveyard... So we knew we were under surveillance. But we didn’t make any trouble, there was no need for that. For instance, one time we were visited by the head doctor from the Třebíč hospital, who had one of the nuns working under him. And when he discovered that she was here in Lomec, he came to visit her. He was here on Sunday, and by Tuesday he had already received a summons to the State Security in Třebíč. What did he do then and then...?”
There’s no escape; for those fifteen years until you die, it stays like this
Božena Čermáková was born on 7 January 1933 in Oldřichov near Duchcov. Life did not take it easy on her right from the start. The region where she lived was severely impacted by the financial crisis, and her father lost his job. On top of that, both her parents suffered from tuberculosis, and her father died of the disease while she was still a child. When the country was occupied by the Nazis, it became a part of the German Reich just as the Sudetes had before, and the Czech population was persecuted, with many fleeing further inland. After the war she wanted to study pedagogics, but serious health problems barred her from doing so. She found herself in the care of nuns, and the environment there affected her to such an extent that she decided to become one of them. She was baptised, and took up the name of Sister Marcela. When the nuns were forced to leave their main sanctuary, the convent in Broumov, they settled down in southern Bohemia in the old hunting lodge of Lomec near Netolice. They gradually renovated the building at their own expense, and so paradoxically, under the so-called normalisation of the 1970s, a new monastery was created. They survived their guerrilla conditions and Communist state persecution, they rebuilt the estate, and they live there to this day.