Slavěna Eliášová

* 1943  

  • “We had an agreement that the Ukrainians from Poland would move to the houses of the Czechs. We befriended the Ukrainian children as there were no other kids around. Rosťa and I had to speak Czech. We weren’t allowed to speak Ukrainian. When we started to speak Ukrainian at home, my mom would poke us and we had to speak Czech. She used to tell us that we’d return to Czechoslovakia anyway – maybe in a week, maybe in 15 years. But one day, we’d come back. And that’s why we had to speak Czech. So we were speaking Czech and the other kids would laugh at us. They called us ‘pocem’ because I called ‘pojď sem’ (‘come here’ in Czech – pronounced ‘pocem’ – note by the translator) at Rosťa.”

  • "I remember an interesting story. In the 1950s, a militia man from Rovno used to stay at our place. They were stationed in every village in order to make sure that order was kept. One day the Ukrainian nationalists come to our house and told my grandfather (her father – note by the author) that they needed somewhere to sleep. Of course he didn't argue with them – what was he supposed to do? They slept in the hay above the blacksmith shop. A little later, the soldiers came – I remember that they had bayonets mounted on their rifles. We had sacks with grain underneath the staircase and they poked their bayonets into the sacks. They wanted to make sure that nobody was hiding in the sacks. They searched everywhere. They also went to look into the cellar. As they were searching, our mom took us to the side – we were supposed to be silent. They also went to look inside the blacksmith shop. Grandfather later told us that they had asked him if he didn't know about a group of Ukrainian nationalists that had reportedly been spotted in the area. He told them that they were probably sleeping above the blacksmith shop. They must have thought he was joking because otherwise it would have been really bad – if they had found them."

  • “When I think about it, it must have been really hard because two children died and I was born in 1943 which really was one the worst periods during the war. When I was one year old, I got pneumonia as we would frequently hide in the basement during the air raids, even in winter time. I fell ill with pneumonia and it got much worse when I got meningitides. But I was lucky because it was already at a time when the allied armies were rolling back the Germans and my aunt – the cousin of my brother – took me to Zdolbunov, which was a railway hub where the army was stationed. I was treated there by an army doctor, I can't remember whether it was Svoboda’s army or some Russian army. I was actually in such bad shape that once he told my parents to take me home, that there was no chance of recovery. It was in April, they were taking me home on a cart and the road was bumpy. The cart was shaking me up and I suddenly started to cry. I showed signs of life again. My parents took me home but they had no medicaments. So my dad ran out of the door, stopped the first car and went to Zdolbunov. The next morning, he came back home with the medicaments that he got from the doctor. Well, my health got better and better and hey, here I am today, about to turn 70 soon.”

  • “When the crop was abundant they got a sack or two of grain. But when the harvest was bad, they got nothing. They were given a couple of Rubles. With each salary that was paid out once or twice a year, they had to buy some obligations. It was mandatory. It was State Bonds or something of the sort. When we were leaving, we inquired if they could be cashed. It was impossible.”

  • “He was put in prison because he tried to escape to Austria when he was 18 years old. He tried to swim across the Danube and they caught him right in the middle. Being the son of a kulak from the Pilsen region, the Communists gave him extra strict treatment and he was put in jail. The first time, he was sentenced to two years. The second time they caught him, he spent six years behind bars. The first time, he wanted to flee across the Danube and the second time, via Hřensko, where they caught him and he was sentenced to six years.”

  • “I remember that he was in an utterly desolated state. He came back from the Gulag in Vorkuta. I hid from him under the table. I saw a lot of people that looked like him. There were often famines there and people would stroll about the countryside, starved almost to death. They came from eastern Ukraine and later from Belarus. They were begging us for a bit of flour and some sugar to feed their children. It was really horrible in the beginning of the 1950s, I remember that.”

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    Šumperk, 29.05.2012

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I was thoroughly brain washed – it was unthinkable for me not to be admitted to the Pioneer or the Komsomol

Slavěna Eliášová as a child
Slavěna Eliášová as a child
photo: archiv pamětníka

Slavěna Eliášová, née Lucuková, was born in 1943 in a Czech family in Podlísky, a little village in Volhynia. Many members of her family were affected by the rule of totalitarian regimes, especially Communism. Her grandfather, Josef Vostrý, was shot by the Ukrainian nationalists (the supporters of Stepan Bandera, a prominent Ukrainian nationalist leader). Her uncle Vladimír fought in the ranks of the 1st Czechoslovak army corps and was arrested in the battle for the Dukla Pass. Because of his arrest, he was later sent to a Soviet gulag camp near Vorkuta where he worked building a railway and lived in horrible conditions. His brother Josef was also a member of the 1st Czechoslovak army corps and because he owned a candy shop, he was arrested as an exploiter of the working classes. Their cousin Vít was burned by Wehrmacht soldiers in a barn in the village of Svatá nearby Buderaz together with a number of other Czechs and Ukrainians. The family of Slavěna Eliášová witnessed the true reality of “Soviet Communist heaven” until 1961, because unlike the other Czechs, they didn’t re-emigrate in 1947. For many years they were sending requests to the authorities to return to the land of their ancestors but they were only allowed to do so after the State visit of Secretary Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev in Moscow. The family then moved to Šumperk, where Slavěna Eliášová worked as a project architect in a company specializing in the installation of electrical equipment. In 1971, she married Viktor Eliáš, who had been expelled to the region of Šumperk together with his family because they were denounced as “kulaks”. Viktor Eliáš twice tried to flee from Czechoslovakia and as a result spent 8 years in various Communist prison camps, where he had to toil in the uranium mines of Jáchymov. Slavěna Eliášová currently still lives in Šumperk.