PhDr. Agáta Pilátová, roz. Csehilyová

* 1938

  • “We travelled with the Brno choir Kantiléna to the Hungarian city of Nyíregyháza; they organised a soirée for us. The management of the choir was there, the choirmaster Ivo Sedláček, and I as an accompanying person from the institute. The young Hungarian headmaster of the partnering school was there, and the chairman of the municipal authority. They stood up and said they would like to welcome us. The older children from the choir were there as well, and the Hungarians said they would like to apologise for the occupation in 1968. What a sensation! I knew that the Hungarians were somewhere else than us and that in 1988 Communism in Hungary was different than ours. What a moment! I was supposed to translate it, the interpreter was sick that evening. First I drew a breath, and I couldn’t speak, tears were pouring out of my eyets. I said: ‘Let me just gulp,’ and then I translated the whole thing. There was one comrade from Brno there, and he stared at me in surprise. But then he said: ‘I’m glad you translated it word for word.’ They really did apologise to us! The chairman of the municipal authority said they were the first freely elected local representatives. It was a lovely experience.”

  • “The press here enjoyed relative freedom. We knew that the Russians are very nervous and unsettled by what was going on in Czechoslovakia in 1968. But I didn’t believe they would come here. In the summer of 1968 I travelled to Hungary with my nephew – he was fourteen – to show him Budapest, it’s an interesting city. I had relatives there. We would sit around the table in the evening, and my relatives, who bore with them the historical experience of 1956, said: ‘Watch out, the Russians will come.’ I said: ‘They won’t, we’re doing it better than you did, we haven’t given any room for fascists, nationalists.’ They said: ‘They’ll come, you watch out!’ I retorted: ‘They won’t.’ We spoke about it evenings on end, and who was right? They were, of course. They were my relatives, about my age, with their spouses, people with a different experience.”

  • “I specifically remember that it was the Month of Czechoslovak-Soviet Friendship – an event that lasted the whole of November. There were various Soviet films and books, and it was focused on Soviet culture. In short, the Month of Czechoslovak-Soviet Friendship – it speaks for itself. I visited a vocational school once, and I’ll never forget that, although there were other problematic things. I spoke with one teacher and one of the trainees, a young boy. They said it’s dumb that everything is mandated, now there’s a campaign for Soviet films, and it’s a nuisance, and we should be doing these things voluntarily. It wasn’t anything brave at all, it was innocuous, not brave at all, nothing. The editor-in-chief, who liked me, let it through. She was a Communist, but she had progressive opinions, forward-thinking. But one of my colleague caught it during the proofs, and she was a burning-heart Communist. She told the editor-in-chief: ‘Evvie, that won’t do, this can’t be published.’ So they threw out my – quite innocent – article from the proof. And all it was that we were having the Month of Czechoslovak-Soviet Friendship and that it shouldn’t be done like a obligatory campaign. I had several similar incidents at the newspaper.”

  • “I also remember being at a demonstration that was organised presumably by the right-wing portion of the Czech education system. We participated as little children, it was around those February days in 1948. Why else would we have shouted about that red codger, the education minister, who was a Communist. I vaguely remember that we went on foot as a school to Wenceslas Square. I don’t remember the route. I think they didn’t let us get through properly, I know they didn’t let the students get to President Beneš in the Castle. We didn’t get far I guess, but we shouted something, else I wouldn’t remember it.”

  • “My lawyer friend, who was more a friend of my husband, told me I don’t have to attend the meetings with State Security. At the third or fourth meeting, I said: ‘Excuse me, I’ve realised what you’re getting at, but I can’t do it.’ I didn’t say that I didn’t want anything to do with them. I said I don’t want anything to be different. They said: ‘Suit yourself, but this isn’t our last meeting.’ Soon enough, I received a summons to State Security’s Tile House [headquarters in Bartolomějská Street – trans.], where they told me that, as an intelligent woman, I surely understood that they can’t do it – meaning their work – without people. And they reckoned I cared more for my children, who would surely want to study. They spoke a lot about my family at the meetings, that my husband could return to his original job, and I wouldn’t be bothered any more. The children could study if they wanted to. I said: ‘It’s not possible, not possible,’ and we parted ways. It was evident blackmail. They repeated: ‘We can’t do it without people, and you misunderstood us.’”

  • “So my dad ended up with many, many other people in a detention camp, which they had to get to on foot. In Svaliava. The historian Ivan Pop, a Rusyn who lives in Cheb, wrote that the Soviets immediately established six of those camps because they needed to concentrate the Rusyns somewhere. My father was in one of them, but he got very lucky in two ways. First, by applying to the Czechoslovak army – ‘I’m a Czechoslovak officer.’ The second, that he came down with typhus. Because he was ill with typhus, they didn’t know what to do with him. Antibiotics didn’t work yet, they supposedly gave him injections into his chest, that’s what he told us. Mum found out about it and got in touch with a Rusyn teacher, a former colleague of Dad’s, a Communist. Mum found him> ‘Look, Pishta, Štěpán is there and there, come help him, he’s ill.’ This man, his name was Mihail Turyanitsa, saved Dad’s life. He got him out of the camp with a burning fever, they drove him off to the hospital in Mukachevo. Dad recovered there and then carried on with the Czechoslovak army to Prague.”

  • “I got to say that was one of the most anxious moments of my childhood. When the Russians came, they had their lists and arrested people accordingly. And immediately, right on the first day! They arrested the top politicians, who engaged in politics during the first republic and in war times. Four of them got executed, for example Andrej Bródy, who was later rehabilitated at the beginning of 1990s. Further (Štefan – editor´s note) Fencik, who was one of my distant relatives. Apart from that they arrested also other people and tried to liquidate Ruthenian intelligence same as they did in the Baltic republics. They had their strange way to do so; they called them to a common gathering altogether, the teachers, layers, and people of intelligence many of whom studied in the Czech republic. Amongst them was also my father, who was forced to march on foot to Uzhgorod, with a large group of people. And I obviously don’t remember that, I heard only the storytelling. I just remember my father washing and dressing up in the morning, telling us: ‚I am leaving and don’t know, if I ever come back!‛”

  • “And that I should be wiser. I said I cannot be of service. I was no Joan of Ark. I made up an excuse, which was obviously an excuse and they knew it too. I said I am a public person, a journalist and they knew it, and I was not capable of secret cooperation, that I will not and cannot do so... They were aware of the fact is was just an excuse. And then I got a letter. I had to go to the tiled house. Or was it in Bartolomějská street? No, it was the tiled house, they called me to Bartolomějská later as a vendetta.”

  • “Of course I have a secondary impressions of how they (Russians –editor´s note) persecuted various people. For example Greek Catholic priests, when they banned their church in the Czechoslovakia same as they did in the Soviet Union. Terrible things happened there. Those who did not sign orthodoxy went straight to Siberia. My grandad was lucky enough to be only eighteen and died in a disciplined way. He would never sign orthodoxy neither! One or two of my relatives went to Siberia. They were elder people and simply could not survive. And the interned ones, who went to lagers first, which were established at the Trans Carpathian territory they mostly ended up in Donbas. I don’t want to say they were finished, and think many of them came back ten or fifteen years later. What was a paradox, that none of them was a soldier. The Soviets were pretending that they are soldiers captured and interned them to work. Donbas was bombed out, so it had to be built up again and they used them to do that.”

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In our memories is salvation

06 - historical photo
06 - historical photo
zdroj: archiv pamětníka

Agáta Pilátová, née Csehilyová, was born on 17 October, 1938 in Ruthenian teacher´s family in Uzhgorod in the Ruthenia. Here she spent WW2 and arrival of the Red Army in 1944. Her father was arrested together with other members of the Ruthenian intelligence by the Russians. After his release and annexing Ruthenia to the former Soviet Union the family moved to Czechoslovakia in 1947. In Prague Agáta attended elementary school, then studied gymnasium and Philosophical faculty of the Charles University (Czech language, literature, aesthetics and journalism). After finishing the high school studies and getting a doctorate she worked in media as a cultural publicist. In 1969 she was forced to leave media and was banned any publishing activities. Later she worked as for example a corrector or a specialised worker in the area of aesthetic education. In 1990 she returned to media as a political commentator and a leader of an internal policy department in the daily papers Mladá fronta. Then she worked as a cultural publicist, a journalist and a chief-editor of the weekly Rozhlas, and also edited book publications. Following 1989 she was active in organisations of the Ruthenian minority (amongst others editing the magazine Podkarpatská Rus). Cooperates with magazines, The Czech Radio and other media. Her husband is PhDr. Jan Pilát, a publicist and historian, with whom she has two sons, Tomáš and David. In 2016 lives in Prague 4.