Josef Sotona

* 1950  

  • „We were assigned a house on the other end of the village. Nobody had lived there for several years. It means, nobody kept up anything, not even the roof. The house was a ruin. When it started to rain, I and my brother placed various pots in the attic and then we’d go to empty them. When we didn’t do it, the water flowed through the ceilings. That were the conditions we lived in. There was the doctor, he was helping us. He issued a statement which said that those conditions were entirely unsuitable for children to live in. Dad was a smallholder, they didn‘t confiscate his fields. He lived close by the house in Trstěnice in which we were forcibly moved. So he lodged us all and we lived with him until dad returned home from jail.“

  • „I remember that, it was a stunning moment when we sowed our first corn. We sowed spring corn because we got the fields returned late. I still remember how I and dad walked out to the fields and looked how it had sprouted. Dad walked next to me. It was all bright green, the fresh young corn was so beautiful. I was looking at him and I saw his tears. We looked at each other and then we went home. None of us said a single word but we both knew what was it about. It was a satistfaction for the terrible injustice that had happened to him. It was very emotional when he got the fields back and could see the fruits of his labour again. I had never seen him in tears before. But at that moment, it was so intense, such a strong impact it was.“

  • “My dad didn’t want to give up so his turn came in 1955 when they framed him for theft. The thing is, he lend his horses to a neighbour. And the neighbour stole some wood from the forest. But it had been all arranged and during the rehabilitation process after the Velvet Revolution, we found about it all. It was perfectly clear from all those documents. The person who participated in this all even came to apologise to us. So they accused dad that he had stolen the wood because they measured the horses’ hooves and horseshoes. It was in winter, in snow. Based on this, the People’s District Court in Litomyšl sentenced him to six months in prison. His term was to start in spring, on purpose, to destroy the farm, they knew that mom couldn’t manage only by herself with three small children. I was six, older brother was eight and the younger one was three months old. When dad was in jail, mom tried to keep the farm running but they saw that she wouldn‘t make it so they moved her out after a month.“

  • Full recordings
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    Praha, 19.03.2019

    duration: 02:03:30
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Dad was jailed and we had to move to a ruin

Josef Sotona in 2019.
Josef Sotona in 2019.
photo: autoři natáčení

Josef Sotona was born on the 22nd March of 1950 in Trstěnice near Litomyšl. He comes from a family of landowners who have lived in the village and tended their land there since 1548. After the Communist coup d’état in 1948, the family fell victims of the forced collectivisation. Josef’s father Jaromír Sotona refused to join the agricultural cooperative. He was accused of stealing wood in the forest and in 1950, the people’s court sentenced him to six months of imprisonment in a show trial. Josef, his two brothers and their mother were forcibly moved out of their estate to a derelict house at the edge of the village. After their father returned from prison, the family moved to Benátky u Litomyšle. Josef’s parents worked as farm hands there. Josef managed, despite the stains in his dossier, to enrol the Czech University of Life Sciences. After graduating, he worked as animal tech in the State Corporation Svitavy. He refused to join the Communist party so he remained a regular employe as he couldn’t rise to any higher ranks to build a career. In the 1960’s, Josef, along with his parents and brothers, started breeding laboratory and fur animals even thought at that time, the possibilities of running a private business were constricted. The family was even interrogated by the police and threatened with arrest. After 1989, the Sotona family got their family estate back. They started farming on the neglected fields and in the dilapidated buildings and they resurrected their neglected property to a prosperous farm.