“The only thing that still actively keeps me busy and entertained today, even at my age, is that I try to form human and international relationships, do you understand? It’s very important because everything that has happened in our country, the banishment of the Germans and the like, are national issues and you have to work on these things. This is not something that is done by some minister. I mean they go places abroad and hold noble speeches but the really important small day-to-day work is done by ordinary people somewhere down below. In German, there’s even an expression for this. It’s called Grasswurzeltheorie: Grass means grass and Wurzel stands for root. So it means something like Grass-root theory. Grass doesn’t grow too high, does it? It’s down there right? So Grasswurzeltheorie says that close relationships have to be formed by the people in the nations. They have to get to know each other and get close to each other, so that they are not easily influenced by some Hitler, Stalin and I don’t know whom. What I’m saying is that relationships between people across borders are particularly important for this state.”
“I have to tell you this story. When I studied at the German school, I witnessed something that’s hard to believe. We were sitting in the classroom – I think it was some literature class or something of the sort – and our teacher, who was at the same time the director of the school, burst into the door. He seemed to be angered and before he even reached his desk, he turned to us and said: ‘Kids, what our nation is doing to the Jews will come back badly on us one day. I want you to remember this!’ Can you imagine, how daring this was of the man? To say something like this in the days of Nazi Germany in front of the whole class? If just one girl in the whole class had given him away, he would have ended up in a concentration camp. This earned him the greatest respect with us because we though the same. We thought to ourselves: ‘Damn, this guy has courage! I wish that everybody was like that!”
“Suddenly, somebody found out that I was attending school even though I didn’t have citizenship at that point, yet. So, in plain words, somebody denounced me at the labor office. They told them that I left home every morning with a black schoolbag and that they didn’t know where I went with it. They described this to them in this kind of detail! So they summoned me to the labor office and this lady from the office started yelling at me, I’d better tell her where I was walking every morning with that schoolbag. I told her that was attending a language school. To this she replied: ‘You belong in a factory, not in a language school! There’s gonna be no school for you’! At that time, three months were left till the final exams and I had still quite a lot of studying to do. So I pleaded her, if they couldn’t at least give me those three months of time. She said that she would not discuss this with me any further. ‘They would be no good to you anyway. You belong in a factory, you’ll work in the heavy industry’.”
(Did you look forward to the end of the war?) “Oh, we all wished the war would end as soon as possible. Every normal person was looking forward to its end. We couldn’t wait for it to be over. I can still see myself standing in our garden at our house in Žleb and watching the Russian tanks arriving from Germany, crossing Dresden and the Sněžník Mountain. There’s a road from Snežník leading to Rosenthal which is the shortest route to Dresden. From our garden, we could hear the rumbling of the approaching tanks. It was an endless swarm of tanks that seemed to never stop. It took maybe some two hours before it stopped and we could hear them rolling away through the nearby forest. Next door to our house lived the mayor of the town. Back then, Horní Žleb, Prostřední Žleb and Přípeř formed a single settlement and the mayor was a former teacher, a very decent man. We felt sorry for him because he had an inborn defect in his leg and walked with a limp. His name was Matoušek or something similar. Suddenly we saw him walking somewhere. He said he was going to welcome the Russians in the town now that they finally arrived. So we waited to see what was going to happen. He walked all the way to the gate in Přípeř, where he was met by the first tank. About half an hour later he came back euphorically. He said: ‘These people are incredibly nice!’ I greeted them, we shook hands and drank Vodka together. It was a very warm welcome’. So we said to ourselves: That almost can’t be true. Everybody is talking about the Russians killing, raping and looting and in fact they are this nice! So it’s just another lie’. Well, but that was just the first few phase. They put selected officers on those first tanks and these guys were indeed gentlemen.”
“In the days of the First Republic, there was a high suicide rate. People would often commit suicide because there was high unemployment, they simply didn’t have any job and the support by the state was either very poor or non-existent at all. You could call it a suicide epidemics. When my mom ran out the door to save the first suicide, I didn’t know what was happening. I woke up in still half asleep didn’t know what it was. My mom was in her nightgown running somewhere outside the house. Somebody jumped into the Elbe River and our house was just next to the river. You know, when somebody is drowning and is close to death, they scream for their life. My mom saved more than one of them. She was a good swimmer and was not afraid to jump into the water and pull these people onshore. Of course that I was scared when I knew that my mom was going to jump into the river. I didn’t want to let her go. But she said: ‘if anyone is in danger, you’ve got to help them. There’s nothing else you can do. I’ll be back in a minute’.”
I met kind people in my life and that’s why I try to also be kind to others
Johanna Sieredzká (née Hablaová, born January 24, 1928 in Děčín) originates in a family from the Sudetenland. In the period of WWII, she studied at the pedagogical college in Prague, however, due to the worsening political situation after May 1945, she was unable to complete it. She witnessed the bombing of Prague and the liberation by the Red Army with all its bright as well as darker sides in her native town of Horní Žleb. Being a German, she was prevented from studying after the war. However, she was lucky and with the help of some kind people was at least able to study English at a church school. As the years passed, she went from one job to another. At the break of the 1940s/1950s, she discovered the possibility to study at a medical school. After her graduation from this school until her retirement, she then worked as a nurse. After 1989, she used the opportunity to teach German and English at secondary schools in Děčín. She has continued until this day to be actively engaged in cultural activities and she is a contributor to the German compatriot paper Trei da Hejmt.