Václav Kabourek

* 1937

  • “One time I came to work... there was this main aisle for the carts with the parts to go through, and my lathe was next to this main aisle. Across the aisle there was the machine of a lady who did day shifts and wasn’t at work. She’d gotten a red flag as the best worker of the week - if you fulfilled the quota, made the most parts, and so on, you got a red flag for one week. She had it on her machine. But she wasn’t at work, so I took the flag, put it on my lathe, pulled up two bus seats next to my machine, lay down, and slept. The word got about that I’ve got the best worker’s flag and I’m sleeping. People came to look at me from all over the factory, no one wanted to believe I’d actually done it. Come six in the morning the cadre supervisor appears with two gents in civvies. It was obvious that the two men were from State Security.”

  • “Two customs officers came up. We didn’t see them, but we could hear their voices. They said: ‘Look, some of the logs are missing here. Let’s park the wagon and stop it from going on.’ First of all, they must have seen that although we put the logs back, the lime that had been sprayed on to them was disturbed. They must have seen that someone had been crawling over it. I have the feeling that they knew very well that someone was hidden there, and they just wanted to give us a fright. They said: ‘We’ll unhitch it and park it here.’ I thought, that’s it, we’re done for. Luckily, they let it go. We were so exhausted, mentally, that my nerves broke. We were on our way from Domažlice to the border at České Kubice, where the train would be checked by the border guards. I told Václav we wouldn’t get through. I wanted to leg it out of the wagon and stay in Czechoslovakia. I broke down. Václav convinced me that it would work out okay. If it wasn’t for him, I would have legged it from that wagon. I just couldn’t go on, mentally.”

  • “And I broke down. They had to carry me, sometimes even on the way back from the interrogations. And that wasn’t necessary. I remember that the lieutenant who was interrogating me threatened me: ‘We also have other methods here, like putting a pencil between the fingers and breaking fingers...’ He threatened. Just those threats, the way it kept on, the interrogations, it was nerve-wracking. People just broke down.”

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    Praha, 15.11.2016

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    Praha, 20.11.2016

    duration: 01:59:06
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I studied trains for a year as a conductor and a shunter, and then we rode across the borders in a pile of wood

Václav Kabourek 1959 USA, army
Václav Kabourek 1959 USA, army
photo: archiv pamětníka

Václav Kabourek was born on 14 July 1937 in Staňkov near Domažlice, into the family of Jan and Anežka Kabourek. When he was eight he experienced the liberation of Staňkov by the American army, which had a strong impact on his political opinions, as it did on most of the inhabitants of western Bohemia, who did not buy into the postwar Communist propaganda. In 1952 his father died, leaving just Václav and his mother. The witness trained as a miner and then worked as a lathe operator. In the early 1950s he wrote a satirical poem criticising the founding of agricultural cooperatives, and he also helped the anti-Communist resistance. In 1955 he was sentenced to one year of prison for associating against the state. Upon his release in 1956, he and his friend Václav Hájek began planning a way to escape across the borders. He got a job as a cargo train shunter at the railway station in Pilsen, to familiarise himself with the possibilities of escaping by train. In September 1957 he and his friend crossed into Germany hidden in a wagon full of wood. Václav Kabourek then immigrated to the USA. He settled down in Hollywood, where he tried his hand at various film jobs - most notably as a pilot. He returned to the Czech Republic in 2012.