Václav Herout

* 1943  

  • "Gradually, propaganda began here in the sense of "endangered Serbs in Croatia". We thought that it couldn't be true, they said on TV, for example, that there was a factory where Serbs were thrown into the furnace. The local Serbs also laughed at that. No one expected it to turn into a fight in the area. We have heard that something is happening in Knin, that there is autonomy, Krajina. But maybe we just didn't have enough information, we thought it would pass. But in the meantime, it got even here to Daruvar. We were surprised to hear that three police officers had been murdered here. It was a surprise, people suddenly woke up and saw that the war was happening also down here in Daruvar. It was in September. A riot broke out in the police, when Serbian police captured the Croatian ones, then the first grenades landed on Daruvar and the first people died."

  • "Fortunately, we had a cellar, and it protects you from those ordinary grenades, there is no problem. But then, when they used the Air Force, and it dropped large bombs, up to 800 kilograms. And the bomb fell down, it could get up to three meters underground. So, you have to be lucky that it doesn't fall where you are. And if so, it's done. One bomb, a little smaller, fell down on a shop where my wife worked. The store had three floors, the bomb broke through the first, the second and the third, it fell down and did not explode. If it exploded, who knows how it would turn out. When the (Croats) took over the military warehouse, the (Yugoslav) air force wanted to destroy it, because there were a lot of weapons that fell into the hands of the Croatian army. And when a bomb fell there and the warehouse exploded, all the glass here on the shop windows in Daruvar cracked within a radius of five kilometers. But despite that, Daruvar still did quite well."

  • "There were no cars, so I took my bike. I got to Hrubečné pole, there were already some cars, so I left the bike there and got to Virovitica, to Barcz on the Hungarian border, where we had the collecting point. We waited there for two days in civilian clothes, the rain came, it was raining. Nobody told us what was going on, we just knew we were mobilized. That there is probably a danger that Russia (USSR) would also attack Yugoslavia, because it supported the changes and was against the occupation of those I will call them - friendly - socialist states. Of course, I didn't understand it then, today I look at it differently. Russia did not plan to attack Yugoslavia at the time, and Yugoslavia did not plan to help Czechoslovakia either, that would be absurd. However, in such a situation, it is customary for the army to move to the border, and when our soldiers saw the Hungarian tanks from the other side, they came to the conclusion that Russian policy was criticized here, and therefore Yugoslavia could be attacked as well. For two days we were there in civilian clothes in the rain, only the third day they gave us uniforms and some old shotguns. They all were reservists, they were no army, the guns from the First World War. I thought that if the Russians attacked us, they would catch us like a hare in that forest. How can we oppose them at all? And no information. We weren't allowed to turn on the radio either, there were no news. I was a telephone operator in the war. There were radio stations, but they were not allowed to be used, because they could be heard from the other side of the border. So, we untangled the wires, they were up to ten kilometers long. Then someone tears them or goes across them at night. And then it is very hard to find where the problem is. I was there for a month and it was worse than the whole military service in our country. It was only at the end that there was some information. It is interesting that neither television nor radio wrote about the mobilization anywhere, everything was silenced."

  • "I lived in that post-war period, just when they were trying to nationalize the land. I remember it was in Brestov. We moved out of here in 1949 and I was born in 1943. So, I was five years old. When it didn't work out, they wanted food, groceries. Yugoslavia did not even have food for themselves and they wanted to show that they did. So. wheat or vodka was exported to Albania. However, they had to get it from the farmers. Therefore, they had already said in advance how much wheat the farmer had to give to the state. When the harvest took place, with the machines. There was always one government official who counted how much wheat, how much of this and that was there. Then you had to share it, give it to the state. Of course, people hid it. And when someone didn't give it to them, they came (searched for it), they called it “sweeping the ground”. What was it - I listened to it as a child, I was afraid if they swept the ground, we would have nothing to eat. We won't have bread. The adults talked to each other like that and I listened to it. Once they came to our place too. If you didn't give them enough wheat, they took everything away and you must have been grateful that they did not arrest you. Once, when they came to our place and I saw how afraid my parents were that we might not have enough bread, I took a loaf of bread. We had such a big oven in the yard, we always baked five loaves, three a week were enough. So, when they came to our place, in order for us to have something to eat, I took the loaf and I hid in bed with it and covered myself with a duvet. And I fell asleep with that loaf. When they left, my parents were looking for me, they were afraid that something had happened to me, and then they somehow found me in that bed with the bread in my arms."

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    Daruvar, 22.11.2019

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    Daruvar, 22.11.2019

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    Daruvar, 22.11.2019

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Mirko, go or I’ll throw a grenade!

In 1962 as a high school graduate
In 1962 as a high school graduate
photo: archive of the witness

Václav (Vjenceslav) Herout was born on September 10, 1943 in Daruvarský Brestov, about 10 kilometers from Daruvar, the center of Croatian Czechs. His ancestors came to the area of today’s Croatia with other compatriots in the 19th century from Hradec Králové. They moved because of the better and cheaper land on the then southern border of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, which had expected strengthening of the regions in the immediate neighborhood of the Ottoman Empire since their relocation. Until 1949, the family lived in Daruvarský Brestov, then they moved to Malé Zdence. Václav Herout completed four classes of a Czech school and four classes of a Croatian school. He then headed to the Pedagogical Academy in nearby Pakrac, where he studied Czech language - history. He also studied history at the University of Zagreb. He worked as a teacher at the primary school in Ivanovo Sela, at the secondary school in Bělom Monastir, then he settled at the grammar school in Daruvar, where he remained until his retirement. In 1968, when Yugoslavia felt threatened after the invasion of Czechoslovakia, he joined the army as part of the mobilization and served near the Hungarian border. He spent the war events in Daruvar in 1991. He also worked as a correspondent for the compatriot magazine Jednota. Throughout his life, he maps the history of Croatian Czechs, collects their stories and records vanishing traditions. In 2003 he took over the archive of Croatian Czechs in Daruvar. He is also an active musician in the brass band music. He has three children, in 2020 he lived in Daruvar.