Josef Uchytil

* 1934  

  • “The Czech policemen came and took my father away. They locked him up in a POW detention camp in Znojmo and kept him there for a couple of months, maybe half a year. Once, me, my mother and my sister came to visit him. We were only allowed to come to the gate, not farther. I could see a place behind the fence with lined-up prisoners. The warders – Czech policemen – were playing a game with their inmates called ‘around comes Pešek’. The warders were passing the lined-up inmates and always hit them with a belt. When someone moved just a little bit, they took him aside and beat him up. My dad was chatting with my mom at the gate and I was watching this spectacle. I was watching their game. ‘Around comes Pešek’. If someone wavered after the blow, he got beaten up. The inmates were German soldiers.”

  • “So your grandpa was Czech and your grandma was Austrian?” “My grandma was from Austria. They lived in Frélichov. I don’t know where the other grandma – her name was Pevnerová – came from. I knew only her, I don’t know her history.” “The Uchytil family, did they speak Croatian as well?” “Not my grandpa. He spoke Czech and my grandma spoke German. I have no idea what language they used for speaking with each other. I didn’t know them. I only knew the mother of my mother, grandma Pevnerová. She was the one who spoke only Croatian with me, never German, not even under Hitler. At home we spoke German and then Croatian.” “So where did you learn Czech?” “I learned Czech after the war at school. I spoke Czech at school, Croatian at home and with the other kids. Speaking German was prohibited.” “You were born in 1934 and went to a German school, right?” “Yes, I went to a German school for four years in Frélichov and one year in Drnholec, where we also spoke German. After the war, we went to school in Frélichov again.”

  • “In 1948 they told us they would move us somewhere to the Polish frontier. The next day, my mom wakes me up at night and tells me my dad is here. He had been gone in Austria for about half a year but somehow figured out that they’re planning to relocate us, so he came home to take us away. I was glad he came back home. I said: ‘I’ll go with dad’. But my sister Minka had a boyfriend in Frélichov and wasn’t too keen on leaving the place. My mom had to try hard persuading her. Finally, however, she succeeded and my sister agreed. My dad hid in the attic. The next day, we got a visit from some people who were to ‘inherit’ the house from us. They wanted to take a look at the house. Well, they liked it. My mom hid the ladder to the attic in the hay. The guy actually wanted to climb up to the attic and take a look at it as well. My mom pretended she’s looking for the missing ladder but then my sister said we had borrowed it to our grandma and he gave up. I didn’t know exactly when we would leave. About midnight, maybe half past, dad climbed down from the attic and we went on our journey to Austria. We didn’t take anything with us except for about three kilos of lard and a blanket. We set out on that trip. The Thaya river was overflowing with water, it was sometime in June and the grain was knee-high. We started at our house and walked past the graveyard, then behind the cellars, crossed the footbridge over the river Jevišovka and waited for the others to catch up with us. We crossed the meadows and now had to cross the Thaya. The water was reaching my dad’s shoulders. The current was strong and my dad was afraid we would drown. My sister managed to swim across the river herself. I got carried across by my dad as was my mom who couldn’t swim. We crossed the river unharmed. Then we continued to Wildendürnbach.”

  • Full recordings
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    Wien, 05.12.2010

    duration: 42:00
    media recorded in project History and language of Moravian Croats
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“Daddy is here! We’ll go to Austria!”

Josef Uchytil
Josef Uchytil
photo: Pamět Národa - Archiv

Josef Uchytil was born in 1934 in Croatian Frélichov in Southern Moravia. His family’s ethnic composition was mixed. His grandfather from his father’s side was Czech, the grandmother came from Austria. His mother’s family was Croatian. At home they spoke German and Croatian. He only learned Czech after the war at school. During the Second World War his father had to enroll in the German army. After the end of hostilities, he was held in POW camps in Znojmo and Drahanovice. The family fled to Austria in 1948. For several years, they stayed at various places in Lower Austria before they finally moved to Vienna. Although they didn’t speak Croatian in the family after their emigration from Czechoslovakia, Mr. Uchytil still speaks Croatian very well. He lives in Vienna.