Ing. Petr Polacek

* 1936

  • „This is what I remember: my dad worked in the fields and managed the farm with a handful of employees. It was around a hundred hectares and we stayed until the Germans came in 1939. When they came, they let dad work there for some time so that he would teach them how to. When he taught them all they needed, they sent us to Prague. In Prague, we first lived in Písecká Street, and when the rented apartment was needed for a Gestapo officer, we were assigned one room in Mánesova Street. There we stayed until the deportation order. When we lived in that place in Mánesova St., and because I was under six years and did not have to wear the yellow star, I sometimes ran errands. At that time, dad was reading Jiří Solar’s book to me, Půjde to! [~we will manage]. When I recall it now, I think he was preparing me for the hard times and he tried to teach me that one has to keep trying. When we were summoned for the deportation, which was around the 18th of December of 1942, they assembled us in the palace at Letná, I don’t know what’s its name. There we waited until they load us on a train. When we got on board and arrived to Terezín, we sat there for a long time and we did not know whether we would continue to Poland or whether someone will take us out of there. Luckily, after about half an hour someone came to pick us and all three of us went to Terezín.”

  • „After that, when we lived in Veltrusy, mom got back her estate which we had rented in Mcely before the war. So we arrived to Mcely and mom started farming there with a dad’s friend who was a gardener. It was very hard for mom. The people were not happy that the Jews got back, they started using the estate. This way, it happened that before the February 1948 [Communist coup], she owned quite a few things. Those things – farm machinery and cattle, that was ours, they returned it to us, mom sold it. She got a million of crowns for that, she deposited it in a bank. Shortly after, the February coup happened and the money deposited in the bank account, we never saw them again. Then we got back to Prague. We were returned the flat which we had been renting somehow before the war. The things which were in the flat were hidden by mom’s non-Jewish friends. When we returned to Prague, they returned the furniture and our items and we started living in 11, Písecká St. again.“

  • „Grandma persuaded mom as well. I remember that she made a festive last lunch before the journey. We had roasted sirloin, cream sauce and dumplings which we only seldm had. I need to stress that our passport was held by some institution. In order to hand the pasport to us, they wanted a bribe of fifty thousand crowns. At that time, my mom was dating a dentist, one Hugo Gans, and he lend us those fifty thousand. Mom left him his engagement ring. This is how we paid the bribe and we got our passport. And this way, we also got on board of a train and left for Italy via Austria. Our family managed to get us tickets for the ship which we were to board in Genova. I also had a classmate who lived in Milano. Obviously, we were scared when the Russian soldiers came to check on the Austrian border, we worried that they might not let us leave. Since they saw that our passport was in perfect order, there was not a single problem and we finally got to Italy and to Milano. Obviously, we were scared when the Russian soldiers came to do a check at the Austrian border, and we were worried that they might not let us pass. Since they saw that our passport is in perfect order, there was no problem and we finally got to Italy, to Milano. We stayed for about a week. At the end, we boarded the ship from Genoa to Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires, our family was waiting for us. We were on sea for 22 days. We arrived to Buenos Aires on around the 18th of December. My aunt, Milena Poláčková, was waiting for us there, she was my dad’s sister, along with her husband, Karel Steuer.”

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    Buenos Aires , 13.03.2021

    duration: 01:31:33
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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Saving me from Communism

Petr Poláček, contemporary portrait. Prague, 1948
Petr Poláček, contemporary portrait. Prague, 1948
photo: archiv pamětníka

Petr Polacek was born on the 6th of July in 1936 in Prague. Both his parents, Věra and Leoš, came from Jewish families but they themselves identified as Czechs and their attitudes towards religious practice was only lukewarm. They were fully assimilated and the ideas of the Masaryk’s democratic Czechoslovakia fully resonated with them. For two generations, both the families worked in agriculture. The large estates they managed were not owned by them, only rented. During the 1930’s, the threat of Nazism was rising and several members of the family decided to emigrate, mostly to Latin America. Those who stayed were summoned to a traposrt. On the 13th of July in 1942, Petr’s grandpareds on father’s side, Hugo and Mína Poláček, were deported to Terezín and on the 15th of December, to Auschwitz where they were murdered. Petr and his parents were deported to Terezín on the 19th of November in 1942. At first, he was staying in the Kinderheim [Children’s house], later he was allowed to live with his mother. Petr and his mom managed to survive because they worked in agriculture and the family was protected to an extent from the deportations to the extermination camps. His father did not survive, though, in October 1944, he did not escape the deportation to Auschwitz. His mother managed the rented estate after WWII. Petr joined the school in Prague in the 4th grade, he was a diligent pupil and soon, he managed to catch up. The opolitical changes and most of all, the February 1948 Communist coup d’état hastened their decision and in November 1948, he and his mother moved to their relatives to Argentina. In Buenos Aires, Petr soon learned Spanish, studied at a technical university and became a construction engineer and for all his life, he worked in all sorts of technical professions. Petr Polacek has three children. In 1998, he took them to Prague for the first time to show them where he lived during his childhood. His mother never saw her Czech homeland again, she lived almost to a hundred years and she died in 2009 in Buenos Aires.