Helena Kosková

* 1935  

  • “Dad had a lot of friends among the Jewish intelligentsia and doctors, of course, and one of those friends taught him how to feign a severe heart attack and electrophobia. So it wasn’t possible to make an ECG. Except what happened was that this Jewish doctor was put in a transport himself, and Dad got a different doctor. He really tried to feign it, and he was so successful that when we were on a walk sometime in late May 1945, he met his Aryan doctor at the Castle [Prague Castle is situated on a hill - trans.], and he rushed up and said: ‘You mustn’t walk around here, that could be the death of you.’ But I know that Dad terribly embarrassed that he had feigned the condition the whole time, thus avoiding deportation.”

  • “The trial began on Thursday the twentieth, and on Monday the twenty-fourth I was expelled from school and Mum was fired from her job. She was in a very bad state, so she wasn’t even able to go anywhere. Some of her colleagues at work said that we should be trodden into the ground in Old Town Square. So I went to Bartholomew Street [the location of the State Security station - trans.] and said they should go ahead and trod us to bits, or tell us what we’re supposed to do. They phoned somewhere and promised that they’d get back Mum’s job and get me back in school. They really did give Mum her employment back, it was in the Prague Paper Works, hard work including night shifts, but they didn’t take me back to my school, of course.”

  • “Our landlord probably sent some reports about us, I guess he had as part of his job description. When my future husband visited us once, someone reported him to Prague that he’d stolen a goat chain and the lid of a laundry pot. [The report] came to a Prague judge. He summoned [my husband] and asked: ‘So you are a student of architecture.’ My husband said: ‘Yes.’ - ‘And can you explain why you need a goat chain and a lid from a laundry pot?’ He said he couldn’t, and so the Prague judge wrote it off.”

  • "Of course we had no idea this might happen because my dad was not at the very top of the Communist Party, that's just not true. He was a member of the party and had a place that matched his education at the Ministry of Finance and then in the diplomatic service. When the trial with Slánský came – it was on November 20 – there was a news report on the radio covering the trial and I had absolutely no idea that it might relate to my dad in any way. They were reading out the names of the people implicated in the process and suddenly there was my dad's name. That came as a terrible surprise for me. People were picked up from many layers of society, there was Slánský and Reicin who were leaders, but then you had people just like Margolius, my dad, London, or Hajdů ... What would also happen – I mean it's all well documented – for example, was that they muddled it. For instance, my dad was supposed to do trade which in fact was what Margolius did, but they gave it to my dad. They would do this sort of things."

  • "As soon as we met, they booked a stay at Crvena Luka and Eva asked me and Jirka asked Ivan if we wanted to stay here. Thus it became the worst holidays of our lives, because there was on the one hand the fact that my husband had finally managed to do his research assistantship at the Academy of Applied Arts, I was working in the Museum and the regime had just started to be a bit more liberal. That was in 1965, August 1965. On the other hand, if they had caught us, we would have ended up in prison and [daughter] Eva would end up with some foster parents or in a child asylum and we might have never seen her again. So we played a foul trick on my sister and my brother-in-law. We told them alright, but to be safe, so that they could not arrest us."

  • "So I went to the State Police in Bartolomějská and I told them to do something. They ought either crush us with their feet on a square or give us a job. So they called some party functionary in a high position and he promised my mom to get her job back and I was promised a return to my old school. In the case of my mom, they kept their word, but in my case, they didn't. When I came there later on to push the issue, they offered me to make a statement renouncing my father. They said that if I did that, they would let me go back to school. But of course I didn't sign it."

  • "After his beloved daughter Eva had left, my dad was terribly afraid that something would happen to her. In his eyes, she was simply a twenty-year-old naïve girl that was suddenly out there in the world on her own. The second major trauma was the existential uncertainty that followed after he had lost his job in the diplomatic services. After he had been recalled from the embassy, he didn't get any work. This situation lasted until maybe early June 1951 when he got the job of a firm economist. He said: 'At least now I could make you happy since you didn't like to see me politically engaged in high office'. I don't remember the name of the company anymore, but I seemed strange to us from the start that his predecessor kept working at the company. On June 30, 1951, my dad was supposed to come back from a course where the company had sent him. Suddenly, about two o'clock in the morning the doorbell rang and about eight people from the State Security entered our apartment. From this we concluded that my dad had probably been arrested on the way back from the course."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 23.11.2012

    duration: 02:32:50
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha, 13.09.2016

    duration: 01:53:52
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I had no idea that my dad could be involved in the trial with Slánský

koskova orez.jpg (historic)
Helena Kosková
photo: dobová archiv pamětnice, současná foto A. Jelínková

Helena Kosková, née Fischlová, was born in 1935 in a mixed Czech-Jewish family, being the younger one of two daughters. Her father Otto Fischl came from a Jewish family, her mother was Catholic. Her father worked as a lawyer, her mother was a housewife. In 1939, Otto Fischl had to suspend his legal practice for racial reasons – the family was considered to be racially mixed. Her father and both of the daughters managed to avoid deportation to the Theresienstadt ghetto thanks to the help of a doctor who certified Mr. Fischl unfit for deportation. After the war, her father joined the Communist Party and started a new career as a politician and diplomat. Helena Kosková – and particularly her older sister Eva, now Vaňková – were on the contrary of a considerably anticommunist stance. In the years 1949-1951, Mr. Fischl served as ambassador in the GDR. After the emigration of Eva in January 1951, Mr. Fischl was withdrawn from his diplomatic post and arrested in June 1951. In November 1952, Otto Fischl was sentenced to death in the trial with Rudolf Slánský and he was executed in early December 1952. His daughter Helena was sacked from school and her mother lost her job. In May 1953, they had to leave Prague and move to Stachovice in Fulnek. In the summer of 1956, Helena married and moved back to Prague again. After having studied Czech studies, she got a job at the Museum of National Literature. In the summer of 1965, Helena Kosková with her family and mother emigrated via Yugoslavia to Sweden, where she still lives today. She’s been actively promoting Czech literature abroad.