“Our neighbors were puzzled. My daughter was very sociable and she became familiar with anyone instantly. So the lady invited me for tea. She was German, her name was Magdalena. She asked: ‘Where did they arrest you?’ I said: ‘They haven’t arrested us.’ She: ‘Where did you come from?’ – ‘From Prague’. She went on: ‘Did they arrest you in Prague?’ I said: ‘No, we came on our own.’ She: ‘What do you mean on your own? Did you have no money in Prague?’ I said: ‘We didn’t come for the money. We came to build communism here.’ I was still stupid back then. She just rolled on her back and started laughing out loud: ‘Duraki, duraki from Prague to Tabuny, duraki.’ She laughed so hard.”
“I returned from the garden and found Ivo standing there, his hands shaking. On 20 August we received the Rudé právo daily and there was still no hint as to what was coming up. He was shaking and said: ‘The Russians are in Prague; they control the whole country.‘ His hands were shaking like this and his eyes were full of tears. Then, his friends came over: ‘Ivo, congratulations – this is a brotherly help‘, and so on. And he burst into tears. So they then understood what it was about. And I told them how things were. This is how it happened.“
“I thought they would leave in a week. That they would realize it was a mistake and that there was no counter-revolution going on. This is what Ivo’s friends told him: ‘Wait, they will see and leave.’ But no way. Those guys who arrived first saw that there was no counter-revolution and so they replaced them. They sent in new, more persistent ones. And those returned home where we asked them: ‘What is going on in Bohemia?’ And they replied: ‘What do you think? We are stupid – we made bad people out of good ones, no counter-revolution is taking place. Those were decent people whom we saw.’ At first, they tried to convince them to claim that there actually was a counter-revolution and that they only hadn’t seen it because they lacked Marxist education. But eventually they said that they had a disorder and sent them to a mental hospital.”
Elvíra Ptáková was born in 1934 in Moscow. Her grandfather was Joseph Vladimir Filipovich, a scientist executed during the Stalinist purges among Russian intelligentsia. Her mother Marie Filipovichova worked as a geologist. Elvíra grew up with her grandma, surviving both famine and the Battle of Stalingrad. Later, she graduated from agricultural university in Moscow. She married a Czech citizen Ivo Pták who had also studied in Moscow. Since 1957 both of them worked as livestock specialists in the Liberec region. In 1961 they returned to the Soviet Union with the intention to help establish collective farming. Many people tried to dissuade them from going and thought they were crazy. In the end, the couple ended up in a poor village of Tabuny in the Altai mountain range where they worked in agriculture for three years. Unlike Elvíra, Ivo Pták was a member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. Both were shocked to learn the truth about Stalin’s crimes after 1956. Further disillusionment followed with the Soviet armies invading Czechoslovakia in 1968. Ivo Pták then joined a protest at the Czechoslovak embassy in Moscow which lead to his expulsion from the party. Despite her persisting conviction that the communist regime is not a bad one, Elvíra was subject to communist repression and often stood up for other persecuted people. In the fall of 1989 she witnessed a demonstration in Prague and was detained by the police. In the 1990s she used to sell souvenirs at Charles Bridge in order to earn enough money to buy her son a musical instrument he needed for his studies. She lives in the Czech Republic and Russia and is the author of several books.