Bedřich Zahradník

* 1931

  • "That was 600 metres underground. Most of the foremen there were Hungarians. We had a miner´s lamp, and he had such a little lamp with a flame. And he, when he came to somewhere where it was contaminated with gas, that little flame immediately started burning more. And once they put me together with this Hungarian and we were 600 meters underground. He indicated to me that he was going to go one floor higher, and we were making a kind of a venthole from floor to floor. And that he'd go up and knock, so I'd know how strong it was, the ceiling. He left and it all started cracking. So I took the lamp and I went to the carts and I went upstairs, away. And I got in trouble because I ran away from the workplace. But I was scared because the timber support, there were logs of forty and fifty centimetres, one on top and another on the sides. And when the pressure came, it would crack like a matches. So I just ran away and he complained to the head office, so then they put me to do some surface work."

  • "I was sitting at the table with my friend, a girl, and suddenly I see - he was dancing, Cigánek - that four civilians were arresting him. They had machine guns and they were taking him right while dancing. Finally, four more were standing by me and right away, if I had paid, that I would go with them. And I said I didn't do anything. ‚Well, settle the bill!’ So they waited until the waitress came and she charged me and there were two cars waiting outside. One was carrying him and the other was carrying me - American cars - to State Security. They put me in this... one metre by one metre, the light was always on. And they wouldn't even let me go to the toilet. It was only afterwards, when I said I was going to wet myself, that they let me go to the toilet."

  • "I started working in the restaurant U Zeldů in Otrokovice. A barber - his name was Zapletal - used to come to us for lunch. We knew each other, and then he asked me if I could let someone stay with me overnight, a friend. I told him I didn't care, that I worked late in the evening, until ten o'clock. There was a farmer next to the restaurant and I had a room with them. So he came, his name was Adolf Cigánek, but he was probably already at State Security. I gave him some money and tickets. And he said he had escaped from prison and wanted to go to the West. His name was Adolf Cigánek."

  • "Once again, my acquaintance approached me, asking me whether I would like to start working at the Grand Hotel in Tatranská Lomnice, as I had refused to work at the Grand in Smokovec. I had been there for about three or four months, and those two in civilian clothes kept sticking around the whole time. They would appear at any time I was there. One day, they said they needed to talk to me. Only people from Western countries or some ministers used to be accommodated there. And these two said they did not have anyone who would inform them of what was going on there, asking me may I be willing… I told them straight that I would not be willing that I had left a couple of jobs because of the same reason before. They gave me some time to reconsider it once again. There was a director who later became a director of steelworks in Košice… and he too…well, everyone cooperated with the State Security Police (StB). When the staff did not do so, the directors did. And so he told me in Slovak: Comrade Zhradník, I know what was going on with these guys there. And now, it depends only on you, what you make up your mind for. I told him that I knew immediately what to do, that I was not going to do that. And so he replied he was sorry for losing me. And I said I would leave then."

  • "There used to be a dam behind the church in Zlín. And under that dam, there was a villa house where the Zlín’s offshoot of the Secret Police (StB) used to operate. They made me sit down there inside such a small cubbyhole, which was about one square meter in size. A very sharp light was shining the whole time. I had spent about forty-eight hours there, at least. No food, not even drinks. I wanted to go to the toilet. So, I opened the door and saw an office right opposite to it, from where a terrible roar could be heard. It was dark there, and some sparks were flying from the table. Someone was being bullied with electricity. How did they do that, that’s what I am not sure about. A terrible roar could be heard from there. It made me very scared. Then, they took me to the railways' station, seated me inside a wagon, taking me to solitary confinement no. 4 in Hradiště. Nothing had happened the whole day. On the second day, some small… StB’s officer (estébák), a little sod, dressed in civilian clothes, had appeared. He led me to the interrogating room, and there was another one. And this one was such a hulk. They asked me what I would tell them. I said I did not know anything. They told me that I kept someone at my place. I replied, denying that, only saying that one of my friends just asked me if one of his acquaintances could stay at my place for a couple of days, as he would start working at the Bata enterprise and had no other place to stay at for the time being. So, I had let him stay over. The small investigator raised and walked away. Then, the second one started working on me, hitting me. Once he finished, the small once came back and said that he knew I was well aware of the fact that the guy who was staying over at my place had escaped from prison. He showed me protocol then and said that had I told them straight, I would not have been beaten."

  • "That mountain is called Barák. It is only about five kilometers from our place to Vizovice. It leads uphill; therefore, I had to walk with my bike there. I came up and saw two boys sitting there. One of them was our neighbor. František Machů was his name. I said hello to them, and they called me to stop. I told them not to fool around and drove on. And at that moment, they fired at me. I fell off my bicycle, as I was startled. They said: ‘You have to stop when we tell you to do so.’ I replied: 'Franta, what are you doing?' They let me go then. Baťa was the name of the second guy. They both betrayed Ploština. They had joined the partisans as their confidants. The Gestapo had managed to infiltrate them there. I continued to Vizovice and met the German commando right under the forest on the Vizovice side. It was the commando that was heading to Ploština. They had already arranged things with Mach and Baťa, who were supposed to take them there. There were about sixty of them. From Vizovice, I went back home again, straight to graze our goats. I walked them about one kilometer to the cross that was standing upfront of our house, where four huge linen trees used to grow. And, as I went uphill, I saw that Ploština was in flames. All the houses were burning. By the time I returned from Vizovice, they had already caught everyone there, threw them all into the fire."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Brno, 25.03.2019

    duration: 03:18:56
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Brno, 17.01.2023

    duration: 01:45:02
    media recorded in project Příběhy regionu - JMK REG ED
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

On the day of the hanging, it was quiet

A period photography of Bedřich Zahradník
A period photography of Bedřich Zahradník
photo: author

Bedřich Zahradník was born on October 21, 1931, in Újezd near Vizovice. He and his siblings were raised to work hard. As a little boy, he saw a German commando burning down a village called Ploština. After the war was over, he completed a waiter/chef/bartender apprenticeship. He had dreamt about traveling the world. After February 1948, he offered an accommodation to his acquaintance who was an escaped political prisoner at the time. However, State Security (StB) detained both of them soon after. The witness went through a series of examinations accompanied by physical abuse. He spent several months in solitary confinement in Uherské Hradiště. After his release from prison, he joined the Auxiliary Technical Battalions (PTP); as such, he was not able to work in the field of his studies. He had to leave several jobs due to the reappearing pressure exerted by State Security agents. In 2023 he was living in Brno.