Josef Svoboda

* 1929  

  • “Interrogation began by the secret police asking me: ‚So what are you going to tell us? What do you say?‘ I was a big hero and replied: ‚What you know I say. What you dont know I won´t.‘ They began to laugh terribly and called another one to tell him what I just said. ‚So I will show you now, you big hero,‘ one of them said. ‚Can you see the keys here? They would really fit in your teeth, do you get it?‘“

  • “From my head it was just over half a meter from my head. In the courtyard behind the cell window. At four in the morning I heard banging wood and guessed they were building a stage for the gallows. An intuitive but totally correct guess. I don’t know whether the others in my cell were up too, but I heard everything. I pretended to be asleep but my heart was beating crazy. The guard in the corridor watched every five minutes with the spy in the doorway, whether we were awake and what we were doing. And as soon as the stage was up, then gradually they were bringing prisoners. They were four of them and they executed them right under our heads.“

  • "No emotions existed. Emotions are luxury. A prisoner can not have any emotions, otherwise he would not survive. If he was just kep sitting and weeping or if he was depressed. I was a young guy and I took it all in a sports way. We had little food, so I learned to eat little. That I lost my weight so that my mother did not recognize me in court, that was a simple fact. No emotions would change that. "

  • “From the street someone was beating at the windows. My father leaned out asking what was going on. ‚We are looking for Josef Svoboda.‘ And he replied: ‚I am Josef Svoboda.‘ But they were looking for the young one. Asked where his son lived. So he opened the door, they rushed into my small room, pointed a revolver at me and asked, where my gun was.“

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    skypem / Ostrava – Toronto, 17.03.2017

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I was the happiest in prison. Never again have I experienced such complete reassurance that I was on the right track.

Josef Svoboda several months before his arrest / 1949
Josef Svoboda several months before his arrest / 1949
zdroj: archiv Josefa Svobody

Josef Svoboda was born on 16 July, 1929 in Prague. His father came from Brno, his mother from Teplice and they lived in Kralupy nad Vltavou, where his father worked as an engine driver. In 1938 the family moved to Brno and Josef started to attend the Scouts. At the same time he witnessed the clash in the family between Czech and German relatives on his father´s part. At the end of war he experienced bombing of Brno. In spring 1945 the family escaped from the liberation fights to their relatives in Vysočina and came back in May. Josef Svoboda witnessed the deportation of his aunt and other Germans from Brno in so called Pohořelice death march. In 1948 despite difficulties got to study philosophy and natural science at the Masaryk university in Brno. In September 1949 he was arrested by the state police and in 1951 sentenced to 11 years in prison. He worked in uranium mines for almost five years. In 1958 Josef Svoboda was deprived of all accusations by the court and the punishment was cancelled. Following the 1968 invasion he immigrated to Canada, studied high school and became a professor at the Toronto university. He devotes himself to botanic and ecologic research in polar areas of the Arctic and publishes in renowned magazines and wins prestigious awards.