Milan Kolář

* 1933  †︎ 2015

  • “For instance, as a ten-year-old I had to, no excuses, no appeal, I had to turn up and I was enlisted into the Hitlerjugend. Yeah. Some people held that against me later, that I said it, that I had to be in the Hitlerjugend, or that I was in the Hitlerjugend. ‘Well how come, that?’ And so on. So I said: ‘No one asked you.’ You were there ten years. The given decade you came to the town hall, there was one of their big heads sitting behind a desk, one of those youth administrators. He wrote you down and said: ‘You will go to this and this troop, your leader will be so and so. You’ll be on duty say on Thursdays from five to seven, and so on.’ And there, of course, they taught us - firstly to march, shoot from a pellet gun, play various fighting games. I remember that at the time I already played the accordion, and my leader told me: ‘You play the accordion, so next lesson, we will be learning how to march, so you’ll play on the accordion!’ That took place on the school yard, the marching, I sat on a Swedish bench, and because I didn’t know any German songs, only Czech ones, I played them ‘Kolíne, Kolíne’. And the Hitlerjugend learnt how to march listening to Kolíne, Kolíne, Kmoch’s March. And of course, understandably, if the occupation had lasted longer... They had their propaganda worked out so well that a number of times I found myself arguing at home, especially to begin with: ‘But Mummy, that’s not how it is, they told us this and that at school.’ But of course my parents explained it to me. In the end I started also paying attention when my father, hidden under a cloth of some sort, listened to the radio from Moscow or London. As a child I knew that he listened to them and that I mustn’t betray it.”

  • “We were delivering the parcels to the various sections, and as we were crossing through the yard we saw that someone had thrown out a little Christmas tree, it was bent. And the warder, also a bit of the sensitive sort I guess, he said: ‘Do you want it? Then take it.’ So we took it, we brought it to our cell and we had Christmas. Because I don’t know about the others, but for me that was the first Christmas away from home. Something terrible. The Christmas spirit and so on... And having received the parcel and what it was wrapped in, so we wrapped around chunks of coal, we decorated the tree, there were no candles. And we began, I shared what I had with the rest, and we all ate and now everyone was remembering Christmas and someone began to sing carols, all emotional. And suddenly we heard: ‘Shut your gobs, or you’ll regret it!’ Those were the warders on duty, probably pissed off because they had to do duty at Christmas, so they hollered at us. So we went quiet. Well I don’t know, because they banged at us from the yard, we had a window facing into the yard where we would walk a few rounds each day. So they banged at us to be quiet. So we were quiet for a while, but then we reckoned, well it’s Christmas and so on. So we continued singing, and then we couldn’t think of any more carols, so we sang all sorts of things, and the one bloke remembered Oh Sonny, Sonny [a melancholic Czech folk song - transl.], and those kind of songs. We sang that quietly, but suddenly a key rattled in the lock, first in the padlock. They opened the door, it was already after what was called lock-up time. ‘So you can’t do what you’re told?!’ Two warders. Yeah, one was called, I don’t know if it was just a nick name or not, one was called Czech, the other Hammer. If Czech was actually Czech and Hammer was Hammer, I have no idea. They herded us out into the corridor, we were prepared already, that means that we were sitting in our shirts and sweaters because it was cold, there had been no heating since five o’clock. So they threw us out, there was the cell like this, then a stretch of corridor, and then it bent right like this. And they herded us around the corner, and as they did so, then: ‘So you won’t listen!’ And as they herded us out, I was sitting under the window so I was the last in the line, and I saw that the one by the cell door had a bunch of keys, including a big universal one, and he would jab us in the ribs with it and the other one would give out slaps. And because I was the last one, I watched out for the second one, so I only got a jab in the ribs and I avoided getting the slap.”

  • “And I went into the class [which the regional inspector was going to attend - ed.] as soon as he told me about it, and I said: ‘Quick, into the music room and calm yourselves down, because it’s up to you whether I’ll be teaching tomorrow or not.’ - ‘What?’ I said: ‘You decide, if you mess it for me, you won’t see me here any more tomorrow.’ To which they replied: ‘We’ll see about that.’ A brilliant class, and it was like this, I said: ‘Well, children, we’ll do things a bit differently today. Lucy, close your eyes and open the songbook. Yes, close your eyes and open the songbook! Which page did you open it on? Seventy-six. What song is it? Class, look it up.’ So that he saw I could teach without any preparation... So I gave them such a lesson that I even amazed myself. The children lapped it all up, they knew everything. Key signatures, which time we should sing it in, why we should sing it like that, and so on. Whether it’s minor or major etcetera. The children knew all of that after those three years. So I told them we’d start with a vocal exercise, and one thing led to the next. The children were really tensed, when I asked a question, a forest of hands shot up. It was a wonderful lesson, I myself enjoyed it. And it worked out... I said: ‘So, children, now let’s repeat the song that we learnt.’ And we started: what song is it, what time is it in, what key. And it isn’t minor? No, that would have to be... Well, simply, a superb lesson. They passed out the instruments, we accompanied ourselves... We clapped out the notes, quavers, crotchets, and so on. Perfect. And the inspector... Well, when we were leaving the classroom, he took me by the shoulders and said: ‘I’ve been to a lot of schools, really a lot. But I haven’t seen such a lovely lesson in a long time. Don’t sign anything. Don’t sign anything. When I saw you standing there on the corridor, I thought to myself: What kind of a dunce is that? What kind of a dunce is that? And when sat down to the piano, you grew a good fifteen centimetres, and the children lapped up everything you told them.’ He himself told not to sign anything, so I didn’t sign anything and thus retained my position.”

  • Celé nahrávky
  • 1

    Valtice, 29.01.2014

    délka: 03:32:07
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Iron Curtain Stories
Celé nahrávky jsou k dispozici pouze pro přihlášené uživatele.

They arrested me when we went with the orchestra to play at a celebration of Stalin’s birthday

skenovat0009.jpg (historic)
Milan Kolář
zdroj: Jakub Konečný

Milan Kolář was born in Valtice in 1933. His father was cobbler, his mother tended to their home. The Kolářes were one of the few Czech families to remain in the formerly Austrian town of Valtice after 1938. Milan attended German schools and he was also a member of the Hitlerjugend. He remained in Valtice throughout the war, the liberation, the expulsion of Germans, and the resettlement. After the war he started grammar school in Břeclav. In autumn 1948 he was approached by two youngsters from Brno, who asked him to help them cross the state border in Valtice. Milan Kolář complied to their request, but after a short while the boys returned to Czechoslovakia. Milan was arrested and held in custody in Brno for fifty days. He celebrated his fifteenth birthday in prison, and then Christmas and New Year‘s Eve. After being released he studied at the faculty of education in Brno, and after graduating he taught in various border villages before obtaining a permanent position at the school in Valtice. When the normalisation began, he stirred up a number of conflicts at the district party meetings, which nearly cost him his job. Throughout his teacher‘s tenure he founded amateur theatres, singing clubs, and choirs, in which way he played a fundamental part in developing the culture of Valtice and the surrounding area. Dien in 2015.