Zdeňka Děrdová

* 1926

  • “I started working at the pharmacy. As you know, it was in the war, there were people in concentration camps. No medicine. No medicine, but I, because I didn’t understand and also because I’m a Christian, I wouldn’t steal... The ones who were employed there as pharmacists, they knew it, right. So, when I was working there later... they had two storerooms in Světozor, two storerooms for medicine, so I did it with old Mr Písaříček, he dictated the list of medicine to me, and I wrote it down and everything. And I also sent... because they had an acquaintance in the concentration camp, and so it was allowed to send a parcel every now and then. And the old pharmacist brought me the medicine and said: ‘Please, make a nice parcel for the concentration camp so that everything fits in the box.’ So I was allowed to do this as well, and when they needed to make good eye medicine, that was a lot of work, and everything had to meticulous, so they gave that for me to do as well because they trusted that I’d do a proper job of it and not a sloppy one.”

  • “Meat was rationed, for tickets. They killed my classmate, and then a month later they scrapped the decree. He was a twenty-one-year-old boy when they executed him; he was my classmate from the school in Zlíchov. [Q: In those political trials?] Yes. [Q: And can I ask in which... what they accused him of?] They accused him of forging ration tickets for meat, for trafficking in them. He was the cousin of Gustav Nezval, the poet, and he didn’t help him. He didn’t help him.”

  • “[Q: Did you have any problems for not joining the CPC – Communist Party of Czechoslovakia...] Well, I had the problem that in front of some 160 employees, I... I didn’t want to study university after grammar school, I had enough of studies and I wanted to get a job. And I was lucky, I was employed at an insurance company in Klimentská Street, and the boss called us all in. And all those young people, and they were saying whether they’d join the CPC or not. And I, because I was Belková [when single - ed.], so I was about the third on the list, when he read me, I said nooo, that I wouldn’t join. And then his secretary said the same, and he called us up and told us off, that we shouldn’t have done that. But I was used to saying the truth. And they, because they satisfied with my work, they didn’t dare fire me, and I’ll tell you that there were decent folk among those Communists. The chief accountant was one, and he... I worked with them the closest, so they knew what I was like, well, and he called for me and said: ‘What will you do, you’re in the list...’ That was that drive for 77,000 employees to go from office jobs to production. I said: ‘Well, I’ll go into production.’ And he said: ‘What are we going to end up with if we send people like you away into production...’ And I said: ‘Well, I don’t know what you’re going to end up with.’ My mother was afraid for me, she said: ‘You have to be careful; they put Hus to the stake, and they’ll put you in prison.’”

  • “I made a crucial mistake, which hadn’t occurred to me. You know, at the time I used to wear Tuzex [foreign, imported - trans.] clothing, and unfortunately, I didn’t come there dressed as some ragged pauper but dressed in Tuzex. And that was a mistake because of the nurse, you see. She didn’t care about what I told the doctor, how ill it made me, she said straight up: ‘Where did you get those shoes from?’ I said: ‘I had them made, I had them made privately in the Old Town.’ – ‘And where’d you get that suit?’ – ‘That’s from Tuzex, from abroad.’ Well, that was all wrong. So in the end the doctor said: ‘Well, I can’t give you an exception, you know?’ And I said: ‘Well, then I’ll go into production.’”

  • “Right, the Germans came here [to the Prague Sokol house - ed.], they went through all the houses here. During the Heydrich rampage. They scoured the houses, and my dad had a mark on the radio for where to catch London, and then you have a German in the flat... and those were Germans who had skulls here, those were the worst sort, type of people. Well, but Dad always wowed them with his German. That was the wonderful advantage that he wowed them with his German. So they didn’t even go to look at the radio, nothing, it worked out okay, but we were afraid they’d lock him up for being a Sokol.”

  • “‘And I come from Opava, and I...’ And I told her the name of that family, and she said: ‘Well, Zdena, you’re crazy not to have married him, that was the richest family in Opava!’ I said: ‘Well yes, but he went off to America and got super rich in that there America, and he wanted to marry me and that we’d go there together. I didn’t want him. I said: No, I wanted to be in love, my man would have to tell me things.’ And she said: ‘That was a mistake.’ And I said: ‘I guess.’ You know, he bought a kind of, imagine that, he saw he wouldn’t get anywhere with me, so eh told my father: ‘I’ll pay you to see what your daughter would marry in to. I’ll pay you a trip to America and back.’ I get it, you know, Dad was of quite an age and he was a name that meant something at Svoboda and Hynais. So he didn’t want us as a family to move abroad somewhere. Our home is here, we lived here, we love it here, but he wanted all of this and said: ‘Things will be really bad here, there’ll be Communism, mind my words.’ And I remembered his words many times.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    v bytě pamětnice, 14.03.2018

    duration: 02:12:00
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

That others might rely on me

Mrs. Děrdová 1940s
Mrs. Děrdová 1940s
photo: Archiv pamětnice

Zdeňka Děrdová, née Belková, was born on 3 February 1926 in Prague-Zlíchov. Her father was a life-long employee of Svoboda & Hynais, a coal wholesaling company. She attended the grammar school in Vodičkova Street, which she completed in 1945. From 1937 she lived in Žitná Street in the newly built Sokol Union building. Her father was the treasurer of the Prague Sokol. In the aftermath of the Heydrich assassination, the Germans scoured the house and found unannounced visitors at the Belkas - a relative with her daughter. Her father spoke perfect German, and so he always managed to come to terms with them. In 1945 the witness was employed at a pharmacy run by Písaříček in Světozor Palace. She remembers who she and a friend scratched off German labels at the end of the war. In 1948 she worked at an insurance company in Klimentská Street and refused to join the Communist Party. Her husband was a doctor; he died twenty years ago. Zdeňka Děrdová is childless.