Eva Novotná

* 1937

  • "When the army was mobilising, Dad was in the border corps. And Mum - my sister and I were already born at the time, my sister was almost four and I was about one year old - we lived in Granddad and Grandma's cottage. And we had this situation, it had all started to escalate with Henlein acting crazy and things getting really serious, and we had this situation here... although beforehand people lived here with... there were no problems between Czechs and Germans. But then when things got bad politically... the commander of the Czech garrison, Mr. Brandejs, a Czech himself, he also had a mixed family, he married a German. They came back here after '45 as well. And this commander found out that his son was starting to act strange. He reckoned there was something bad afoot, so he pressured the boy and found out that the local youth had this plan, because our mum was a Czech as if, because she married, when she married, she received Czech citizenship, because of that she must abandon the cottage, otherwise they'd blow it up into smithereens. Mum was terrified of course. She put me in my pram, took my sister by the hand and within two hours we were out of the house and sitting on a bench behind the post office, that's the bus station now, then she sat down on of the benches by the footpath leading behind it. Sat and waited. And she had just received an offer, when things started messing up politically, she got an offer from some old Czech guests of ours. From a Mr. Cerha from Nymburk, a jeweller. And he said: 'Mary, if ever you need to, come to us in Nymburk.' So Mum went to Nymburk for the three months, or two months, I don't know. For however long the demobilisation lasted."

  • "The simple fact is we were poor. Compared to those who moved in and brought their belongings from their old home and added that to the stuff they stole, to be quite blunt, compared to those my parents stayed isolated. Concerning my mum and dad, then the original inhabitants, the ones who came here to stay, not the mixed marriages but the ones who stayed here, then they got a bi afraid, because they knew that Dad had seen all they'd done. He knew how they had behaved to the Germans during the expulsion, up in the cabins. He knew there were people here who really did - went rough on an old lady up at Husovec or Žižkov Cabin and the such. That did happen. Well, but they knew that Dad knew. And they also knew that Mum knew, like I said, who was sleeping in whose blankets and bedclothes and who was walking around in whose furs."

  • "So we survived the war in Ostroměř. From there he [her father - transl.] was drafted in the forty-forth, forty-fifth, and sent to forced labour in Berlin, to the main post office. So he was there during all the terrible air raids. He came back of course, thank God he survived, he came back in mid-April 1945. And he didn't return there again, because of course both the Red Army and the Allies were pushing hard on the Germans, so Dad didn't go back there. Mum tried to get a chance to visit home, that is here, Pec. So she drove to head office in Jičín and requested permission to visit here. And they told her: 'Of course, Mrs. Vyskočilová, of course you can. You'll get a pass, just sign here.' Mum read the form and it stated that she demands her, that she is forfeiting her Czech citizenship and demanding her old nationality according to her birthright. And Mum said: 'I married a Czech.' She didn't often say things like that, but this time she stood her ground. She said: 'I was displaced from my home, so I don't see why I should sign this.' And he tells her: 'In that case you'll never ever in your whole life get to return home.' To which Mum replied: 'In that case Ostroměř is my home now.' "

  • "But Grandma, Oma, she could come to visit us in Ostroměř, so she did and she took me and my sister back with her, we went three times. Three times to the cottage for the summer. So of course we made friends with the German children from the neighbouring houses. The Berauers were one of the families, they had four children. And we used to play with them. It was kind of a Czech-German thing, because since Mum had to leave Pec, she never spoke in German to us. We missed that later on, because later on, in later times it would've come in handy. But when we came here to visit Grandma, when we talked with the German children, the Berauers, we talked in this kind of way: 'Verushka hat knee ganz kaputt.' That kind of speech. But I can't say that we didn't understand each other. Because we played together and we did understand each other. Hands helped. We might've done a bit of swearing in Czech, when the other side quite catch on fast enough. But it was nice, the Berauer boys were a nifty lot, and their father was away in the army. So they lived there with their mum. Three boys and a girl. And I know that Adam was an absolute redhead. Ginger hair, almost like a flame. But they were a nifty lot. We actually saw them again after the forty-fifth when we came back here. And they still lived here, they were waiting to be deported. They were already, well, they had to leave their house and move into the barn next door, where they used to keep the cattle. So they lived in the barn with their mum. They were deported, expelled I mean, the Berauers - that is the boys and the girl, what was her name, I can't recall - before they got on the transport. They called it a transport in those days. They came by and they brought us their whole stable, all the horses and all the carts and everything. And then when they ended up in the Russian zone, DDR [German Democratic Republic - transl.], and when the opportunity arose that they could come visit, so they did. They visited us at the cottage, already as grown-ups we met them, they used to come here again. Except the house, the one which was next to the barn where they kept the cattle and where they lived before being deported, that house was demolished, that was gone. But the big house, the former bed & breakfast that used to belong to them, that's still standing."

  • "My grandparents were Germans, they had always lived here in Pec. My grandmother came from the Meerganz family, my grandfather was of Dix lineage. They had a farmhouse here, they built up a few rooms on the top floor and started to rent them out to improve their financial situation. And a lot of Czechs used to come here, which was kind of strange actually - that until 1937 it was mostly Praguers who headed our way. And so even though they were well educated and intelligent people, they made do with so very simple, primitive lodgings. And they were very respectful of the nature here, so they were awfully, awfully helpful to the region which was beginning to pull itself together and rise up from its highland, woodsman and farming roots." My dad was Czech. He met my mum while she was studying at Kolín Cabin. That's one of the peak cabins. "Kolín" because it was owned by Czechs from Kolín. And Mum was studying there, and as she was a pretty, good-looking woman and Dad, well he was a handsome man too, so they fell for each other. And they married and the beginnings were, well, a Czech marrying a German and so on. Although Mum spoke very good Czech, because her mother, in other words my grandmother, used to send her on these so-called "haggles" ["handl" in Czech - transl.], so she used to go regularly to Červený Kostelec where she took part in these haggles, so there she learned Czech. And then also there were the Czech visitors, Czech holiday makers, Czech visitors who stayed at Grandma's, so basically she spoke Czech with them and that's how she learned it really. Up to that time, Czechs and Germans lived together, well... there weren't any problems.

  • "Sometimes they did come back, you know, the pirates, the pirate-like people who came here and really did loot the place. They really did come with their briefcases and leave with lorries full. But I mentioned that my mum claimed that the houses were cursed. Even in other cottages - there still are people who moved in in 1945, 46, and stayed. So when we, well... we who live here know each other, and when you think about it, the families didn't really have much good fortune. So I reckon there's an insy bit of truth to that. Simply put, some of the negativity remained in the house, because the house draws that into itself. I mean, when someone builds a house or lives in one for a long time, is born there, then the house definitely draws in some of the energy of the former inhabitants. And if those people are very unhappy, then their sadness is reflected in the house, or so I think... Everyone found some sort of a life, whether in the east or west of Germany. And the ones who came next where the normal kind, those who were to repopulate the border regions, who wanted to stay and live here. But they moved into empty houses, picked clean of everything. When they found out the extent of the looting here, the officials organised a... they collected heaps of bedding, clothing, furs and crockery from the very rich hotels we had here, and they took it all to the Hořec hotel and put it on tables in the main hall. And the newcomers, the Czechs, they could go there and buy what they needed just so as to have a passable living. Like the bedding, the duvets, the blankets and suchlike, you know. So of course our mum went to have a look as well. She was curious. Well, and she was saying: 'Oh yeah, that lady over there, the one who's giving herself airs and's got her nose in the air so much that she hardly answers my greetings, the one who's strutting around in those furs, well those furs belonged to so and so.' Basically she knew the people beforehand. She knew them afterwards. And then she got to know the newcomers, and I must say that some of them, even from the second wave, those were more of the normal sort I must say, but those who stayed here from the first wave - a few people did stay, three families - those were snobs who looked down their noses at everyone else. And even just if someone was in a mixed marriage, they let them know that it was a mixed marriage. So even afterwards, after the forty-fifth, my mum felt kind of secluded and the such. Things changed again after a few years when they got to know Mum a bit better."

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    Pec pod Sněžkou, 23.12.2005

    duration: 01:27:52
    media recorded in project Sudetenland destinies
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After all, although we were Czech, my mum was born as a German

1243-portrait_former.jpg (historic)
Eva Novotná
photo: soukromý archiv

Eva Novotná was born on the 19th of April 1937 in Pec pod Sněžkou. Her father was a Czech postman who had moved to Pec because of his work and because of the mountains. Novotná’s mother came from the traditional German Giant Mountains family of Dix. In the autumn of 1938 she was forced to move with her parents to Ostroměř in inland Czechoslovakia - her mother had accepted Czech citizenship and a group of young radicals had planned to blow up their house in Pec. The family lived through the war in the relative peace of the countryside, and later returned to Pec. A number of their German relatives had already been displaced to Germany. Eva Novotná completed grammar school in Trutnov before going on to graduate at the Faculty of Pedagogics in Hradec Králové. She began teaching in Pec pod Sněžkou in the early sixties and stayed there right into the nineties. She married a grammar school teacher, together they had two children. Nowadays she has several grandchildren who come to visit her in Pec. She is currently retired, heads the library in Pec and manages a small bed and breakfast in her house. Eva Novotná comes from a mixed Czech-German family, a combination quite rare in the German Pec pod Sněžkou, but otherwise quite typical for the Sudetes. In the decisive moment, her parents chose to embrace Czech citizenship, a decision which forced them to leave the Sudetes in 1938 and adversely allowed them to stay in 1945. The fates of their relatives show clearly what war and exile meant for such families.