Helena - Richardis Nováková

* 1928

  • “After the war on May 1, 1945 Dad said to my Mom: ´It’s time to sew a flag.´ Mom sacrificed one bed sheet, we undid a swastika from one Nazi flag to get a red cloth, and the blue colour was obtained from my Orel uniform which I was no longer able to wear. Thus we displayed the flag and the German guards were walking down below it.”

  • “One of the changes that the communist takeover brought us was the introduction of secretaries for church affairs. They monitored everything and they were openly hostile towards us. Their aim was to get the nurses out of Prague and to purge Prague of nuns. Mother Bohumila was appointed the general mother superior. After the forced displacement of Germans, there was a requirement that the congregation leadership must not be from this country. (Talking about Mother Bohumila, she was from Prague-Řepy where she worked as a school principal).”

  • “With horror we learned that a death sentence for anti-state activity was requested for Mother Superior. Her sister was there with us. We went to see lawyer Gottfried. He told us: ´Don’t be afraid, the proposed sentence is worse, she will get at least twenty-five years or a life term.´ This was not very encouraging. In the trial she eventually got twenty-two years. We were riding home with her advocate, and we asked him how come that she had got a lower sentence. He told us that when he had visited her, he had told her what to say in the court, but she had replied: ´Mr. lawyer, I got my conscience, you know…´ - ´Hearing that, I vowed to do everything I could so that she might get a lower sentence.´”

  • “I don’t know what the situation in Jihlava after the war was. I was then working in a Social Care Institute, and there was one boy from Jihlava, and his mom’s sister had been forcibly displaced. She had a German husband and she went to Germany with her family. It was many years after the war. She wrote in a letter: ´We have everything, a house, children are taken care of, but what is it for if we can’t call it home?”

  • “It was not even possible to say anything over the telephone. I received a letter and in the convent they told me that I had to leave. So, I went to the main station. There were no trams nor taxis running. I had to walk through crowds of people. President Klement Gottwald had his speech at that time. I went to Tábor. I began working in a hospital there, the sisters had warned me not to go through the gate house, that their gate keeper was staunch communist, and so I crawled through a hole in the fence.”

  • “I remember several bits from the displacement of the Germans, because we lived near the border with Austria. Dad came home from Lipolec and said: ´I do support the leaving of the Germans, because they hadn’t been doing badly here during the First Republic (for instance, they had schools for minorities, etc.). And when they called for going home to the Reich, well, let them go. But it shouldn’t be done this way. There will not be God’s blessing on it.´ He also told me: ´I witnessed young and inexperienced Czech soldiers driving the Germans out of their houses, they were allowed to take only fifty kilograms with them. For example, there was a woman dragging her father on a wheel-barrow, and this was considered her luggage, they didn’t allow her to take more.´ There were camps near the place we lived, and captives often passed through them (before they were transported somewhere else). I think they were cooking for themselves, too. When they were gone, we rode a bike to that place and we saw that graves remained there. Daddy brought a beautifully carved stick from there, it had the inscription ´Ich kehre Heim.´ - ´I’m returning home.´ But that person apparently didn’t make it home...”

  • “Unlike in schools or orphanages, nuns remained in hospitals, because there were not many nurses who could replace them. In 1951 Mother Bohumila returned from a meeting of all provincial and general orders which were active in our country, and she told us: ´Sisters, they will imprison me.´ That meeting had been summoned by the health minister Plojhar. He explained to them what would follow, for instance that they would no longer be receiving vestiaries. This was not a regular employee’s salary. He announced that there would no longer be any national insurance system and that all would be receiving salaries. Our Mother Superior raised her hand and said: ´Mr. Minister, this can’t be, we have taken the vow of poverty and you as a priest must know what this promise to God means.´ He began shouting, slamming his fist on the table and he said: ´We’ll put you all in factories where you will be receiving salaries!´”

  • “I had As in the music class, religion, and sports. My sports teacher told me: ´Your performance is not so good, but you can do all sports, and so I gave you an A.´ This A from the P. E. class helped me after I graduated from grammar school because when I was applying to work in the convent school they needed a P. E. teacher for their school (to Křížovka). Thus I began studying the Pedagogical Faculty, which I wouldn’t have expected at all. I went to the convent in order to sacrifice myself to God for all that had happened during the war. That was in 1947.I resolved that I would do anything they would ask me to do in the convent. But in 1948 they closed our universities, and so I went to work with the sick. In 1949 I received my nun’s habit and my nun’s name – sister Richardis.”

  • “My classmate from the faculty seemed to be in a shock, I asked her what had happened. She told me that she had gone to the Prague Castle the day before, where the demonstrating students had headed as well, it was after Beneš’s abdication. She told me: ´We went to the Castle, too, and soldiers went against us with riffle butts, but they were not Germans, they were our soldiers.´ At that time we were full of hope, for example we wanted to choose what we would study.”

  • “A ward for apoplexy patients was established in the Boromei convent in Malá Strana. It was led by doctor Budínová and her employees were communists. They demanded that the nuns leave the hospital. Mother Bohumila was an energetic and intelligent woman. For instance, the Auxiliary Technical Battalions used to have holy masses in our place, they were coming to visit us, we would give them something to eat and some money, too. Mother used to say: ´If the higher courts knew about this, I don’t know what sentence I would get.´ She was afraid she would be considered a Vatican spy, even though she was giving them the obligatory reports, and she thought of contacts with the French motherhouse convent as of high treason.”

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    Praha, 29.11.2009

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Don’t provoke anybody and don’t irritate anybody: hold on to the truth

Sister Richardis with her aunt during the war
Sister Richardis with her aunt during the war

  Helena Nováková was born December 3, 1928 in Rozseč near Nová Říše. Her father was a teacher. The family soon relocated and Helena began attending school in Malý Pěčín near Dačice. She then studied at Otakar Březina‘s Grammar School in Telč. The grammar school was closed down during the war, and she therefore went to continue her studies to Třebíč. She was also a member of the Orel sports movement. She remembers the circumstances of the Munich conference, the Czech-German relations in the Highlands region, and the first postwar days in Dačice. After the war she went to a convent, where she first taught physical education in the convent school. She also began studying the Pedagogical Faculty. In 1949 she received her nun‘s habit and name - Sister Richardis. The Boromei convent in Malá Strana in Prague was headed by Mother Superior Bohumila Žofie Langerová, who was arrested at the end of December 1951, with Father Josef Zvěřina. The trial took place in March 1952 in Brno. In her narration she mentions Father Josef Zvěřina, Father Oto Mádr, doctor Broj, chaplain Kubát and many others. She also talks about the communist pressure against the Church. Sister Richardis was working in the hospital in Tábor, later she was transferred together with other sisters to a factory near Trutnov (Texlen factory in Libeč). She worked there for 3 years. Later she helped as a housekeeper. In 1968 she attended a course for catechists in Olomouc. For some time she also lived in Moravské Budějovice (St. Anthony House) and Znojmo (Charity home Znojmo-Hradiště). She now lives in Prague.