“I found that out from my dad, that the Klepáček family came directly from Prague. My great grandfather drove here directly from Prague. First he came to work with his brother and I think his friend or brother-in-law. There were three of them, cutting down trees in the woods with saws and running metres, cords. This was carted off to boats on the Danube and floated away. The first group that arrived, settled in Alibeg. They didn’t have any housing, so they dug up some potatoes and lived there and cooked a little, took stones from the banks with a thinner layer up top and built on top of it. They made their bed with stick, set down leaves and covered them with a blanket. It was over half a year before the country rains, as we call them, came. It rained and rained until a great downpour came. The water rushed up and flooded them. They called their leader, Magyarly, to do something. He took them away and moved them to Lizabety.”
“This snake had made its home here, Dad said. There was an artilleryman in the village, they told him to lie in wait and shoot it. When the shot rang out, it was so slick [the bullet] slid right off it. It was easily over three metres long and strong. And that pellet just slid off harmlessly. So they didn’t know what to do. In the end they stalked it out, it had hidden in a plot overgrown with blackberries, the whole village came and doused the area all around. They got their long sticks ready. Wherever it came out, they were ready to beat it. It poked its head out one side, then the other side, then rushed back and burnt in the middle. After it had burnt, they found lamb ribs inside it. That’s how big it was. When it was hunting, it slid among the sheep and caught a lamb, it swallowed it and writhed and shook around, my Dad said. Well that, that was terrifying.”
“I had five children with my husband. The third daughter was with me in the field, we were digging, she was thirteen. And she was digging the sweetcorn, just as they taught me, so I taught my children. That’s how it was done. You learnt everything from each other. She was killed by lightning. Lightning killed her in the field with me. She had the morning and the little one had the evening. They met here in a hurry, had a bite to eat and the little one had school from two and this one just until twelve. That’s how they met up, it was close by me in the field. That’s where we ate our lunch. After three o’clock, quarter past three, the ball lightning came rushing in and she was a gonner. It was a terrible bang. She was in the sixth class, this was the 31 May and she had all kinds of important tests ahead of her. She was learning the same as I did. Her class teacher didn’t have children and was excited about her. He told me: ‘I won’t let her sit at home, I won’t let you keep her in the field! I’ll show you she can go to school and I’ll take watch out for her. She’ll learn and know it all.’ When he came and saw her lying there, he collapsed on our doorstep and they had to resuscitate him and bring him outside. That was a terrible blow, but what can you do. You survived it all.”
“Under Ceaușescu, under communism, they stopped. Pilgrimages weren’t permitted. I remember when we went to Čiklava, we had this small cross from the church. We stuck it in a backpack, so they wouldn’t see it. The Reverend Mašek went with us. It was a true pilgrimage, seeing as sixty six of us went from here. We were all young married couples, some single, but more were married. The singing rang out through the woods. [Vicar Mašek] was dressed like our menfolk. He had a woman talk before him so they wouldn’t notice he was there. To avoid problems and investigations about him leading the nation.”
The Lord God took the big daughter, gave a little one
Mariana Klepáčková was born on 29 September 1942 in the Romanian village of Svatá Helena (Sfânta Elena). Her great grandfather came from Bohemia to the region of Banat in the early 1820s. Her father Václav Klepáček fought in the First World War and spent over a year in captivity in the Tsardom of Russia. From her childhood she had helped her parents in the fields and listened to her father’s stories. She completed a four year education at the local school and since then worked her whole life in the fields. She married at seventeen and brought up a total of five offspring. Since the 60s, her husband worked in the nearby ore mines and died of health problems at an age of 57. In May of 1979, during spring fieldwork, the witness’ eleven-year-old daughter was struck by lightning and died. After the mines closed, her son left for Bohemia where he worked for two years. At the time of recording, Mariana Klepáčová was living in Svatá Helena (October 2021).