Vojtech Zeman

* 1930

  • “One Friday evening my compatriot from Nová Baňa visited me. He said we could leave on Sunday if I felt like it. We were supposed to be at Trnava train station at seven o’clock in the evening and wait for other instructions. We had such a meeting with one of our Salesian priests from Bratislava and I told him I was going to cross the borders. And he said to me: ‘Don’t you worry about telling me this.’ I never let him know when and how we’d go. So there were three of us travelling from Bratislava to Trnava and suddenly I saw also other Salesians. However, we didn’t know each other that well. We awaited further instructions.”

  • “They told us: ‘Buy a ticket to Kúty,’ so we thought we were going to Kúty. The three of us sat in one car. It was obvious that each group bought a ticket to different destination because it was necessary to count on the fact that even conductors who checked our tickets could be cooperating with the police. Then one of our informers came and said: ‘You detrain on the next stop and there we wait for each other.’ Until today I have no idea what was the name of that train stop. We waited until the people left and then only one Salesian remained waiting. His name was Revesz, who was later in Paris; he took care of Slovaks there. He led us to a forest. ‘Wait!’ he said and in half an hour he came together with two guides. ‘Listen to them!’ They took us to some village; actually it was outside the village, where one farmer lived. They made us dinner and it was around midnight. They had a stable for horses and upstairs there was hay, so there we slept in that hay. Two nights later the guides took shoulder bags with smaller military boats to be inflated. There were ten men plus these two guides, so twelve people in total. Of course, we had to throw ourselves down wherever needed as they tried to search us by lights. However, they explained us how to do it all. Hide our face and body, and then the bag. It was such an improvisation back then that today I only wonder how we did it. We didn’t have any oars, only branches. Taking twelve people meant sailing two times. The first group went and they bound up the two dinghies. The guides went each in one dinghy to the other side and then one of them returned with both boats. When a man wanted to get on a dinghy, it lifted up and he fell into the water. So it took some time until we all boarded. The Morava River was a border between Slovakia and Austria and it was somewhere near Šaštín. We went to one station, but we missed the train. The two guides had some Austrian money as they were in that country before, so they bought us tickets. We hid in such farmers’ barrack which was empty. We couldn’t show up, because they had similar clothes. They would recognize us as refugees right away.”

  • “There were three and two of us. We three greeted them: ‘Buona notte, buona notte.’ But when the other two men came, they started to be suspicious of us. Each of the two had such a bag near the border, so they probably were some kind of smugglers. A policeman said: ‘Stop!’ to these two men. The policemen spoke both Italian and German. One of the guys listened to the guard, but the other man ran to us, to the priest to explain everything. So one priest and the man who obeyed stayed there. We continued walking further to the forest and we waited what would happen. Later we saw some policemen coming in a lorry; they turned off the lights. Then they split and began to search for us; they walked and searched. We said to one another we would go through the pathway which led to houses. There they had big dogs and we decided to walk on railroad so that we could hear the train coming. We went to Vipiten, to Capuchins, following the railroad. So the three of us got to the Capuchins and the other two men to the police office. However, one of the priests tattled we came to Capuchins and subsequently we were detained. But it was at least a bit later, so we were able to get some sleep.”

  • “We weren’t allowed to look through the windows. When we entered the monastery, we had only few things with us. Those policemen had Kalashnikovs, but there were also some non-communists among them. They neither knew where they were going. When we came in, we stood in two rows and their boss started to scream at us as if he was obsessed by devil, and he used such words as being used in jail. We actually didn’t even understand him quite well. We weren’t allowed to look through the windows, or to get closer to a wall. There lived Redemptorists; there was a monastery and that’s why there was such a wall. It was ideal for them. They didn’t have too much work; they only cleaned and did the housework, where it was needed. So we studied there, of course, us – the Salesians.”

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    v Bratislave, 17.10.2013

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We have changed abroad and Slovakia has changed in Slovakia. Those who hoped to find Slovakia the same as when leaving this country few decades ago were terribly wrong

 Zeman Vojtech
Zeman Vojtech
zdroj: Archív V. Zemana, www.plus.google.com

Vojtech Zeman was born on March 28, 1930 in Nová Baňa. Since his great desire was to become a priest, in summer 1948 he applied for acceptance into Salesian novitiate in Hronský Beňadik, where he studied and had his first religious vows. During the night of April 13 - 14, 1950 together with other priests and students he witnessed the communist Action K. Along with others, Vojtech was moved to a concentration monastery in Podolínec; however, efforts of communists to reeducate these young men were in vain. Few weeks later some of them were transported to Kostolná and then to Priehrada mládeže (Youth Dam). After the release, Vojtech left to Kremnica, where he wanted to finish his studies, but in November 1950 he was called to the headquarters in Banská Bystrica because of a duty to enter the Auxiliary Technical Battalion. As a student he was able to gain a postponement, and thus his superiors used this time to offer him opportunity to flee abroad. Surely, he accepted this offer and he successfully attempted to cross the borders in October 1951 together with other priests and students. After a fortunate overcoming the Morava River on wobbly inflatable dinghies they managed to get to Austria, however, to the soviet occupational zone. This meant constant danger on every step. They luckily went through Vienna and all the occupational zones of Austria up to the borders with Italy, where in the middle of night Vojtech came in a group of Salesians to the first village Colle Isarco. Here they encountered guarding Italian policemen who tried to detain them, but Vojtech didn‘t obey their order and ran away with his colleagues into the forest. They ran to Vipiten, to Capuchins and from there to a longed-for university in Turin. Being enthusiastic about a missionary ideal he applied for missions and left to Argentina. There he gained pedagogical practice. He finished his theological studies in Cordoba, where he was on November 23, 1958 ordained a priest. Ten years of his priestly life full of youth ministry he spent in Paraguay. He became a director of an Institute in Concepción and during the last two years in South America he worked as an economist of an Agricultural School in Coronel Oviedo. Further Vojtech‘s place of work was Rome where he served as an assistant in Business Academy, but at the same time he continued studying at the university. In 1971 he left to Sweden, where he worked with his countrymen. Nineteen-eighties and nineties he spent in Munich and later in Paris. Despite of his desire to come back to Slovakia in 1993 it wasn‘t that easy. A comeback to his homeland was successful yet in 2000. Here he continues in his priest and youth ministry.