Melanie Rybárová

* 1925

  • “We followed the trial with great tension, at the radio. To this day I can remember the sentence over which my husband had to leave the Ministry. It was said, ‘The witness Horváth said that Clementis’s secretary Florín said that Hajdů had formed a group to take over the Ministry and the group was headed by Dufek,’ who was already in prison, Brotar, Rybár and others.’ When my husband arrived at the Ministry two or three days later, he was not let upstairs, they just brought his things to him dow. This was his leave from the Ministry.”

  • “I joined the Foreign Ministry at the Czernin Palace in 1945, in late May. It was about May 12, I was taking a walk with my mum and we ran into her cousin, an army captain during the First Republic. He was one of the so-called “mothball soldiers” – they had mothballs in their uniforms during the was so that moths would not eat them, took them after the war and now they posed as heroes. And this uncle of mine was a real hero, although a weird one. He lived near the Czernin Palace and had two sons. They founded Revolutionary Guards, but it was not the end of the war, it was around May 6 to 7. He and his sons went to the palace, where a German office was based, and he offered to them that he would ensure… how daring of him, how could he ensure anything… peaceful leave, to avoid shooting. And believe it or not, he was successful. He claims to have saved the Czernin Palace since they had a pool there full of gasoline and they threatened to set fire to it if they were not let go. So they got out. Perhaps they got arrested at the next barricade, I don’t know… But they left the palace thanks to captain Křikava. And when we met him, he said, ‘I need Milena at the Ministry.’ He took me to the Ministry and I issued food coupons. The first officers arrived and they were interested: ‘There must be something in store after the Germans’. And there were, indeed, mainly rice. He declared himself the revolutionary caretaker of the Ministry. And when the Ministry started operating, he thought he would get his sons to the Ministry. No, just I got the job.”

  • “The year 1968, we were on holidays in Italy with Arnošt Lustig, with him and his wife. It was about to come, many people thought it just couldn’t end in any other way. We had a meeting with Luděk Pachman, among others. Lustig’s wife Věra, who had her sister in Israel, said, ‘Of course we go.’ Arnošt tried to persuade Tibor to go too, but Tibor replied, ‘No, we’re going to Vienna and we will make up our minds there.’ I can remember that Arnošt was already in Rome and he called, ‘Tibor, we are here and we have everything, a paid journey to Israel, plane tickets. Come along.’ But my husband said no. I think he made a wise decision, since Arnošt did not stay in Israel long either. We went to Vienna, where Tibor used the contacts he had. We thought about Germany and he had already booked a school for our children there. We had our children with us, our daughter travelled with us and our son came to join us. We had our children, our car and here in Prague my father, who contracted Alzheimer over the Russian revolution. It was for the second time in my life that I collapsed and it was in Vienna. I am a fairly resistant creature but I had a nervous breakdown: to go home or not to go home. At the time I worked in the Association of Artists and Adolf Hoffmeister was my manager. I heard from the Austrian radio that he was tortured to death. But it was not true, it was a canard.”

  • “He was arrested about a year after the trial (of Slánský), around 1952 in the autumn. He was summoned to the Bartolomějská headquarters, he went and did not return. And now it was up to me… who to call? (or how did you learn that he had been arrested?) Well, it was quite obvious since he didn’t come home. It was quite dreadful at Bartolomějská, it was a common knowledge that the buildings were interconnected and they sent people directly to the prison in Ruzyně. I prayed like crazy, but it was not praying really, just a different way of mental work. I and my mum sat down and worked so that he wouldn’t get harmed. You can’t explain this in two sentences. The next day I tried to make some phone calls, but in vein. It was ridiculous. My mum said: ‘Bring him his sweatpants there’. So I went. There were some policemen at the entrance, I told them I was bringing him his sweatpants. And they said this was nonsense, that if he spoke he would got home soon. These were guards who had nothing in common with him. After a fortnight we received a letter from him, a humble one, quite unlike him, in which he explained everything to me. The beginnings were difficult, since he was in solitary confinement. And he knew what time it was, it was a year after the Slánský trial, so he knew just anything could happen.”

  • “I was still employed at the Chamber of Commerce. There was a phone ringing and there was this woman… saying she has a message for me from my husband. And she asked me to meet her at the astronomical clock. As soon as I hung up I told everybody in the office. And I asked Jirka, a friend of mine, ‘You have to come with me, I’m not going alone.’ And when I got home, I discussed it with my mum. And five minutes later this woman called again, beseeching me not to tell anybody. I replied, ‘Sure, you can bet on it.’ And when I came home, my mum said, ‘No, no, you go with Arnošt.’ This was our friend who was the only one to keep his job at the Foreign Ministry, as he was an ambassador in Bern. He took me in a car. I asked him to lock me in the car, so much I was afraid. He left the car on the side. He went up there and my friend from the office went too. They told me later, that the woman came, walked to and fro. We couldn’t be there and not be there at the same time, naturally. The woman I was to meet walked around and after a while, about twenty minutes, when I didn’t turn up, she was joined by a man in a long coat, who was hidden in the passage, and they left together.”

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    Praha, 23.05.2016

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The miracle of grace is no miracle for love

Melanie Rybárová was born on February 19, 1925, in Prague as Miloslava Beranová. She has used the name Melanie since she was given it as a nickname by her then boyfriend at twenty. She comes from a Czech family – her father worked as a lower-rank officer at a ministry, her mother stayed at home. During the WWII she studied at a business academy in Prague. After the war she went to work at the Foreign Ministry, where she met her future husband, Ctibor Rybár, originally Tibor Fischer. He was a Jew from Slovakia who spent the whole war hiding in Budapest. He joined the Communist Party after the war. As an assistant Melanie Rybárová attended many international conferences, including the peace conference in Paris in 1946. In 1948 to 1951 she worked, together with her husband, at the Czechoslovak embassy in Turkey. After their return home, she went to work in the Chamber of Commerce. The Foreign Ministry was hit by the political trial of Rudolf Slánský – the accused included former managers of the Rybárs, Vavro Hajdů and Artur London. A year after the trial her husband was arrested for two months. He was arrested for the second time as late as 1960. In 1968 they thought about emigrating but eventually returned from Vienna to Prague. Melanie Rybárová worked also as a journalist – for Czechoslovak Press Agency or Technical Magazine. Her husband Ctibor Rybár worked in 1960 to 1984 as the editor-in-chief of Olympia publishing house. She retired in 1980 and worked for the next fifteen years as a tourist guide. She and her husband had two children, a son and a daughter, the son has died already.