Vladimír Hradec

* 1931  

  • “I was the fifth person sitting in the front row. In front of me were Novák, Švéda, a former diplomat whose name I forgot, Janata and me. The first four received death sentences, I was the first to get twenty-two years. Next to me sat Janata and I can assure you he had trembled horribly when they pronounced the sentence. Probably he knew what was awaiting him. The diplomat’s sentence was changed to life imprisonment, according to some paragraph. Janata was the only one executed. All the rest received fairly harsh punishment. The shortest was two years, I think. It was a woman sentenced merely for being Švéda’s wife.”

  • “In the Rovnost 1 camp everything took place at the same spot. Showering with radioactive water, washing oneself with radioactive water and drinking radioactive water. Later they rebuild the camp. When I came there, the changing room was still in the camp. But some two years later they built a new one directly at the shaft. The people who went up the pit changed their clothes, got a bath and went to the camp. So it was a bit more tolerable then.”

  • "I took my saxophone and left the flat - we had a rehearsal with the band in the evening, some twenty of us from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering - so I left home and went to the tram stop at Sparta. The tram stop is there to this day. It's a bit prettier than it used to be, at the time it was only a simple post. I put my saxophone on the ground and waited for the tram. A Tudor drove up, a car. When they saw me, of course, they pulled her up right in front of me, two policemen jumped out, one from each side, grabbed my arms and said: 'You're under arrest. We're from ministry of interior, from that there building, from the Tilebox ['Kachlíkárna', a nickname for the MI building at Letná - transl.].' They opened the door, the saxophone, or - I'm not sure if they said saxophone or box - put that on your lap, straight of they blindfolded me so I wouldn't see a thing, and off we drove. It's a mystery to me how they came by the information they had, what went on where and everything, because they said: 'What have you got in the case? A machine gun?' I said: 'No, a saxophone.' - 'Well, we'll see about that when we get to the station, then we'll have a look inside.' So they knew I had a machine gun hidden at home. Who could have told them? It's an absolute mystery to me, where could they have found out about that? Because almost knew about that, the only ones were Radek and few of his closest friends. I don't know."

  • "They used the sleep denial method. If you don't know what it is, you think it's a joke. No! You're interrogated throughout the day until, I don't know, six or eight p.m. Then they put you in the cell. There's someone sitting behind the door with the task to keep you awake. So, if you stopped, you weren't walking - a bang on the door. A really big bang and: 'Keep walking!' Okay, you kept on walking. You stopped - bang on the door: 'Keep walking!' You went to pee - bang on the door: 'Show yourself!' During the night the orders were that you were only allowed to sleep on your back with your hands crossed and completely visible. And the cell was very very cold and you had two blankets, so you were really feeling it. And anyone, subconsciously, when their hands are freezing, he hides them under the blanket - bang on the door: 'Hands!' So you woke up, put your hands on the blanket, fell asleep, and a moment later once again - you covered them and bang on the door. After a few repeats of that, the door opened: 'Take your blankets out, start walking!' Okay, so they had you walking for an hour, then they gave you back your blankets and so on and so forth until morning came. So you pretty much didn't sleep at all. Theoretically you did though, so the regulation that stated you should have eight hours of sleep was officially fulfilled. Well, and if this goes on for a week, a fortnight, you pretty much sleepwalk wherever you are. And the barrage of questions, the same questions on and on, from all around you, and shouting. Any moment of silence had you asleep straight away, and then the shouting again, and maybe you'd say something you didn't even want to."

  • "Sometime around 1942, the Jewish family was already gone from Poděbrady, so Mrs Mašínová came to have a look at the flat, as she was interested in renting a place. It was a three-room apartment in the first floor, and she was looking for a place in Poděbrady. In the end she got herself a small villa not far from us, it was some five hundred metres away in Na Chmelnici Street, so she took that instead. Radek started school the same, but we weren't in the same class. I'd say that it was more like the two of us would meet up on the same way to school or on the same way from school, but there wasn't any great friendship between us or anything, because they did move in quite young after all, and it wasn't customary at the time, I guess because of the war it wasn't customary for children to wander around the whole town, everyone kept to their own house or as close to it as possible, because it did offer some sort of security - your family, your home, you know you're protected somehow. As for Janata, next door to us there lived the Matases, and the daughter of Mr Matas married Mr Janata, a widower. He was a teacher. When they married, they moved into Poděbrady, they were neighbours to us and they had, at the time - two children is what Mr Janata had, and then with his young wife he had two more children, a boy and a girl. So we hanged out with the Janata boys, because they were neighbours, so all our games and such, well, they were part of our everyday life. Simply, neighbours."

  • "I didn't want to, to tell the truth, didn't want to look back. Just once I did look, when they brought us there, I know that the court room was completely full, cram-packed with on-lookers. It was in the biggest room, they did lit in my sister-in-law. It was just for those invited, no one else was allowed in. I don't know if there were any reporters there, but probably, because I still have the newspaper clippings from the trial. My aunt kept those for me, she kept them so long, right until I came back, when she gave them to me so that I knew what had been written about me, about us. In the row where I sat there was always one policeman, second policeman, I always sat in between two policemen. The next chap also sat between two policemen, and the first one too. We went in one by one, that is, the main accused first, that was Novák, next was Švéda I think, third was Rouša, fourth Janata and fifth was me. I can't remember the other ones. Well, and according to my sister-in-law, there was absolute silence there. She told me she thought that all the invited people were employees of ČKD Praha ["Czechomoravian Kolben Daněk Prague", a large engineering concern - transl.]. Whether they were all militiamen or not, I couldn't really say. But mostly they were middle-aged men. The verdict, which I didn't get hold of until 1989, as it was a secret, contains three sections. The first is high treason, the second is military espionage, and the third section is larceny of state property. So the military espionage was me as a university student telling the Mašíns I had been to military training, and that I'm a chemist. High treason, well that's obvious, and larceny of state property..."

  • "Radek stopped by one Saturday afternoon and said that they'd be making a run for it this evening. That Milan Paumer would be waiting for them somewhere - no, Milan came along as well, he was there. That the three of them would escape, then. They prepared their weapons at my place, cleaned them. Milan, this is just an interesting detail, Milan had a nine with him, so I lent him a hammer to knock the numbers flat. What for, I don't know, but he flattened the numbers on all the weapons so that there was no evidence of what weapons they are exactly. I gave them ammo, they needed nine and 7-65 ammo. They had two nines and one seven-sixty-fiver, so they stocked up on ammo from me. I know they asked me if they should take a hand grenade or not, if they should take a semi-automatic or not. In the end they took neither, as they reckoned they'd be away and in Berlin in three four days. But then when I read Radek's report on what all happened during the crossing, it turned out to be much more complicated than what was originally expected. Thinking back with the benefit of many years, I know I'd have ended up the same as Janata and Švéda. Because the three of them, Pepík, Radek, and Milan Paumer, they did twenty kilometres a day. They had prepared themselves for it, they were in good physical condition. Švéda hadn't, Janata hadn't. I wasn't a sports type either, so the chances of me managing the physical strain that they had to overcome, the chances were close to zero. I wouldn't have managed. Just as those two didn't manage. I wouldn't have. And the fact is that those they caught, they executed."

  • "The Mašín brothers at that time reached an understanding that violence should be answered with violence. Even my life experience suggests that it is the only option. Recalling various political processes, it happened several times that someone had killed someone in self-defense and then was charged with murder. Allegedly, his job was to convince the aggressor to let him be. That's when the aggressor became the victim and the one under attack became the culprit. My experience, including the prison one, is that whoever advocates for crude violence will only stop if he is met with violence. A bully never understood, understands and will understand some blabbing, simply because he is a bully."

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An oppressor knows only to oppress

Vladimír Hradec 2016
Vladimír Hradec 2016

Vladimír Hradec was born on the 30th of May 1931 in Poděbrady. In 1942 he became acquainted with the Mašín brothers who had moved into the town at that time. He would meet Ctirad on the way to school, but no close friendship was initiated. They did not become close until after the war. After graduating, Vladimír started studying chemistry while at the same time helping the Mašín brothers with their activities, though he was not privy to their plans. After the Mašíns’ escape, the whole of the Hradec family (Vladimír, his brother, father and mother) were arrested and all of them were given harsh sentences (Vladimír Hradec was sentenced to 22 years). He was an inmate of the prisons and labour camps in Leopoldov, Jáchymov and Bory. After his release in 1964 he worked at Spolana Neratovice [a chemical plant - transl.].