Heidrun Kuchler

* 1939

  • Our father came to Sruby on the twenty-ninth, he felt well there. Someone had to harvest the crops, there was nobody to do it. The “clerks”, meaning the Czech border patrol – they deployed the same people that were there after the First World War. Mr Ostrášek, we’ll never forget him. They lived with their families in the Sruby barracks and weren’t allowed to shop in Nýrsko, but lived among the population of Sruby and got bread and meat and milk from them and we didn’t have the best relations with them. But the ones who were deployed with us, we knew them, they were friends. And they also knew what was up with the political situation, they got on well with my father and told him: “They keep asking about you, we can’t have you here anymore.” That was through our aunt, they told him that he has to get out to Germany, that things are heating up. So they left some clothes in the woods, our father and aunt pretended they were going mushroom picking, but they had my father’s clothes in the basket and he got dressed in the woods. That was as early as September. Then he went to his relatives the Multerers in Arnschwang. He stayed there and set things up, because since the Ostmark he was, he was a Bavarian teacher since 1938 and the documentation was in Regensburg, so he just signed up there as a Bavarian teacher.

  • Our father left on 4 September and we stayed in Sruby and left on 14 November. Over the green border in Warzenried and their Father and Aunt Hilda set it up for us to stay overnight in Arnschwang, that’s what I can still remember. We really did cross over the green border, they wrapped us up in cloth, which they wanted to get over the borders, they tired us out so we could get over the border… With Mr. Ostrášek – they knocked and then we knew they are going one direction and we have to go the other. From the few things we understood from Sruby, we knew the Potsdam Agreement was coming. My father had no illusions: “We have to go, we have to go, we don’t know how long we’ll be gone for!” And then people were organising what to take with us, what to take over the border. In Sruby you just jump over the border stream and land in Bavorské Dvory, they were partial relatives of ours, so we rented a room and piled up our things in there.

  • Dad was an avid hunter and didn’t hand in his ancestral guns, they were exceptional rifles. These old farmyards had hiding spots under the floors, they’d been there for ages and this was one of those old farms. And they searched the whole place and during the umpteenth search they found them. We were made to stand in a line and they said the adults, especially Grandad, would be shot. And once more it was my aunt who spoke a little English and she demanded that an American be brought to the place. And that saved us. But that was also something we didn’t understand as children. Just that we mustn’t move and have to stand still. Or when they took our livestock away, that’s something we saw as children. We were locked up inside, but out the window we could see what was going on and then the farm was empty. Then we were happy to be out of the country.

  • The people from East Prussia got a message shortly before, saying their son had died in the war. All day and night they cried and screamed. Then our mother, along with the neighbours, had to go to the bunker, the shelter, out by Špičák, with us children. We came there last and it was full to bursting and our mother grabbed us with all our things and we went back. So we only just made it to our house and the old people were saying they want to die and won’t go down in the cellar with us. But eventually they went, we all hid in the cellar and then the bombing started. I know it threw me against the iron gates and I can’t remember anything after that. Neither can the others. Our mother later told us that she had lost consciousness and then gone up to the window to look out. They were bombing us from the direction of Špičák. They were trying to hit the station and our house’s roof was damaged, the shutters and doors were jammed, there was broken glass everywhere and so on. Then all the smoke and dust and everything just moved from East to West, in the direction of Železná Ruda. Mother said: It looks like Železná Ruda is in ruins, covered in ashes, the mist is up, we can’t see anything. I also know it was deathly quiet. I’ve only ever heard that kind of quiet during the eclipse of the moon (sun?), not a single bird was singing. Nothing, complete silence. You lost any feeling of time, or anything else. Then the sirens started and you could hear cars driving by. The sun came up quickly and my daughter came home pretty quickly. And the place we were supposed to wait, because we were the last people to get there, we would have been hit by shards of glass. So our mother really had some kind of seventh sense, helping us survive in health.

  • Full recordings
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    Neukirchen, SRN, 06.09.2019

    duration: 02:13:13
    media recorded in project The removed memory of Šumava
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

First I was annoyed to hear so much Czech around me, but things got better

Heidrun as a young girl
Heidrun as a young girl
photo: pamětník

Heidrun Kuchler was born on 14 February 1939 in Železná Ruda, where she lived in the grandiose villa “Ville Kuchler” until 1945. Her mother, Maria, was from a prosperous farm in Sruby. Alois, her father, was a teacher at the city school and from April 1944 until May 1945 he was the commissioned mayor of Železná Ruda. After the bombing of Železná Ruda in April of 1945, her mother escaped with the children to their grandparents in Sruby and in November of 1945 the whole family fled over the border stream into Bavaria. What followed were their “worst years”, spent in unrelenting poverty and uncertainty. Their father was subject to the denazification process with both parents working for farmers. In 1947 their father was assigned a teaching position in Metting. The family later moved to Straubing, where Heidrun lives to this day. All the siblings became teachers, with Heidrun teaching at a secondary school despite dreams of a vocation in healthcare. She went into therapy to process her early childhood memories and her first visit to Šumava in the 90s was an emotional one. She took part in the re-consecration of the family chapel in Železná Ruda, but still stays away from Czechs.