Zdislava Michlová

* 1924  

  • “Part of the what was to be the last Sokol rally was a parade through Prague. It was spectacular. How they all marched through the city in their gym tights and white T-shirts. There was a grandstand down at Můstek. On it, there was Gottwald and his colleagues. They expected that the marching Sokols would call out their fame. Except a bit further up ahead of Můstek there stood two Sokol leaders, one on each side, and whenever another troop came up, they both ordered ‘Eyes left!’ But that meant with their backs to the grandstand. Gottwald was furious. He had the [Sokol] leadership locked up straight away. But he didn’t cancel the rally itself with regards to its international prestige.”

  • “Shortly after the Communists came to power here, I became acquainted with the Castle doctor at a lunch or reception of some kind at the [Prague] Castle. I was employed at the PM’s office at the time. And because I wanted to study philosophy, I was given a place at the main switchboard opposite Straka Academy [the seat of government - trans.], so I could occasionally pop over to attend a lecture at the nearby Faculty of Arts. One day, I’m sitting in the switchboard office, and I get a phone call from the aforementioned doctor. He said he had an important testimony for me. That he was planning to travel to England, but that he didn’t know if he’d actually get there. He wanted to testify that Jan Masaryk did not commit suicide, as it was claimed. That he had been called on to check the body and confirm suicide. But that he discovered something different. He said there had been a broken chair in the room - like after a struggle. Jan Masaryk had yellow shoes, the heels were broken - apparently by some metal bar, and he had bruises on his neck like from strangulation. That it therefore seemed he had been strangled and only later thrown out of the window to make it look like suicide. But just as [the doctor] said that, there was a noise in the phone as if someone ripped the receiver out of his hand and it fell to the floor. I quickly ended the call, I pressed the hook switch so that no one would find out whom the doctor spoke with. He never called from England, and so I’m afraid he probably came to a sticky end. For a month, I waited terrified for when they would come for me. But I guess they really weren’t able to find out [who he’d phoned to], so I got out of it okay.”

  • “We were four children. My oldest brother Bohumil wanted to study theology. He was friends with one Justice Gebrich. And shortly after Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Nazis, his own brother ratted on them that they were listening to English radio. They nabbed my brother from the seminary, where he was studying, arrested him and sent him to forced labour in Germany. Her returned to the seminary after the war, but he was soon sent to do service in the AEC in Slovakia by the Communists, for a change.”

  • “When someone ratted on a person who had a better flat, wanting to exchange it for their own, we had to investigate it. We had a special person for that. He went there, and if necessary, the exchange was made. Luckily, it didn’t happen all that much. For instance, I knew one old teacher. She was already retired. And someone ratted on her in that sense. At the time I was forced to give in and move her into the worse flat. So I was glad to get out of there afterwards. It weighed down on me. I went to work for Křižík, I sharpened saw blades there, and that was truly apolitical work.”

  • “We lived in Smíchov, and I attended a Catholic grammar school in Vinohrady. It was run by venerable nuns. We only had two civilian professors. For Latin and mathematics, I think. There were a lot of us and the nuns couldn’t manage everything. It was during the war, and we received the announcement that we wouldn’t graduate. That the Germans do not wish to develop the Czech intelligentsia. We breathed a sigh of relief that we’d avoid having to take our graduation exams. But then another announcement came that we will take our exams, except in German. Mathematics, history, even Czech [language and literature] - all in German. The professors were devastated. In the end they came up with a trick: they distributed the questions among us, so we could prepare ourselves somehow. When the German commissar found out, he was furious that they were helping us this way. I don’t know what happened to the professors, whether they locked any of them up. All I know is that everyone passed the exams, only a few students had to do retakes.”

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    Praha, 23.06.2014

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For a month, I waited terrified for when they would come for me

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photo: archiv pamětnice

Zdislava Michlová was born on 21 May 1924 as one of four children of Mr and Mrs Štván in Bělá pod Bezdězem. However, her family lived in Prague-Smíchov. Her family, and especially her older brother Bohumil, were gravely marked first by the Nazi occupation and later by the Communist takeover of the country. As a young seminarian during WW2, Bohumil was arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo. He was then sent to forced labour in Germany. Later, the Communist regime considered him an unreliable person, and so he underwent compulsory military service in Slovakia in the Auxiliary Engineering Corps (AEC; forced labour). Zdislava herself also has interesting memories. She studied at a Catholic grammar school in Vinohrady, and during WW2 she had to pass her graduation exams in German. In the exhilarating days of the Prague Revolt their family supposedly hosted General Andrei Vlasov himself in their Smíchov flat for one night. After the war Zdislava worked at the Housing Department of the Prague municipal authority, and as such she was witness to the forced exchanges between the owners of better apartments and the people who informed against them. This caused her to quit her job. Zdislava Michlová also remembers her work as a telephone operator at the switchboard of the prime minister’s office, where she received an interesting testimony concerning the circumstances surrounding the death of Jan Masaryk (post-WW2 foreign minister, son of first Czechoslovak president T. G. Masaryk; Jan Masaryk died under mysterious circumstances shortly after the 1948 Communist coup, speculations abound on whether he committed suicide or was assassinated - trans.).