Vladimír Mejstřík

* 1932  

  • “The morning came. It was a beautiful sunny morning and the tanks with Russians arrived. How we welcomed them! They were like kids. These Russians were just like kids. I was taking pictures of them, already at that time I had a small box camera, four by six and a half. I was photographing them. In the photographer’s shop they developed and printed the photographs for me immediately, and the soldiers were beaming with happiness when I brought the photos to them. They would have carried me in their arms. They would say: ´Davaj.´ (Give). Whenever they liked something, they simply said: ´Davaj.´ They had watches on their forearms up to their elbows. A watch was something of a miracle to them: ´Davaj časy!´ (Give me a watch). Well, they were raping women, and so on, that’s true, and when their officers saw them, they would shoot them. They had no qualms about it. Or he would kick him brutally. I saw it, I was in Újezd and a Russian stole a bicycle there. The woman who was the owner of the bike went to complain to the commander. He grabbed the soldier and he kicked him on the market square till he was all covered with blood. They didn’t value human life as much as we do today. And for an inexperienced child’s soul, who sees this for the first time, this is something which you then carry with you throughout your life.”

  • “During the entire war we never learnt anything about the gas chambers and the holocaust. The Germans were able to cover it perfectly. These atrocities committed by the Germans became known only after the war, and it significantly raised the hatred against all things German. Their expulsion from Czechoslovakia after the war was seen in the same way. It was viewed as a just punishment for them. And the postwar enthusiasm from being liberated, that was something amazing! While we were still in Prague, I joined a Boy Scout troop, whose members were my classmates. It was my first encounter with scouting, about which I haven’t known anything at all before. Before that, I only knew the Fast Arrows and their adventures (Rychlé šípy – popular Czech comics about a group of boys, transl.’s note). It was amazing. When the displacement of the Germans from the Czech territory took place, the radio was calling on Czech citizens to go and resettle the abandoned border regions. Our uncle, who had had to flee from there to Prague in 1939 because of the Germans, was returning there, and my other uncle – who worked as a switch-man, got transferred there to the railway station in Raspenava. Road signs, which had been written only in German before, had to be repainted. New company names for businessmen’s shops had to be written. Therefore it didn’t cost my relatives much effort to persuade my father to join them, and in summer 1945 we thus left Prague and moved to Raspenava. A whole new world opened for me. I completed the 4th grade of higher elementary there, and a one-year apprenticeship course, which was intended to make up for the war time. A Boy Scout troop led by the railway stationmaster from Raspenava formed there. An ample stock of material had been left behind by the Hitlerjugend: military tent canvases, brown shirts and black shorts, you just needed to add the Boy Scout belt and the scarf and hat. And as for our troop meeting room? The selection of abandoned rooms was incredible.”

  • “Everything that we were experiencing with Dad at home was taking place somewhere else. Prague was spared a lot of damage. Prague didn’t experience anything actually, not till the uprising in 1945. Only there could we smell the horrors of the war, so to speak. I saw the first dead people when I was thirteen, on the Wenceslas Square, and on the barricades. All sorts of sad stories took place there. I had a sister, who was seven years older than me. Thanks to her year of birth she avoided the conscripted labour in Germany by one year, but her friend, who was one year older, was not spared. Her friend was a beautiful girl, and she was sent to do forced labour in Germany, and she died there during the bombardment. She had lived in the so-called silk-makers’ houses, and her father – well, every father loves his daughter, right? – went to revenge her. We were building the barricades. We raided a warehouse with wood for it. We took trash containers and what not to build the barricade. This father, a pistol in hand, went to avenge her daughter on the barricades, and he was killed there. There are stories like that. Or my classmate – he had never seen a bazooka in his life, and he got hold of it somewhere. A thirteen year old boy with a bazooka, he had no clue how to handle it. He didn’t realize that he needed to keep clear of the back of the weapon, and he fired it, and the blast severed the top of his skull, but he still survived it!”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    skautská klubovna 1. oddílu v Hradci Králové, 14.10.2011

    duration: 51:56
    media recorded in project A Century of Boy Scouts
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Rather too bloody spectacle

Photo from the Boy Scout chronicle
Photo from the Boy Scout chronicle
photo: skautská kronika pana Mejstříka

Mr. Vladimír Mejstřík, known under his Boy Scout nickname Tom, was born March 17, 1932 in Prague. His father was able to find permanent employment only in the war industry. During the Prague Uprising, an artillery grenade destroyed the roof of their house while they were inside. Vladimír’s father fought on the barricades in the streets of Prague during that time. After the war and the expulsion of the German population, the Mejstřík family moved to the town of Raspenava in the Sudetenland under the program of Czech resettlement of the border regions. After the war, Vladimír had become a Boy Scout in Prague, and he joined a local troop in Raspenava after the family moved there. He learnt the metal engraver’s trade and began working for the Tiba company. After 1948, when an embargo was placed on foreign exports, Vladimír Mejstřík was transferred to Dvůr Králové, where he worked in the same factory. He married before the end of his compulsory military service, and then started working for the advertising department in Hradec Králové. He has never been a member of the Communist Party, and still he was able to work as the department leader, teach, and organize exhibitions during the communist regime. After fifty years, he decided to walk again on the hiking trails in the Jizerské Mountains, which he knew from his scouting years, and to make a film about this experience.