Ludmila Váchalová

* 1936

  • “They grabbed me, sat me into the car, and took me to the State Security station in Tachov. I sat there, my parents were there too. They went through our house and turned everything upside down. They took Mum and Dad as well, they were there the whole night too. And in the morning they gave me some glasses, leather ones, and took me by car so that I wouldn’t know where, but it was to Vykmanov in the Jáchymov District. And they kept me there in custody. [Q: And that house inspection you mentioned they made before they took you, did they explain it in any way, or not?] No. They ordered me to sit in the car. At first I wanted to escape, but I couldn’t, seeing that there were so many people there. And then what? Well, so I sat in the car and waited.”

  • “It was my last year of school. And what I consider to be the greatest crime, I got an offer from the headmaster. He said: ‘Libuška, I’ve got an offer for you here: you’re a good student, if you give up your family, if you stop all contact with them, with all of them, then you’ll be able to study and you’ll get everything you need.’ I don’t think that offer was just for me because I’m sure there were more such offers, and I really consider that bad, because trying to persuade a fifteen-year-old child to give up her family and leave... I don’t know. Well, and then it’s no wonder that I wasn’t exactly sympathetic of the regime. And because we had very good relations in our family, it was out of the question for us to split up like that. Well, I didn’t realise it at the time, not until later, but what kind of regime is that, if it wants something like that. We deplored the Hitlerjugend, but they were doing the same thing here as well. The advantages they offered tempted quite a few people, I reckon. But I was tempted to go the opposite way.”

  • “Then they gave me my prison uniform, which consisted of what looked like men’s underpants, a buttonless shirt, some brown trousers, and a brown blouse. And they took me to my cell. [Q: How many of you were there in that cell?] I was alone. For nine months. From December till the end of August, the trial was in September. I had to laugh when I heard Mr Rath [a former government minister and regional governor convicted of embezzlement in 2015 after a lengthy trial and custody - trans.] complain about having a poorly equipped cell, and how he was suffering - that made me laugh. Because the equipment we had... The cell was about the size of this kitchen, this part, seven steps across. There was a squat toilet through the door, it had a rubber tube at the top with a tap for getting water. That was quite something, that we had access to water directly in our cell. There was a straw mattress in the other corner with a pillow, two bedsheets, and a blanket. And that was it.”

  • “The wet room was this place with these kind of metal troughs. There were taps with water - cold, of course, and that was it. And I think twice or maybe once a month we went for a bath - always more at once, about thirty of us. Sometimes the women guards were pretty nasty. There would be two three women under one shower, and [the guards] would suddenly put on cold water, or close off the water when they were all soaped up, and they couldn’t wash off at all. The women were nastier stuff than the men. Really. One of them said: ‘I wouldn’t waste time with these state [prisoners], I’d give them all the rope and be done with it.’”

  • “I liked how we made coffee. We were permitted to buy coffee or get it sent in a parcel, but we didn’t have any means of making it or boiling water. So, if you imagine central heating, then we thoroughly cleaned one of the ribs, and we poured water over that. We put a tin pot down below, and we poured the water down the radiator [again and again] until it was hot enough to make coffee. Or... The advantage was that the male guards weren’t allowed to enter the women’s wet room, so there, or on a tin pan at the toilet, we’d roll up some pads or cotton wool and burn those and boil the water with that.”

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    Stráž u Tachova, 20.01.2015

    duration: 01:37:05
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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When I was released from prison, to begin with I almost missed having a guard breathing down my neck

Archive photo_1
Archive photo_1

Ludmila Váchalová, née Hrdličková, was born on 18 August 1936 into a Roman Catholic family in Volyně in the Šumava Mountains. Her eleven-years-older brother Jaroslav Hrdlička (*1925) attempted to illegally cross the borders, but he was arrested and sent to prison in 1950. While there he co-founded a group called West-Svatopluk, which documented the day-to-day operations of the penal labour camp Svatopluk in Horní Slavkov and also printed anti-Communist leaflets. From the beginning of 1954 Ludmila Váchalová helped her brother pass the information he gleaned on into the West. She also participated in so-called balloon events, when leaflets were sent using a hot-air balloon. On 2 December 1954 she was arrested, and on 9 September 1955 she was sentenced to six years of prison. She served time in four different female prisons - she spent nine months in solitary confinement in Vykmanov near Jáchymov, she was later taken to Cheb, and then to Želiezovce in Slovakia and finally to Pardubice. In the spring of 1960, six months before completing her six-year sentence, she was released by an amnesty. Upon returning home she found employment at the Czechoslovak State Railways, where she remained until her retirement. In 1963 she married, she later gave birth to a daughter. Ludmila Váchalová is divorced and lives in Stráž near Tachov.