Zdenka Slezáková

* 1919

  • “The Red Army soldiers arrived in the evening. They were checking the shelters. One of them had a submachine gun and he was pointing at all the people with a flashlight. At first he asked if there were any Germans among us, then he took a look at us and he was about to leave. But then he came back and asked my husband to follow him. With that submachine gun, one didn’t quite know what might happen. It took quite a long time, and my husband then came back. It was already dark when he returned. He sat down and remained silent and nobody asked him anything. I asked what was going on. He only said: ´Watches - davaj časy.´ The soldier took him out because he wanted his watch. We were really happy. We would have given him three or four watches if we had had them.”

  • “The May Day used to be a communist holiday, but in order to change this, Baťa turned it into a celebration of work. And that was something special. On 1st May, the entire factory got ready for great celebration. People were coming to Zlín from all over, there were marches, decorated floats, young men and women in Baťa uniforms - white trousers and blue jackets. The factory played a host to those who came. The employees got tickets for their families and friends to come. The following years it was being done this way. But for the first time, the May Day was celebrated in the villa of Tomáš Baťa. He organized it to show sympathy to his employees, who were invited to come with their families. Lemonade, sausages and oranges were for free. There were stalls in the garden and the villa was opened and people could go inside to see it. That was probably the biggest mistake Tomáš Baťa has made, because he didn’t realize what people could do. Of course they came. The park was destroyed so much that the gardener had to plough it and start over with everything. Next year, the party was held in the factory. Allegedly, some things went missing from the villa, too.”

  • “When we bought something on the black market, we had to overpay. The sellers often didn’t care about the money, they had no value for them. People were exchanging whatever they had. Cloth, for instance, but there was not much of it among people. Or golden jewelry. In Jasenná, a village near Vizovice, there was a distillery house. They didn’t accept money for slivovitz, but they would take these goods. People used to say that the people of Jasenná have everything, and the only thing they now need are earrings for their cows.”

  • “The school in Zlín was a modern building with large windows, xylolite floors, locker-rooms on the ground floor, separate for each class. There was water piping of course, flush toilets, white tiles all around. Wide corridors, where we met every day at ten and performed a ten-minute exercise together. There were drinking fountains in the hallways, and it was an absolutely modern school. It could be the same today. Perhaps the schools built today are not even that spacious as our school was.”

  • “Baťa chose young men from his factory who have proven some talent for managing people and sent them to his factories all around the world. One of them was my friend’s boyfriend. He left for Indonesia, to Sumatra, I think. This young man was not the only one who went there, there were four or five of them. They were told: ´If you have girlfriends in Czechoslovakia and you want to marry them, call them and invite them because later it may not be possible.´ Four girls travelled there by boat, at that time it was not possible to get there in any other way. It was allegedly the last boat which people from Czechoslovakia could take to travel to Sumatra. They brought white wedding dresses in their suitcases. The wedding ceremony was prepared for the very same day when they reached Sumatra. There was some problem with a missing signature, and the grooms had to solve it, but then they got married. The husbands had to go to work the next day. The girls got a local coolie at their disposal, and he, wearing a hat and carrying a basket, accompanied them to the market and they chose what they wanted and he then carried it for them.”

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    Praha, 29.07.2011

    duration: 02:18:45
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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Zlín, that was America

legitimace.jpg (historic)
Zdenka Slezáková
photo: archiv paní Slezákové a Petra Pospěchová

Zdenka Slezáková, née Ulvrová, was born on February 11, 1919, in Vizovice. Her family moved to Zlín shortly after her birth. Her father got a job in Zlín in the Baťa factory, beginning at a worker’s position and later becoming a foreman and head of one of the workshops. The Ulvr family experienced the interwar period when the city of Zlín flourished, and when life was determined by the Baťa factory. Even the economic crisis was rather marginal in Zlín, and it did not affect the family. At the end of the 1930s, Zdenka Ulvrová began her studies in the Philosophical Faculty in Brno, but she did not complete her studies due to the outbreak of WWII. She returned to Zlín, taught English and got married. She experienced the liberation of Zlín shortly after the birth of her baby. After the war, she moved to Brno with her family, her husband and her got jobs there. In 1971, her daughter Jarmila emigrated, the other two children stayed in Czechoslovakia. Mrs. Slezáková is now retired and lives in Brno.