Ing. Václav Šrámek

* 1927  †︎ 2018

  • “Altogether thirteen trains had gone through Zagreb. It took place one week to another. All of this time, we were taking care of food and water for those fugitives [Czechoslovak soldiers evacuated from Transcarpathia]. It was to a large degree thanks to my father because he was able to obtain a field kitchen from the Yugoslav soldiers. There, he’d always cook a meal for the whole train – over a thousand people. Us scouts were helping out, bringing food to the cars because they weren’t allowed to leave them. They did it anyway, jumping out of the window.”

  • “There was a restaurant in the Czech national house. My father used to come there. The manager of the restaurant had the leader of the group, which was supposed to take the train, sitting in there, and he pointed to my father. When they got out, he was the only one who knew my father. All of the others were following them, marching geese-style. The first one was keeping an eye on my father. He first met my brother somewhere in town. He nodded towards him, indicating they should follow him. My brother was taking them through town and met me and my father at another spot. The others thus came to believe we were taking them the right way. My father pointed towards me and I brought them towards the train station. I either already had the tickets or I bought them on the spot. I distributed them to them, and brought them to the platform where the Zagreb-Belgrade train was standing. I made sure they got on the train and wished them a safe journey. This was all the information I had of them.”

  • “The Scouting movement became banned in Czechoslovakia in 1939, but in Zagreb we resisted until 1941. We were probably the only Czechoslovak Boy Scouts who have remained organized all the way until 1941. My friends from Boy Scouts, Zdeněk Vavruška and Boris Kolbaba, who were two years older, studied at a technical school where they were doing some resistance activity and the Nazis found out about it and they closed down the school. Boris Kolbaba took everything upon himself and he pleaded guilty to everything that had been happening in the school, to all of the resistance activity. They allowed all students to return to the school three months later, but Kolbaba was shot to death. They were not able to prove anything to his best friend Zdeněk Vavruška, and so they sent him to a concentration camp – return undesirable. But they did not know what to do with him there, either, because they have not received a specific order to eliminate him, and so they let him be. Only immediately before the end of the war they sent him to Zagreb because they did not know what to do with him. During the journey to Zagreb, Zdeněk burnt a hole through the floor of the railroad car and he escaped. However, his legs hurt and became swollen and he was thus quickly caught and sent to Zagreb. His father received a note from the police: ‘We have one Czech here and we don’t know what to do with him.’ We arranged for Zdeněk to get a pencil and paper and he wrote a letter which was to be handed over to his parents. A policeman brought the letter out, gave it to my dad, dad gave it to me and I went to Zdeněk’s parents. But there was a raid when the fascists cordoned off a street and they were searching people who got caught there. I had the letter in my pocket. If they had found it on me, my fate would have been sealed. I lingered at the back for a long time, and I tore the pocket by my hand. I wore knickerbockers and I dropped the letter inside of my trousers. They did not find it and they let me go and I carried it to Zdeněk’s parents. Then we didn’t know what would happen with Zdeněk. We thus agreed with the boys that we would watch in front of the prison in the police headquarters and observe if they were bringing out corpses by cars. It was just my turn when I noticed a car that left the prison, turned quickly and a sheet which covered it moved aside and I saw dead bodies, and Zdeněk was among them. He was shot in the last days of the war.”

  • “A train was standing on an unprotected railway crossing. I could hear people howling and crying terribly. I didn’t know what to do but I couldn’t have continued because there was a train standing in the way. It was full of people we call Roma today – back then, we called them gypsies. They were packed in two-floor cars. Everything was entangled by barbed wire. They were only able to sit or lie in their feces, having nothing to eat or drink, begging for help. I found myself standing in front of that train. I could see a fascist get out of the train, carrying a rifle. He was smiling and playing with the rifle. If I made another step towards them, he would have probably shot me. But my job was to transmit a message from unoccupied territory to the occupied one to illegal partisans. I couldn’t do anything there. Even after so many years, I recall this train with horror.”

  • “Dad got acquainted with one German soldier in Zagreb. He was a Czech from Vienna. His parents were Czechs, but since he had been born in Vienna, he had to join the army as a soldier of the Third Reich. He was helping us and he was delivering German military documents regarding operations against partisans to us. The way it was done was almost funny. My mother had been born in Prague, but she lived in Vienna since she was four until she turned fourteen. They were the same age and they came from the same city district and they shared some memories. There was friendship. He was bringing us documents about military operations. He learnt about one such operation in advance; it regarded the Czechoslovak brigade. He came to us as if for a visit. He left his bag in the hallway and he chatted with me and my mom in the kitchen. I then went to the hallway, took the documents from the bag and I brought them to my father to his painting studio which he had in the house. Father copied the content of the document and I put the papers back to the bag. The man said good-bye to us and he left as if nothing happened. I then carried the message to a railway employee – I was mostly helping out as a messenger – and he arranged for the message to be transported to our brigade.”

  • Celé nahrávky
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    byt pamětníka, Ostrov nad Ohří, 22.07.2016

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    délka: 44:08
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    Karovy Vary, 20.07.2018

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Everything is different, anyway...

Sramek dobovy orez.jpg (historic)
Ing. Václav Šrámek
zdroj: Sramek Vaclav ED 2018, dobová archiv pamětníka

Václav Šrámek was born July 25, 1927 to Czech parents in Zagreb in Croatia. The Šrámek family was part of the active Czech expatriate community organized by the Czechoslovak Union in the then Yugoslavia. Václav and his brother were members of the Boy Scout organization when they were teenagers. Together with other Czechs, between 1939 and 1941 they were helping thousands of refugees from former Czechoslovakia to get to the foreign legions. They were providing them with accommodation and food as well. During the occupation of Yugoslavia they joined the resistance movement which was linked to the 1st Czechoslovak brigade of Jan Žižka of Trocnov. Václav‘s father destroyed the archive of the Czech National House in Zagreb before the occupation of Yugoslavia in 1941. Later, in 1944, Václav Šrámek served mainly as a messenger for the Brigade of National Defence in Zagreb. The family returned to Czechoslovakia in 1946 and they settled in the Karlovy Vary region. Václav became a member of the Communist Party, but in 1968 he was expelled from the Party as a result of his disagreement with the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. From 1989 he has been collecting and publishing documents about the so-called Balkan route, whose operation he had been supporting during World War Two. He is active in the Czech Association of Freedom Fighters and he focuses on the history of the Karlovy Vary region. Václav Šrámek died in 2018.