“Your family is hearing?” “Yes, the whole family is hearing. Only I turned deaf at the age of two. I suffered from measles.” “What about your parents?” “My mommy and daddy worked in France, but that was at a time when they were still single. At that time, there was no work in Czechoslovakia and thus they decided with a bunch of other people to go to France. In France, they lived and worked for several years. But gradually, the people from their group began returning home. Also, my grandmother wrote a letter to my father begging him to return home and she promised him a house in return. My father then came back but there was no house waiting for him. They had only just begun to construct it. My mother returned to Prague already in a state of pregnancy. After my birth, I was very sick and at the age of two, I finally turned deaf. My mother was very confused at that time as she had absolutely no idea what to do with me. Fortunately there was my aunt, who was a great lady, and with her help everything was taken care of. Well, my mom ... it was hard.” “When were you born?” “In October 2000, I mean 1925.” “And on what day?” “October 17.” “So you have a wonderful age!” “On yes, I've been here for a long time. I started attending school when I was 6 years old. I went to a school in Radlice that my aunt had arranged for me. My mother was terribly confused. She was worried what will happen to me as I couldn’t even speak. But my aunt took care of everything. She found a school for me in Radlice. When I started attending the school, it was a terrible time for me. I didn’t want to be there. I would cry and cry with no end. But my aunt would regularly visit me at school because she lived in Prague.” “Did you see your aunt every day?” “Not every day but about once a week or every 14 days. She would make sure I was alright, had enough food, etc. She would always bring me something.” “Was it only your aunt that was visiting you so frequently?” “Yes. My mom would come to see me maybe once a month. I don’t know what she was doing.”
“Where did you go to school?” “I went to elementary school in Radlice. But it was very bad there. We had very bad teachers and the classes were also very weak. We’d repeat and repeat over and over again. My dad would be very angry about it. He told me: ‘Soon you’ll be 15 years old which means that you’ll almost be an adult and you don’t know anything’.” The teachers in Radlice didn’t use hand language?” “No, not at all, hand language was banned there. The teachers would simply write words on the blackboard and we had to put them down in our notebooks and that was it. When we put down all the words, we had to read them aloud. The teachers were satisfied, but we had no idea of the meaning of the words we read out. No one bothered to explain to us the meaning of the words. When I came back home, I was really looking forward to show my father what I had learned at school. When I started reading, he was happy, but when he asked about what the words actually meant, he found out that I didn’t know what I was reading and he was upset about what came as a shock to him.” “Your dad knew hand language?” “Only a little bit. My aunt was better at it. My dad then went to talk to the headmaster of my school. He told the headmaster that he should be more concerned about the way his employees teach at classes. The headmaster felt really uncomfortable about what my dad had told him. My daddy told him what the instruction was like and that the teachers aren’t in fact teaching us anything. The headmaster just kept silent. I was terribly afraid that after my daddy leaves, the teachers would take revenge on me. But the headmaster told me not to worry and to tell him if something like that should ever happen again. However, I never told him anything. But later on, he would really come to the classes to check on the teachers. At first, he would only listen behind the door, and then, without knocking on the door, he would storm into the classroom. The teachers were always very derailed by that. He would ask them different things which made them very uneasy.” “The headmaster would really come to check on the teachers?” “Oh, yes! He had to, it was his duty. We were almost adults and they taught us nothing! We couldn’t even go to the store and buy something because we didn’t know the name of that item. I would spend the holidays with my aunt and friends from the countryside, who became my tutors, but after the holidays, I got back to school and there it was the same again. We went for walks lined up like soldiers. When we got on the meadow behind the school, we sat down and wanted to communicate in hand language but as soon as one of the teachers noticed it he would immediately rebuke us for doing it. We were ordered to talk to ourselves. We tried, but it was no good. We didn’t understand each other if we could not help ourselves with our hands. But hand language was simply forbidden! When someone talked to me, I didn’t understand him at all. They didn’t even teach us how to properly pronounce words and when we read something out or had to speak aloud, they only said ‘good’ and never corrected the pronunciation. When I then spoke at home to my father, he sometimes didn’t understand what I was saying and it drove him mad. Well, it was these teachers...”
“At exactly 8 o’clock in the evening, all the lights had to be turned off.” “That was some kind of regulation?” “Oh yes, there was a strict ban on light after 8 o’clock. All lights had to be switched off, everywhere! On the street, in the houses, in the apartments, everywhere. People had to roll down the blinds on the windows so no one could see any light. It was dark everywhere, even on the street. One deaf girl lost her life because of it. It happened here in Prague, just a short walk away from Radlice, Na Knížecí. A girl was waiting there for her boyfriend and as she was waiting, she was walking back and forth. She somehow accidentally got on the road where she got ran over by a trolley bus. The boy saw the accident and he was completely devastated by it. It all happened only because of the ban! The driver of the trolley bus couldn’t have prevented it as he simply didn’t see her, because even the lights on trolley bus had to be turned off. Because she was deaf, she had no chance to hear the trolley bus coming and that’s why she had to die. People were really upset by that incident and they scolded so badly that German soldiers had to be called. They examined the body of the girl and said that she was dead. An ambulance then took her away.”
“Where was your husband from?” – “My husband was from Slovakia and he moved to Bohemia.” “How did you two meet?” “We actually met through football.” In Slovakia, there were not that many opportunities as here, in Bohemia. So when the Slovaks learned about it, they all wanted to come here and play football here. At that time, football was played in Brno, Plzeň and other cities, but there was nothing like that in Slovakia. They drew their inspiration in Bohemia and founded a football club there. In 1946 – yes, it was in 1946, because in 1945, we were still at war – they came to Prague to play a match and they beat the Prague club right away. Everybody was shocked because Prague had been playing for so long already and the Slovak club had been just recently founded. It was all about the excellent players that they had.” “And that was where you met your husband for the first time?” “Yes, that’s where I met husband. I guess that he liked me at the first look, but I wasn’t interested because at that point I already had a boyfriend. However, he was very persistent and kept trying and trying to the point of making me nervous. I told him it was hopeless – after all he lived too far away from Prague and commuting would be too complicated. But then my former boyfriend got together with another girl and I just said to myself ‘forget about him and marry the Slovak instead’”. “And was it a happy marriage?” “Yes, my husband was great, but his passion was always football, he was just a devoted football player. Football was always first for him. He would also travel a lot because of football as he played in Denmark and Italy. He also played for the national team.” “Was your husband a kind man?” “Yes, he was, even though at times he could get very angry, but he was a good guy.”
Hedvika Mikulášová, née Páleníčková, was born on October 17, 1925, in the village of Úhonice (near the town of Rudná nearby Prague). Hedvika turned deaf after she had suffered from measles at the age of two. This was a huge shock to the family because no one was familiar with the upbringing of a deaf child. Fortunately, the family was aided by the sister of Hedvika’s father, who lived in Prague and took care of everything. Thanks to her, Hedvika was allowed to attend the Výmola Institute for the hearing impaired (Prague 5, Radlice). However, the attitude of the teachers, as well as the instruction itself was rather daunting. It was strictly forbidden to use hand language on the premises of the school. The children were thus reliant solely on speaking and lip-reading and this significantly limited the amount of information that they were able to absorb. After completing her compulsory education, she became a seamstress and had to integrate herself among her hearing colleagues. In the course of the war, she suffered a great deal of hardship, which was further aggravated by her handicap. During the bombing of Prague in 1945, she was very lucky to survive with only scars on her hands that were inflicted by bomb shrapnel. However, the biggest blow for her probably was the imprisonment of her father, who spent one and a half years in prison during the war for political reasons. After the war, Hedvika became interested in football and that’s how she met her future husband, Bohumil, who originated in Slovakia and was a successful football player. Like Hedvika, Bohumil was deaf as well and this had almost become lethal to him when he encountered a German soldier during the war who took him for a guerilla fighter. As a trained seamstress, Hedvika found a job at the Tvář (Face) company in Vodičkova Street in Prague and also as a seamstress of the Vinohradské divadlo Theatre. Today, Hedvika lives alone in Prague and has two hearing sons, a grand daughter, a grand son and 4 great grand children.