Walter Kuřátko

* 1931

  • “So we were classified as Czechs from Klodzko and were supported. They invited us to Czechoslovakia, mainly young people. We were told by the Klodzko Committee that we would be here just for a short time and go home because Klodzko would belong to Czechoslovakia again. Reportedly, it depended on two signatures in Prague. However, it did not happen and my parents remained in Poland and I was in Czechoslovakia. I didn't know anybody here and didn't speak Czech. It was rather hard for me at the beginning, I just spoke German and it was not good just after the war.“

  • "First, I intended to move to Germany. It was not possible at first, everything was closed. And the Germans were not interested in us. So I had a grey ID for a long time which was for homeless people but then I wanted to get married and they insisted that I had to had a Czechoslovakian citizenship. I was allowed to get it then and I did not mind that. But my nationality is German.

  • "My parents spoke Czech, my nine-year-older brother spoke Czech, not well but I couldn't speak at all. My parents spoke to each other in Czech. They also listened to the Prague radio but I was not interested at all. Nobody made me learned it and my father used to say, ´Just you wait, you might need it one day!´And I remembered it many times when I was here in Czechoslovakia and needed it.“

  • “And then a woman shouted at me from the German side (Well, Polish, then). I was still on the Czech side and so I jumped and hid behind a tree. And I was there and suddenly there was the machine gun, shooting at the tree! So I asked myself, what is that? And then I learned, many years after, that there was a Pole hiding in a gutter. He saw me crossing the border and wanted to shoot me. And nothing would have happened to him. A friend of mine was shot in such a way. He just went to buy bread for his mother.“

  • “´Well, we have a report here that you have a German nationality.` `Do I have different ears or eyes?` I replied. And they said it was a military factory. There was one department which specialized in something, just nonsense. And there were eight of us who were fired at once. They told the foreman, `You shut up or you'll go too.` It was just in 1954, I had just got married and we were awaiting a baby. When I went to a job office, they didn't give me any job. I was stigmatized and no one was allowed to give me a job in the region of Náchod.“

  • "And now he hits the door and shouts, ´Girls!´The girls were going to jump out of the window to the forest as he was waving with a gun. And Uncle, he was just a hero. He ran away to the headquarters and there he reported that. There was a young officer and he immediately took a carriage and went to the house. And he warned the other officer, who was terribly drunk. But he was just shouting, ´Girls!´So he warned him twice and then he went back about five meters and shot him dead and then he left. I was stunned as I had never seen anything like that. Well, some girls killed themselves or they were hiding in the forest and I was taking food to them. It was really bad."

  • “And one of my friends was shot when he was going to buy bread for his mother. So he was hit and it was by a dum-dum bullet, which is an expanding bullet that explodes. He lost his leg. They would have left him there, nobody would have been allowed to help him. So our people could only go there for him when it got dark. There was no hospital in Chudoba, so sisters from the monastery took him. So we arranged it with the Klodsko Committee, that thay would accept him in the hospital in Náchod. But it was not possible to cross the borders, so we did it illegally. Our parents put him on a sled, it was in winter and they transported him over Bor (a mountain) during the night. His leg was amputated, otherwise he would have died. He was younger than fifteen. It was like that if you wanted to go home for a while. It was like Wild West then and the one who shot at him could have been promoted for guarding the border well...”

  • “The workers went home by bicycle, daily or weekly. Well, there was the border but every week I went to buy a cake for my mother to the Kašpars, in Náchod as it was not possible to buy it in our place. So I crossed the border riding a bike. I just waved my hand. It was just an imaginary line. Also, there were mixed marriages; people from both sides of the border. The people from Czech villages in Podorlicko, from Borová, used to work for the Mautner's textile factory in Náchod or in Kelnov, where there was a huge factory. There were no buses so they walked through Germany. So we were astonished when we saw the borders close and the soldiers there could shoot too! I didn't get it. But now I am surprised, I can go to Poland any time. Isn't it great?“

  • “Once I was badly beaten and my face looked horrible. When I arrived home, the baker asked what had happened. So I explained it to him and he said, “It is all because of the white armband, why do you wear it?” And he took it off, so that I couldn't wear it any more. I they had to interpret it for me as I couldn't speak Czech that time and he didn't speak German. I had been in prison several times before that. They caught me and I had to be in prison for two days before everything was explained. It was like that just after the war. The authorities didn't work much and in Poland nothing worked at all but since then it was okay. Then, in two or three years' time, it was not not necessary to wear it. After the war, we had to hand in radios and everything. But if you hadn't done that, they could have shot you …“

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    Náchod, 04.12.2010

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It was like the Wild West here then and I had a grey ID, which meant: Homeless.

Walter Kuratko at the end of WWII
Walter Kuratko at the end of WWII
photo: archiv pamětníka

Walter Kuřátko was born in Bad Kudowa (in Czech: Chudoba), in German Glatz (today Klodzko, in Czech: Kladsko) in 1931. However, after the war the area became a part of Poland. In January 1946, he left for Náchod in Czechoslovakia because there was a danger of expulsion in Poland. There were also better conditions for him in Czechoslovakia. He was entitled to start a vocational training; he was also given accommodation and food as there was a special programme for Czech people from Klodzko. He assumed, together with many other expatriates, that Klodzko would soon become a part of Czechoslovakia. However, it never happened and 15-year-old Walter had to stay in Czechoslovakia. At first, he did not speak Czech. It was risky to visit his family in Poland because it was difficult to cross the border legally. Even though the situation improved, the family remained separated.