Helena Mezlová

* 1939  

  • “When I came back from his pace [her brother in Germany], Jesus, what a to-do! They [State Security] came into the flat! Two cops came right into my home. Dandy-looking they were. They came into the flat, sat down in the living room, and: ‘Start talking!’ Oh well, so I told them how he’s doing great, who all I met there. They were pissed off, you could see it in their mugs. I showed them what my brother had at the hotel, the menu cards, the meals, and I said: ‘Look, and how cheap it is – three marks!’ They took it from me: ‘Come to the Leninka to get it back again, we’ll photocopy it, and you come pick it up at the Leninka.’ They left totally pissed off because I hadn’t lied. And they kept on – how poor they were, the ones who legged it, how they were poor, and I called them out on it. They said: ‘We’ll be talking with you again,’ but they didn’t come back because they knew they had nothing. Because I gave them some lip, I didn’t let them have nought.”

  • “I can still remember how we returned from the monastery, we had to wear white bands to show we were Germans. We wore white blouses with that white band on them all the time, I know that from Mum. Then we set out on foot to Pohořelice. They left us alone in Pohořelice, and my brother (he told me) made the acquaintance of some Russians who were taking potatoes from Vienna to Pohořelice and something else from Pohořelice to Vienna. And he arranged for those Russians to take us to Vienna in potato crates. Because Mum had a sister there, so she said: ‘We’re going to Vienna,’ and my brother arranged it. So they drove off with the Russians who, as far as I know, were nice, the ones in Pohořelice were not bad. But those young boys, those who escorted us, ‘armsers’ they were called, those were bastards. When someone couldn’t go on any more, they threw him into the ditch. I know that from my mum’s telling, how terribly they behaved – the ones who escorted us from Brno. Those were the ‘armsers’, later they called them the ‘people’s militia’. Those were scum all right.”

  • “My brother was exactly thirteen on 28 May when we went to the cemetary to be deported. All I remember is that my brother and sister, the little ones – our Anča, both slept in the pram. Then I remember a bit of the journey and then that we were hungry and that Mum and a few other people, whom he kept in touch with after the war because they returned to Brno, they killed a horse. The horse lay there, and I can see it, that horse with its bloated belly, how they cut it up. I can see it when I cover my eyes like this. Then it’s all black until we got to Pohořelice, I don’t know a thing. Supposedly we walked for four days.”

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    Brno, 18.09.2020

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The post-war situation broke up my family

Little Helena, 12 September 1939
Little Helena, 12 September 1939
photo: archives of the witness

Helena Mezlová, née Netroufalová, was born in Brno on 12 January 1939 to Eduard and Marie Netroufal. Her father was of German nationality and her mother was Czech, but the family only spoke German at home. Her father was drafted into the Wehrmacht as an aircraft mechanic; he was captured during the war. In May 1945, a six-year-old Helena with her mother and three siblings undertook the so-called Brno death march to Pohořelice, later finding shelter in the house of her mother’s sister in Vienna. The family managed to return to Brno through her mother’s efforts, but when her father returned from captivity, he wanted to live in Germany. Her parents divorced. Helena spent the first three years after her return to Brno in the convent of the Sisters of St Lawrence in Veslařská Street in Brno-Jundrov, where she experience the tragic death of her one-year-younger brother Eduard. She met her father when he visited Brno in 1954 and was only able to travel abroad to return the favour ten years later. The witness’s other brother emigrated to Germany in the 1970s. Her German roots caused her difficulties her whole life – her husband was refused jobs, her daughter was denied education. On her death bed, Helena’s mother begged her forgiveness for deciding to live in Brno.