“‘Let’s plough away the borders between fields!’ They were all overly enthusiastic about it. The cooperative in Slušovice began operating. Slušovice was a model cooperative, with a chairman who had all resources at his disposal and all the support he needed. They wanted to establish the same system in all the other cooperatives, whether the conditions there were suitable for it or not. They wanted to have cooperatives everywhere and unite all farmers. They were persuading them one by one. The local officials did not have the skills to persuade somebody. Therefore they sent in some specially trained commissioners from Brno. These officials were calling on the individual farmers in the region, holding talks with them and persuading us how great things would be. If you remain an individual farmer, you will have high delivery quotas. Your work will be difficult. Just look at the cooperative in Slušovice; just like them, you will own everything collectively, and you will enjoy wonderful life. All the work will be mechanized and everything will be great. But it was not so easy. Each farmer had his little plot of land and they were used to working on it in their own way. But now the officials were persuading us to join all the fields together. Fine, so we shall share the fields. It took one year; I don’t remember if it was in 1957 or 1958. But they eventually began to force the farmers… there was certain pressure. They threatened them and the farmers were afraid. They were considering all the possibilities and fearing what might happen to them. The older farmers began to hesitate, they were uncertain, and they started joining the unified cooperatives. The first members of the cooperative basically did not have anything, but they did sign up to join the cooperatives and expected to work there. The farmers were waiting to see what the other farmers would do and who of them would sign it. They would bring you a document to sign - you had to sign an agreement with joining the cooperative. Farmers around us began signing it, too, and father then… We were sitting here and he was not sure whether… Then it all began… the pressure became really intense. They even took one farmer – I don’t remember his name any more – to Brno; there was a lot in stake, and it was not easy. One by one they were signing it, although with troubled hearts… I can still see the father, his hand shaking when he was signing the document. ‘To sign it for the cooperative!’ It is as if he had signed his death warrant.”
“A great disaster happened at the end of September: there was the mobilisation (on 23rd September 1938 – auth.’s note). Mobilisation of all men up to forty years of age. There was a regular draft, and it worked the same way as it had been until recently. Every man was registered. My father was a soldier as well, he had his military ID. I think it was general Syrový who declared the mobilisation – it was announced in the evening, I believe. It was declared for every soldier or reserve soldiers up to forty years of age. My father was born in 1900, and he was thus thirty-eight years old, and he had to go to the army. We had horses at home. My sister was three years old; she was nine years younger than me. Our mother remained alone. There was no other way, and so the village administration office issued a note for me, confirming that my father had to join the army and that I was thus released from the classes. Therefore I did not go to school and I stayed at home instead and we sowed the fields as usual. I did agricultural work. Mom had cattle there. There was an awful lot of work. Fortunately – and unfortunately as well – it did not last long. That was because the political matters, all these agreements with Hitler and France and England, advanced so quickly, and an agreement was reached that our country would cede its border regions to Germany. It all progressed that way. It had been already agreed before. There was noting else to do. It was a tumultuous time and everyone wanted to take part in some way and fight against the Germans somehow. At school, we started wearing badges WE SHALL NOT SURRENDER! We shall fight somehow. We established a kind of a committee in the class, and we appointed a chairman and we planned that we would do some underground activity. We were fourteen or fifteen-year-old boys, and it would have been really bad for us. Our teachers tried to calm us down, because they saw where it was heading to and that all our effort to help and to fight was in vain. There was no chance to do anything at all… Although in the whole nation, the determination to do something was enormous; at that time all the people were really willing to give everything in order to defend their republic.”
“The horses became no longer needed. They were in stables; everyone had some horses. They needed to be fed and cared for, and all this cost money. The number of horses was thus being reduced. My father was already quite old, and there were younger people. Only some pairs of horses had been left here. The committee decided that our horses would have to go. We had two horses. We were to put them away. But what do they mean, putting away a horse? It is not so easy… My father arranged it with a slaughterhouse, and one day in the morning he got up and readied the horses and we said good-bye to them and father walked them to Brno. He brought the two horses to the slaughterhouse, he handed them over to, well, to be killed, and then he returned home. We were sad about it, of course, because the horses had been part of our family. But that was the way it happened, and nothing could be done about it; it was a part of the collectivization process.”
“A maxim of my life? I didn’t even have any. But our parents have been teaching us since we were little children. There was a church here, and I liked going there for the Rorate Mass. It was at half past six before the school started, and we would take part in the Rorate Mass and then go to school. We have been raised this way since we were little, and going to church was therefore no problem for us, they did not have to make us go there… we enjyed going there. We were singing in church, at that time everything was in Latin, and each of us had this little book, because the mass was celebrated in Latin. There were also the large missal books, with large letters, and the gospels readings were written there…So that was the order of the holy mass, and there was a lot of singing in church, too. Now they sing in church as well, but back then there was a lot of singing. There were beautiful songs and everyone liked singing them; we thus enjoyed going to the church. Our mother taught us the Ten Commandments, and we had to pray every day (…) The Ten Commandments actually contain the entire law, and if somebody wants to live honestly, no other laws are needed, because everything is there. You can live with a clean conscience if you follow the Ten Commandment. We did try to abide by them. Although there is no doubt that we are sinful, but at least we tried to live by the Commandments, and it was like a moral principle for me to live my life honestly… That was all.”
I tried to follow the Ten Commandments in order to live my life properly
Jaromír Petlach was born September 11, 1924 in the village Obce, which became merged with Ochoz into one village called Ochoz u Brna in 1947. He grew up in a Catholic family and he regularly attended the mass in the local church. He was a member of the Orel sports organization and he was helping his father with work on their family farm. He was supposed to be sent to do forced labour during the war, but he avoided it due to illness. After the end of the war Jaromír began farming again, but the family was affected by the collectivization process in 1948. His father Josef succumbed to intense pressure and he eventually joined an agricultural cooperative. Jaromír Petlach was appointed the cooperative’s agronomist and later its chairman. He was later expelled from the cooperative’s management for his criticism of the situation in the cooperative, and he eventually left it entirely of his own accord. He worked in the companies Zetor and Telekom. With his wife they raised daughter Lenka and son Jaromír. Jaromír now lives in his native house in Ochoz u Brna. Jaromír Petlach died on 25 December 2019.