Jaroslav Svoboda

* 1922

  • “I needed to go home for the holidays – it was for the whole year but somehow they wouldn’t give us holidays. So I told it to the mechanic, a German: “I wanted to go home but wasn’t allowed to!” So he took that paper and said: “Komme, komme!” He went to all the authorities and in every office he’d say “sieg heil”. Then he came back with a stamped application. I just had to get a last signature at the bureau of labor. But it was only valid in Austria. So I said to myself I’d cross the border anyway. I took fourteen days of vacation and went home. They checked me at the Graz train station – they were checking if we had tickets.”

  • “My brother said: “Look you’ll be working in the factory till the end of the year, then we’ll swap and you’ll go into hiding again.” It was a good idea. So after Christmas my brother went to work and I was in this Vrátkov – my cousins were in Germany as well – so I was helpful to my uncle there. My brother came to work and they said: “Yes, that’s him again, the other one wasn’t him”. Later it assured them that it’s the other one.” “And they all remained silent? Nobody reported it?” “Because they didn’t know it for sure they were quiet.”

  • “I was home for these fourteen days and my brother came and said: ‘Hey, let’s swap’. I said: ‘Hey, that’s not so easy.” You’ll go to the ČKD factory – I’ve already told Brunner about it. Brunner was his friend in the factory. He’s going to work from Pečky so he’ll pick you up and take you to the factory. He’ll recognize you, we look the same. Pepík Růžička was at home in the next door village so I said: “You’ll come with him.”

  • “It was his idea but it was good for me as well because so I could see my girlfriend. My brother was an adventurer. My mother knew about the swap. Now imagine the situation. Once a policeman came from Rostoklaty and said: “We’re looking for Jaroslav Svoboda, there’s a warrant of arrest for him because he didn’t return to Graz”. And my mother said: “Járo (the short name for Jaroslav – note by the translator) give Mr. policeman a chair.” I thought I’d blow up. But either he didn’t notice it or he simply chose to ignore it. So he sat down there and I said that my brother had just left with Růžička from Limuzy and that we didn’t receive any news from him yet. Then I told my mother: “Why do you call me by my first name?” What if he had noticed it?” But anyway he wouldn’t be able to do much because I had my brothers ID.”

  • “I went to the train station and waited there till half past eleven for my train to Vienna. Everything was blacked out so I wasn’t too visible. At half past eleven my train arrived so I boarded it. Suddenly the police came to check the documents of the passengers. I was asleep, you know there’s a lot of these tunnels in the mountains in Austria. I had an ID card and a “Kennkarte” (identity card – note by the author). When they issued the Kennkarte you had to return the ID card but I didn’t do it, I kept my ID card because I thought that I could use it for some purpose later on. Well, and on this Kennkarte on one side there stood that I’m a citizen of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and on the other side there was an imperial eagle and a Hakenkreuz, Deutsches Reich. I showed it to him from the side with the eagle. If he had turned it to the other side he’d have arrested me. But because he didn’t he just saluted me and I continued to Vienna.”

  • “I got as far as Ouvaly on Monday, yes it was already Monday. I went home – we lived at the other end of Ouvaly. So I had been home for over fourteen days already and every evening I’d come here – my grandpa wasn’t alive anymore, he had died. I’d always spend the evening here. She was a lover and then she was Marie, she was still unmarried and a cousin of Marie, some Čuprtová, came to visit her. She didn’t want her to see me so I had to stay in the other room which was unheated because there was no chimney there. So we had to be in the cold – we held each other tight which we liked about it, but it was very cold.”

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    Přišimasy, 26.10.2006

    duration: 01:14:55
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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My brother said: ‘Hey, let’s swap’I said: ‘Hey, that’s not so easy

photo: archiv pamětníka

Jaroslav Svoboda was born on January 16, 1922. He had a twin brother Jan Svoboda and they lived together with their mother Anna Svobodová (maiden name Hovorková). Their father left them to seek “a better life”. Her mother worked as an assistant agricultural worker on a farm. Both boys became craftsmen - Jan became a lathe operator in the ČKD factory and Jaroslav made his apprenticeship in the workshop of a master locksmith. Since 1942 Jaroslav Svoboda was a forced-laborer in a factory in Graz together with some other 60 men from the Český Brod region. His brother was lucky as he worked in the factory and therefore didn’t have to go to work to the Reich. In the fall of 1944 they swapped in order to enable Jaroslav to visit his girlfriend in the Protectorate.