“I remember that while we were in elementary school, we were going for walks, because there was no gym, of course. During these walks we would often find remains of deer torn apart by wolves that had gotten all the way to the village. And one day, when I went with my dad to the Romanian border, we were being constantly warned that we would encounter a bear. I saw a bear only once, but it was a very intense experience indeed. All kinds of deer were abundant there.”
“It was a typical Hucul village, one of the largest and longest villages in the Czechoslovak Republic. Obviously, the living standards of the people were incredibly low and the state employees such as my dad were called ‘masters.’ They did not call them Czechs but ‘masters,’ because most of the Czechs there worked for the state, while the Huculs partly earned their living from agriculture, but most of them were loggers. I remember intensely the timber floating there. A dam was built under the highest Ukrainian mountain Hoverla, which was the most modern at that time, and at certain periods it released enormous amount of water to the river Tisa so that the water level would rise to enable the passage of rafts. The navigation on rafts was often very dramatic and tragic as they transported the timber all the way to Hungary where the timber was being exported.”
“One of my teachers was (Jiřina - ed.’s note) Petřková, sister of the well-known priest (Vladimír – ed.’s note) Petřek, who had provided the hiding place in the Sts Cyril and Methodius Church to the paratroopers who had assassinated Heydrich. She rode a bike from Olomouc to Bohuňovice. She was an amazing woman who feared nothing. And since the path was muddy, she would arrive with mud on her back as well as on her bike. I remember that one day she was crying when she arrived. We did not realize this at that time, because we did not know the background; we understood it only later. She was unable to lecture and she was crying and broken because she was aware that as Petřek’s sister she would be persecuted. It was indeed so, but she has survived the concentration camps and she then worked in Olomouc.”
I ate corn porridge with the Huculs and I went to the synagogue with the Jews
Jaroslav Pálka was born January 21, 1927 in the village Sekernice in Carpathian Ruthenia. However, he spent a large portion of his childhood in Bohdan in Carpathian Ruthenia in the easternmost part of the First Republic Czechoslovakia. His father served there as an official of the financial (border) guard. Jaroslav Pálka thus became accustomed to the lifestyle of the local Hucul people as well as the Jewish community. In January 1939 his father got transferred and the whole family thus moved to Moravia. Carpathian Ruthenia was taken over by the Hungarian army two months later. The family spent the war in Bohuňovice. One of Jaroslav’s teachers in the local school was Jiřina Petřková, sister of priest Vladimír Petřek, who provided a hiding place for the men who had assassinated Reinhard Heydrich. During the last months of the war, Jaroslav had to work on digging anti-tank trenches for three months, which were to serve as the wehrmacht’s defence against the advancing Soviet army. In 1945 the family moved to Šumperk where Jaroslav studied grammar school. He then successfully graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at Palacký University in Olomouc and subsequently he worked in the clinical biochemistry department in the hospital in Šumperk until his retirement. In 1957 he became a member of the Communist Party and later he became the chairman of the Party’s cell in the Šumperk hospital. He joined the reform wing within the Party and he often criticized the situation in the Communist Party. After the intervention of the Warsaw Pact armies and the subsequent political screenings he was expelled from the Communist Party. Jaroslav still lives in Šumperk with his wife Blanka.