Ján Gronský

* 1928  †︎ 2023

  • "The first time I met him, I can now tell you exactly, was in 1965 at a conference in Smolenice. And the Slovaks, there were none there, just him, just around him. And now imagine a room twice the size of this one, they were showing a world championship hockey match between Czechoslovakia and Canada. And we beat them 8:0. The Czechs were roaring away, the Slovaks just sat at the table with Husák. Husák pissed off by our shouting, as he was supposed to have the main say and so on. Well, simply he couldn't stand anything. During a scientific debate, when I told him he was mistaken in what he was saying about the Hungarian... Because he was explaining something about Hungarian national committees. How they came about and... But because I knew a bit about Hungary, because I had visited Pest during my studies, and I had been to their parliament in 1962, so I knew it was rubbish. And so I told him there, at the assembly in Smolenice: 'But Comrade Husák, you're mistaken.' My, he threw a fit."

  • "I was extremely lucky, like one in ten millions. Imagine that I was sitting on a truck in the first wave, with the rain beating on us. My legs... they should've kicked my ass, goodness knows why they didn't, because I had my legs stuck in front of the driver - so what could he see? And that's how I entered Ružomberok as a liberator. And now imagine this. I had always had this one great dream. That it would be a Sunday, the sun would be shining, we'd walk out of the church on the square, and then there was the promenade, the whole city promenaded and so on. And I'm promenading myself. And now just imagine! When I arrived, it was raining like crazy. I was drenched so much, that they had to cut through my boots to dry them. And the following day the sun was shining and I was promenading myself. You get it? After nearly a year and a half. To this day I'd cry over how touching it was for me. You understand, it was amazing! Of course, there was a very tragic side to it. I thought we'd go visit Mum. But I found out that the Gestapo had arrested my mum in November 1944, as a 'partizane mutter', and sent her off to the train station. And as they led her away, her mother, Grandma, she was in hospital. Recovering from some illness. She was 78. And when she saw her daughter being led away by the Germans, she ran outside in her slippers and her dressing gown and started shouting all she could. So the Germans put her in too. They put them into a wagon. Grandma died already somewhere at Trnava. They threw her out there. Later we found her grave, where they... we buried her after the war. They took my mother to Ravensbrück, and she never returned."

  • "In January 1944 the attorney came by and told us: 'Please, hide the children away somewhere. I've been ordered to put them behind bars. Within a fortnight - I'll drag things out - but I'll have to put them behind bars.' We didn't know what to do, the commander of the gendarmerie, or his second-in-command, First Lieutenant Spišiak, suggested he could hide us at some customs house in the Tatras. But because my father was in Budapest, where he had two married sisters... He was doing well there, because he was a friend of Ištván Horthy, the son of Horthy, as my father was in the Hungarian army. So we decided to go to Hungary. We left in February 1944. We didn't go to the Ružomberok train station, as there was a spy there. We went by foot to Rybárpoľo, the nearest next station, and from there to Vrútok and onwards, close to Nitra. There we met up with a couple of guides. We crossed the borders at Nové Zámky. Illegally, on all fours. Twenty-two degrees below zero... Each carried a bag of some sort. Then we reached a small stream. So we had to get up then, but even so we weren't sure we'd be able to jump it. And if we didn't jump far enough, what then with wet feet? We couldn't say naught in Hungarian. It was Hungarian territory. We were a group of some eight people, led by a woman. So we crawled along, and using pen knives and goodness knows what, we cut some trees, birches that grew there, and built ourselves a bridge of sorts, which we then crossed over. It was on a plain. We reached Nové Zámky and the Hungarian gendarmes. Straight off we all made as though we needed to pee, so we all rushed off to the toilet. And the woman that was leading us, she stopped next to the toilet, next to the wall, and even as the gendarmes were passing by, she raised her skirt and started peeing. Well the gendarmes were completely... Then we came to the station at Nové Zámky and boarded the train. Well, and you can imagine. My sister - twenty-two years old. Hungarian soldiers. And straight away they started at her: 'Hey...' She couldn't speak a word, it was very bad. So that's how we got into Hungary."

  • "They had him in a carriage, in a glass coffin, trundling over the cobble stones. I was there. And one old granny called out: 'Look how it's jolting the poor reverend.' And one idiot cried out: 'Long live Andrej Hlinka!' I still remember that. Hodža was there, as the prime minister, with all sorts of ministers, scouts, Polish rangers [scouts - transl.] and so on - Hlinka's city. They had originally buried him in the cemetery, but in the meanwhile they had constructed a mausoleum in Ružomberok, at great expense, it stands there to this day, and they entombed him there. The whole Slovak government was there for when they moved the body. And I even remember that my father took pictures the whole time, and made each member of the Slovak government a photo album, as they were all there. He was a very adaptable chap. To be honest, he was afraid. Because in Slovakia, the anti-Jew laws weren't originally on a racial basis. But he was later made absolute exempt by the president - he was an 'honorary Arian', so it was all fine. So I remember how they did that, how they had him entombed. Just before the end of the war, they took Hlinka away somewhere, and no one knows where."

  • "Another time, we're sitting there. Leonard's sitting over there, I'm here, Husák there. And the door's over there. We're sitting, someone knocks, and this typical Slovak farmer comes in, face ruddy by nature, you know. Inimitable. Even the clothes. He had a cap on his head, I won't describe the clothes, I'll leave that to some poet. And with him two boys, seven and ten years of age, you know, boys like that. The door opens and I turn round, the chap's standing there, pulls his cap off, stands to attention, salutes, his head bold, and shouts: 'Comrade Husák, Jozef Bača or some such name from Dolnej Hornej ["Lower Upper" a generic village name - transl.], I have come to visit you.' Husák didn't say a word. He just sat opposite like this. I watched. He looked at him with a stony expression and said: 'I don't remember you.' And he replies: 'Well, comrade, don't you remember the uprising at so and so, we were there...' And he goes on to explain all sorts of... 'I don't remember.' He stood up. I was itching to yell out: 'Comrade Bača, I was there too, I remember you, I'm glad to see you.' He stood up, stepped up to him, one of the boys like so, the other like so at the chap's side, and he asked: 'Those are your boys?' The chap replied: 'Yes, those are my boys.' You could see for their whole life those boys hadn't heard of anything else apart from the great Husák. And Husák leans towards the one on the right, pats him on the shoulder, and says: 'Good boys. But I'm afraid we have work to do.' He turned his back on him and that was that."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 23.09.2009

    duration: 02:31:03
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha, 29.04.2015

    duration: 01:56:37
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
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“Talk your father into working for us, or we’ll send you to England”

Gronsky_1950.JPG (historic)
Ján Gronský
photo: Jan Kotrbáček - pořízeno po natáčení (současná), archiv Jána Gronského (dobová)

Doc. Dr. Ing. Jan Gronský, CSc. was born on the 25th of May 1928 in Likavka, Liptov district, near Ružomberok. His father was of Jewish descent, however, he left the Jewish community in 1928, and Ján Gronský grew up in an orthodox Catholic family. Ružomberok was the hub of the People’s Party (Ľudová strana) which had a decisive effect on local life. At grammar school, Gronský joined an anti-Fascist resistance group. After they were discovered, he was expelled from school and forced to flee with his siblings to Hungary, reuniting with his father who had left earlier. Despite a forced stay in a Russian battalion, he reached the 4th Brigade of the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps, where he remained until the end of the war. The same brigade coincidentally liberated Ružomberok. His mother was accused of helping partisans and was sent to her death in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. After the war, Ján Gronský became a member of the Communist Party of Slovakia. He graduated from the Political and Social University in Prague and started work at the Faculty of Law of Charles University in 1952. His father emigrated to England, and as a Communist, Gronský was persuaded to cooperate with State Security. The StB wanted him to convince his father to work for them. However, that was unsuccessful. He himself emigrated in July 1968 - first to Austria, then to Italy, and later to his father’s widowed wife in England. He soon returned to Prague and was expelled from the party, but allowed to retain his place at the university. He was a lecturer at the department of constitutional law and a very popular teacher. His long-standing interest was in constitutional history which is a subject he also published articles on. He died on December 16, 2023.