Štěpán Vašíček

* 1927  †︎ 2017

  • „I wanted to leave the country and to cross the border illegally, and I had a meeting arranged with Father Josef Cukr in Hostýn, because he had studied in England and Belgium, to learn how things worked abroad. I rode a motorcycle to Hostýn, it was a normal workday. I arrived to Hostýn, the holy mass was just beginning, and during the mass this thought came to my mind: ´Štěpán, don’t go anywhere, you will suffer.´ This thought was so intense, I kept thinking about it during the meeting with the priest, we had a talk, and then during my ride home. And this idea was still coming back to me. I eventually decided I would not leave the country and I would be drafted to the army instead, to Dědice near Vyškov, and so I became a soldier there. Of course, even before I arrived to Dědice, they already had a PU note (“politically untrustworthy”) about me there, sent by our municipal office. In spring they started talking about it, about this so-called Číhošť miracle. And one NCO, during one political lecture, we had these every day or every other day, talked about this Číhošť miracle. And I raised my hand and said: ´Sergeant, you are lying. I have already seen a movie about it before and you are lying, what you are saying here is not true.´ He immediately stopped the lecture, let the others go and in the evening they had a discussion about it with me, about five other NCOs came. The debate lasted for about five or six hours, and they wanted to put me in prison right away. This did not happen, they eventually imprisoned me about two months later. I was on duty as a guard at that moment and they came and told me: ´Surrender your weapon.´ They transported me to the Masaryk barracks in Brno. They imprisoned me there on May 12th , 1950 and I was in prison till May 12th, 1960. I spent about a year in Cejl. I was wearing a chain with a cross around my neck, and just about a week after I arrived there, a guardsman ripped it off my neck and broke two of my ribs. And on top of that, for six weeks I was receiving only half rations of food. When I finally went to see a doctor, concretion was already in progress in my rib bones. He gave my four salicylic pills and that was it. I scribbled the Loreta litanies on pieces of cigarette paper, and some songs to Virgin Mary I remembered by heart, using a tiny pencil. And then they found it during a room search. The guard asks me: ´Whose is this?´ to which I replied: ´Well, it’s mine.´ ´What do you think you are doing? Don’t you know that a pencil is worse than a machine gun? If you had had a machine gun, you would have got lesser punishment for it.´ So they put me to a correction treatment cell for the first time. I spent there to weeks there in Cejl, and from the correction cell they were also escorting me to the tribunal.”

  • “In Cejl there was one guard, they used to call him Flanček. He had some speech defect, but otherwise he was a great chap. He was always carrying newspapers. He had them in his back pocket, so that we could pull them out. So he was bringing newspapers to the guys almost every day. He would always come, walk around, and the boys took the papers from his pocket and so we had newspapers to read. When we finished reading them, we passed them on to another cell. We would throw a rope or thread from a window, and lower it to another window like this. This is the way it was done in the prison. We used a thread to deliver packages or notes. And we used the Morse alphabet to communicate. In the evening, right after the curfew, the only thing you could hear was knocking on the wall with a toothbrush. This was in Cejl and in Leopoldov. But in Leopoldov they already had flush toilets, and we communicated through these. So we would knock, then take the water out, and you could start speaking. When we were in Ostrava, the toilet served for everything. You drank from the toilet, you washed in the toilet, of course you defecated in the toilet, and you also used it to wash your clothing, because there was no other place where you could do it. You just always flushed it afterwards....So this is the life we led...And again, it was different at different times.”

  • “At that time, the commander of the Rovnost camp was Paleček, his true name was Albín Dvořák. I spent less than a year in Rovnost, because I got myself into a mess again, this time it happened when I had a visit. It was the first time in three years that I was allowed visitors, and while we were about to leave for the visitor’s room, the commander Paleček called about five of us and told us: ´You are not having a visit because you would deserve it, but because your parents asked for it.´ And of course, this was how the visit went. There was my mother and my godmother, and of course, mother was crying, so I kept telling them: ´Don´t try, let us rejoice that we may bring this as a sacrifice of love to God, not only for ourselves, our own sins, but for the whole nation.´ And just by saying that, eight guardsmen drew nearer around us. I told them: ´Don’t believe what they are telling you, they are lying to you.´ And I quoted the words of St. Thomas More, which he spoke to his wife when he was imprisoned and the English king had promised her that her husband might be released. Thomas More said: ´Yes, but I would have to agree with what the king wants...´ And in my case, I would have to agree with what the communists wanted. And Thomas More continues: ´For how long could I live among you? A year, two years, five, ten or twenty...And lose all the eternity for these twenty years?´ Just as I said this, the visit was interrupted and Paleček comes to me and tells me: ´Vašíček, I have a feeling you really wish to be hanged.´ When we arrived back to the camp, he did not let me in, just gave me time to change into my regular clothing, and then he made me stand in snow. There was no correction cell in Rovnost then, but there was snow. It reached almost to my waist. I spent 56 hours standing in snow, just in my prison clothing, together with other five Slovak friends. And at that time it was freezing, as low as – 30 degrees centigrade. After three days, thanks to the help of my friends from the electro-workshop in Rovnost, I got to the region’s public prosecutor’s office in Karlovy Vary. I gave my testimony about the situation in Rovnost, they wrote a protocol about it, and the guardsmen were subsequently reprimanded for that. While they were escorting me back to Rovnost, one guard turned to me and remarked: ´Vašíček, you know what I’d love to do? To take you to a forest and return alone.´ To which I replied: ´Yes, I know, you know to do things like that.´”

  • “We managed to send a letter, I copied it in the switch room in the shaft, and this letter was intended for various state departments, for the Presidential Office, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior, of National Defence; to about five ministries. It was a note alerting them to the situation in the concentration camp in Bytíz. I used carbon papers to copy it and then I sent the original home, but unfortunately it got lost. We described the conditions, the treatment in correction cells, what was going on there. Within three days a delegation from the ministry arrived to Bytíz, they immediately closed the correction treatment cells, and made some improvements, and since that time the food to the correction cells was being delivered every third day, so the letter had an impact. What we also included there was a note that if immediate rectification will not be made, we are sending a similar letter to the United Nations. So within three days they arrived and within three days some amendments were made. So this was one thing we achieved together with my friends. I made more copies with carbon paper, and sent those letters, because I had the opportunity to do so. And the friend carried these letters to Prague and was sending them not from one, but from other post offices as well.”

  • „I used to smuggle wafers and wine for the holy mass to the camp, it was being provided by one old lady. We were receiving a box of five hundred wafers from the Svatá Hora church and half a litre of wine, a friend of mine was taking care of that. We were hiding it near the mining machinery; there was a small hole in sand and no one would find it there. And we kept the wafers in a high voltage compartment. We were bringing them inside the camp in small parts, so that the priests could celebrate the holy mass. Always about thirty wafers at once and the wine in a tiny glass container. Once it was me who was carrying these – I had the wafers concealed in my belt and the wine in my boot, and the guard picked me up for a body search. Of course, in a situation like this, you must not panic; you need to pretend that nothing is wrong. I always carried a slide-rule in my pocket, I needed it for my work. His eyes stopped on that slide-rule: ´What’s this for?´ ´For making calculations,´ I replied. ´And how do you count with that?´ So I showed him how to use it, he put it back to my pocket and said: ´Go.´ So this time I managed to carry the wafers and he wine through. The way we used the wafers during the mass was that we would cut them into very small pieces, wrap them in cigarette paper, and this is how we consecrated them and consumed them. The priest would use one small wafer for the holy mass. The mass was celebrated either in the barrack in between the beds, or sometimes there were even fifty or sixty of us gathered for the mass in one room. Somebody was always watching; in case the guards were coming he would alarms us and we would disperse quickly into our rooms. So this is the way the life in camps was.” “And what if a guard found out that there was a mass in progress, what do you think would happen?” “This happened to us. The mass was just over, and there were twenty of us in one room and he caught us. He came in: ´What are you doing here?´ - ´Praying.´ This happened when Paleček was the commander in Rovnost. But this was it. At first he wanted some exemplary punishment for us, but he eventually thought it over, and nothing happened. And they boys were saying afterwards: ´If he had punished you, the entire camp would have revolted. If he just touches you, there will be a revolt.´ And this was precisely what the guards wanted to avoid. If they had punished us, most of the camp would have been on our side.”

  • “From the Vojna camp the boys tried to escape right through the fence. They got three blankets affixed to a long pole; they were cutting through the fence wires and a guard was firing at them with a sub-machine gun. But even with this gun he could not shoot through the layer of blankets. When the first one finished cutting the fence, he jumped out and placed the three blankets on the ground, so that the guardsmen thought they shot him down, and immediately the second guy ran away, through the fence, and the third one...Out of these boys who escaped, one or two managed to cross the borders, the others were later caught, and got twenty years on top of their sentence each. This was the common rate, twenty years.”

  • “In the Bytíz camp I was assigned to en electro-workshop and I met good friends there. At that time there was one chap named Josef Kubačka, who later managed to escape from the camp using a cable coil. There were five of them escaping in a large cable coil, and he was the one who eventually got to America. I was there when they were concealing them in that coil; we knew that the boys were in there, five of them were hidden in that cable coil. They cut the screws, so that it was not apparent the coil had been tampered with, and that’s how they managed to do it. They climbed in and locked themselves inside, we loaded them onto a truck, which brought them to a cable warehouse and from there they got out, and headed towards a railway station. And before they found out about their escape in the camp, they boys were already crossing the Czech-German border. But they were not so lucky, at that time there was a hunt on Czechoslovak soldiers who were also escaping via Eastern Germany to the West. On the other hand, they were lucky: when crossing the border, a dog, a German shepherd came to them, and they thought ´Now it’s all over.´ But they gave it a piece of bread and the dog ate it. And this dog went with them to Germany, and saved them three times in situations when they were almost found. This was how they got to the West Germany. Two of them were caught on the border, because one sprained his ankle there and the other would not leave him. And these two were transported back to the camp and got extra 20 years to their penalties. This was common practice then.”

  • “A supervisor, we used to nickname him a ´whistling Dane,´ came to me and said: ´Vašíček, you are going to participate in the socialist competition.´ and I said: ´I will not do it.´ And he asks: ´What do you mean by that?´ ´I told you clearly that I will not participate in it.´ - ´But how come? You got one hour to think it over.´ He comes back after an hour and asks: ´Vašíček, have you thought it over?´ - ´I have nothing to think about, I told you clearly that such a competition is immoral. I am not going to participate, I am not going to evaluate anybody, nothing like that.´ ´Take your things then, you are going to the correction cell.´ So I spent three weeks in the correction treatment in Leopoldov. This was my last correction. But I have experienced it many times, for example in the Vojna camp. For a thing like this: the commander Vojík called us and asked: ´How do you perceive the penalty you received?´ And I said: ´Well, I think one has to take it easy.´ - ´What the hell do you think? Out, three weeks in correction!´ Me and my friends were assigned to bring food to prisoners in correction cells, and since the food there was only half a ration for one day and then two days only water three times a day and 12 decagrams of bread per day, we tried to put some sugar and C vitamins to the water at least. We had a friend working as an orderly in the sick-bay, and through him we were receiving Celaskon pills from the doctor. You had to dissolve them in water, it was not visible to the eye, only if the guard decided to taste it, then you were off to a correction cell as well for two or three weeks.”

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    Uherské Hradiště, 16.07.2008

    duration: 02:11:17
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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I never feared anything and I never worried about anything

Štěpán Vašíček in the battle dress
Štěpán Vašíček in the battle dress
photo: archiv pamětníka

Štěpán Vašíček was born December 21st, 1927 in Vnorovy in the Hodonín district. He studied to become an electro-technician, and in 1949 he began contemplating escape from the country. He eventually decided not to carry out this idea and was drafted to the army to the tank unit in Vyškov, albeit with the “politically untrustworthy” reference from the municipal office. While in the army, during a political lecture he voiced disagreement with the communist assertion that the so-called Číhošť miracle, when the congregation saw a cross moving on the altar, was merely the priest Toufar´s artifice, accomplished by pulling on wires concealed in the altar. On May 12, 1950, Vašíček was imprisoned in the Masaryk barracks in Brno. He was accused of delivering parts for a radio transmitter’s assembly to the spies, which was an accusation concocted by the State police. The state tribunal in Brno sentenced him to 10 years of imprisonment for high treason. In the detention facility in Cejl in Brno, a guard broke two of his ribs when ripping the chain with a cross that Vašíček was wearing around his neck. Then he experienced prisons in Mírov, later “correction” cells in Ostrava and the Bory prison. Thanks to his vocational training, he was mostly assigned to electro workshops in all the camps, and thus avoided work in the uranium mines. In the Jáchymov camp Bratrství, the commander Paleček made him stand in - 30°C freeze for 56 hours, in snow reaching up to his waist. In the Bytíz camp, Vašíček assisted the escape of some prisoners, and wrote a letter of complaint about his treatment in the “correction” cell. He experienced this type of punishment especially in the Vojna camp. On May 12th, 1960, while in prison in Leopoldov, he was finally  released. As a member of the Confederation of Political prisoners he participated in discussions and school lessons. Štěpán Vašíček passed away on October, the 18th, 2017.