Jaroslav Pánek

* 1926  

  • “The Russians did it, afterwards, when they came, when they came to liberate Soběslav. They’d had captured some Germans there. I don’t know where they caught them. They led them to the wetlands in Na Solinách, we were there taking pictures, too. It was low down. They forced those couple of Germans there and then they shot them.” – “And when did you find that out, from who?” – “We photographed it. We were taking photographs all over the place. So, we were there, too.” – “When they shot those Germans?” – “When they shot Germans and Vlasov’s men. I saw it with my own eyes, I didn’t photograph it. They took two of Vlasov’s troops over to the same place and it was those Russians who shot them again. They shot them in the back of the head, about five steps away from their backs. They rolled to the side. And they left them there like that. The people from Soběslav were left to clean up the mess, to get rid of them, basically.” “So, you saw them being shot?” – “More or less, I didn’t know what was going to happen. I have it photographed. The city authorities in Soběslav have the negatives of those pictures. I gave them to them around fifteen years ago.”

  • “It was Sunday, the sixth of May, and I took my bicycle and rode home, to Vlkov. And when I got to Sloup, that’s the intersection of Dráchov, Jindřichův Hradec, or Veselí, Soběslav, Prague, and so on. When I got there I saw a convoy, a huge convoy on bikes, of German soldiers. So, I didn’t know what do about passing them, I had my tri-color lapel here. What to do? They were fully armed, would just take their machine guns, boom boom boom and off they’d go. So, I had no idea what to do. I was scared, that’s the truth. So, I decided to risk it. I took off my lapel and put it into my pocket. I passed them, pedaling, and looking. They passed me by, on bikes like I was saying, and there must have been two hundred of them or maybe more. They were retreating from the Russians, from the Red Army. And they were retreating toward Sloup, taking a left through Dráchov toward Týn nad Vltavou, not far from where the Americans were waiting.”

  • “I always tear up when I talk about this. Imagine that we were running outside all day and then we would get home and say: ‘Mom, were hungry!’ And we really were very hungry. And our poor mom had to tell us: ‘I can’t give you anything, I don’t have anything.’ Can you see how that must have been for her to say? It was awful, and I’ll never forget it. But we had each other. We lived in poverty, but in love. The thing was had most was water and poverty, hunger. Of everything else we had very little or nothing.”

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    České Budějovice, 11.06.2020

    duration: 02:01:32
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    České Budějovice, 14.09.2020

    duration: 01:41:15
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We were poor, but we had each other

Jaroslav Pánek, circa 1937
Jaroslav Pánek, circa 1937
photo: Archiv pamětníka

Jaroslav Pánek was born on 6 November 1926 in Vlkov u Veselí nad Lužnicí. He grew up in penurious conditions. He went to school in his native village, from where he was transferred to a municipal school in Veselí nad Lužnicí. From 1941 till 1945, he apprenticed as a photographer in the studio of Jan Pelnář in Soběslav, where he worked thereafter. After his workplace was nationalized in 1951, he became its director. From 1955 to 1960, he photographed in the communal services in Tábor. He spent the next twenty-seven years working as a reproduction photographer for Geodézie in České Budějovice. In 1952, he married Marie Dvořáková, and they had two daughters. In 2020, Jaroslav Pánek was living in České Budějovice.