Zoe Klusáková-Svobodová

* 1925  †︎ 2022

  • "We hid there in such a way, as we didn't have any false papers that would allow us to move outside or to meet with people. We were simply in hiding. We weren't allowed to go outside, no one was allowed to see us - when a stranger came to the house, it was out of the question that he should notice us. And in case of danger - during a farming inspection, or a different inspection possibly - they built us a hiding place under the floor, a small hole with these tiny seats that we could crawl into, crouching face to face with the floor on our heads. Of course such a situation meant no dog could come in, because it would immediately sniff us out. But the hole was for dire circumstances. Normally, say when a neighbour stopped by for something, we just had to stay tucked away in the bedroom and wait until the visitor left. The whole of this time we were not allowed to leave the house. Only during the night, when they let us out to stretch our legs around the courtyard or from one building to the next. Then they moved Mum to another house, with the Kratochvíls, those were friends of the Kotaček family, so as to "dilute" us, so to speak, so we wouldn't be both in one place - basically, for various reasons, she was moved there. We could only visit each other when the Moon wasn't shining, so that no one would see us. So that's how we lived. Of course there were moments, like when my tooth starting aching, when I had periostitis, and I couldn't do without a doctor, so I went with borrowed papers, I masqueraded as Milada Kratochvílová, that was the daughter from the second family, and I went to see the doctor."

  • "I would just like to say: the reunion with my Dad was both beautiful and sad. Because in the time between our last meeting, we had, well just me... I had grown up from a thirteen year old girl to one of twenty, or nineteen in fact, at the time of our reunion. And even in his first letter Dad wrote, he wrote how he imagined me, what I was like, as he hadn't seen me the whole time I had been growing up. But that wasn't the most important thing. What was worse was that we... When I found out that Mirek was killed by the Germans... We don't even know how it happened. Someone said they gave him - and Dad wrote to the same effect - that they injected him with gasoline. The Germans wrote down that one German and one Czech had been shot while attempting to escape - those were the only two noted as having died at the time. So that was Mirek. I don't know if it was a bullet that killed him, or if he died in some other way. And imagine this - my uncles, Mum's brothers, were sentenced to death and executed. Many were executed... Basically every man and boy in the group that had helped the paratroopers, which was around a hundred people. All the women and the girls were sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. We didn't know what had happened to Grandma, my Mum's mum, to Aunt Filča who had worked as a helping hand in the house, a housekeeper. We simply did not know what had happened to these people. And of course there was still hope. So the reunion, which took place in days so joyous for our nation, was for many people the same as it was for us."

  • "I would like to note one more thing. You know, among people... And some people after the war actually, how would I say it, took credit for things that turned out well. As when we were saved, the two of us, then of course those to whom credit was due for that were those who had provided the hideouts to us. But suddenly there was a whole group of people claiming to have been helping us and organizing things and so on. I must say that many, many, almost all of what they say is not true. And that the statements are largely fabrications. It is not long ago that I visited one old lady, ninety-nine years old, who is otherwise very lively and with a good memory - she lives near Nový Telečkov. And she started to tell me: 'Yes, I know you had to hide, you were hiding here at the manse in Uhřínov, with Father Dokulil. And that poet, Zahradníček, was there too, and then it happened...' Never in our life were we there, I never even met Father Dokulil or Mr. Zahradníček. But already there was this rumour claiming how we had been helped by Father Dokulil, and giving merit for hiding us to Mr. Zahradníček, the poet Zahradníček. Nothing of that is true, as we wouldn't have had the courage to... And they wouldn't have had the courage to... Father Dokulil never entered the house that we were hiding in, and neither did we ever see him."

  • "We lived in Uzhhorod, and Uzhhorod was a city which had Czechs - Czech soldiers, Czech officials - Slovaks, quite a few Hungarians living there too, Ukrainians, the locals - that is the Subcarpathians, of which some claimed to be Rusins, others Ukrainians - so it was a very multinational environment. On the other hand, in Hranice there was a German enclave. In fact when my Mum needed help with the housework, because she had some sort of lung illness while we were there, so she needed help - so we had a German girl to help out with the housework for a while. And I have to say that we never felt, we were never brought up to, neither at school nor at home, to begrudge or to overlook members of other nationalities. Not even in Subcarpathian Rus, where apart from the nationalities I mentioned before there was a large Jewish community, we had nothing against them, nor against the Germans in Hranice. In those days we were brought up to see ourselves more as a republic which could be compared to Switzerland, where different nations live side by side."

  • "And that is, I think, one of the questions that's very important to our generation. At least that's how I feel it. Because I remember when things started to change, when we started to register new words in our vocabulary. When people started talking about Henleinists, when we started... I was in Hranice at the time, in second class of elementary school, and the teachers brought gas masks and taught us how to put them on. Arrows appeared at school pointing to air-raid shelters, and so on. What it means is that suddenly there was this problem which was completely new to us children, which we had to adapt to, get to know, and which started forming us as well."

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    Praha, 25.02.2001

    duration: 01:16:31
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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The most difficult thing was to find someone willing to take us in and risk their life for us.

Zoe Klusáková Svobodová (Ostrava 2009)
Zoe Klusáková Svobodová (Ostrava 2009)
photo: Jan Gara

Professor Zoe Klusáková-Svobodová was born on the 4th of December 1925 in Uzhhorod. She is the daughter of the former Czechoslovak president Ludvík Svoboda, and the wife of the diplomat and long-standing Czechoslovak culture minister Milan Klusák. Her family moved homes according to where her father was transferred to (Transcarpathian Ruthenia, Hranice, Kroměříž). After Czechoslovakia was occupied and Ludvík Svoboda went abroad, the rest of the family (including Zoe, her mother, and her brother Miroslav) took part in the resistance (helping paratroopers). Their group was discovered and from 1941 to 1945 they lived in hiding in Hroznatín in the Czecho-Moravian Highlands, and in Džbánice near Moravský Krumlov. Her brother died in the Mauthausen concentration camp. Zoe Klusáková-Svobodová is a professor at the Faculty of Law (Charles University in Prague), she translates from Russian, she has written various articles on economics and agriculture, a memoir “O tom, co bylo” [About How Things Were - transl.] (Prague, 2004), a biography of her father, and she was editor for his “Deník z doby válečné” [Journal from the Time of War - transl.]. To this day, she spends considerable effort tending to the memory of her father. Zoe Svbodová-Klusáková passed away on December, the 12th, 2022.