Josef Trpák

* 1935  

  • “I even made friends with one of the prisoners there. I remember his name – Láďa Pavlů. He was an almost-graduated student from the faculty of forestry. Back then forestry was only taught in Brno, I think. And he got twelve years in prison. Such a terrible sentence. So, sometimes, when there was a place to hide, we used to talk about it all together. That’s why I had a good picture of what was going on. How people lived there. And he was also religious, so we talked about religion too. It was of benefit to me as he was older. He was experienced and had a wider range of knowledge than me, so it was of benefit, how he explained life to me and how he prepared me for it. That was a lesson for me.”

  • “The Pacov priest who was here, his name was Ferdinand Kondrys. He was a very decent, sensitive man, so he offered my mum… he said: ‘Missis, you cannot stay there in that village, that’s out of the question. We have an abandoned parsonage in Zhoř where no one has lived for ten years and where you could move in to.’ My father had died in June and we moved there at the end of November. The parsonage was abandoned, a lot had been stolen or destroyed. And then the collective farm took over and made use of it. And the collective farm treated it like… well, let’s say ruthlessly. They destroyed everything they possibly could. There wasn’t even water there, just a wooden pump. It moldered away and fell in the well. So, we had to walk across the entire village for water, about five or six hundred meters and that was very arduous. The roof had holes, the wind blew in from all four sides. That’s why heating the place up was a big problem. Only two rooms were inhabitable, so that’s where we lived. Back then coal was still rationed. It wasn’t like you could go and buy twenty quintals. First of all, we didn’t have the money and then also because it was rationed. So, we only heated one of the rooms and we slept in the unheated one, it was terribly cold in there. At night, so that we would warm up a little, each of us preheated a brick on the stove, packed it in newspaper, put it at our feet and got some warmth that way. And that’s the conditions we lived in there.”

  • “So, one week later then, my father had a funeral. It took place here in Pacov and many people gathered. You could say that it was almost a demonstration and at that time we were in such a situation that we didn’t have any money as my father had earned little and the family was so large, so we didn’t even have enough money to get a photographer to take pictures of it. But I’m convinced that there were at least five hundred people at the funeral. There were five priests. And it was a dignified farewell. The priest who led the whole funeral rite… well we went by foot from the outskirts of the city. That is from the Northern part to the Southern part. That’s approximately one and a half kilometers. And just before the cemetery there was a turn to my father’s factory, so the priest stopped there and paid his last respects there but so that it wouldn’t outrage the representatives of power. There’s this small cross there, so he stopped there and delivered his farewell. It was a really terrible catastrophe. There were five of us kids left with our mother. That means our youngest brother was five.”

  • “One evening he drove to feed the horses, fell from the wagon and fell on one of the horse’s feet and the horse killed him on the spot. My brother Jiří was with him on that wagon. He was thirteen at that time. I cannot understand or explain how such a small and weak boy managed to lift our father on the dray and bring him home. And he brought him there on the farm. A doctor was called who arrived maybe two hours later and pronounced him dead. This strange thing occurred during this accident, something which was rather odd… The very day, I remember it was a Tuesday, in June, our grandmother – my father’s mother – came to visit us and she arrived in the afternoon and this happened to my dad in the evening. So that’s what I call a strange coincidence, that it was some kind of a farewell or something.”

  • “I remember – it stuck with me my whole life – seeing what our people… what they were capable of. That it wasn’t just the Germans doing it but our people too. For example... there were old people, Jews, and they were sweeping the square. This one factory owner, Mr. Weiner, he was small, puny and they dressed him up in this… they threw a bed sheet over him, put a hat on his head and they made fun of him. And drove him on a cart there on the square. I don’t remember anymore what the parents thought about it but… it was passed over. But it stuck with me for my entire life, seeing these people there, being humiliated, insulted.”

  • “In 1974 they named me head of production engineering but it was pretty much just a put-up because at that time changes of the workers’ salaries had been in progress. The man who had done it before me was not able to see it through, so the director convinced me that no other person than me could do it. So, they arranged it in the Party organization that I would be approved for this position. And so I was in charge and he assured me: ‘Don’t worry. It’ll turn out fine. That’ll be for good.’ But two years passed and then I had an assessment at the Party committee. And as for the technical aspects they had no reservations. That was good. But from the political point of view I was called – well it had been in the Normalization period, 1974/1976 – that I had a hostile relation towards the socialist system and that I couldn’t hold the post there. So, the director who came after me, he was a Party member and he insisted that I left the job because I would otherwise be a disruption. So I was thinking what to do next. Eventually I got a job here in the collective farm. They arranged for a licensed production of tanks made out of wound tubes.”

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    Pacov, 28.02.2020

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    Pacov, 05.03.2020

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We should forgive, not forget

From the time of his military service which he undertook at the Zvolen airport, 1955
From the time of his military service which he undertook at the Zvolen airport, 1955
photo: Soukromý archiv Josefa Trpáka

Josef Trpák was born October 15, 1935 in Pacov where his father Jan ran a fine leather products business. In 1947 he finished building his own factory where he then moved with his family of seven. Apart from business he was also engaged in the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party and in the Sokol movement. In March 1949 his business was nationalized and the manufacture was transferred under the KOZAK factory. His father then had to start working as an unskilled bricklaying laborer and later worked in a brick factory near Hrádek. The family was displaced to a farm in a nearby village Cetule in June 1950 and Josef’s father was sent to work in the Ostrava coal mines in October. After his return in March 1951 he started working as a farmer at the farm in Cetule where he was trampled to death by a horse in June 1951. Josef’s younger siblings were temporarily sent to stay at their relatives’ after this tragic event. Only Josef and his brother Jiří stayed with their mother Emilie. They moved to a former parsonage in Zhoř in November 1951 thanks to the help of the Pacov priest Ferdinand Kondrys. Josef had to start a coppersmith vocational training in the Pacov engineering works because of his class origin. After completing his military service he was proposed to work in the Příbram uranium mines which he accepted under the condition that he would be able to study a secondary technical school in the evenings. He worked at the mines together with convicted political prisoners from the Bytíz and Vojna camps. After the one-year “coal brigade” he went to ZVÚ in Hradec Králové where he successfully completed his high school education and returned to Pacov where he got an apartment condominium with his wife and where he started working at a technological institute in 1964. Ten years later he was named head of production engineering by the company’s director but after only two years he was laid off in 1976 due to a negative complex assessment in which he was characterized as having a hostile attitude to the socialist system. It was hard to find a job with such a bad assessment. He finally landed in Sigma Modřany where he was elected to the union presidium in the spring of 1989. As the chairman of the union he took part in the general strike in Temelín in November 1989. He has raised three kids with his wife, all of whom couldn’t get an appropriate education because of Josef’s political assessment. In 2020 Mr. Josef Trpák lived in Pacov.