Ivan Kieslinger

* 1928  †︎ 2020

  • "They arrived on Plzeňská street. The first ones came on motorcycles. We could see them from our window perfectly since we lived just near that street. They drove BMWs or Zündapps with sidecars. One soldier would drive and another one was in the sidecar holding a machine gun. As they arrived, it began to snow. They parked on the street, standing still as if they were statues. Not making a move. The machine guns were loaded and ready to fire. People shook their fists at them but they hadn't moved an inch. I witnessed two occupations - in 1939 and in 1968 - and in '39 not one shot was fired in Prague. It was peculiar. A hostile army which we all hated and nobody welcomed, which hadn't even fired in the air."

  • "It was August and the tanks had arrived. This left a terrible mark on me. I knew a lady in a lab where I worked who was in charge of poisons. I told her: 'Please, be so kind and give me something.' I found out there really was serious poison stored there. 'Give me this and that because I won't ever return to prison.' Luckily, the so-called normalization was much milder than the 1950s. I thought it was going to be the 1950s all over again."

  • "It was a room with a flush toilet. There was a small table, some chairs, a foldable bed and a jug on the table. This jug was used to get drinking water out of the toilet. That was a peculiar thing - to collect drinking water from the toilet. One could learn a lot of stuff there. I also learned to make cundr. That meant to put secretly a piece of cloth on fire, then put it out and then fire it up again with a striking stone. Visitors would smuggle in these stones. We'd hide them in brooms for instance, and then find a piece of glass in the yard. We would then strike the stone and the glass to put the cloth on fire and thus light up cigarettes which we were allowed to have but not to smoke."

  • "We worked in such conditions where water was dripping from the ceiling. An uranium mine practically doesn't need timbering. Most of the tunnels were dug in the stone. Water was flowing through the stone, though. Sometimes, there was even a small spring. This water was highly radioactive. But up there we had no water at all. So, we were thirsty. And we drank that radioactive water. We kind of knew what was going on. Most people didn't. We kind of did but were overwhelmed by thirst. So, we drank the radioactive water. It was terrible as far as contact with radioactive material is concerned. We had no safety instructions on what we should and shouldn't do in there. We were only issued a helmet which we wore all the time. And prior to going down the mine we got a lamp."

  • "I recall my great admiration of President Masaryk. The way people approach it today, calling him 'daddy' etc., it can be only played down like this by people who have no idea about it and who hadn't witnessed it. It wasn't about people bowing down before him. For instance, I'd met him in the Stromovka park. We were going to the zoo just as Mr. President was riding through the park on horseback. People hadn't bowed to him. Obviously, they took a step back to let the horses through. They had great respect for him. President Masaryk was the only President out of the ten I witnessed who had only one error. This was unfortunately a huge error; him putting the bar so high that none of the others could reach it."

  • "My sister was telling me everything about what had happened in the meantime. What was the situation. That the girl I was practically engaged with was already married for half a year. I didn't even know that. I wasn't happy about it. But I was out of prison, so I thought, what can I do. I took a cab home - Tatra 75. I arrived to the same place I had previously left in the police Tatra 87. So, I arrived in a less fancy car. But it was something amazing. It was amazing just to see the trees. To see a garden. To see the apartment and all the things I was surrounded with up until 20 years of age. It is very difficult to explain."

  • „On April 10th I was released from prison. Within a month I was contacted by a scoutmaster Dagmar Skalová, her scout name was Rakša, because of my knowledge of the situation in Pankrac prison. I had been working there as a member of a cleaning unit. She asked me if I knew where general Kutlvasr was kept. I knew this because I could speak a few words with him occasionally. We had a meeting and she informed me that an uprising is under preparation: ‘We need your help. Your task would be to accompany an armed unit in order to free general Kutlvasr and other political prisoners detained in Pankrác. You know the situation there.’ She knew I knew the underground corridors and entrances, the place where general Kutlvašr is kept and so on. She invited me to meet Emanuel Čančík. He asked me some questions about details, e.g. how many prisoners were there. We arranged a midnight meeting on 17th of May when the uprising was due to start. Čančík or someone else from the group should have come with forty armed fighters. The uprising was coordinated with the army. But the uprising was betrayed.”

  • „This time the interrogation was much worst then the first time. They wound a wet towel round my head. This was combined with a strong lamp which was desiccating the towel. This caused painful tightening of the towel. I felt like my head would be crushed. In addition to that I was harshly beaten and punched. In the course of years I have realized it could be even worse. I have insisted on my testimony. They had no proofs against me except a statement of Svatoš (Čančík). But he behaved otherwise perfectly. Despite he was beaten up completely and had his wife with two small children at home, he sustained the torture and revealed nothing unnecessary. In comparison to my first trial events went in completely different course. First time I had been tried according a law from 1923. This law meant you had beem interrogated by The State Security at first but than had followed another interrogation by court where it had been possible to change the protocols. I thought it would be the same again. But a new law had been valid from January 1949 – so called law 231, which had repealed court interrogation. This meant that the protocols made by The State Security counted only for the trial. When the trial started, the whole group was divided in several smaller groups. In one was tried Dagmar Skálová with scout boys. She managed it with bravery. The scouts passed through the trial without real punishments. The highest sentences reached four years imprisonment. Skálová had proclaimed only she had known what had been really going on, that she had told the scouts it had been just a game. Most of the scouts were released without punishment then. In other groups the situation was much worse. Six or five death penalties were given. Čančík got one too.”

  • „I have blown up experimenting with explosives three days after Heydrich was assassinated. I had experimented with chemicals in common use. In the times of Protectorate lot of different substances were on the market. I had lit up the explosive with a short quick match. Unfortunately a spark skipped into a glass accidentally, so I blew up. My hands were completely torn to the bone. Three doctors refused to treat me. You can imagine the overall mood in the country three days after Heydrich was assassinated. Finally I arranged a story about a fall from rocks in area of Vidoule with my friend from a Boy Scout group. The experiment took place there actually, so I proclaimed I had an accident. From the police station I was transported to a hospital in Albertov. I was thirteen years old. I had been repeating the story about the accident all the time but my parents finally learned the truth.”

  • „It was a birth day of the ‘great’ leader Stalin. Screws made a big search to celebrate it. Everything was upside down in the camp. After the search they hauled me out of the line and moved me into the guardhouse. I had no idea why. The previous interrogations were nothing compared to this. All those on duty had been beating me for eight or ten hours. They used me as a training dummy. They demonstrated to each other how to slap the right way: ‚Look, your fist must be tightly clenched. You open it just as it reaches the head. Try it!‘ And so they were trying this on me. Legs were of course included. I was barefoot and they were beating me with the baton or some other things. I practically lost consciousness. In the end they threw me into the correction room. The correction room was a wooden plank house without heating. It was December in the mountains; everything was covered with deep snow. Planks of the house didn’t adhere to each other and snow fell in the correction room. They threw me in. I was beaten up in such a way I didn’t perceive it; I have even suffered a blackout. Later I have realized some radioactive ore had been found in my bad during the search. Such misdemeanor could be punished even by death sentence. I had no idea any ore was in my bad. I was not such a stupid to sleep on a piece of radioactive ore. I knew what it would mean. Beaten up I had survived Christmastime in the correction room. Shortly, it was my most elegant Christmas day in my life.“

  • „It had happened on 8th of May. A tank arrived to shell us. I was ordered to encounter the tank with a Panzerfaust. I was sent to Wenceslas square to destroy it in case the tank would drive there. I have used public toilets as a shelter in direction of Jindrisska Street. I took cover right on the steps. A friend of mine from The Main Post helped me to control the situation. He was standing just behind the corner of Jindrisska Street where a shop with ballpoint pens was situated. All the shop windows were broken but some wall mirrors in the shop had survived previous bombardment. He took one of the mirrors approximately one meter wide and watched the tank trough it round the corner. The tank-driver was probably man with a sense of humor and he hit the mirror with a tank shell – not with a machine gun! The friend just threw his hands up and fell behind the corner. I have never seen such a change in a human face. He turned as white as a sheet, he was deathly pale.”

  • Full recordings
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    Praha, 04.09.2007

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    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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    Praha, 07.03.2017

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    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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    Praha, 04.04.2017

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    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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    Praha, 24.04.2017

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    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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    Praha, 03.05.2017

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    Praha, 20.06.2017

    duration: 01:57:14
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Be prepared! This is the Scouts’ motto; here it meant – for anything

Ivan Kieslinger
Ivan Kieslinger
photo: Výstava: My jsme to nevzdali (2009)

Ivan Kieslinger was born on 28 November 1928. Ever since childhood, he was a member of the Boy Scouts and in May 1945, an active participant in the Prague Uprising. In 1948, he was sentenced to six months for distribution of an anti-communist samizdat. For his participation in the attempted uprising of 17 May 1949, he was sentenced to 16 years in jail. In December 1949, the Jáchymov camp wardens used to Ivan Kiselinger as a training ground for beating of prisoners. He sustained serious injuries and bears their consequences to this day. In 1954, he was pardoned for health reasons. It took him a long time to start living a normal life once again. Due to his former imprisonment, he was frequently pressured by the state administration. It was difficult for him to find a job. In the late 1950s and 60s, he did various jobs before landing for a longer period of time in the ČKD Sokolovo factory. By the late 1960s, he was finally allowed to study, undertaking a course at a school of chemical engineering. Ever since 1968, he worked in the Fuels Institute and was active in K 231 - Club of Former Political Prisoners where he met many of his former inmates. He was struck by the Warsaw Pact armies occupation, considering emigration as well as suicide. In 1970, he established contact with the Scout movement and in the upcoming years did a number of expeditions, incl. to Romania. Up until 1989 he faced harassment by the secret police and his children and wife had trouble getting admitted to a university.