Karel Sikora

* 1934

  • ‘They locked up about eleven or twelve of us boys because of the military service. We soon became friends. We were all non-smokers, that was the first tell-tale sign, there was also a man who was over fifty years old. He was not imprisoned because of military service, it was because of some religious activity. His name was Karel Carbl. We, the young ones, would spend time around him after work. Carbl had Gospels written on cigarette papers, one with Matthew, a second one with Mark, a third one with Lucas, a fourth one with John. He hid them in matchboxes. For us it was encouraging, he would read us the gospels. It all went well for a while until one of the criminals informed on us. They put Carbl into a “correction unit”, and the rest of us were taken into various other labour camps. But Carbl was the worst off. The correction unit was this hole where you lay down on the ground. He was only allowed to get half the daily food rations every other day. He lost thirty kilograms in those thirty days. He was all skin and bones, barely survived it. Prison is about psychology in many ways. When you’re locked up, bad food and hard work aren’t the worst, the lack of freedom is. That you can’t leave. You can’t move at all. Carbl helped me a lot, he would console us. Once I was free, and he was too, I visited him, we both rejoiced. We were immensely grateful to him.’

  • ‘I worked as a postman during the last years before retiring. I liked it, ’cause I was walking all the time, I had healthy legs. I befriended new people. Sometimes they would say: “What’s new, Mr Postman?” “Haven’t you read the news? A new one thousand crown note came out.” “What does it look like, what does it look like?” “The back has Jiřina Švorcová with a sickle in a clover field, the front has Gustáv Husák on it with a hammer stuck in his rear, but don’t tell anyone…” and I would name all the helpers. ’Cause we, the postmen, knew exactly who was with the helpers. First, they had the “Bezpečnost” (“Security”) magazine delivered for free, and second, every month they received invitations to an appointment where they had to report on their neighbours. The communists had all the residents under control. They knew exactly what everyone was like. If there ever was some sort of a war they would put all of us who were unreliable into labour camps. So I would always say my list of names: “Don’t say that in front of Ota Supík, Kobec, Adamec…” I always named each of those helpers.’

  • ‘The Poles were not nice, they gave out strict orders. The customs officers and office staff had twenty-four hours to exit the occupied area. These Polish guerrilla groups were on the loose. When they found out somebody was Czech they smashed their windows. We identified as Silesians so they left us alone. They left the old residents alone, but with the Czechs… We considered ourselves to be Silesians. We were all born in Český Těšín, it never occurred to us to leave despite being occupied twice. By Poland in thirty-eight, by Germany in thirty-nine. Those poor Poles had to run away from the Germans after eleven months of occupation. I remember a Polish soldier looking out of a church tower with binoculars and my father said: “You poor thing, you won’t be able to escape anymore.” Because the German soldiers had already made it to Frýdecká street. The first soldiers approached using trenches, then they simply marched through the streets. What was strange and unbelievable was that the citizens were welcoming the Germans as they were marching through the main street! The people were so naïve that they thought the Germans were liberating us from the Poles. They welcomed them with flowers and fruit. One of the reasons may have been that some of the citizens were of German nationality. Those who went to German schools during the First Republic considered themselves to be Germans.’

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    Komorní Lhotka - domov pro seniory, 21.05.2017

    duration: 02:55:44
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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I’m a Silesian, nothing more, nothing less

Karel Sikora was born on the 5thof February 1934 in Český Těšín as the fourth son of Gustav Sikora and Marie Sikorová. His father came from a German cultural background while his mother had a Polish one. Both Český Těšín and Karel’s family were split into Czech, German, and Polish parts within a couple of years. One of Karel’s brothers died as a Luftwaffe officer, another one was imprisoned by both the Germans and the Communists, and the third one was forced to emigrate to West Germany. Karel graduated from a business school and worked in the trade department of Třinecké železárny up until he refused to participate in the wake held following Stalin’s death. After that he worked in a mine in a town called Horní Suchá (Karviná area), was misled when starting his military service and instead got imprisoned for 15 months. He was released on the basis of the amnesty declared by President Novotný. Later he moved to Vrchlabí, became an electrician and married his first wife Květa. They acquired a cooperative flat in Český Těšín and moved there, with Karel working as a postman. He met his second wife through an advert, becoming the step-father to Hilda’s five children and fathering two more sons. Karel has retired in 1994. He considers himself to be a Silesian.