Roman Frait

* 1935  

  • "I had an accident and an ambulance took me away. I could not return the miners clothes, the lamp that you have assigned. How, when they took me by an ambulance? And the prison demanded it from me. I wrote to them that I could not return it, that I was in an ambulance, that I was taken to Prague. I didn't have it that day. Prague answered me, the central administration, that I should have found someone to hand it over for me. Well, can anyone say this with common sense? When I was, as they say, bounded and I wasn't allowed to move my hand so as not to hurt myself? Spiral fracture of the arm. Here's a suture, here is a seam, here was surgery. That's bullshit. I didn't have to do anything in Russia. I went there, I got a record. Such a plate, A4 format, with a pencil. It was made of plywood. And as they mined the ore and drove it in a cart, I only made commas. Four commas, over. This saved paper, because it was then erased with a piece of glass when it was rewritten somewhere else. They didn't force me. But here? They have a different approach."

  • "So, in the town of Odra I got to the other shore in Germany by such a boat. There was a border. But they caught me there, so I wanted to be taken to Munich because my mother's brother lived there. I said to myself: 'Cousin Kurtík is not alive, they don't have children, they will take me.' But it didn't happen. They handed me back to the Poles there. I was in Szczecin in such a house, it was Dom polskiej młodzieży (A house of polish youth). I was afraid to get home. Like to the Czech Republic, because I was, as they say, from Fraits, that I ran away, that I worried them. So, I didn't say my name was Frait, but I remembered my childhood friend named Novak. So, I said my name was Roman Novak, and I didn't say where I was from. I said, 'I'm from somewhere in Russia' and that's it. So, they named me Roman Konstantinovich Novak, from somewhere in Russia and somewhere from the Black Sea. Born in Sevastopol and done. And they dragged me to Russia."

  • "Those people, those adults who persuaded their children to be friends with me during the war, then berated them for talking to me. However, the children did not condemn. We were friends because we were peers. The adults didn't understand. On the contrary, they instilled in them a hatred for the Germans. And it went so far that we were picked up there and I experienced the death march to Pohořelice. That was just the end of May. They came then, today they could be called 'brats' from Zbrojovka, to whom they gave shotguns and they did not know how to hold it, whether by bayonet up or down, and they chased us towards Pohořelice. It was pretty drastic for some people. Especially for old people. They pushed them there with their butts. The experience I had there, which I have had in myself for a long time, that they took a child of a lady and they slammed the child on a tree there. I don't know if the child was alive or not, but the lady collapsed and the others helped her. We got to Pohořelice, there was a cement warehouse. And there, then the relatives of my stepfather with a horse and a cart came for us for and took us to Brno."

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    Brno, 25.09.2020

    (audio)
    duration: 01:47:37
    media recorded in project Příběhy regionu - JMK REG ED
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One must be able to deal with the destiny and throw all of one´s cares away

Roman Frait as a 7 years old boy, Brno 1942
Roman Frait as a 7 years old boy, Brno 1942
photo: archive of the witness

Roman Frait was born as Roman Kugler on August 15, 1935 in Brno to a single German mother and a Czech father. The parents were not married. At the age of two, he suffered from infantile paralysis, which caused reduced mobility of his upper limbs. In 1939, his mother married German Bruno Frait, who passed on his surname to Roman. The family acquired the status of an imperial German and in the following years expanded to include daughters Mariana and Josefa. At the end of May 1945, Roman and his mother and sisters completed the infamous Brno death march to Pohořelice. They returned to Brno thanks to the intervention of the Czech part of the family. At the age of fifteen, in 1950 he decided to flee through the German Democratic Republic to the Federal Republic of Germany to visit his uncle. However, he was caught on the border and, under the name Roman Konstantinovich Novak, sent to a Polish youth home, from where he traveled to several Soviet factories. In 1952 he decided to flee back to Czechoslovakia. However, he was arrested in Uzhhorod and sentenced to 25 years for trying to escape. As a juvenile, they eventually reduced his sentence to one tenth. He ended up in Soviet work camps in Kazakhstan and was then deported to Arkhangelsk in northern Russia. After Stalin’s death, he was amnestied in the summer of 1953, but did not return home to Czechoslovakia until early 1954. In 1960, he was sentenced to 38 months for preparing to flee from his homeland and slander his fraternal nation. He suffered a serious injury while serving his sentence. Twenty months later, in 1962, he was released on amnesty. He worked as a plumber and earned extra money by various temporary jobs, for example as a nurse in a zoo or as a worker with a mobile feather cleaning. He got married five times during his life, fathering two daughters and a son. He finally acquired Czech citizenship in 2006.