Viktor Beránek

* 1951

  • "That in ´55 on the High. Bublík, Jílek, the cottagers installed it there. That was incredible courage for that time. The commies wanted to take the cross down a thousand times. Only they couldn't climb it. So they sent the mountain service, and the mountain service always got caught in a gale or a storm or something. Because there were two gods: the red god on Rysy, and the normal god on Vysoka. They were close to each other, because there was always a plaque of Lenin at Rysy. And that Lenin's plaque was always being knocked down, destroyed, robbed... There were always some crazy problems. Then the Poles made it out of such a material that even a aqua regia couldn't eat that Lenin on Rysy. They bragged about how good it was. They needed to take it up to Rysy. It was a kind of five-pointed flower and in the middle was Lenin's head, a kind of plaque. They wanted us to carry it out. It was six pieces, each piece was 30 kg. We didn't want to carry it out, so they wouldn't spit on us. We'd spit on ourselves if we carried it. And they paid well, the Bolsheviks paid well. But we refused, so it was carried by people who didn't mind bribery. But they weren't our people. Then the Poles came and they brought - it's called a mortise, if you want to drill into the metal, you make a hole, tap with a hammer and then it's drilled away. And the Poles came and tapped Solidarność - like what Solidarność was then - on that Lenin. It said 'Communism, the youth of mankind'. Now there was this Solidarność. And they made these horns on Lenin's head. Right after that, there was going to be a climb to Rysy, and now the government delegation went there. Then they arranged it in such a way that they put so many flowers, these red carnations, that Lenin's nose was just sticking out."

  • "The commander-in-chief of the state border, General Sadek, used to come. He used to come in civilian life, he used to see us often - I think he came more often, he wasn't just there for the youth climb to Rysy - and he took such a liking to us. He saw us carrying big gas bombs, big loads, kitchen stoves, hundred-kilogram loads. And they wanted terribly to be promoted, these (district communists), or to get some kind of award. And he came one day and he says, 'Viktor, you know what?' he was Slovak, 'I'll give you my uniform! General. And next year, during the annual climb to Rysy, you have to stand in that general's uniform in front of the chalet and welcome the government delegation!' With the STBs, with this bunch. The worst, I say, were the regional and district party secretaries. Well, he gave me this jacket-shirt, there were the general's tabs, he gave me this general's cap, but he didn't give me trousers to go with it. A year went by, and then the Olympic Games were in Los Angeles, which were boycotted by the Communist bloc. But I got a pair of shorts somewhere, a nice blue pair, and it said: USA - Adidas. I put on the jacket and the hat and the shorts. And now they were coming from downstairs and they could see me from a distance. Colotka, the prime minister, didn't care, he said, 'Nice shorts you have, Viktor!' and also the general. But that's what I saw on those STBs... - 'You know what, we would have taken a picture of you too.' They took pictures, it was already archived somewhere. And then the general says: 'Viktor, you know what? I'll give you my pants!' So he gave me the trousers too - they had two red stripes here. - 'And I'll give you the general's jacket on top of the shirt-jacket.' Well, I had a complete general's uniform. Those ones were going crazy, because these were just some lieutenants or I don't know. I put it on occasionally at the cottage and went through the mess hall. And all the soldiers would salute, 'Greetings, comrade general!' And I said, 'Greetings guys. Sit down, finish your tea.'"

  • "But I still remember one such (moment), even before that (November). I had a love in Prague, she was in college there. And then the East Germans were fleeing through the West German embassy. They drove up in those Trabants, Warburgs, and went over to the embassy. There's this big garden, there's a fence around it, it's under the Petrin Hill. They applied for asylum, right there. We were on Petrin Hill, where else two lovers would go, and we heard some noise from that side, from the embassy. They were walking through some woods or something. We came from the back and we saw this garden full of tents, they were tying up beds, there were thousands of people there. We went around and there were mothers, children, standing in front of the gate, at midnight, all scared. Our people were very supportive. The Prague people there, now the security again around there somewhere - they didn't know what to do. That was before November. We bought some food and we gave it to them over the fence. But even then I noticed that the Czechs, some of the Prague people, were buying beer, and selling it to them over that fence at a high price. You know, they bought it for a crown and sold it for five."

  • "I was here, in Poprad. This is where the tanks were rolling west along the northern route. It was cheerful there, in quotes, in that square in Poprad. There were tanks and escort vehicles going by. It was rolling, and somehow people stopped them. They slashed the tyres or whatever of these cars. The tanks couldn't go because of their own cars. They were solving the problem of how to get through the square further west. They sent some helicopters. Then, like, three tanks started going through there. Occasionally they'd catch a building, and if they couldn't get through, they'd tear it down. There was shooting, people throwing what they could, what they had on hand. Jozef Bonk was shot there, he has a memorial plaque in the square. Several people were wounded. I was a little bit away from the tank that was shooting down the street. Then we ran after the last tank and pierced its tanks with the diesel or whatever they had in the back. Somebody set it on fire."

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    Štrbské Pleso, 20.09.2022

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Between two gods

Viktor Beránek, current photo
Viktor Beránek, current photo
zdroj: Post bellum

Viktor Beránek was born in Prague on 13 September 1951 and moved with his parents to Starý Smokovec, a spa village at the foot of the High Tatras, when he was six years old. At the age of 16, he took part in demonstrations in Poprad against the passing Warsaw Pact troops heading for Prague. A year later he was arrested for writing anti-occupation slogans and fired from his job for the same reason. Before entering compulsory military service in Nechranice in 1970, he spent six months as a load bearer at Zbojnicka Chata in the High Tatras. It was during the war that he realised that the world of the high mountains was a world of freedom, and he returned to this career after the end of the war. Gradually, he beared load to all the cabins in the High Tatras. In 1977, he became the chalet keeper of the Chata pod Rysmi, the highest residential building in Czechoslovakia. He remembers the threats and harassment of the border guards and the annual youth agitation climbs to Rysy, which were regularly attended by government delegations. He describes how hikers and climbers repeatedly destroyed a memorial plaque to V. I. Lenin, which was placed on one of the Rysy peaks in 1970. In the early 1980s he emigrated to Austria via Slovenia and Italy. However, before he reached a refugee camp near Vienna, he changed his mind about emigrating and returned after three days. In the summer of 1989, he helped East Germans climb over the fence of the embassy‘s garden and watched as buses took East German emigrants to the main train station and then to West Germany, to the applause of the locals. November 1989 found him on his way to France. As soon as he heard about the thousands of demonstrators in Prague, he immediately returned to support the revolution. In 2022, he continued to work as a chalet keeper and porter at Chata pod Rysmi.