“The trials against nuns and monks were already underway in 1950. In September 1950 we had to move out from there. At first, sister superior was to go to Prague, where they told her that we had to leave. The first group, which was from about nine of our houses, had to leave on 13th September. Another group, from the provincial houses, which included our convent, was to leave on 28th September. We were relocated to Bohosudov. They told us: ´You have no commitments, you are free. You can go back to your parents, and you will see. Perhaps the situation will change in a year and you will return.´ Everyone said that it would be just one year. Nobody believed that it was possible for the regime to last longer. All of us replied: ´We’ll go with you.´ We thus decided to share the fate of the sisters, and in September, when I have been a novice for already half a year, we left for Bohosudov from there. We left at eleven and we arrived around midnight. I remember the last holy mass: a beautiful song called ´Oh, how many times Gloria sounded here´ was sung. Our throats became constricted, and we could sing no longer when we said good-bye to the chapel this way.
The chapel looks different now, because during the communism, the altar and the organ were removed from there. It looks a bit different now. During the forty years when we were not there, it was used as a civil defense storehouse and therefore it was kept in a reasonably good state.”
“The three sisters from Zábřeh were imprisoned for a year and a half or so. They were told that the Marian year prayer was a transcript from the enemy broadcast of the Vatican radio, and that it defamed and slandered the Soviet Union and its representatives. They were older sisters, and when they returned, their health was really poor. You could see that they had endured something very hard. Actually, there were eleven of them who were imprisoned, mostly for shorter sentences. Sister Cyrila was the one who got the longest term.”
Interviewer: “When did you complete the novitiate?”
A. K.: “No earlier than 1950. I graduated from the secondary school in 1949. Basically, all of the exam topics were already focused on communist themes. For example, the topics we could choose from for the written part of the exam were: the Hussite revolution, Tábor, Lenin and Stalin, and the Constitution of the Czechoslovak Republic. What was I to choose? I opted for the Hussite revolution because I could somehow include the feudalism in it. I remembered one statement from President Beneš by heart, and it just fit in: ´The crown of our homeland has been cut several times, but its roots are firmly rooted in the ground. Let us go down to the roots and the crown shall put forth new sprigs.´ I used this statement as the closing sentence of my essay. During the philosophy exam I was asked about Marxism-Leninism. I had to come up with whatever I could. The worst thing was that you had to say things you disagreed with.”
“One evening before the Passion Sunday we returned from the factory and sister superior said that we would take our vows the day after, without any preparation. They have already heard that the State Office for Church Affairs, which was recently established, wanted to relocate us to different places, in order to uproot us from the community. For this reason, we were happy that we would be able to take our vows. Our group of eight sisters took the vows. All of us remained in the congregation. Today there are only two of us who are alive. This year we have the sixtieth anniversary of taking the vows - on 11 March 1951.
We did take the vows, and our sister superior was summoned to Prague after that. They told her that the youngest sisters, who were novices and candidates, had to leave the convent and move to various places. We were placed in hospitals as orderlies, where they tried to convince us to return to civilian life. We packed that night, and in the morning, we stood in front of the convent ready to leave. A whole lot of men, civilians, came there. One of them, who was the regional secretary I think, was calling out: ´Liberec – ten pieces, Rakovník – five pieces, Kladno - five pieces, Ústí nad Labem - four pieces.´ The sister superior protested: ´You talk of them as if they were cattle!´ Then we left, accompanied by one official. Nobody else was allowed to accompany us. We went to Liberec, and the others to other places.”
“In 1952 they took away those sisters about whom they thought that they had an influence on the others. They took these sisters from all the orders and transported them to Hejnice. We didn’t know anything. One day they called sister Karlička to the office and she didn’t come back. Just as she was, in dirty clothes, because we cleaned the machines on Saturdays, and they took her to Hejnice. It took some time till she got the proper clothing she needed. It was a difficult night. When we came back from the factory, they explained us why they took her away. It was allegedly for espionage, and I don’t know what else. We heard this in silence.
Another night they came again. A whole group of men and this female official among them. We didn’t want to let them in and we blocked the doors. We didn’t know what they were up to, if they wanted to do a house search, or what not. They were banging on the doors. We stood on the balcony and they were down there in front of the building. We said. ´Mrs. official, if you were alone, we would let you in, but with this company... ´
There were several men, and you know, we were imagining things. We didn’t let them in and in the darkness we began calling for help. Nobody came to help us. But when they saw our fear, they said that they would leave, and they went away. The following morning we heard her [the official] making fuss on the phone and threatening us that some surprise was in store for us in the factory. From that day on, we were always taking all the essentials with us when we went to work, in case they took us away like they took sister Alena and others. From then on, we always carried soap, a towel, and a toothbrush with us. Nothing more happened after this. When people later asked this official what had happened in our place that night, she replied that there were burglars in our house and that the men came to protect us.”
We said to each other that we had to endure it and remain faithful
Anežka Křivánková, or sister Pavla by her convent name, was born in 1929 in Modrá near Velehrad. After completing the elementary school she began studying the convent school in Napajedla and then she remained in the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Holy Cross. After the communist takeover of power, all the sisters were deported to the centralized convent in Bohosudov in September 1950. She had also taken her vows there immediately before another deportation took place. She then worked in factories in Varnsdorf and Trutnov. All the sisters were pressured to leave the order, and they were under constant surveillance. From the mid-1950s sister Pavla worked as a nurse in Lukov near Zlín. In 1964 she became an assistant to the new provincial sister superior and she served this way for the following twenty years. In 1984 she was elected to the general chapter in Switzerland where she served till 1997. At present she lives in the Convent of the Holy Cross in Kroměříž.