Jan Janků

* 1921  †︎ 2019

  • “As refugees from the borderlands we sought an apartment but couldn’t find any. Then I walked past the Gatěkovic farm, peeked in through the window and could see they had two empty rooms there. I went to see the director of the sugar factory who promised me to arrange that place for us. But Ms. Gatěková refused to let our family in, saying she needed no Gypsies in her household. I replied: ‘Ms. Gatěková, we’re no gypsies, we’re refugees.’ – ‘That’s worse still!’ But she received is as an order and so we moved in.”

  • “The interrogators tried to get under my skin. One of them, Višenka, told me: ‘You’re a scout! I’m also a scout.’ I replied: ‘Oh, please, don’t tell me you’re a scout. How could a scout betray his friends? Is that at all possible?’ I was angry with him pretending to be a scout and I was very mean to him, scolding him.”

  • “Justice Horňanský who sentenced me to death penalty was at the time of the Protectorate Vsetín’s president of the Czech League against Bolshevism! During the court hearing, I requested to ask him a question, he agreed, and so I said: ‘Mr. Chairman, your name is Horňanský. Are you not the same Horňanský who presided over the Czech League against Bolshevism here in Vsetín?’ At that moment, they took us to our cells, and the trial was over.”

  • “They drove us into the cellar where we were supposed to sleep, and every 15 or 30 minutes they kicked the door, hitting it with their truncheons so that we couldn't sleep. I utilized this when I appeared before the court. There was Horňanský, the biggest knave, the biggest villain, he was actually the carrier of death. I said: 'Mr chairman, we are incapable of being interrogated because we haven't slept all night.' But the court theatre was full and the riffraff, the rabble there was shouting: 'Hanging! Hanging! Shooting! Stand him against the wall!' These were the first two or three rows, behind them there were decent people. Then when the time for the trial came, Horňanský asked me several questions and I told him: 'Mr chairman, your name is Horňanský, do you identify with the Horňanský who was the chairman of the Anti-Bolshevist League?' I knew that. Finish. They drove us into the cellar, nobody talked to us and the following day we heard the judicial decisions.”

  • “These shoes were designed by Grebeníček. They were made of thin sheets of metal, like a shoehorn or something similar. They were connected to an electric gadget which sent impulses to the body; an electric current. They used this on Čada, a 19 year old boy from Přerov. They smeared him with water, some greasy yucky water to make the current more conductible. Then they put on the shoes and switched on the current. He was knocked out. He was peeing blood because his kidneys were destroyed. The whole man was destroyed. A young man. First the head bowed down and then his whole body went down to the ground. One prisoner tried to get the shoes off of him but Grebeníček said: 'We have medicine for that." He brought out a second pair of shoes, laced them up and switched on the electric current.”

  • “First thing after coming, I had to sit down on a chair, on a bench. That was his style. Višenka at the front, and he (Grebeníček) at the back. Višenka wasn't interrogating, Grebeníček was. Višenka was only standing there, silent. Višenka introduced himself to me, Grebeníček didn't. Višenka told me: 'I'm Višenka, Tonda Višenka. I'm going to interrogate you. And you're a scout. I'm a scout, too.' And I told him: 'Well, how can you be a scout when you're an interrogator? That's against our view.' Thus I silenced him in this way; I told him some more things but I don't want to quote these as Grebeníček knocked my two teeth out for them. I was very lucky it was only these two knocked-out teeth. I was black-and-blue. There was not a single spot on me that wasn't hit.”

  • “It was a festive dinner, we literally got half an egg and half a roll. This was Christmas. There was a priest with us and he celebrated the holy mass with one raisin and a piece of bread for each of us. I had concealed, when I was at Hradiště under a more moderate prison regime, sugar lumps which I had hidden in my pocket. They couldn't take these away from me, so I put one sugar lump on each man's bed. Franta Herman had tobacco from cigarette stubs, which he rolled in pieces of toilet paper, so he added these for everyone. This was our first Christmas at Mírov prison. I like remembering it. Do you know why? Because we backed each other up. We were one. And this is important. This was the most beautiful thing about that Christmas. We didn't want the egg as much as we were glad we were ourselves.”

  • “He brought cherries. Do you know what cherries meant for a hungry prisoner? I was still inexperience. Višenka told me: 'Honza, have these cherries, they are a treat for you.' And silly me, (if I had been more experienced, I'd sent him packing) I ate those cherries. Do you know what was in them? There you go, it is described here, I'm describing it here. It was the drug Psychotron, or as we called it, the "tell-the-truth" drug. After eating the cherries I didn't sleep a wink for three days. I found out what I had eaten but it was too late. I told myself: 'I must overcome this, I must, I must, I mustn't say anything, I mustn't say anything, I know nothing, I know nothing, I don't know anything.' And I kept putting this idea into my head. All the time. And I managed it. They didn't squeeze anything out of me. It would have been terrible, if I had said something about someone else. They would bring this person in and beat him. No way. You can beat me, but not someone else. That was Grebeníček.”

  • “I was playing chess with Miloš Pospíšil and we were hidden behind the peephole in such a way so as not to be seen. It was half past seven in the evening when all of a sudden the door of the cell flew open, and like an express train, a man rushed in. An unshapely man with a mousy face and weird hairdo. He was wearing high boots and looked like a little goblin, at one metre and fifty. But he had a whip. He walked around the cell with the boots and his feasting his eyes on us. We were looking at each other: Which of us is going to go? And then he pronounced it: 'Pospíšil, come on, come on, come on!' We didn't finish the game. We didn't manage to say goodbye to each other. Well, but they don't have power to prevent us from finishing the game. They can't judge us. There will be someone else to pass a judgment on us. Maybe we'll finish it then, maybe we'll only shake hands. That depends on me.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Hanušovice okr. Šumperk, 21.11.2009

    duration: 03:01:38
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Šumperk, 03.04.2016

    duration: 01:10:37
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

I have come to terms with Mírov. Even with Hradiště. I keep living with it.

Jan Janků (2016)
Jan Janků (2016)

Mr Jan Janků was born in Hanušovice in the Šumperk district in 1921. He joined the scout movement around 1936 and he is still an active member today. After the annexation of the Sudetenland in 1939, his family was forced to move to Vrbátky u Přerova where Jan Janků finished his studies at the Academy of Commerce and was later employed at a sweets factory. At the beginning of 1941 he was sent as a forced labourer to Wroclaw but in 1943, he escaped back to the Protectorate. In 1944 he went to France where he worked for the UNRRA as a driver. After returning to the Republic, he joined the scout movement again and worked as the scoutmaster. In 1949, Mr Janků was arrested in connection with the destruction of the resistance group Světlana. He spent over one year in the remand prison in Uherské Hradiště where he was brutally “interrogated” - among others - by Alois Grebeníček. Mr Janků was sentenced in a trumped-up process to life imprisonment, later the sentence was changed to 20 years. He served most of the time in the Mírov prison and after some time he became a pharmacist there. Mr Janků is a deeply religious man, taking part in the spiritual life of the prisoners. He was released in 1958. Afterwards, he worked as a railman. Since 1989, Mr Janků was active in remembering the fates of political prisoners of the 1950’s, he participated in lectures and discussions, and owned an extensive archive.