"My mother's brother Alexandr hadn't had children and he came to our place, also helping us out financially because my father was no good at earning money. Uncle was fairly rich as a director of a company. He even had a car. My mum told him: 'Leave the country, save yourself!' He didn't want to leave us, though. On 16 May, they came to get him. He was prepared for it, keeping a soap and a toothbrush in his pocket. Also he disappeared."
"We had lived in the spirit of anti-Bolshevism. Even Hitler used to say he didn't go after Russia but rather after Bolshevism. Many others were on the same side, wishing for a liberation from the Soviet Union. Hitler promised people the moon, and instead just murdered and destroyed. People were naive to think that they could handle him coming. But there was none of that. Up until today, it is a big political problem in Ukraine."
"My father was feverish and he weighed fourty-nine kilos. They must have kicked him in the stomach and he died of a stroke. What now? They threw him out from the window. And then they said he was still alive. Which was ridiculous. They got a witness to sign it, even though he wasn't present." - "Where did that take place?" - "In Dělostřelecká street. The second day after his arrest. We hadn't known that, though. I only found out from a book that the witness wrote and published in Brussels. My acquaintances there told me my father was mentioned in the book but didn't want me to read it since it was such a terrible story. In any case, I wanted to know. They lent me the book and I had read the story in the room next door. This was in 1968 in Brussels." - "Up until then, you had no information on your dad whatsoever?" - "We were searching and were uncovering various rumors."
"I had been gathering papers to leave for the West." - "Have you already decided then you'd leave the country?" - "Yes. I always wanted to move to the West. Ever since 1938 when I spent time with my grandma by the Mediterranean Sea. My reasons were not only political." - "Up until then, they wouldn't let you go?" - "No. Then I had a passport and could have left. Not knowing which way they'd let me, I went straight through Germany. I was on a train which hadn't made any stops. Whoever could was leaving. This was fabulous. Everyone was naturally against the Soviet invasion. They only stopped the cars from leaving." - "When did you leave." - "On 7 September 1968." - "That was shortly after the invasion." - "It took me a while to get the papers. I went through Stuttgart where I spent some two days and then arrived to Brussels. I wanted to go to France but they didn't want to admit me because I was granted asylum in Belgium. So I spent several years fighting for France. I was essentially a Belgian refugee. But in the end, I managed. Still, I spent a great amount of time with all the bureaucracy."
"They came at 10 o'clock and acted very nice. They asked my dad to come for a visit and a talk. They said it would take two hours. My dad said goodbye and told me that if anything happened to him, I'd be the head of the family. I was the only guy, then there was mum and my sister. I had dreamt for years that my father returned. We didn't know where he was. He left with them and we waited. Two hours, two days, two months, two years, twenty years. We kept waiting because we had no information. After fifteen years, he was officially proclaimed dead and my mum finally received some social support. The bank helped us children but my mother hadn't received widow's pension."
"How did you make a living after the war?" - "My mum worked illegally at a furrier. And we burnt images of Hradčany onto wooden boxes and decorated plates. Such terrible things for the tourists. I used to do the burning and my mum did the coloring. We did whatever we could. I also worked part-time in some factory, making some money. Trying to provide for the family, I hadn't gone to school for a year." - "You mean the grammar school?" - "Yes, that."
Soviet agents have abducted my father and my uncle. They disappeared without a trace
Dimitri Rafalský was born on 8 October 1930 in Prague into the family of a Russian diplomat and linguist Vladimir Rafalsky, and Marie, née Ščerbačeva. Both his parent were members of the first wave of the 1920s Russian post-revolutionary emigration. Dimitrij grew up alongside his sister Irena. In May 1945, the family was fatally affected by the arrests of Russian exiles in Czechoslovakia undertaken by the agents of the SMERSH. Both his father and uncle Alexandr Ščerbačev were arrested and disappeared without a trace. The rest of the family faced years of existential problems. Only when after fifteen years, his father was proclaimed dead, could they at least receive social benefits. At around 1956, uncle Alexandr contacted the family upon his release from the Gulag. He wanted to return to Czechoslovakia and Marie Rafalská was able to get him the required permits. However, he died of a heart attack before he could move. Dimitrij Rafalský found out about his father’s fate only in 1968, after moving to Brussels. Here, he got hold of a book which included a testimony about his father’s death which took place in May 1945, just the day after his arrest, as a result of torture. After finishing high school, Dimitri became a theater actor. In 1950-51, he performed with the Ukraninian National Theatre in Prešov. Ever since mid-50s, he acted in Czech regional theaters in Benešov, Karlovy Vary, Hořovice and Příbram, and also starred in several movies. In 1968, he moved to Belgium where from a few years later he was able to get to his long-desired France. Here, he featured in over thirty movies and TV series. He lives in Paris.