"The smuggler told us to walk straight until we arrived at a little forest. He told us that the border lies right behind that forest. But as we were walking, my little son (15-month old Zdeněk) began to cry and he was not to be calmed. He screamed like a siren. It was very loud and everybody around must have heard it. Suddenly, a light appeared. It was a police man. It wasn't a member of the border guard, just a regular police officer. The border patrols were only introduced later on. He was a nice guy. He told us, that if it hadn't been for an old hag who had heard the screaming and alerted the police, he would leave us alone. But he was afraid since she was a steadfast Communist and she would have given him away."
"My son used to ask: 'mummy, when are you going to come home? I'm being a good boy and I'm obedient'. Once he told me that he went to nursery school and that they had to learn a poem by heart. We were separated by a wire net, about a meter of space and a handrail, too far apart to even shake hands. He would grab that net and talk to me, on and on. He told me about how they went on a train or some different story. He recited that poem to me: 'Grandpa and grandma / are eating away the bread / when they'll be in heaven / there'll be more bread left'. My mother was crying and I asked her if this was what they were learning at school. The prison warden yelled at us that he'd interrupt the visit. Fortunately, he didn't do it. But once he actually did it because little Zdeněk started to scream and made a terrible noise there. It was because he didn't want to go away. He wanted to stay there with his mother. That's why he screamed. They interrupted the visit because the other women who also had their visits started to cry when they saw this heartbreaking scene. It was really a touching sight and it made them cry. My mother then told him not to cry during the visits and to speak normally. She told him: 'you saw what it leads to'."
"The first night (in the prison in Klatovy, note of the editor) there, a ringing indicated that it was time to go to bed. The windows opened and several people started to sing 'Sleep my little prince' from Mozart. I have to admit that I cried like a mad man. Everybody was singing. They would send us some sweets and fruits in packages that were delivered by the prison wardens. These were really kind people. I returned home and then it really ended in disaster."
"They took us to the train station but we were unable to buy the train tickets because we had no money. So, they gave us a couple of Crowns and the guy who took us there bought us the tickets. Everybody in Pardubice immediately knew about us. We didn't have our civilian clothes because we had to send our civilian clothes home a year ago. They bought us working clothes which only made it worse so people instantly knew as soon as they looked at us. The people in Pardubice were just amazing – they tried to help us or at least cheer us up in every possible way. They would, for instance, give us some money or a small bag with food, and they would do it in such a way that our guards didn't even notice. They would also greet us and wave their hands at us. Then they pushed us into the train and we went home."
"They took me into a room in the basement. There was just a table and three chairs in the room, no windows. Two men came to interrogate me. They kept asking me for the whereabouts of my husband. I told them that I had no idea where my husband was. I said that I hadn't seen him since he had left. They told me to stop kidding. They said that they knew more about my husband than I thought. But I really didn't know where he was since I had no idea what happened to him afterwards. Then they beat me up. They beat me up so bad that they had to carry me upstairs from the basement since I couldn't walk. I injured my spine. They tied me to the table and battered my feet. You have no idea how painful it is – nothing hurts quite like this. In the course of the beating, I fell off the table and hurt my spine as one of my spinal discs bulged out. I couldn't get up on my feet again. I suffered from great pain in my spine and my feet. That was the end of my first interrogation."
"They were taking us to Bartolomějská Street and as I was sitting there I told myself that my husband Zdeněk has to be in that blanket. We came to an office where I had been for the first time and that secret-police guy – we didn't know their names, I only knew that he was Borek and everybody called him 'doctor' even though he was barely able to write – locked me up in a closet and left me waiting there for a while. I was shaking in horror and thought that it would be really bad. About fifteen minutes later, he opened the closet and let me out. When I got out, I unsurprisingly saw my husband standing there. He was in a strange state of mind. They told me: 'here's your rogue. We told you we'd get him. This is probably the last time you see each other so take a good look at him. Now you can both cry your eyes out'! They even let us touch our hands. But we wouldn't cry. I didn't shed a single tear and neither did my husband. I only asked him how he was. We weren't allowed to talk about the things they had done to us. So what can you talk about at a moment like this? The only thing you can say is: 'how are you… it will be all right'."
Mommy, when are you going to come back home? I’m being a good boy and I do what grandma tells me.
Helena Šidáková was born on May 6, 1925 in Prague. Her father worked as a tailor in the National Theater and because the theater employees were granted summer holidays each year, the family was able to spend the summer in the countryside. Little Helena joined the Scouts for a short time. During the war, she wasn’t able to study for a teaching certificate so she studied at a business school on Reslova Street. After the liberation of Czechoslovakia, she began to work for the Czechoslovak broadcast where she met the love of her life – a technician and a student of the ČVUT, Zdeněk Šidák. Zdeněk had been a slave laborer in Vienna during the war and had also been an active participant in the resistance movement. After the war, Zdeněk joined the Communist party, allegedly on the advice of his colleagues from the resistance. However, in 1947 their son Zdeněk was born and Zdeněk Šidák senior left the party. In the wake of February 1948, he was dismissed from the broadcast as well as from the faculty. He decided to leave the country and Helena stayed home with their infant boy. At the beginning of 1949, Zdeněk returned home from exile where he was recruited by the U.S. intelligence service. He was planning the escape of the whole family as well as of other people from Czechoslovakia but his plans were betrayed to the police. Helena and her little son were imprisoned in a prison in Klatovy. Even though they were soon released the secret police continued to be on Zdeněk’s heels. When the secret police failed to hunt him down in his hideout in Starý Knín on Easter 1949, they arrested Helena instead of him and tortured her brutally. However, she resisted and didn’t give her husband away. Zdeněk was eventually caught in one of his other hideouts in the Jizera Mountains. He was sentenced for life and Helena was sentenced to twenty years in prison. Zdeněk’s parents were imprisoned as well. Their little son was cared for by Helena’s parents. Helena was put into prisons in Nový Jičín and in Pardubice, before she was finally amnestied by the president A. Zápotocký in 1955 (this was a special amnesty for imprisoned mothers). She faithfully waited for her husband until he was released as well in 1963. After a long 14 years, the family was reunited again. After some time, the second son, Martin, was born. Zdeněk Šidák lived to see the fall of Communism but died soon afterwards – in 1990 – from a stroke. Helena Šidáková died in 2019.