František Kolečkář

* 1932  †︎ 2019

  • „Můj brácha byl o dva roky mladší a někde se zaplantal. Bydleli jsme u hlavní silnice. A Němci jeli od Hodonína. A tam se kolonami ucpala silnice. A brácha se někde zamotal a ten německý šofér ho ťuknul náklaďákem. Ale byl natolik slušný, že vylezl. Nic mu dohromady nebylo, měl odřený loket, ale velice řval. Ještě mu nebylo ani pět. Byly mu čtyři roky. Tak ho uchlácholil a dovedl ho až k nám do baráku. To bylo něco zajímavého a takového lidského.“

  • „There was one in our room, now I know that he had to be a Commie snitch. And he started ranting about how we have no future there, how we’d end up badly and started talking us into giving up and going back. Now imagine, he sounded so sincere that a day later, my head was abuzz with that and I told him: ‘Alright, then, but how would we cross the Russian-American zone?’ That was on the other bank of Danube, in Linz. He said: ‘Show them a fake ID.’ He gave us some fake IDs but that Russki noticed them. I went first across the bridge and showed him the ID. I walked five more steps and he started to yell: ‘Where the fuck are you going, back off!’”

  • „We got an unit commander at the Auxiliary Technical Batallion and he was a former commander at Pankrác [prison]. He was investigating an event when the soldiers dug up a little grave with a gravestone which said Well deserved leave is resting here in Lord’s peace, which was signed by the Pankrác commander. So he was investigating who wrote that so that he could lock him up as well. Nobody confessed to that. So we stood there in freezing weather. He walked around us and yelled. It was risky.“

  • “I wanted to take my revenge for the beating on Obšnajdr. Once I found him in the gym hall in Hradiště with his wife and I didn´t put my eyes of him. He remembered me because such things are not forgotten, and in about half an hour he vanished from there and ran away. But the God´s punishment worked on him so that he got a tumour on his brain and he died in terrible pains. He didn´t live up to his forty years of age and he asked the secret agents to shoot him, because even morphine wasn´t helping. And Mr. Stašek from Staré Město came to tell me that to the exact machine and he said: ´Franta, you don´t have to look for the Obšnajdr any more. He is in eternity already.´ I said: ´You see, the God´s mills grind after all. Sometimes sooner, sometimes later.´ With what a man begins, with that he is going to end. And when somebody does something bad, it will return to him in the same measure and in an even harder meaning of the word. And this is the school of life.”

  • “The second pitch was the Charity. I had been informed ahead that we had to register as refugees. Either at AFCR, it was a Jewish society, or at the Catholic Charity. In the Catholic Charity Countess Seilernová was looking after the families, the castle in Lešná belonged to her. In 1948 the communists drove her away and they confiscated the castle. She was a very generous and talented woman. She could speak and write four languages. And because she was the chief of the European Catholic Charity, even bishops respected her. Money collected in churches was controlled by her and she could dispose with it. Czech families she also financed from the church collections. It was not much, but we had at least accommodation and one meal a day until the time the Americans discovered if we were really fleeing from political reasons. The medical examinations followed and then the American consulate where we had to register for asylum in the United States.”

  • “We had false Austrian IDs. We were crossing a bridge from the American to the Russian zone. In the American zone they were not checking, but on the Russian side everybody had to get off the tram and everybody was checked. They arrested even the Austrians who didn´t have their papers all right. We were crossing the bridge, I showed the Austrian ID, went through and OK. Then Staňa was going and he showed the paper somehow in a wrong way. The Russian saw that it was not OK and he started to shout at us. If he had started to shoot, he would have shot us dead there. They kept us for ten days in the Russian prison and when there were ten of us, they loaded us to a lorry and drove us to Dvořiště and from there to České Budějovice. At the Russians we had to write a protocol. It was quite hard there, because they were giving us just a little soup and a piece of bread for the whole day. In the bunk there was nothing, just wood. I lost weight there, because the Russians were not nitpicking us. There I also met the other friends who had fled as well. Some of them never came back from prison as they were older. We were classified by the communists as juvenile, so the punishments were not so bad. But if we had been older than eighteen, it would have been a twenty-year punishment. They were feeding us with cow blood from slaughter, it stunk. No hygiene, they didn´t give us any soap, we had nothing to wash in. It was not like nowadays prison. The toilet was the only one in the corridor. When somebody needed to stool, the warder opened the cell and watched us squatting over the Turkish toilet. I caught some louses on my head there, so they cut me as a ball and threw DDT on my head. After ten days they put us into a train, thinking that we had already served the punishment, they gave us two policemen as escort, irons on hands, and we went. I said: ´We are not going to escape anywhere.´ ´Well, it doesn´t matter.´ And I saw that it was bad. They drove us by train from České Budějovice up to Hradiště, in a separate compartment, two policemen. In Brno in a crowd, when we were changing, I wanted to flee. I made five jumps and he caught my shoulder, he shouted even, people made way and I was trapped again.”

  • “After February 1948 we decided with a friend to flee abroad in autumn. I was one year older than my friend, he was a painter apprentice at my father. We had attended the boy-scout group in Kunovice together. At that time we declaimed against communists, because they were starting to show their teeth, starting to take people´s fields, in the end they confiscated my father´s business. They were persecuting priests and religion in general, so I told myself that this was too much already. It was a big courage at those not even seventeen years of age. And so we once decided that we would go together. So we went by train to Bratislava. We wanted to cross the Danube over a bridge to Petržalka, go along the river and find the border there somehow. And it came to it, we were quite lucky. We were crossing the bridge around midnight and then we walked along the Danube on the Austrian side. It was a clear night, windless. We came to a clearing and suddenly we saw a hut from which a Slovak border guide came with his dog. He came out to smoke, and once he finished his cigarette, he went with the dog back to the hut. Straight behind the hut there was a barbed wire leading down into the water. We had to climb over it and then we got to Austria. There was a neutral zone there and we had to look for a safe place. My friend saw a light in the distance and he said: ´Let´s go there.´ It was cold, there were cold nights in October already. Then we came to a building, I saw the sign and I said: ´Staňo, don´t be silly, we are not going anywhere, they are going to arrest us there.´ ´But what are you talking about, we are free already,´ told me my friend. But it was a mistake. They drove us in the morning to the next village called Kopčany, the first village after Petržalka. Before they arrested us, they took from us everything we had. Even shoe laces they took. It was into a municipal prison, such a small cellar with one window and in the window two bars were bricked in, one of which was a bit loose. In the pub they gave us even something to eat, they were good to us, but they wanted to escort us back to Czechoslovakia where a warrant was soon issued against us. So we set to work. I said: ´Staňo, we shall loosen it. And when we tear off one bar, we shall squeeze through then.´ And also yes. First we threw out our jackets and then we squeezed through like mice. So we managed to escape further behind Kopčany. However, the Austrian policemen noticed soon that we were away, so they took two dogs and went to search for us. We were climbing a hill overgrown with bushes and blackberries. It started to rain, the dogs lost the trail and they couldn´t find us. But once you are in danger, you get a huge strength and you can run like a devil.”

  • “We flew with a Dutch company, the plane was full only of emigrants. A direct flight from Amsterdam to New York. My family flew to San Francisco. In San Francisco a political prisoner released from the Jáchymov mines after eight years was waiting for us. Then he got visa to Yugoslavia, just before the Russians came. Returning from Yugoslavia, he didn´t go back home, but he stayed in Austria. He had the same profess that was in demand in America.”

  • “The strongest reason to leave the country after the Russian invasion was that I had no chance further, because I was against the Russian invasion too. Even though I was working on the exact machine and in the twelfth class, they were paying me as in the eighth class. The communists even told me that my father and my father-in-law would help me in LET. But I had healthy hands, I was doing some nice work, so I wouldn´t ask my Dad to give me money to pay food for the kids. My wife could not go to work because the kids were small. It was the main reason. Another reason was that my life would be simply worthless. They arrested me at the age of seventeen, until the age of thirty seven I suffered hardship practically, and so I told myself: ´I am going to manage.´ They were just changing guards at the border in Mikulov. It was six o´clock in the morning. The night shift was finishing and the morning shift beginning, but we were still taken by the night one. Such an old clerk, he was very sleepy. He asked: ´Where are you going and what are you taking with you?´ I said: ´We are going for a trip, a friend of mine is building a hotel there and I want to have fun with my kids there for fourteen days, such a camp, look here.´ And I uncovered the tilt on the trailer and showed him the potatoes and cloths in there. He, when he saw the three little kids, he said: ´So just go.´ Behind me a communist from Kunovice was driving, however, and he saw it all and he reported that I had fled to Austria.”

  • “They handed us over in Uherské Hradiště and there the hell started, because in 1948, 1949 the prison in Hradiště was overcrowded. I spent even Christmas there and they released us only in nearly four months, on intervention of my father. He interceded for me at the communists, although they had confiscated his business and did him wrong. But he knew the communists of Kunovice. We had a trial only after serving the punishment. I was questioned for the whole Christmas day at the State Security in Uherské Hradiště by an apprentice of the famous Grebeníček. People were still carrying last Christmas trees, as I looked out of the window. He found a coded letter behind the lining of my purse, written on a toilet paper, which I was transporting from some boys from České Budějovice, caught by Russians with weapons in their hands. I got two slaps for that so that blood squirted from me. He had his truncheon on the table and he started to beat me at the questioning. And that was bad, because I couldn´t resist for too long. He asked stupidities, the main purpose was to arrest as many people as possible. I said there something I was not supposed to, because I didn´t know any more what I was talking. Even though you were the toughest one, you wouldn´t have let them beat you to death. When the presiding judge read the protocol that I had to sign, he asked me: ´Who questioned you?´ I knew that his name was Obšnajdr. I told him in advance that he shouldn´t swallow it like that, that I had signed it nearly unconscious, I hadn´t known what I had been signing. That´s why he asked who had questioned me. I said: ´He is signed there.´ When they read that, the whole senate in gowns just raised their eyebrows and they stopped tormenting me by stupid questions. He had the name of another tormenter already. So they sentenced us to what we had served already, but we had to pay a fine of one thousand crowns each for what we had eaten in prison. At that time it was a lot of money. It was the end of March 1949 when they released us. From prison I went straight to a vocational school to finish my education. But it ended happily, because they nearly let me in peace. Except for the fact that I was no more allowed to finish my school. They expelled me immediately and they wrote into my work book – mines, iron-mills or heavy industry. I had a mark for the whole life. So I chose heavy industry. In MEZ in Vsetín I was throwing coal in the boiler room. After a month I ran away and I said that I could throw the coal even in the brickworks in Kunovice.”

  • “I was released home by our commander who was there for punishment… lieutenant Šulc from the East front. Then he was replaced by the commander of the prison and he was like a dog. He let us stand for punishment for two hours in the exercise place in cold. The boys made a grave and on the cross they wrote a sign ´Here lies in God the furlough for merits´ and they signed our commander of the prison. The pilots serving there were walking past the grave and they took the sign straight to him. It was an upheaval. He even had me arrested at that time. But I was in prison just for two days. I was making a race motorbike in the workshop and instead of the evening inspection I probed it on the runway. For that I was not present at the inspection, he had me arrested. And I saw terrible things there. He was a sadistic man and he beat up there a prisoner, an ATB member, so terribly that I saw his bed sheet all dirty of blood. They may have beaten him there to death. A hotel owner from Poprad, he was nearly sixty, had a heart discomfort, but the doctor had locked the ambulance station, he had let there just a guard for boys lying there, and he had gone to visit his family, because it was on weekend. The hotel owner was found dead in the morning, he got a stroke just in the doorway of the ambulance station. So that, what Švandrlík writes, even though it is done in a satirical, comical way, it is all true. Many people remonstrate with it, that it was not in the ATB, but it really happened so. So I survived this too and they released me after 26 months. But some were serving there even over three years. I don´t like to think back on these things, but I think that only this made a man from me. Thank to the fact that I lived through this, I was not afraid then to start again in America. And with the help of God it all went well in the end.”

  • “In 1952 they recruited us and it was done again by the City Council in Kunovice, when they wrote into my military book ´return undesirable´. I entered the forces in Gottwaldov, we were 1200 from the Uherské Hradiště region. They drove us in covered wagons to Most in Bohemia and they put us up in horse caserns from the time of Austria-Hungary. There we got uniforms and the exercise started. We had only training there, but no weapons. Only right turn!, left turn!, at the double!, salute, but no weapon. After long marches I had blisters on my feet from the military boots which were pinching me. After a month´s training they divided us. Most of us went to Líně near Pilsen where a jet airport was being built. Some boys went to Bílina and Nepomuk. Exactly as it is in Švandrlík´s Black Barons. I personally spent 13 months in Líně. I signed up for workshops where they were looking for lathe men and millers. The airport was nearly finished and a lot of my friends from the ATB were detached, but the headquarters decided that thirteen from our group they would keep for a longer time to finish it completely. Instead of the detached young present servicemen they brought several busses full of older men. Nobody knows in this country that the ATB workers were inconvenient to the regime and they were old people between 40 and 75 years of age. With me in the room was a Hungarian count who was 75. Hotel owners, big businessmen. They confiscated their businesses, they had no right to put them in prison and in the Jáchymov mines they wouldn´t have been of too much use, so they put them to the ATB and it was a shame of the army. They didn´t let them out at all and it was something terrible. In Líně one of the present servicemen wanted to hang himself on Christmas´ Eve. We cut him off. But he was desperate. He had a family at home, two children, and he had even written a farewell letter which he had put into his bed. In the end they discovered that he was a lunatic, so they released him then. He didn´t hang himself on the neck, but on the chin. Then he started to rattle, snow was just falling. There was a small forest between the barracks and the workshop and in the workshop we had a Christmas tree directly at the window. The boys thought that there was a fire there, so we went home from Christmas dinner, but instead of fire we found a hanged man swinging on a pine. So we cut him off quickly, he jumped between the branches. It was really happening, because we were not getting there any furloughs or passes.”

  • “Once more we were caught by a policeman, but we escaped him straight from his hands. He didn´t have a weapon with him, he had been already tipped off and had got our description. He went straight towards us and said in Czech: ´So, boys, where are you going?´ And I said: ´Nach Vienna.´ He said: ´Don´t speak German, I know who you are.´ He turned and we went. The last building in the village was a police station. He was walking on the right side, my friend was in the middle and I was on the left side. When I was as far from him as possible, I tapped Staňa´s hand to let him know that we would run away, as the policeman was not armed, well, and we managed to escape. He took his motorbike and searched for us in the field. But we were hiding in a groove or behind a stook or some dung and so we crept to the neighbour village and we found shelter at a Yugoslavian man. We didn´t have any money, nothing, not even shoe laces. The Yugoslav drew on a piece of paper how we should avoid a Russian guard before Vienna. We succeeded in that. At that time Vienna was divided into four zones – Russian, French, American and English. It was not good to sleep in the Russian zone because they were doing inspections there at night. So we went in the direction of American cars, we found American caserns, an employee led us to a lodging house for refugees. There were Yugoslavians, Russians, Polish, Hungarians, a lot of people there. We spent there four days and in the dormitory we got to know Hungarians. Behind Vienna there were Russians again, up to Steier and Linz. We went by train with the five Hungarians up to 10 km from the border, there we got off and one Hungarian led us over. Near Linz there was a big collective camp for refugees. At that time they put into that huge camp full of refugees a communist spy and he brainwashed us then.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Velehrad, 11.08.2008

    duration: 02:03:56
    media recorded in project Iron Curtain Stories
  • 2

    Velehrad, 21.11.2018

    duration: 01:32:44
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
  • 3

    Zlín, 22.01.2019

    duration: 01:19:27
    media recorded in project Stories of the region - Central Moravia
  • 4

    Zlín, 22.01.2019

    duration: 12:48
    media recorded in project Stories of the region - Central Moravia
  • 5

    Zlín, 22.01.2019

    duration: 01:30:48
    media recorded in project Stories of the region - Central Moravia
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To leave the country, one had to do so illegally

Young man František Kolečkář
Young man František Kolečkář
photo: archiv pamětníka

František Kolečkář was born on the 6th of November in Kunovice in the vicinity of Uherské Hradiště and he spent here most of his life. His parents raised him in the Christian faith and in his youth, he served as an altar boy. His uncle on his mother’s side was a priest in Southern Bohemia. After the WWII, František became an avid scout and member of the [Catholic] Orel sports club. At the age of 17, he and his friend from the scouts band attempted to emigrate. They crossed the borders in Bratislava. In a refugee camp near Linz, Austria, they were persuaded by a Czechoslovak agent and they voluntarily returned to Czechoslovakia. The agent supplied them with fake documents but they were caught and arrested by a Soviet guard. They were escorted to Horní Dvořiště, České Budějovice and then they ended up in the Uherské Hradiště prison. As a juvenile, František was released after four months. At first, he had problems finding a decent job, he kept being assigned to heavy manual labour. He began his army service in 1952 and he served in the Auxiliary Technical Batallions. After his release from the army, he returned to a job in the LET factory in Kunovice where he continued to work until 1969. In September of the same year, he and his family decided to emigrate. At first, they spent half a year in a refugee camp in Austria, then they continued to Amsterdam and then to california. For 25 years, František was employed at the United Airlines and at the age of 62, he retired. In 1999, he returned to the Czech Republic. He was a member of the Confederation of Political Prisoners and participated at their events. František Kolečkář died on the 20th of May in 2019.