Jan Trnka

* 1940  

  • “When the call came after the war for Czech inhabitants to start settling the Sudetes, my father travelled to the border region here as a postal clerk. I think he didn’t go straight to Ústí nad Labem, but certainly from June he was stationed in Ústí nad Labem, and we’ve been here since then. We stayed here, I remember that we lived in a house where they’d [the Germans] been, and all around us, right, there hadn’t really been any Czechs in Ústí. Even less during the war. So I know I’d go play with the German boys, though I didn’t understand a word of what they said. We associated with them completely, just they had to wear those white bands. Ústí was bombed to bits, it was wrecked here, so I know that when I went to Ústí, they used to take people from the camp that was up on Skřívánek too, groups of those, I don’t know if they were... well, they weren’t soldiers, but it’s possible. In short, the male inhabitants, they took them to the city, so... they marched along because they didn’t have any transportation, and they basically just stacked bricks here, they cleared up the roads because they couldn’t be drove on otherwise, but they were here at least through the winter. I think they didn’t deport them from Ústí until sometime in spring 1946.”

  • “So I suffered through military service in Dubí; I found myself a girl there, whom I married, and we’re together to this day. Well, and when I finished my service, they extended it by another four months, which got me bridled. Then I went to the bureau, the regional bureau of the National Security Corps [the umbrella organisation for the state and secret police - trans.], and said: ‘Look here, I wouldn’t mind at all mind if I was a cop.’ And they said ok. It’s true that the check-up for whether I can or can’t be a cop took two months, so I only left military service in November, but it was still a month sooner than the others, so that was good. They told me I had to start off with beat duty, so I said: ‘Well, if that’s the way it is, I’m not joining the cops then, I want something more adventurous. Right from the start.’ So they said: ‘All right, we’ll see.’ Well, so they finished the check-up, then they came and said I could enrol, or rather, I was ordered to do so, that I have to go through the process of leaving the military, handing everything in, and so on... and that I was to report to the regional bureau the next day. At the regional bureau, when I simply repeated that I wouldn’t take no common beat cop’s uniform, so they offered me a job... they offered it, I said fine, and they warned me: ‘Well, boy, but it’s not so simple because this department, basically, what you’ll be doing there, goes against our fundamental laws, namely, it’s against the Constitution. And if you’re caught... you mustn’t even get caught by the ordinary police.’ That is, it’s a service that every state has to have. We have it here today as well except... seeing that there’s a democracy here, it’s done a bit differently now. It’s also secret, it’s also unpublishable, no one is allowed to talk about it either, but it’s under control... of some kind, set up by the present regime. Back then it was also under control, more thoroughly than it is today in fact, because back in those fifties, State Security really did acquire enormous power, enormous... and the Communists themselves realised it couldn’t be like that, they got scared of it.”

  • “She [my wife] really must have known about it mainly because I left the military sooner than was normal, right... though we didn’t speak about it at home afterwards. Look, for instance, when I went to my work, it was at a state office, right... so there was even a plan worked out which route I’d take to walk there. It had to change, I couldn’t walk through the same streets. I couldn’t walk there at the same time. The working hours there weren’t all the same anyway, they had a very complicated set-up, but even just arriving there... There were instructions for which way to go, what to say if you meet an acquaintance... There’s no other way to it, when you’re up against organised activity.”

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    Ústí nad Labem, 28.06.2014

    duration: 02:51:26
    media recorded in project Memory of Nations on the road
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If you shake the Devil’s hand, you can hardly complain when it burns

Jan Trnka
Jan Trnka
photo: Pamět Národa - Archiv

Jan Trnka was born in November 1940 in Pardubice into the family of a junior postal clerk. In 1945 he and his parents and sister moved to Ústí nad Labem, into a housed belonging to deported Germans. After attending eight years of primary school, he was employed at Metra, an electrotechnical plant, in 1954 while also attending an apprenticeship course. He began military service in 1959 in Děčín, completed an NCO course and became a radio operator. After his discharge in 1961, he applied to serve in the police force because he wanted to try something adventurous; he was accepted as an investigator at State Security. He investigated people fleeing abroad and various informants’ reports. In August 1968 he disagreed with the invasion of Soviet forces. The Communist purges in 1970 forced him to leave State Security, and he was employed in Public Security (the normal police force) for four years. He was dismissed in 1974 and found a job at a gas works, where he was employed until his retirement. He raised a son and a daughter with his wife, whom he met during military service.