František Pevný

* 1921  †︎ 2021

  • “I experienced one escape. He was a clever boy. We were digging a sewer ditch from Bory, a big group of us. The ditch was to lead a long way away. Of course, they brought us food there, in cans. There was a cottage there. They counted us and stuffed us into the cottage. We were issued the food at the door. Everyone had a mess tin, we got our ration and ate. And one of those clever boys took that as an opportunity. He muddled about there, and then disappeared. The cottage was on a hill, there was a steep slope down with fruit trees on it. And down below there was a highly frequented road. Lunch was over, roll call. They counted us, and suddenly they were missing one mafdo [an approximate of the Czech ‘mukl’, short for ‘muž určený k likvidaci’, meaning ‘man for disposal’ - trans.]. When something like that happened, they nabbed us and took us back to the prison. And then there was a big hunt for the one who’d escaped. But I think that this was from around there and perhaps he’d managed to agree to meet up with someone who was waiting for him at the road. And so he legged it down the hill, into a car, and away.”

  • “Our trial took place in 1949 on the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul. The sentences were unbelievable compared to normal circumstances. Those few leaflets landed us with years. So for example, I got twelve years. The boy who had in some way headed the fellowship received fifteen. They gave me two extra later on - so I did fourteen years for this trifling leaflet. According to the old rules, we all had to receive a lawyer ex offo, of course. He was an old gentleman. He told me: ‘Our task isn’t to defend you, but actually to help prove you’re guilty.’ He also said that a misdemeanour of this kind, that is, copying out leaflets, was only punishable by a fine in the legal code of the Czech Republic [sic]. A five-hundred-crown fine would have settled the matter. And they gave us years of prison. My lawyer said: ‘At least make an appeal, or demand a written verdict.’ But they didn’t react to that at all, I never received the verdict. Because the very next day they took us to Jáchymov to the mines.”

  • “I think we were permitted one letter per month, but I tell you, that was terrible. All letters went through some kind of check, which was done by some women. First, they blacked out things they found suspicious. Later they reckoned it wasn’t enough to black it out, so they cut the passages out instead. So instead of a letter I got this kind of... That was really awfully stupid. I only ever received one visit, and that was quite painful to me. Mum and Dad came all the way from the Slovak borders, where we lived, across the whole country to Pilsen. We happened to be digging a track, there were guards with guns all around us. And suddenly I saw Mum and Dad, and it was clear that it was quite a dismal sight for them. And the visit only lasted a quarter of an hour or something. So they came all that way just for a fifteen-minute visit behind bars. For instance, Mum wanted to give me a sweet - she couldn’t. Those were very difficult and embarrassing things. So I think I told them not to come any more, there was no point.”

  • “I found my way into the so-called correction [solitary confinement - trans.] a few times, for instance, because of my writings. I wrote down some things, when it was possible to meet people who, say, used to be university professors - say, while stripping feathers or something, when we’d sit by the table and talk of various things. So, for example, I’d discover some definitions, and I’d write those down. But that was punishable. Punishable. Truly. If you wrote something and the guards found out, of you went. They wanted us to go stupid. We weren’t allowed to learn anything. Not anything.”

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Life can be good even if it’s hard

František Pevný
František Pevný
zdroj: Archiv pamětníka

František Pevný was born in 1921 in the settlement of Svatý Štěpán near Zlín. He entered the priestly seminary in Olomouc at the age of twenty. He was assigned to forced labour in Berlin from 1942 to Christmas 1943. In February 1949 he was arrested and sentenced to fourteen years of prison for distributing anti-Communist leaflets. He was interned in the labour camps in theJáchymov District, then in Pilsen-Bory, Mírov, Valdice, and Leopoldov. In 1960 he was released, after which he was employed as a helping hand, a repairman, and later in Catholic parishes in Vítkov, Kolín, and Brno. He helped build up a spiritual centre and a new parish in Brno-Lesná.