Augustin Ladislav Gazda
* 1960 †︎ 2019
“It was not an easy step. When you realize that you leave and you never come back. On my last day at home my mom woke me up and she told me not to drown. I replied. ‘See ya, I’ll be back in two weeks.’ I was closing the gate and I knew that I would never come back there. Friends then told me that the StB men were furious, because I somehow slipped through their hands and they had not expected this at all. That was interesting. I had ten thousand dinars and I set out with a backpack and food cans, so that I would not stick out from the others. I started a new period of my life. But before that, I had gone to see my confessor Mons. Ferdinand Bílek in Němčice na Hané and I told him: ‘Father, I came to say good-bye to you, because I am leaving for Italy and I shall never come back.’ He did not say anything and he only blessed me: ‘Go in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ And when I served my first Holy Mass after my return, he was there as a guest of honour and at that time I told him: ‘Whenever I mentioned that I would leave, you never reacted to it.’ He replied: ‘You know, there are certain moments in our lives, when each of us has to decide for himself. And it was your decision and I could not influence it. I only gave you a blessing for the journey.’ Only then I understood that this had been actually his answer.”
“It was immediately before my emigration. In 1984 the StB officers grew nervous because preparations for the jubilee in Velehrad were underway and they were picking their potential collaborators among young Christians. I received a notice to report to the StB office in Prostějov. I had no idea what they would want from me. They held me for about two and a half hours there. I have to say that they were polite, but at the same time they were cunning. If somebody believes that he would be able to confuse them by some talking, he is wrong. They knew well what they wanted to hear. They were asking indirect questions and they were finding out what you knew and what you did not. Your awareness of the situation. Then they created a mosaic from these pieces of information and they pre-selected you as their collaborator. They probably wanted to intimidate us, too. One of them asked me: ‘Look, from time to time you go to the café in the National House, what if we met there sometime for a chat. You know quite a lot about people from that environment.’ I am still grateful to God that I had the courage to say no. I told them that if I had committed something then they could imprison me, but that I would not inform on my friends, because then I would not be able to look into their eyes. Well, he did not press me any further, I have to say. But when I came out, I was very scared.”
“Velehrad was the last drop. [I decided] that I would leave the country. I have never experienced something like that. There were about three hundred thousand people in Velehrad. The Holy Mass was held outside, they set a place for it in a separate narrow alleyway on purpose. We were singing throughout the whole night, praying, and of course, StB agents were there among us. At the beginning of the Holy Mass, the chairman of the district committee said: ‘I welcome you at this peace manifestation.’ And those three hundred thousand people started whistling in protest and shouting that they were on a pilgrimage and not on some peace manifestation. This was topped by the minister of culture Klusák, who did not use the word ‘saint’ when he spoke about Cyril and Methodius. People interrupted him and shouted: ‘Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius!’ Eventually the StB men went to see bishop Vrana, who was a collaborationist, and it was known about him. Vrana said something smart for the first time in his life. He walked up to the microphone and he said: ‘Brothers and sisters, realize that you are on a pilgrimage.’ And they all started applauding, because we were on a pilgrimage. That was in July and I escaped in August.”
Rajhrad u Brna, 09.02.2018
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Life in faith is not restricted, on the contrary - it is a great inspiration
Augustin Ladislav Gazda was born on February 22, 1960 in Kojetín in the Olomouc region. He grew up in the family of a worker in Pivín together with two sisters. Although his parents did not raise their children in Christian faith, Augustin increasingly felt the desire for a monastic life. An encounter with the StB marked a turning point for him when the Secret Police pre-selected him as their potential collaborator at the time before the National Pilgrimage at Velehrad. Augustin realized that the regime was able to turn even an insignificant person into their informant. At the same time he grew aware that in his homeland he would never be able to fulfil his desire for a life in a monastic community. In 1985 he therefore emigrated to Italy. He returned to Czechoslovakia together with other monks in 1991, after the Velvet Revolution. At present he serves as the prior of the Benedictine Abbey in Rajhrad near Brno.