“We had to unload the railway cars on the side track before the night shift started. Cement and sand, with shovels. I went to work the shift, but I was substituting for a civilian employee and I operated the cage lift. Suddenly, they rang for me and told me: ‘Look, we need to start the machine pretty soon, and you got lot of work to do today, so could you lower the lift for me?’ I went to pick up my hat and I was about to go there and check the lift. It was in the lowest stage of the shaft, you could not go any lower, and that was my luck. I went there to check if there was any water down there and as I stuck my head in, all of a sudden - smash! I got a double open fracture of my right leg. I owe it to the head doctor Clar who saved me.”
“They always wanted to know if I had met anyone there. I said, yes, that was in Marseille. So tell us what happened. We came there, there was a department store. Then I walked to the left, or to the right. I don’t remember. I think I walked straight. He said: ‘Are you kidding me?!’ I told him: ‘You are right. What are you really after?’ He left me there and went to interrogate Věrka, and Věrka confessed, because they pressured her and threatened her that she would never be able to go there again and to see her cousin. And so she confessed that we had been to Israel. He brought her in and began with the interrogation. Before they returned to the office, a young guy who was sitting behind the typewriter told me: ‘We will investigate the matter.’ – ‘What would you investigate? Send me to the Bory prison straight away, I have already been there for seven years, in Jáchymov. I don’t care anymore.’ And he stopped. We had our lawyer in the law office and my daughter went to see him and he said: ‘Your father can speak well, and I will give him legal support if he needs. He has nothing to fear.’ That was the message I got. But eventually they stopped bothering me. They came here two more times. They were awfully friendly.”
“The company committee came to me and told me that they still needed him there, for the more modern production facility for corrugated cardboard. He was the owner’s son, Paul’s son. Brandt was the owner of one factory, and the owner here was Paul. I arranged for him that he could stay there a month or two longer. That was when the Border Guard was being formed; they had their seat in the chateau. I convinced them to let him stay a month or two longer, but they eventually came to me and told me that the son himself said he wanted to go home. He had only one arm. I thus ordered a truck and they carried his stuff to the border. Later they blamed me for that. The prosecutor claimed that I had been waiting for the Germans to get to the top again, and that I had allegedly done it to gain their favour. They blamed me for that, too.”
“They were not after my position but they wanted to get right of me. That was because I was respected by the people.” – “But you were a communist, weren’t you?” – “I was a communist, but they had problems with the respect of the people that I enjoyed. I had my opinions and my firm stance, because I never betrayed the Czech nation to Hitler. I had the right to be self-confident.”
František Štěpán was born March 31, 1917 in Uhříněves. His father worked for the railway company and his mother was a housewife. The family lived in Tábor and later they moved to Prague where František studied grammar school in the Libeň neighbourhood. He began his military service in Pardubičky before the war. He developed a liking for the region, because he enjoyed working with horses and he was allowed to take care of them while in the military.
His service in the army was interrupted by the events of 1938 and 1939. František returned to Prague and at work he befriended Mr. Čaloun, who introduced him to the resistance movement. František was sending the Czech expatriates their property which had been confiscated to them before the war. This property belonged mostly to Jewish citizens. After Mr. Čaloun‘s arrest, František decided to leave Prague and he moved to Rychnov, where he joined the resistance organization Solnice.
Thanks to his organizing ability, he was appointed the state administrator of the company Brandt in Jílové near Děčín after the war. He joined the Communist Party at that time. The company flourished under his management, but he was sentenced in a staged trial to seventeen years of imprisonment for allegedly supporting capitalism and disrupting the socialist economy. He was apparently inconvenient to the new career-craving communists who came to the company. He spent a year in detention pending trial and then he worked for another six years as a prisoner in the Bratrství mine in Jáchymov. He sustained a serious work injury while there, but he eventually left Jáchymov without any negative effects on his health.
After his release he was allowed to do only non-skilled jobs and he thus worked in several construction companies. In 1968 he contemplated emigration, but he eventually decided to stay in Czechoslovakia. The Secret Police tried to convince him to collaborate with them several times. In the 1990s, he was an active member of the Czech Union of Freedom Fighters, but he gradually began to differ with its leadership concerning the organization‘s further development. František now lives in the Plzeň region and he is happy to share his experiences.