Mgr. Zdeněk Klíma

* 1958  

  • „They arrived to a small house with a US flag hanging outside. When they entered, they saw an American soldier in an American uniform and a German officer in a uniform. There was American coffee, people were smoking American cigarettes and the picture of the then American president was hanging at the wall. These people were greeted as if they were free and they believed in that. They were asked, also in writing, whether they knew about others working against the communist régime. They willingly gave all the information including addresses. My grandma was forced, or rather was offered to write a few letters to her friends. I have read one of those letters; I found it in the archives. She wrote: ‘Dear Béďa, my best friend,‘ [weeps] ‘me and my daughter Vlasta are already free. You can be hundred percent sure that you can trust the man who brings you this letter.’“

  • “I certainly could feel [the hatred] and I do feel it until today. I know that one should forgive but there are things which one should not forget. I am not doing all of this because of my family. I am very glad that things became publicly known and the victims of Communism got their recognition but I am doing this generally, also for the future generations. So that no one thinks that those times were easy and that nothing happened. A lot did happen and it does not matter whether it happened to my family, including me, and whether I experience it as injustice. I feel it as an injustice done to all the victims of all totalitarian regimes. When you have such family history, then you have more sense of belonging with the others, and particularly with all the victims of wars or totalitarianism.“

  • “Addressed to the Public Prosecutor’s office in Prague. 4 August 1951. ‘I, the undersigned, under investigation by the State Court, ask you the following. On 31 July this year, I was transferred for medical treatment from Pankrác prison to the state hospital in Vrchlabí. My bodily liquids were removed, for seventeenth time already. I feel very weak and know that I will die soon. Hence, I have one more wish. I would like to kindly ask you to allow for a visit by my daughter Vlasta Štěrbová, who is at present in pre-trial detention of the State Court in Pankrác, Prague. I hope that my great wish can be granted because I feel that my health is deteriorating every day. I thank you very much in advance for handling my request and I beg you to grant it, Marie Štěrbová.’ While detained, my mum had not found out that her mother has died. During the trial, her mother was not present and my mum found out only after her release from prison. I don’t know from whom but she discovered that political prisoners were buried in a mass grave in Ďáblice.”

  • “People were confronted with the communist regime all the time, no matter if they wanted or not. For example, after I finished my education – I was working in a publishing house – they said: ‘We have picked you to join the Communist Party, you only need to give us two signatures. And another signature that you will cooperate with the secret police. Then you can immediately go for the fair to West Germany, to Frankfurt, and then to Italy, to Milan.’ In that moment, I have to admit, it flashed through my head that it would not be bad at all because I would earn much more money and I would finally be able to go to the West. But on the other hand, I was unable to give my signature to the devil, which the Communist Party represented to me. So I answered that it was a great honour for me and that I was proud that they had selected me but that it was a big responsibility to be a young communist and young collaborator with the secret police and that I was not ready for that. With that I refused and after that, they never offered me membership in the Party again, which I was obviously quite happy with.”

  • „[My grandma] was really afraid of getting arrested. The secret police had a person to follow her, we can call her Mrs. Eva. She was collaborating with the police and had the task of becoming friends with my grandma, in which she succeeded. The friendship went as far that my grandma even accommodated her in the room where she was living with her daughter who was 19 years old then. Then this secret agent came over saying she was connected to a group smuggling people across the border to the West. She said the crossing would cost a lot of money which my grandma managed to put together. In summer 1950, they went towards the border. They arrived when it was already dark. And they crossed what was an artificial border. The State Security called this whole operation Kámen (“Stone“). They have moved the border stones so that people would get the impression they were in German territory, in the former American Zone.“

  • “She was severely ill her whole life. She suffered from serious problems with the gall bladder, she also could not hear on one ear, and all of that because of the imprisonment. And then she had a two mental breakdowns and she started doing the squats like they forced her during the interrogations, so she has been twice in the psychiatric hospital in Bohnice.” – “When did she have those breakdowns?” – “That was in the 1980s. She was already divorced by then so I was bringing her there by my own.” – “And what was the trigger for the breakdown?” – “I could identify one of them. What happened was that my mum wanted to buy something in the Tuzex shop. But of course we did not have any Tuzex vouchers. So she decided to cheer me up and went to one of the Tuzex shops to exchange money and buy the vouchers on the black market. But they did a scam on her, so to speak, which was quite usual. They brought her upstairs to some house but there were two exists. They took the money and said they would bring the vouchers. And then they did not show up again anymore. She waited for half an hour and then she realized it was some kind of a trap. Perhaps it reminded her of the trap at the borders. Then she came home and started doing those squats. First, she started saying she had to clean up. So she started cleaning up like crazy and then she only did the squats. She wouldn’t stop. After a couple of hours, I was helpless. I don’t even know whether I was already eighteen back then but I brought her to the mental hospital."

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    Plzeň, 16.04.2018

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A trap of the secret police destroyed not only my family

1981
1981
photo: archiv Pamětníka

Zdeněk Klíma was born on 13 March 1958 in Prague. His mother Vlasta Štěrbová was among the numerous victims of the operation Kámen (“Stone”). She and her mother were lured by the secret police to attempt an irregular border crossing at an artificial border where they were arrested. His grandma, Marie Štěrbová, died as a result of torture while still in prison. His mother was set free in 1955 with her physical and mental health severely deteriorated, and never fully recovering. She worked her whole life as a cleaning lady and lived under the supervision of the secret police. She died prematurely, in 53 years of age. In 1968, Zdeněk started attending a newly established Catholic scouts club which was, however, banned in 1971. He did vocational training for a bookseller and in the 1980s studied arts history at the Charles University in Prague. He worked in a publishing house and after 1989, as a tourist guide. In 1990, he gained access to the files of his mother and grandmother and for the first time learned the truth about the oppression of his family and other victims.