Božena Volková

* 1930  

  • “I was arrested in Štúrov, I came back in the night by the express from Prague, I looked out of the window and said: ‘Gosh, all those cops here, they must be chasing someone...’ Well, and they were chasing me. They took me to Pankrác together with one Gypsy. The ‘anton’ [a colloquial term for a prison lorry - transl.] had one more small cabin, I didn’t even know that... well, and you can only stand in that cabin. Well, and I had the Gypsy there with me, so the two of us were squeezed up in that one cabin. They put me into a cell, gave me breakfast in the morning, and then they told me: ‘You mustn’t sit down, you mustn’t lie down, you have to walk the whole day...’ At first I was there by myself, so I prayed for them to put someone in there with me; then they put one lady in there who couldn’t keep her mouth shut. So then I prayed for them to put her somewhere else. She kept repeating the same thing over and over again, she’d gone crazy. From dawn till dusk she kept saying: ‘He told me: You won’t be here long, missus, you didn’t do anything...’ And she repeated this from dawn till dusk... Then they sent us out into various prison camps, the women worked in brick factories, the men in mines.”

  • “I passed my graduation exams, and they locked me up straight after that. My dad was landed with ten years, and because I hadn’t ratted on him, they gave me two years. Dad was imprisoned for high treason, espionage, those were nasty things... When I was at Pankrác, we had an intake in the women’s section of three hundred women in just one week. We couldn’t even fit there anymore. They locked up one in two people. The bigger problem was that they confiscated property. If they pinned a crime on you, they took everything you had, coat and all. It was bad. We went to prison because Dad had a machine works. We were quite rich, and they focused on rich people. All the big farms around Benešov, they took them all, locked their owners up, and then no one tended to them at all, so it all fell into ruin... and that lasted forty-one years.”

  • “They sentenced me to two years, except I read in the criminal code afterwards that I’m not obliged to testify against a close family member. That it’s not punishable, even in the case of a murderer. So I sued the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. This was in the period of hard-line communism, three or so lawyers legged it from me because they were afraid, so I procured a newly-graduated lawyer, quite a young boy he was, fresh out of university, and he didn’t leave me, and he did everything I told him to. It took eight years, but I won... I received about forty thousand [crowns] for it; I had the tombstone finished for it.”

  • “My father was in Jáchymov... they mined uranium there... he was there ten years, he landed fourteen, sat ten of them out, and sometime in 1960 there was an amnesty, so they released them... it was bad because no one wanted to employ them, everyone was afraid of [former] convicts, afraid they’d get in trouble because of them... people are cowards... there were 81 thousand convicts in Jáchymov, they mined uranium with their bare hands, and up on the surface the trains waited to take it all to Russia. Do you know what we could have had for that? There wasn’t uranium like that anywhere in Europe, not like what we had.”

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    Praha, 14.04.2014

    duration: 39:10
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
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I sued the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia

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Božena Volková was born on 24 November 1930. She attended primary school in Benešov and continued her studies at grammar school. Her brother emigrated to America in 1948. After passing her graduation exams in 1950 she was arrested and imprisoned for two years for failing to report her father, who was later sentenced to ten years of hard labour in the Jáchymov uranium mines for high treason and espionage. After her release Božena Volková wanted to study languages at university, but her application was turned down and she could not even find any employment. She appealed against the sentence that had convicted her, and eight years later she won the dispute. She found a job in the disabled cooperative Obzor (Horizon), and became its manager two years later. She worked at Obzor until her retirement. She lives in Prague.