František Hroník

* 1929

  • “Back then I started getting into more trouble. Because I had also made several enthusiastic speeches in support of Dubček and the new leadership. There had even been an extraordinary meeting of the Communists of the whole military academy, where I had spoken harshly of the old leadership and in favour of Dubček. I remember the year ’68 very clearly, the arrival of the Soviets, because on 21 August they seized our barracks in Černé Pole as well. We came to work in the morning - we knew from the radio about what was going on. There were Russian guards at the gates, looking for Western soldiers. We told them there weren’t any Western soldiers here. You could really feel the resistance of the people to begin with, people were very open about the fact that they were occupants and that we just wanted to manage things ourselves. Then they started getting things under control - like that Palach, for instance, because although he caused a big stir, both here and around the world, it did nothing to change the course we were headed for. I’m not judging the fact that he changed nothing, his sacrifice was big and meaningful, but from a practical perspective, Czechoslovakia carried on towards Sovietisation, the rule of the Soviets.”

  • “It was all done according to regulations. They summoned those several of us who were to be discharged before a committee. And some kind of regulation stipulated that upon being discharged from the army, we were to be offered three civilian jobs. We had previously listed our qualifications. I wrote that I had university education and rich experience with interpreting from English, and besides that, that I had two state exams from Spanish. I was told that they did not have any work for me in those fields but that my career would best be served by the position of a manual labourer in the Ostrava steelworks. At the time I was prepared for the interpreting job because by Autumn 1970 it had become clear what would happen to me, because I had been placed ‘at the cadre disposal of the chief of the academy’ in 1969, which meant that I was redundant and that they were looking for some place to put me. So I said: ‘Dear comrades, no. I already decided that I will work as a freelance conference interpreter and technical translator.’ They all froze, and the representative from the Party’s city committee immediately retorted: ‘But that would mean you wouldn’t have a superior.’ I said: ‘No, no, I wouldn’t.’ Well, and the others calmed him down because they would be rid of me.”

  • “I was active. I laugh about it now, but it was risky business. Everyone was to hide in the shelter, and I would sit in the headmaster’s office, and if a bomb blew up nearby, I’d inform the police headquarters about it. I sat there, and something really did land on the other side of the river. I phoned to the police headquarters. No one answered. I phoned again about five minutes later. I understood on my way back. The police headquarters was in ruins. During the bombing, one of the professors came to get me because it was really very depressing. When we walked down the stairs to the shelter together, the stairs shook. It was an unpleasant feeling. Then of course, all the wires were broken and there was no transportation. I walked. There was a huge crater in front of the Grand Hotel by the main train station in Brno, but the Grand was unaffected by the blast. The Germans had things organised. They had cards at the post office with the pre-printed message: ‘I am alive and well.’ You could send that to your relatives. I sent that card from the Lužánek post office to Choceň. You could add a personal note, but it was emphasised that you mustn’t write something like that it was terrible etc. So that’s my memory of the greatest bombing of Brno, which I really did witness.”

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    Brno, 25.01.2018

    duration: 04:01:14
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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Do everything you consider right and whatever doesn’t kill you

František Hroník
František Hroník
photo: archiv pamětníka

František Hroník was born on 15 August 1929 in Bratislava. At grammar school, he co-founded the Union of Secondary School Studentry, which was to counter the Czechoslovak Youth Union, which was closely linked with the Communist ideology. He was in danger of being expelled from school for his stances. Later, his political opinions meant that he was denied documentation confirming his successful graduation from university. After some time he found employment as a maintenance man at a mountain lodge. After mandatory military service, he decided to stay in the army as a professional soldier for existential and other reasons; he also joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. After suffering a severe accident, he served in the army as an interpreter and travelled abroad. In 1959 the military counter-intelligence discovered that he had failed to inform his superiors of the fact that he had a high-ranking relative in the Vatican, which led to disciplinary action and a ban on travelling to “capitalist countries”. After 1968 he was expelled from the Party and discharged from the army for his open support of Dubček, his criticism of the leading position of the Party, and his condemnation of the invasion of the Warsaw Pact armies.