Ing. Dalibor Coufal

* 1930  †︎ 2020

  • “My last experience from the war was when Russians bombed our railway station. It was absolutely correct and understandable. What they usually did was that at first they would send four of these ‘coffee grinders,’ as we called them, the Antonov biplanes which served as observation planes. They flew in from the direction of Břeclav or from Malacky, I don’t know, but it was from that direction. They were flying around for perhaps two hours and then I suddenly saw two Sturmovik planes closing in. I rushed to the office; at that time we were no longer going to school. It was on April 17, 1945. The weather was nice and I was sitting on a bench outside in the sun, and there was somebody else with me. I was watching the planes. All of a sudden I saw the Sturmovik planes, and we knew that these were ground-attack planes. I saw that they were taking aim at us, at the railway station building, and that it was real. When I saw them flying towards us I ran to the office. The people inside were standing around a map and discussing how the Allies were beating the shit out of the Germans. Basically, people in the Protectorate enjoyed talking about the Allied armies taking over Germany. That’s the way to put it. Hitler was losing. He was losing at Stalingrad, too, and I still cannot forgive the Russians that they renamed the city. They should have kept the name Stalingrad, because it is a globally known city that became the turning point of the war. That was where Hitler got his ass beaten for the first time. He was doing fine in Africa, but then the war took a reverse turn at Stalingrad, and since that time he was losing. But back to what happened there: I ran to the office and shouted: ’’Get to the basement, to the basement, they are flying at us!’ I peeped out of the door and I already saw them in attack position. I turned around and I only managed to reach the basement entrance, but I didn’t have time to get in. Four bombs already hit the railway station. One worker did not listen to me and he stayed in dad’s office. Then he moved to stand inside the doorframe. People said that during bombardment it was not advisable to be in the middle of the room, but that you should move to the door, because the wall there would be able to withstand some pressure if the ceiling collapsed. The man got killed in that place, and one more soldier was also killed… So there were two casualties in the train station, and our house slightly damaged. It was a moment, but if I had been just a little late, I could have pegged out there, too. The war was not nice, not nice at all.”

  • “We were constructed a great number of things for nuclear power plants and it was a constant struggle to make them use better materials than those proposed by the Russians. It was not that the Russians would be stupid, not at all. But the problem was that their situation was different. Let’s say the entire nuclear power plant is based on water management. Everything usually has to be cooled by water. Dukovany, Temelín, Jaslovské Bohunice, Mochovce, all these power plants have light water reactors, and water is essential for them. They would not be able to function without water. But you have many different types of water. The Russians had different mineral composition of water in their rivers compared to what we have here. The materials which they designed for us thus did not take this into account. But we managed to have it changed in many of the systems. It was the matter of people who did not want to do things in the wrong way. It was not just me, but there was also the research institute and I don’t know who else. I enjoyed this work. You were able to oppose a project and say: ‘No, this is not going to be like this, because it is wrong.’”

  • “While I was in the Auxiliary Technical Battalions, there was one thing which was driving me crazy. They clearly told us that we were not humans. They told us not to expect that we would ever be able to do any regular job. They called us… some of them used swear words. We had to work in coal mines, some guys had to do construction work. I was assigned to do heavy work in the mines. I was in Kladno, and some guys worked in the coal mines in Ostrava. We had to go down the shaft. Then it depended on what kind of work you got assigned. They sent us to do work which was poorly paid and which nobody else wanted to do. We had to go down there and do what the boss told us, otherwise we would get in trouble. That was the only thing that kept us going. As for me, I didn’t mind the work. But some guys suffered terribly when they had to take the elevator half a kilometre underground and work there in a place with no windows.”

  • “One of my mistakes was that in 1946 I became a member of the National Socialist Youth, and thus I was marked a supporter of National Socialists, and this was another reason why I eventually got sent to the Auxiliary Technical Battalions. But on the other hand, I don’t really see it as something tragic, because I have never bent my back as the superiors wished me to do.”

  • “We were nicknamed Black Barons, because we wore black epaulettes without any insignia. That was one reason. The other was that our eyes were even more black than you eyes, girls. But we didn’t use any eye liner for that; it was coal which got into our eyes. It was quite difficult to wash it away. You have various creams for that, but we didn’t have anything, we had to wash it with soap. We had more eye liner on our yes than you, but it was because of the coal. So that was another reason for the name. As for barons, it was because in contrast to ordinary soldiers who were getting paid about eighty crowns, we were getting two hundred or three hundred crowns. When we went to a pub, which was very seldom because we rarely got a leave, we were able to order beer as well as rum. We were thus called barons, because we had some money.”

  • “Eventually they even made me serve as a so-called deputy in the National Committee of the City of Brno. It was about three years before the Velvet Revolution. The most funny thing about it was that I was a member of some committee, and the person sitting next to me was the Communist Party chairman from the Faculty of Architecture, and he told me: ‘Dear colleague, what the chairman said was bullshit. But I am not able to say it. Try to arrange it somehow.’ He was not allowed to say it, because he was a communist. I already knew him a little. I thus told him: ‘Comrade chairman, I need to ask you to kindly explain to me how things really are, because I don’t understand it and people are asking us about it. And when I am not even able to explain it to people directly, something is wrong.’ He thus invited the others to discuss the proposal, and all those who got some insight into it criticised it so fiercely that it was eventually turned down. By saying this I want to stress the idiocy of the political regime, because the person who knew what was going on was not allowed to say it, and I had to say it instead of him. Well, not just me, but simply another person, such as the guy who was there for the People’s Party.”

  • “At that time, regular soldiers who served in the artillery had a compulsory rest period in the afternoon. But we had nothing like that – the time was used for our ‘re-education.’ They were re-educating us in order to turn us into good builders of socialisms in this country after our return from the army. They did not issue any weapons to us, because they feared that we would turn them against them.”

  • “I had a little problem during my graduation from grammar school. All students in the class were members of the Czechoslovak Youth Union: all of them were Union members. A principal from another school would always come to our school to observe the graduation examinations. That year, the principal from the grammar school in Znojmo was invited to come to our exams. What was interesting was that he was a communist! Moreover, I think he was even a deputy for the Communist Party. That made it even more interesting! The reason I am saying this is because of his interesting reaction during the exams. I was taking my final exam, and I had passed my exam in geography and I was in the middle of my exam from social sciences. I told them what I knew and the chairman of the examining committee asked the other teachers if anybody had any questions. The vice-chairman was a Youth Union member, obviously. He asked me what I thought about the Youth Union. I knew that he cornered me by that question. I was the only one in the class who was not a member of the Youth Union. I was not able to say that I didn’t care about it; that would be a disaster. Then the examining teacher – I don’t know whether he did it on purpose, but I think that it was unintentional and that he didn’t realize that I was the only non-member – tried to encourage me: ‘Well, you are all Union members, aren’t you, you are a member, too, so just tell them about it.’ I paused. I decided that my only chance was to play a cheeky student. I replied: ‘Sir, you know, the thing is that I am the only student in the class who is not in the Youth Union.’ The committee chairman – the principal from Znojmo and the communist deputy – looked at me and he probably realized that they had intentionally driven me into this situation, and he was not going to allow it. He said: ‘Never mind, if you are not a member, we will then pose this question to others who are members, because you have already told us enough in your exam from social science. Everything is fine.’ And since it was the committee chairman who said it, the other teacher had to shut up and let me pass. Imagine that – I was saved by a deputy from the Communist Party during my graduation exam!”

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    Brno, 23.01.2014

    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
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    Brno, 07.05.2014

    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
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I was lucky that I always had a job which I enjoyed doing

Dalibor Coufal as a young man
Dalibor Coufal as a young man
photo: soukromý archiv pamětníka

  Ing. Dalibor Coufal was born March 5, 1930 in Hrušovany nad Jevišovkou in a family of a railway official. The family lived in an apartment in the local train station building. Dalibor attended Czech elementary school and the Sokol sports organization in Hrušovany. The family moved from Hrušovany just before the Munich agreement was signed in autumn 1938. They found a refuge in the home of his grandparents in Snovídky, and some three months later they moved to Chrlice, now a part of Brno, where Dalibor’s father got a job as the stationmaster and where he also received a company apartment.. Dalibor Coufal was nearly killed during the Allied bombing of Brno in spring 1945. From 1946 he became actively involved in the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party. After graduation from grammar school he studied at the Technical University in Brno. He was expelled for his political views in 1953 two months before he was to graduate. The explanation for his dismissal was that he did not have the prerequisites for becoming a good socialist engineer. Since he was expelled from school for political reasons, he became marked as a threat to socialist regime and instead of regular military service he was thus sent to the Auxiliary Technical Battalions (PTP) to Kladno. Apart from physical work, the service in PTP also included political education and humiliating treatment by some officers. In 1955 he was released from PTP and thanks to lucky coincidence he was even able to complete his university studies. As a politically untrustworthy person, he was not allowed to work in managerial positions until 1989 and he also could not expect any career advancement. After 1989 he made use of his proficiency in foreign languages and he found a job in an international company. Dalibor Coufal lives in Brno and he occasionally takes part in discussions with students.