“It happened sometimes that they beat up one of the workers. I saw them with blood all over. I saw with my own eyes how the manager started kicking a pregnant woman at the drill machine. I was ten metres away. We did twelve-hour shifts, sometimes even eighteen-hour ones. We alternated between night shifts one week, day shifts the next. My colleague who worked at the lathe with me didn’t come to work one time, and they immediately sent him to Terezín for six weeks. When he came back, he never skipped a single shift. Or K. H. Frank [a high-ranking Sudeten official - trans.] came for an inspection, and everyone had to keep their heads bowed over the machines so we wouldn’t see his entourage pass by.”
“I went to the archives and pulled out the contract about the surrender of Carpathian Ruthenia. It was bound in leather, red, and it had Stalin’s signature in purple ink. I read in the agreement that one year after the annexation, intergovernmental negotiations will be started to discuss compensation and matters of property. So I reckoned that enough time had passed, that it was necessary to get things moving. Not to mention that the applications were being sent to and fro. We sent the requests we received to the interior ministry, and they sent it back here to foreign affairs, so it was ignored in this way. When I found out, I wrote a report to the minister with the proposal that we start sorting out peoples’ compensations. Those were small businessmen, post officers, policemen - ordinary people who had saved up for a house there and had lost it. At the same time I mentioned in my report that the personal relationships at the Soviet Department were not among the best, that some people were bullied, and so on.”
“We went to take Sněžka [the highest Czech mountain - trans.] as well, we ascended it on foot. Then they wanted to assimilate the whole group into the National Security Corps [the police force - trans.] and retrain the whole assembly for police work. That took place in Mariánské Lázně. So we went by train to Mariánky. They accommodated us in a guest house and told us the training would take place nearby. But I didn’t want to be a cop, so I asked to be released. I returned to Prague, where I was called to serve in the Czechoslovak Army. So I joined the 55th Regiment of Ludvík Svoboda in Prague.”
“I was summoned to the minister, where they set up a special kind of act, which even required typists - who hadn’t the faintest clue about what was going on there. On the contrary, people who might have testified in my defence didn’t come to work at all. They were ill. So the minister read out my report there and gradually came to verdict that it was a demonstration of utter bourgeois nationalism, and that I was dismissed. I had to hand in my card, and the guards came for me and escorted me out of the building. That was in 1953. My references were a total blacklist. But a friend helped me get a job at Armabeton, and so I was digging a ditch in the docks in Libeň the very next day.”
“And that’s another fallacy, when people say the Germans were all deported. But that wasn’t quite the case. They were afraid of the encroaching Russian army, and they fled of their own accord. The station was crammed. They had ill people there, people lying on duvets on the ground. Wagons full of people waiting for the train engine. There were also big ships, cargo ships in the port. The Germans were waiting to escape on them. So that’s one error that’s sometimes disregarded. A lot of Germans just fled. When we came into some of the rooms of the abandoned German flats, we found things like photos of SS men with black bands around the corner. The people who lived there were connected to the Nazis in some way.”
“Those were cruel times. Food was scarce. One colleague who had a farm in the countryside had dumplings with curds in his box, which was something we could only dream of having. I had a slice of bread spread with artificial margarine - kunerol. It happened that you fell asleep when riding home on the tram. People put signs on their hats saying ‘Wake me up at this stop’. And so you tried to manage. People often crippled themselves to avoid pressure and forced labour.”
I was fired from the ministry for trying to compensate the Czechoslovaks from Carpathian Ruthenia
Zdeněk Pacina was born on 9 March 1923 in Prague, but he grew up with his parents and one-year-younger sister in the Sudeten town of Osek. When his father died in 1933, his mother was forced to send him to stay with her sister in Prague. In 1937 he enrolled at the Baťa School of Work in Zlín, where he worked in a tannery. When the Germans annexed the Sudetes in 1938, he returned to Prague to look after his mother and sister, who were forced to move out of their home. He completed training in the textile business in Prague and was assigned to forced labour at a factory producing aircraft components in Vysočany during World War II. He took part in the liberation of Prague in May 1945 and then joined a resistance group in the border regions. In 1948-1953 he studied at the University of Political and Economic Sciences in Prague, where he specialised in international law. He was then employed at the Soviet Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1954 he was labelled a “bourgeois nationalist”, fired from his job, and expelled from the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPC). For the next several years he earned a living as a construction worker at Armabeton. In the 1960s his loss of CPC membership came under review and he was relisted as a candidate for membership. He ten worked at the Research Institute of National Economic Planning. After the invasion of Warsaw Pact forces in August 1968 he was again expelled from the CPC and fired from his job for his political opinions. In 1977 he and his wife signed Charter 77, and in the 1980s he took part in anti-Communist demonstrations. During the normalisation period he was employed at a paper works, an insurance company, and as a boiler man. After the revolution in 1989 he worked in the secretariat of the Federal Assembly and then in the secretariat of the parliamentary deputy Zdeněk Jičínský. He and his wife Jiřina raised four daughters.