Anton Srholec

* 1929  †︎ 2016

  • “The sun set, the stars came out, I took out my amplifier and the whole there was Free Europe. I controlled the huge numbers with the transmitter the whole night. But it was poorly prepared, almost nothing, only what I had in my head. A group of boys and girls joined in with a guitar, they heralded it with a song. Right until morning when the sun began to rise, I was so tired I didn’t even have anything to say any more. It’s a short night on St Cyril and Methodius’, night lasts from ten to four.”

  • “There we were app. 30 000 young men in Jáchymov taking turns in 17 camps. The work was dangerous; the greatest danger was the radiation without any safety equipment. When we blasted the ore, we had to sieve the pure ore over into crates in that small radiated space. And when a mine technician came, so-called collector it was, he had a little box like a goalie stick, from which we could hear the radiation buzzing like the radio Free Europe. We were working in it and sieving it over, taking the ore into our hands. I guess it is a miracle that I am still alive. There is only a little number of us who have survived this and only few of us can still give such witness as it has been over sixty years since then. That is quite a piece of history.”

  • “It was raining in autumn, weather you wouldn’t send a dog into. Sometime before Christmas I hear a ring at the door, I go to open it, and some young people are standing outside saying they need to be baptised: ‘So come in, you can’t stay out in that rain.’ As soon as I turned round, one of them hit me on the head with something. I managed to cry out, there was an old lady living in the parish house with me, that was my salvation. I cried out to her, so they realised I wasn’t alone, and so they ran away. I didn’t even report the incident, so as not to cause a disturbance.”

  • “I know that Fero Buzek living in the next cell in Leopoldov was taken to the investigation room, but he was dragged back on a blanket afterwards. He was so heavily beaten there, as they used to beat people very sadistically, that they were all bloody and only thrown on a blanket and dragged back to their cell. There are such treaded up wooden halls, the oak wood is very sleek. And through these he was being dragged like on sledge. I just knew they dragged him as it rustles. They would open the cell and slam the door behind him. When he awoke, poor guy, he was really psychologically broken. He lived in Kvetná street on the first floor and even after all of this, for example in 1965, 1966 or 1968 when everything seemed to be getting better, he never believed it would change and was in great panic. When there was a car turning around somewhere and the lights shined into his windows, he was convinced it was “them” searching, tapping him, investigating or spying on him. As he never tried to get any treatment for his fright, he jumped out of that first floor and killed himself.”

  • “The problem of this 23-member group was that there were some older people too. We, the young ones would have got to the river Morava until midnight as originally planned. However, there were older and ill priests; we had to carry them from that forest through the fields. They were unorganized; some of them had big suitcases in which they carried their personal things, there was even a typewriter. It was really heavy and it slowed down the march. We came to the embankment which is by Morava so that it would not burst its banks. This one was app. 5 metres high and we approached it around 3 a.m. There was a question whether to go or not. The problem was that Morava was swollen and the water was also between the bank of Morava and the embankment, so there would have been necessary to use the one dinghy for 23 people. We were deciding, the leaders were deciding, if to go or not. Finally the leadership decided we would postpone our crossing, because there should have been a ferry built on Morava, which was from 40 to 50 metres broad from bank to bank. There were supposed to be set up waxed cords, which we could have held from the dinghy and get to the other side. I am convinced that since we were inexperienced and the water was very swift, the first dinghy would definitely sink along with its passengers. So this was a very wise decision when speaking about our lives and safety.”

  • “At the labour camps a man could not be sassy at all as the correction was very harsh. Once being without the blanket, once without the meal and once without the light; clogged window, darkness. It was a difference to be in correction in summer and in winter. In summer one could go up to the edge. When I was in correction, I didn’t mind it that much; lying on those planks in the concrete bunker was much better than toiling in that dirty pit. So during summer we used to be more daring; we would extend our commencement, then also entering the mine, we were much happier and even singing was allowed. However in winter, when the correction was cold as a freezer, one had to really watch out. Then they were the masters of the situation and we had to obey like a clock.”

  • “I remember there was a devotion called the Living Rosary. People nowadays don’t know what it was. The Rosary has fifteen decades, and so that we didn’t have to pray them all, it was divided into three groups of five, and then each man prayed only one decade of the Rosary - Our Father, ten times Hail Mary, and then Glory Be. And those fifteen men thus prayed the whole Rosary, that was called a rose. When in Jáchymovsko, at Camp Rovnost, I had a total of twelve sets of these roses - twelve times fifteen men who each prayed one decade of the Rosary every day.”

  • “After we were detained on that 9th of April, they took us to Bratislava. The castle was back then just a ruin, although in some inhabited premises there was a Western Slovakian Border Guard Headquarters. Under the castle, there were such casemates, stone tunnels. In winter it all was frozen through; it is usually frozen through up to June or July. Then it warms up a little and it works as an accumulator of this summer warmth even until Christmas. Unfortunately, we caught the frozen time and there we had to wait whole week, so that they could detain all other possible runaways without us informing about anything. We were strictly guarded, without sleep, only sitting, eating the same way as soldiers did and there we waited for a week. Afterwards they transported us to the so-called prison U dvoch levov (At Two Lions) on Špitálska Street in Bratislava, where they registered us and thus our whole group was officially detained on April 15.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    v Bratislave, 26.10.2005

    media recorded in project Witnesses of the Oppression Period
  • 2

    Bratislava, 15.11.2012

    duration: 02:59:27
    media recorded in project Iron Curtain Stories
  • 3

    v Bratislave, 17.05.2013

    duration: 01:28:06
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

The Communists forced me into the hands of the pope

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Anton Srholec
photo: Martin Reichl

Father Anton Srholec was born on 12 June 1929 in Skalica on the Slovak-Czech borders. Since his childhood he was brought up in the Catholic faith, and so at 14 years of age he joined the Salesians, where he attended grammar school. After 1948 the Salesian Order was abolished in Czechoslovakia and Anton Srholec decided to emigrate via Austria to Italy, where he wanted to continue his studies of theology. However, the crossing of the River Morava, which was organised by Salesian Zeman, failed. Anton Srholec was arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison, which he served in the uranium mines in Jáchymov and Příbram. He was amnestied in 1960, but he was only allowed to be employed as a labourer. He moved to Ostrava, finding a job in the steelworks, and began to study English, German and Italian. In 1969 he joined a group of pilgrims journeying to Rome to celebrate the 1100th anniversary of the death St Cyril. While there he got in touch with friends who had been more successful when emigrating from Czechoslovakia. They helped him find the means to finish his theology studies. He spent three months in Italy in the summer of 1969, and another ten months from September 1970 to July 1971. He was ordained into priesthood by Pope Paul VI in May 1971. After returning to Czechoslovakia he worked as a sacristan in Blumentál in Bratislava, after which he was promoted and sent from Bratislava to the village churches in Pernek, Velké Záluží and Záhorská Ves. In Pernek he was assaulted by people who were probably collaborators of State Security. In Záhorská Ves he was under the constant surveillance of the Border Guard. In 1985 he participated in a pilgrimage to Velehrad, where he used a homemade megaphone to preach to pilgrims throughout the night. This resulted in the confiscation of his permission to conduct spiritual services, and until his retirement in 1989 he worked as a warehouse worker. He stood on the stage twice during the Bratislava demonstrations in November 1989. After 1989 he began tending to the homeless of Bratislava, he wrote several books. He died in January 2016.