“Sister Marisstella said that we weren’t working on feasts… This is the story: We felt the need to celebrate the feasts and there were only nuns working at the factory – it was for a certain reason, they always cared for us not to come in contact with other people, even during the feasts. We always waited after work, then the children came and we arranged a small puppet play for them. We tried to reach to other people, sometimes almost violently. At the factory we decided that as there were only us working to announce that we were not coming to work the next day because there was a celebrated feast. What could they do? They knew about that and they didn’t open the factory. And we were punished with two days off our holidays. And because there were a lot of the feasts, there were times when we did not have holidays for three years. We used all the free days on the feasts.” “And you always wore the same vestments.” “Yes, but those were the pre-conciliar vestments – a large collar, a headband, a long gown. They tried to force us to take them off… You know, with machines where everything was spinning it was rather dangerous and clumsy, but it was no good, we decided to keep our vestments. We worked in dirt, in water, in rubber boots, we even got washable collars. We decided to fight and said: ‘We will not take our regular vestments off.’ These are also regular vestments now, but they are very plain in comparison with what we had to wear.”
“We were young and we liked to fight. We knew what we were fighting for and why. We were full of joy and we told ourselves we would never surrender. We felt a great power in that unity. That was a really beautiful life.”
“My parents didn’t approve that and they were not very happy about that. I studied in Prague at the National Pedagogical Institute, so it must have been a surprise for them. I had to wait until I came of age and then I moved to Slovakia and entered the order. I studied at the pedagogical institute and teaching was a promising occupation and I liked it. Before that I participated in scout activities so for me it was an ideal job.
“The people who worked at the state farms were farmers… They treated us well and they were sympathetic. When the weather was really bad, there were people who would invite us home for a tea. They felt for us, they cried when we were transported… They respected the sisters and they felt it as an oppression of the regime.”
“As sister Marisstella said, when we had our vows, everything was held in secret. On Saturday, we waited until they closed the factory, the machines were switched off. Then we went to the chapel and we celebrated a mass and we had our vows. All in secret.
“When we were leaving Prague to enter the novitiate, we were looking forward and were very excited. The situation at the time was already tense and the local abbess who went with us to Slovakia arranged that we went to the station alone. We couldn’t even put on the black stockings until we were in Slovakia. We wanted to be dressed in black as was usual at that time, but she was worried that somebody could find out that our group of ten girls belongs to her and that we are heading somewhere, that ten young girls in their twenties are led by two nuns. It already was a secret. When we came to Slovakia, when we crossed the Váh river, we thought that we were finally safe and that nobody would catch us and transport us back to Prague.”
“They thought that we are under the influence of the abbess, so they tried to identify who the abbess was. We didn’t tell them. Once they came into our room where we had our duties for the breviary prayers hanging on the wall… These duties changed every week. They copied some names and soon a car came in the night and they were looking for sister this and that. They took two sisters and put them in prison in Šumperk, because they thought that they were the abbesses.”
“We were transported to the farms in 1950. Then we were in the factory until 1966. Then one group went to the social care institution at Horní Poustevna and the other to Ročov. We were contented about the change because we got back to work with children. There was a condition that we were not allowed to educate those children, handicapped both physically and mentally, in the spiritual way, we weren’t allowed to talk about God. We consulted the matter with cardinal Tomášek and he said: ‘Yes, go there, you will not talk about it but you will live it.’ We spent twenty years in the factory and at the field and we spent twenty years there… and they wouldn’t let us speak about God, so… Children asked and we told them: ‘You know, we are not allowed to talk about that…‘ But the children themselves were very curious. But it was the time when we were allowed to travel here and there… and then they couldn’t control us any longer.
“I grew up in Prague, so I have to admit that the work was sometimes too hard for me. Some of the sisters were stronger, so for example when we were hoeing sugar beet and I couldn’t go any faster, one of the sisters always came and helped me. This was a hard time for me, physically. In the morning we went to the tractors… I think it also affected our health. As sister Marisstella said, we worked in the fields even in December. That was really hard.”
“The work was demanding physically, it was heavy and wearisome… It was harder than at the assembly line. But if you tied a knot after knot for eight hours… that was hard mentally. We were afraid that one can go mad from that. So we stuck some words on the machines… or poems. A lot of noise and eight hours shifts.”
We were young and we liked to fight We knew what we were fighting for and why So we told ourselves – never will we surrender We felt a great power in that unity And it really was beautiful life
Sister Reconciliatrix Špringlerová was born in Prague in 1931. She studied at a pedagogical institute, she participated in Scout activities, she generally inclined towards working with the youth. She was also attracted by a more spiritual way of life, so in 1949, she decided to enter a novitiate of the order of St. Ursula. She spent the next year in Batizovce in Slovakia where she also received her monastic name which refers so the Virgin Mary and the “reconciliation of sinners”. The national abolition of religious orders from 1950 also included the order of St. Ursula. The sisters were transported to Modrá, a village near Trnava, west Slovakia, where they worked mainly in the agricultural industry. There was a constant pressure for them to leave the order and the spiritual service. None of them did so. With all the problems that it brought, the sisters continued in the monastic life they had chosen. When they worked in the Lenas factory in Hanušovice, East Bohemia, they also managed to obtain a permission for a small chapel on the factory premises. It this chapel they also secretly passed their monastic vows. They didn’t get back to work with children until 1966. First they worked in a mental institution in Ročov, then in a social institution in Horní Poustevna. Any religious education was strictly forbidden. After the revolution the sisters could again participate fully in the education.