Josef Kocman

* 1946  

  • “People knew that every miner who didn’t take milk… because they’d breathed in all the poisonous gasses in the mines, whether coal or rock, mining chromite not just coal, but also asbestos, chrysolite and magnesium. Each miner working underground, well of course he’d breath in various gasses that are produced in mines. And for that he had to have his daily milk and so each of us kept at least two cows at home. That was an old tradition. We knew any miner without milk would have trouble reaching sixty.”

  • “So when I aged out of the Union of Communist Youth, [I was] 28 years and I was supposed to apply to join the party. So I kept quiet and they wrote me out, kicked me out of the youth party and I didn’t apply to join the communists. Nobody noticed, until I was about 35, then they saw me and asked: ‘Why aren’t you in the Communist Party?’ And they started pressuring me from all sides. ‘Either you’ll come, our you’ll be sent to do unqualified labour, you won’t be a craftsman and won’t be able to move, because the Communist Party is across the whole country. You’ll be stuck, both you and your family.’ As an electrician I was proud of my craft. If they kicked me out and sent me to dig ditches somewhere outside and I ended up retiring at 65 with ruined health, why wouldn’t I join at fifty? I told myself they wouldn’t ruin me, just like they hadn’t ruined the others. I told myself I wouldn’t be their beating horse, I’d go there, nod my head, raise my hand, cast my vote and goodbye. Where everyone else goes, I’d follow like a sheep. And that was it.”

  • “I remember it. A few of those families who had German names, like the Fikls, they were very close with the Germans. It wasn’t that they were rich, or were kulaks or millers. Everyone was equal in the village. They were taken to Bărăgan. Because they were close to the Germans. I remember the families: Jágr, Fikl – the grandfather of our teacher, Gecse and both of her uncles. It was altogether about 18 families that were sent to Bărăgan. It wasn’t that they’d done anything, but they were suspicious and someone had unwisely spoken against the Communist Party.”

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    Svatá Helena, Rumunsko, 21.10.2021

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They said a miner without milk won’t live till sixty

Josef Kocman, filming for Paměť národa, October 2021 in Sfânta Elena, Romania
Josef Kocman, filming for Paměť národa, October 2021 in Sfânta Elena, Romania
photo: Paměť národa

Josef Kocman was born on 16 March 1946 in the Czech village of Eibentál (Eibenthal) in Romanian Banat. His grandfather František died during a coal mine explosion close to the town of Lupeni in 1942. The witness’ father František worked as a miner in the local anthracite mines, married Alžběta Fajglová and brought up three children together. From his childhood the witness helped out in the household farm and when taking the cows out to pasture he enjoyed listening to the stories of the locals, who he also often visited over winter. In the town of his birth, Eibentál, he completed seven classes of school (with a one year break) and later trained as an electrician in the town of Anina. He continued with his profession and in the years of 1964–1996 he was employed at the local mines, where he was offered membership in the Romanian Communist Party. His three-years-younger brother Štěpán also worked in the mines, and died at the age of 64. The witness currently holds the position of local chronicler, enjoys welcoming and telling stories to Czech tourists and is counted among the important native villagers. He is also the author of the book Vyprávění o Banátu – povídání s Jánem (Tales of Banat – talks with Ján) that was published in 2011. At the time of recording he was still living there (October 2021).