Jaroslav Hrňa

* 1934  

  • “The first one to accompany was the former President Svoboda. At that time, he did not hold any office and he got a hunting permit from the headquarters in Prague. The director of the Army Forests in Mimoň was one Špeta. He sent me to be at this and that time in the hunting lodghe, that Svoboda would come with a friend of his, and that I would show them around to hunt for a roe deer. They arrived in a car, an old Tatra dating back to the First Republic [pre-1938]. We stayed at the lodge for a while, then we went to the woods and Svoboda asked me: ‘Comrade, I’d be interested, that my friend shoot that roe deer, I’ve already hunted a plenty.’ He asked me to show him some high seat, that he knows how to hunt, and if a roe deer came, he would shoot it. I went hunting with the dean, it was a dean from the Charles University. We did not encounter any roe deers in the evening and we returned to the hunting lodge. And I felt ashamed, Mr. Svoboda and the dean seated me at the table, they cooked and waited at me. At that time, I was 27. I had thought I would do the cooking but they took care of me. I thus got to know President Svoboda as an excellent person, hardly anyone of such people would treat me this way.”

  • „When we lived at Brhlenka, in about March of 1945 or at the beginning of April, a group of people came, they took my parents away and some three hundred metres behind the house, they shot them dead.“ „Who were those people?“ „Nobody has ever found out. They pretended to be resistance fighters or some such, they had all sorts of weapons, they had German uniforms and coats. I was eleven at that time, I witnessed all that. They sat in our kitchen in the forester’s lodge ande then they said: ‘You’ll go with us. There were four of us boys, and they threatened us that they would shoot us dead if we would go outside.” “Did they speak German or Czech?” “They spoke Czech.” “And they wore German uniforms?” “Some of them had normal clothes, some wore German clothes.” “Could they be German army or Gestapo?” “They certainly weren’t the Gestapo.” “Why do you think so?” “They stole everything all they could find, all valuables we had. Mom’s fox fur coat, guns, duvets, bed linen. Whatever they found, they tied it up in bundles, threw it on their backs and off they went.”

  • „Our army had this Židlov shooting range. When there was some shooting practice, they had three tanks there, they did their shooting… it was about two kilometres’ ride, there were the targets at the end, they fired at them and then they returned. When the Russians came, they lengthened it. The attack zone was about six kilometres long then. The damage was caused only after the Russians had come. They attacked in whole units, there were quite some tanks and a plenty of shots! Sometimes, they missed and the cartridge ended up in the woods. At the Bělá shooting range, there was this accident, when the Russians were on their way back, one man did not unload, he discharged a grenade and it exploded in the Bělá school. It was not during any holidays but the children from that class where the grenade exploded had gone to the gym for the class. That was a goddamn stroke of luck.“

  • „So one day this happenned, I was in the forest, soldiers with submachine guns walked there to poach something. Ordinary low-ranking soldiers. I started talking to them and they kept their guns aimed at me all the time. I explained it to them in Russian, that this is forbidden, they cannot poach here. Then we parted in peace. But I saw that the guys were army engineers from Kuřívody. I knew the commander so I went there and told him that his men were poaching. He ordered them to line up so that I could show him the perpetrators. Irecognised them straight away. They took them to the office and there, a sergeant beat them until they bled. I even felt sorry for the guys, that I had even talked about it."

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    Liberec, 07.07.2021

    (audio)
    duration: 01:30:48
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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The Ralsko forester would accompany generals for hunts and he would stalk the Soviet poachers

Jaroslav Hrňa in front of his forest keeper's lodge in Ploužnice 1964
Jaroslav Hrňa in front of his forest keeper's lodge in Ploužnice 1964
photo: Archiv pamětníka

Jaroslav Hrňa comes from the Uherské Hradiště area. He was born on the 27th of February in 1934 in Bojkovice. His father was a forester and eventually, the family settled in the Brhlenka forester’s lodge. Towards the end of WWII, a band of armed men arrived to the lodge, they were either resistance fighters or bandits and they shot Jaroslav’s parents dead and looted the lodge. The witness and his three brothers were thus orphaned and they witnessed the end of the war and the liberation from Nazis in the Vizovice orphanage. The murder of their parents was never investigated. In the late 1940’s and early 50’s, Jaroslav went to a secondary forestry school in Hejnice, he wanted to follow in the tracks of his father and become a forrester. After finishing the school, he was sent to Jizerské hory but he did not like it there so he arranged a transfer to the newly founded military forest in the Mimoň area. From 1954 till 1956, he served in the army, among others, he was involved in building fortifications of the bunkers at the borders with West Germany. After he finished his army service, he returned to work and in the moribund village of Jezová, he met his future wife Růžena whom he married in 1960. Mr. and Mrs. Hrňa soon found their new home in Ploužnice, where they started a family; they had a daughter, Soňa and a son, Jaroslav. Jaroslav Sr., as a local forester, accompanied high-ranking generals for hunts (among them Ludvík Svoboda, Václav Prchlík, Vladimír Janek, Martin Dzúr, even the Soviet Marshal Grechko), he became friends with Václav Prchlík. After the Vysočany Meeting of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia that took place in 1968, he hid his superior, Ladislav Zdeněk, in his house, after he lost favour with the régime. The presence of the Soviet army complicated Jaroslav’s forest work because the tank manœuvres often would not follow the schedules, the tanks and armed vehicles damaged the forests, and both low-ranking soldiers and the officers would often go poaching. Jaroslav however kept amicable relationship with the Soviets, he remembers them not as enemies but as people whom he used to meet on daily basis. According to the witness, after the occupation army left in 1991, the army forests were in many cases in better state than many state-managed forests. In the new, free times, visitors from the Wests would often visit for hunting. Jaroslav worked as a forester until 1999 and what worried him more those days were not the army but messy tourists. In 2021, Jaroslav and his wife still lived in Ploužnice.