František Gabčo

* 1948

  • “In 1968 I was doing my military service, and I was at the border in full armour. We were assigned to the rocket unit in Klatovy, and we thus served on the front line. Russians were hundred metres away from us, and we were on the other side. This is what happened: We were fully armed, with four or eight magazines, a machine-gun and what not. I thought: ‘Why do we carry all this when we are not allowed to use it?’ The day after I was disarmed and they issued only empty magazines to me, because they feared that I might cause some trouble. The weather was nasty, it was cold and it was raining. So yes, we had a good time at the border. We had no idea what was happening in the cities. We didn’t know that there were tanks there. The troop commander only informed us that a protest demonstration was taking place in the town, but we didn’t receive any other information. They only told us: ‘Be here and watch out!’ After two weeks we left our posts and we returned to the barracks and there was a party with Russian soldiers. They came to our barracks and they were talking with us and celebrating. But it was only for the invited, for their supporters. Those who were like me were not allowed to join them. About two months later we were released from the army service and we became civilians again. We served some extra time and then they allowed us to leave the army.”

  • “My two older brothers lived in Přebuz for a while. We experienced the deportation of Germans who lived there. They left their houses there and they went away only with their backpacks. It was terrible for them, because they had to abandon everything and leave. I have to say that they were immensely kind and they liked to have fun. They used to go to a little pub which was also regularly frequented by soldiers from the customs house in Rolava, who were coming there on Saturdays. There was music and merriment in the pub. I enjoyed being among them a lot; they were the kind of people that you can talk to. When they were leaving, they were really unhappy about it and they offered their houses to us to buy them. Almost all the people from Přebuz left at once. It all happened quickly and the village became empty in a short time. People from Přebuz lived like one large family. They used to get together, dances were organized, and there was fun. I really liked it there. One of the reasons they liked to talk to us was that there were not many people to have fun with, and they saw that we liked to have a good time, too. Every time when we were walking to the pub, we were singing and they liked to listen to us. Eventually only few of us remained there. The school was closed down and children then had to commute to Rotava. The village gradually became depopulated. The houses were bought by people from Kladno, who were going there only on weekends. I think that Přebuz begins to get a bit lively again as more people now live there. New people are coming. They are not Germans, but our people.”

  • “Communication was difficult in the beginning. When I came to work for the first time, the foreman ordered me: ‘Fetch a cudgel.’ I didn’t know what he meant. I brought him a stick, because at home we used the word cudgel for a stick. He told me: ‘What did you bring?’ ‘You wanted a cudgel, so I brought a cudgel.’ ‘No. I wanted this,’ and he showed me what he meant. It was actually a hammer. So this was in the beginning, but a month or two later we got used to it. We eventually became able to communicate well. When we came here, there were many people who also moved here from other places. At first everything here felt quite alien to us. There were many gypsies in Dolní Rotava, but we didn’t meet with them, because we didn’t understand each other. When we went to the pub, there were conflicts because of it. They asked us what we were doing there. I told them: ‘Why should not I be able to sit here only because I don’t talk to you?’ There was a couple of fights. I don’t like to remember this. Then we got used to it and we moved from Dolní Rotava to Horní Rotava, and then everything got into normal.”

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    Rotava - v bytě pamětníka, 22.02.2015

    duration: 01:44:23
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People who are able to get together while playing music surely must understand each other no matter what nationality they are

Portrait of František Gabčo during his army service, Klatovy, 1967 or 1968
Portrait of František Gabčo during his army service, Klatovy, 1967 or 1968
photo: archiv pamětníka

František Gabčo was born March 11, 1948 in Ruská Nová Ves near Prešov into a large and poor Gypsy family to Anna and Štefan Gabčo. In 1962 he began studying at the vocational school for miners in Ostrava, but he did not complete his studies. In 1963 he moved with his father to Rotava and he began working for the state-owned forestry company. During the following two years his whole family moved to Rotava as well and they settled there permanently. In 1967 he directly witnessed the so-called second eviction from Přebuz.  During the events of August 1968 he was doing his military service in the anti-aircraft defense unit. In 1973 he married Jiřina and they had four children. Their neighbour Anna Marešová became their family’s protector as well as the godmother to their children. František quit his work in the forest after his wedding and he began working in the factory Škoda Rotaz where he - with the exception of a short stay in Kladno - worked until his retirement. He refused to get involved in the Velvet Revolution. In 2003 and 2004 he was active in the civic association Amoro Dživipen.