Vojtěch Matyáš

* 1923

  • “I worked several years in Jáchymov. It was a torture. I spent my whole shift in the shaft. They poured water inside the shaft so I was wet the moment I started to work. My job was to take away the stone. It was all about meeting the daily target. For me, it was too tough of a job because I was too weak for this kind of job. I didn’t manage to comply with the targets. As punishment, I received lower food rations. Often times they would send me down to the shaft again without any food. As many times before, I was hungry again.”

  • “There was great poverty in the times of the Firsts Czechoslovak Republic. The poor were dependent on the help of others. The Catholic Church was organizing free meals for the beggars in a local church. But it was rather a gesture of good will than a real help as the meals were few. Some people would eat there regularly but I didn’t go there. The monks also gave money to the beggars but just pennies, not crowns. It was just propaganda.”

  • “An inmate is an inmate everywhere – regardless of whether he’s imprisoned in Ilava or in Leopoldov, or in the uranium mines. He’s not evena human being. You just have your number and you’re not being considered to be a man. You’re just a number to them.”

  • “In March, I served at a well-off farmer in Slovakia. He was so rich but he would give me hardly any food at all. Once, he sent me to the forest to get some fire wood. He didn’t give me any food for the day, not a slice of bread! On the way back home, I was very exhausted. Even the horse was tired so we stopped frequently to have a rest. It was freezing cold and a snow storm was raging. Neither the horse, nor me had what we needed. Slovakia is a Christian country. But how can you be a Christian, if you’re exploiting people instead of helping them? They just wanted more and more, everything for themselves. Then I went away and served at another Slovak. But it wasn’t any better. When they didn’t give me any money I left again. Everybody treated me badly. Since my youth, I had been exploited. The parish and the so-called Christians. When you’re constantly being treated this way, you easily do something bad yourself. I’ve never got to know love, only wrongdoing. That makes you steal things and do things like that. Great poverty leads to ruin. That’s how it was with me. I was ready to do anything.”

  • “For religious reasons, I refused to work on Saturdays. It was in the Vojna camp. They put me in a concrete building that comprised ten little rooms. I was locked inside one of them. It was a completely bare room, there was nothing inside, not even a bed. They poured water inside and I had to stand in the water for the whole day. It was in the winter and it was freezing. I was dressed lightly and my feet were all red from the cold. Thank God my feet are alright today.”

  • “Once I came to the forest. I met a forest ranger. He had a beautiful watch and a rifle. I had a hatchet. At that moment, I didn’t think about the consequences. I killed him and took the watch and the rifle. I thought to myself – now I have a gun a bullets, I can steal anything. But later, I felt remorse and I felt sorry for him. I hid the rifle and I fled.”

  • “They gave us very little food. It was unbearable because if you have to work so hard and only get so little food, you can’t last for long. The whole camp revolted. I didn’t join the insurgents. I’m not that type of a person. But the wardens were well prepared for the situation. They had their machine guns and they were fired at the crowd right away.”

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The word of God is my guide to life. Faith is my strength. God is my safe haven. His angels are my light.

Vojtěch Matyáš was born on May 21, 1923, in Košice (Slovakia), the youngest of four sons. His family was constantly in a very dire social situation. His mother Rozálie was looking after the household and his father Šebestián worked as a miner. His parents didn‘t have the money to grant Matyáš a proper education. Therefore he only went to elementary school. After elementary school, Matyáš did an apprenticeship as a shoe maker. Both of his parents died very early on in his life - his father by the time he was 17 years old and his mother a year later. After their death, Matyáš left Košice and served for two years at a parish office in a little village. In 1943 or 1944, he was drafted to serve in n auxiliary unit of the Hungarian army. The task of his unit was to dig anti-tank trenches in the region of southern Slovakia. He eventually deserted his unit but was caught and landed in a prisoners‘ camp. Later, he spent about two months in a concentration camp on Austrian territory. After the end of the war he returned to his native Slovakia and worked as a servant for some well-off farmers. He found himself in a complicated social situation that took a heavy toll on his physical and mental strengths. He was on the verge of collapse and out of despair, he committed a serious crime - he killed a man. At first, it seemed that he would be sentenced to death but eventually, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He saw a lot of prisons and labor camps, for instance in Ilava, Jihlava, Leopoldov, Vojna or in the Jáchymov uranium mines. He was released from prison on the grounds of the 1966 amnesty. His old-time friend Bláha from Pardubice helped him with the return to normal life. He gave him a place to stay and offered him the background and hospitality of his family. He also found a job for him in a factory. This job allowed Matyáš to live a fairly decent life. Soon, Matyáš became involved in the activities of the local community of Adventists where he found his future wife. After the marriage, they moved to Slovakia to the village of Brestovec. However, they eventually came back to the Czech Republic. They‘ve been drawing their strength from faith in God and the Bible until this very day.