Jiřina (Georgia) Stredňanská

* 1930

  • “I was here once in 1987, in Piešťany. I needed a spa therapy because of my legs. I sent my application through some kind of agency, it got approved and I got visa. At first I went to Prague, where I stayed at my husband´s sister and then I traveled to Bratislava and Piešťany. However, there I found out that I was missing my exit visa permit. I tried to think how it was possible, but then I let it go. On the second day, the State Security (ŠtB) was there. They locked me in my room, I was not allowed to talk to anyone and they insisted on my collaboration with them. I endured; I still wanted them to call the American consulate. They refused until I´d tell them this and that… I said: 'Why are you asking me this? I know you already know it all.' And they did. At the beginning one Slovak came and kept asking me what I did in America. I didn´t want to tell him I taught at this school, because it was a threat for them, of course. So I said I was teaching Czech language. 'Excuse me, but who learns Czech over there?' he asked. I said: 'Oh, you´d be surprised.' I tried to avoid it as I could, but at last he told me, 'Look, I know where you teach!' 'For God´s sake, why do you keep asking me then?' And he continued to ask me all kinds of crap, so I just answered him: 'Look, I´m not going to answer to these questions, because I don´t know, I don´t care, so let me be.' This way I came in for a nervous shock and my doctor had to treat me with Valium. She was very nice, the doctor I mean, and I told her what happened. My exit visa permit was still missing, however. 'You cannot leave without your exit visa permit.' I told them: 'How come I cannot leave? I have an American passport; I can leave without the permit, although I´d like to have it.' 'We won´t let you go without it.' It was truly a problem. They ordered me to come to the police headquarters one day before my flight. I was afraid they really wouldn´t let me leave. That guy took me to see the police commander. I was so scared they´d arrest me, I couldn´t believe it; I had great fear. Well, the police commander accepted me. By the window there was that ŠtB member, and they even called a Czech and one more man to deal with me. There were two of them. Oh, they began their interrogation by saying something like: 'What a pretty chick you are, shouldn´t we rather go to a bar or so?' … It was horrible, I felt awful. I don´t even know how many hours I spent there in a nervous wreck. And if my nerves are shot to hell, those men have surely a great merit on that, although I don´t know their names. The police commander spoke to me: 'Mrs. Strednanská, we have your exit visa permit, of course, here it is.' And I saw how he hated that man standing over there. That one didn´t say a word. He probably said all he needed when he locked me in my hotel room before. This police commander was very obliging, 'If you need anything, call me and I will be pleased to help you. Have a safe journey.' And I left, although, I couldn´t believe I was allowed to go.”

  • “I was asleep during the night of August 21st. Some kind of roar woke me up. I went to see, what´s happening and I saw one neighbor walking and screaming to me, 'Russians are here!' I wondered, 'Oh gosh, what Russians, what´s going on?!' I woke Ernest up and I said: 'Please, some Russians are here, many army tanks, what´s happening? Somebody in Vienna spoke the truth when he said something was going on.' Ernest called the radio and television dispatching immediately where they told us they didn´t know anything as well. Nobody knew what was going on. When we tried to call a while later, the telephone was busy and we didn´t get hold of anyone. Then Eva Poláková came, and another colleague of ours; we sat together and listened to the Free Europe. Although, we couldn´t hear it well as it was still being interrupted. So we didn´t find out much more from there anyway. And those army tanks went on and on and on, it was never ending line of tanks. I lamented where could they all go? A new day dawned. We drank a bottle of cognac during the night, there were four of us, so we handled it. In the morning we saw cannons all around our apartment house where we lived, in the middle of Bratislava. They pointed directly at us. It was terrible, the fear. That night I decided not to stay there anymore. I didn´t want my kids to have the same problems I had to face. I wanted my children to grow up in a free world, where they could do what they really wanted. Although, I didn´t know how would it all end up. My husband didn´t want to go. He held back, because he was afraid. I could speak the language, I spoke German, but he didn´t. I partially saw why he hesitated; today I understand even more. Although back then his attitude didn´t make a sense to me. I told him, 'Well, I shall go with the kids and you can stay…' I blackmailed him, really awfully, so we left.'”

  • “Ernest gave a notice and I began to teach Slovak language instead of him. That was great, though, because before I used to sell hamburgers and that was horrible for me. I didn´t know the language and I always messed up what people wanted from me, so at last they just let me cut the onion. Six hours a day I used to cut the onion. My eyes have been sore and watery ever since. It was awful, those six hours used to seem endless and I worked for a minimal wage. And I stole. Every night I had to feed my children, so willy-nilly I was forced to take out those crushed hamburgers. We weren´t allowed to do that; we could only eat them while being at work. So I always stuffed my pockets to be able to give that to my children. We were so poor. I earned two dollars ninety per hour; prices over there were different, back then. Anyway, it wasn´t much, because I worked there only for six hours a day.”

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    Brno, Domov pro seniory, 28.08.2014

    duration: 04:40:36
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th century
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It was my sarcasm and humor that kept me afloat the whole time

Jiřina Strednanská as Julka in the theater performance Inkognito of the director J. Palárik
Jiřina Strednanská as Julka in the theater performance Inkognito of the director J. Palárik
photo: Archiv pamětníka

Jiřina Stredňanská was born in Olomouc in 1930. Since her mother was seriously ill and her parents divorced in her early childhood, little Jiřina was being brought up by the Dominican sisters in the Olomouc monastery. When she was fourteen years old, she left to live with her father in Jihlava, where she studied at the teacher´s institute. During her whole life she desired to become an actress, and after failures in Prague and Brno, she was accepted to study acting in Bratislava. She began to work in the Nitra theatre, where she met her future husband Ernest Stredňanský. They moved to Bratislava together and Jiřina started to work as a film director in the Slovak Television. In 1968 along with her husband and two little children she emigrated through Vienna to Germany, where she was employed as an editor for Radio Free Europe. In 1972 their journey continued to the USA. Jiřina worked in many different professions, until she became a teacher of American spies in Monterey. These spies were supposed to be deployed for bugging in Czechoslovakia (she taught them Czech and Slovak language). The marriage of Jiřina and Ernest ended with a divorce and she remarried to Karel Štrégl. Because of therapeutic reasons in 1987 she visited spa in Piešťany. This was a special moment in which the State Security tried to force Jiřina to cooperate, however, they were unsuccessful. In 1997 Jiřina Stredňanská returned to Czech Republic and she lives in Brno.