František Zahrádka

* 1930  †︎ 2017

  • “My father was transferred on business to Meziměstí u Broumova. I started attending school there in 1936 and we were basically growing up with German children. There were no problems till 1936-1937. The guys about 3 or 4 years older used to say in 1937 already: 'Just you wait, you'll go.' And then the Germans even prohibited their children from playing with us, although some of them were polite people. I got to know about president Masaryk's death on September 14th, 1937 in the way that my father led me to school. On our way we were stopped by a German owner of a pub in Meziměstí u Broumova, who ran towards us. With tears in his eyes he was telling my Dad that president Masaryk died that he heard it on the radio. We had a radio practically only at the end of the war. And the German had really tears in his eyes and he said: 'It will be nothing good.'”

  • “After the defeat of the Nazi Germany the Scout groups started springing up in České Budějovice, you know. The old Scouts were putting it all together. I became a member of the tenth Scout group in České Budějovice. And we were at the airport in České Budějovice in August, sometime in mid August. We were waiting there for the arrival of the 312 Squadron from England, whose member was Peřina. The leader of the Squadron was lieutenant colonel Hlaďo, there were also Pošta and many others there. Ans also, even if he belonged to a different army unit, the son of professor Maňák came. He was a very popular guy. He immediately after 1945 took out his old Praga motorcycle with a sidecar and he was driving all over Budějovice. An old gentleman, a professor. Well, and his son was a pilot in England but he used to fly with the first ones already, with Gloster Meteors, yeah, the British jets. And then he also flew with our Schwalbes, OK. Messerschmitt – I don't know what number it was (Me 262, editor's comment). I know it meant a 'swallow' the 'Schwalbe.' Well, and also Maňák flew with them. Then they started landing with their colleagues. They showed us a fantastic air show that you will not see ever again. If, for example, Flekal managed to twist his Spitfire on its back and then he flew with his areal about two meters above the surface filing by with his legs up. It was simply incredible, a life experience for us. They were those knights of Blaník who came to liberate us in their fantastic iron-plate machines. We, boys, we were basically influenced by this for life. The whole gang of us from the 10 group was arrested afterwards, half of us teenagers.”

  • “There was a Scout camp in Velenice region in 1946. And the Germans and Austrians were kind of getting ready for their resettlement already. Simply the Sudeten Germans were getting ready for their resettlement already, they knew it already. But simply after an agreement with our camp leader we used to help with harvesting the crops. The Germans said: 'It's going to be yours already.' And then when someone wasn't careful enough when throwing the corn from a dray, they were carting the corn with cows and oxen, you see, so the Germans said: 'Langsam, langsam, ganze schito kaput!' ('Slowly, slowly, the rye is all ruined!') OK. So I hated the Germans in a terrible way, it took me a very long time. But there I had the feeling thy were probably also just humans.”

  • “Then I made contacts with soldiers, they knew that I was crossing the line as if nothing was happening. A group was arranged; we agreed I would eventually pick up six people. We met with the last couple south of Hartmanice. Two soldiers in civilian clothing and one tradesman, they went with me all the way from České Budějovice by train to Horažďovice, and then to Sušice. When the whole group was finally assembled, there were already rumours that the border patrol southeast of Železná Ruda was shooting quite often. So I planned the route accordingly, from soldiers I had information that a big shooting range for the army was being built in the area between Velká Voda, Prášily and Srní, this passage leading over Poledník. I anticipated there would be chaos, there will be many military trucks riding there, so I decided we would first head in that direction. After midnight there was a storm, and behind us a shooting incident aimed at another group of people crossing the border occurred. We could hear the dogs barking, children crying. We were about four hundred metres from the border line on Poledník. One of the officers in our group took the compass. I knew that four hundred metres below Poledník there is a nice path through dense wood leading towards Bavaria and to that border stone n. 16. At that time, however, I did not know there was a border stone number sixteen. I was lucky then, because I managed to get hold of a special detailed map scale 1: 75 000, which came from the times of the early republic, and all the forest clearings were marked there with beautiful precision. So I knew that I would walk through the forest towards the first clearing, I would pass four clearings and then I had to arrive to the border stone n. 16. When they opened fire at that other group, however, we had to cut it short, and I did not feel well, I had almost nothing with me, so I said to myself: ´There’s nothing else to do, anyway, so I’ll go to Bavaria then.”

  • “After all the experiences in my life, like the Nazi occupation, the escape over the border, then the Bolshevik persecution, imprisonment, the year 1968, which inspired wonderful hopes in us, and then 1989, a brief period when we thought we have won... I came to a belief that if we claim we are guys who have guts, we need to resist evil – always. And that it may sometimes seem that this fight will never be won, it does not matter. But one thing is clear: had the good always dominated over the evil just by a tiny little bit in this never-ending struggle, today we would have been still hiding in caves or climbing the trees like monkeys and living in the present, in my experience, over all these colossal histories of billions years, but living like pigs in clover.”

  • “My name is František Zahrádka, I was born on October 30th, 1930, which means I will be 78 in two months. My father was a legionnaire, and my mother an assistant worker, she worked in brickworks, and so on. We were quite a poor family, because my dad was a handicapped war veteran from the fighting against the Bolsheviks. For when the legionnaires were coming home on Christmas 1918, their 32nd artillery regiment was immediately transferred to Slovakia. So my father had hardly any time to stop at his mother’s place, because on their way east they passed through Tábor where she lived. Immediately afterward he went to Slovakia, and in June Slovakia already began to be occupied by Hungarian Bolsheviks led by Béla Kun. Of course, the legions were dusting their jackets. When the city of Miskolz in Hungary was captured, my father was hit by a hand grenade while on guard, and he basically remained partly handicapped till the end of his life. He limped. Then he found employment with the railways as a gatekeeper, a supporting worker, and he worked there till his death. He did not even live till his retirement, he died at the age of sixty-one and my mother died when she was fifty-one.”

  • “In the morning I was at work as usual. I came home, washed my hands, looked at the clock what time it was. And as I was washing my hands, suddenly two guys jumped upon me, as I later found out, they were from the intelligence, comrade Reicin, and they knocked me down. They found my ČZ 635 with nine bullets, eight in the magazine and the ninth one in the barrel. This gun has no lock, you release it just by pulling the trigger. And they say: ´Look, this bastard had a bullet in the barrel ready for us.´ So they gave me a thrashing right at the spot.”

  • “The trial with our group took place on December 8-9th, 1949. There were twenty-three of us. Death penalty was required for three of us: me, Müller, and Bárta. Three people from the Vodňany group were released: a sister of one guy whom I led across the border, and a sister of one boy-scouts member. So our number was reduced to twenty; seventeen boy-scouts, me, and two soldiers then remained in the court room. The chief prosecutor was general Vaněk, drunk as a Dane, shouting in a gruff voice like a cow. There was such an episode, when this general Vaněk somehow began to insist that there was evidence that I had to carry out espionage activities for a financial reward. The penalty for this was the rope, no doubt about it. Right, they had this law, or section 113 about democratized judicial system, and according to this, death penalty could not be carried out on persons under twenty. But here in the list of the executed we have six names of the people, whom they sentenced to capital punishment when they turned twenty, and they executed them as soon as they as they entered into the twentieth year after their birth. Thus we have one person here, who was nineteen years and eight months, and he got the rope. And the senate’s chairman was dr. Volf at that time.”

  • Celé nahrávky
  • 1

    Příbram, 04.09.2008

    délka: 03:50:47
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Iron Curtain Stories
Celé nahrávky jsou k dispozici pouze pro přihlášené uživatele.

If we say we have guts, we must always resist evil

zahrádka-vězeňské foto.jpg (historic)
František Zahrádka

František Zahrádka was born October 30th, 1930 in Děčín. His mother Kristýna Zahrádková, born Dominová, came from a family of eight children, and was employed as an assistant worker, for example in brickworks. His father František Zahrádka fought with the legionnaires in Italy. After his return, his 32nd artillery regiment was moved to Slovakia, and the father sustained a leg injury during a fight with Hungarian Bolsheviks there; since that time he has been partly handicapped. He managed to find work as a lower-level railways employee, and the family thus had to move frequently whenever he was transferred to other posts. Also, František´s younger brother Luděk was born while the family lived in Děčín. František started to attend elementary school in Meziměstí near Broumov. Till 1937 he had been growing up alongside German children there and did not feel there would be any tension. Problems started in 1938 and culminated on one October night, when the whole family was driven out of their home. Before the war began, his brother Luděk had a serious accident when he was hit by a car. His mother suffered a mental collapse due to the affliction of the last months, and moreover, his father was transferred to the Svitavy region. Young František thus stayed alone and lived with a family of strangers in an abandoned railway car. An old bathtub served him for bed, local boy-scouts were helping him with food and clothing. He witnessed the outbreak of war in Veselí nad Lužnicí, where his aunt invited him on March 15th, 1939. The family reunited only after the assassination of the Reichsprotektor R. Heydrich. They lived together in České Budějovice till the arrest of both his parents in 1944. The father returned from interrogations in December, the mother at the end of the war in May 1945. After the war František Zahrádka became active in the reestablished section of Junák (the boy-scouts) in České Budějovice, where he became a member of the 10th group. After the coup d´état in February 1948, while he was finishing his radio mechanic studies, he came to a decision to actively participate in the scouts´ resistance against the recently established communist regime. They were printing pamphlets, publishing and distributing the ´Za Pravdu´ (For the Truth) magazine. In 1949 Zahrádka led his first group of boy-scouts over the border to Bavaria. During one of the illegal border crossings he was contacted by the American CIC. They agreed on networking and establishing contacts between officers of the Czechoslovak army. During the total of four illegal crossings, František led about 11 persons over the border. He was arrested by officers of the Czech intelligence on September 3rd, 1949. The main trial in the State Court in Prague took place on December 8th and 9th, 1949. Among the other defendants were for instance Sylvester Müller or Václav Bárta, an air force lieutenant who was had been handing over secret military documents. Zahrádka was sentenced for high treason and espionage to 20 years of heavy jail, to a fine of 20 000 Kčs, loss of civil rights for 10 years and to close confinement quarterly. A week after the trial he was transported by train to the Plzeň-Bory prison, where he was placed in a solitary B cell. After two years, weighing only 45 kilograms, Zahrádka was deemed fit to work in uranium mines and on November 6th, 1951 he was escorted to labour camp Nikolaj in Jáchymov. At first he was assigned to assist with breaking the ore in mine Eduard. On July 17th, 1952 he left Nikolaj and was transferred to camp Vykmanov II. For two years he worked there on the much feared ore-sorting line. In winter of 1956 he went to another uranium mining labour camp, this time the Vojna camp in the Příbram region. He was interned there from January 6th, 1956 to March 3rd, 1957, when he was transferred to a nearby camp of Bytíz. There he worked at breaking the ore again. Immediately after his arrival to the Vojna camp, he was punished by 40 days in a correction cell, allegedly for a presumed preparation of escape. During the imprisonment in Vojna his mother died, and shortly after, while he was in Bytíz, his father also passed away. In Bytíz, Zahrádka still worked at breaking the rock, but later, owing to the help of Dr. Každan, he was assigned to work on the surface and gradually could also start working as an electrician, which was his original profession. He was not released in the general amnesty of 1960, but from then on he was allowed at least spent more and more time doing his electrician‘s job. Thanks to this he was eventually transferred to the Technical Department of the Ministry of Interior in Prague-Pankrác on March 3rd, 1961, and he could continue with his profession and work on quality improvement projects there. František Zahrádka was finally released on September 3rd, 1962. He had nowhere to return. Therefore he began to work as an electrician in the uranium mines in Příbram, where he remained till his retirement in 1981. A joyful occasion came in April 1966, when he married Marie Voldřichová. This woman, ´one in a million,´ as he likes to call her, has been his faithful wife for 33 years till her death. Like him, she loved sports, and they would go sailing on a yacht together, go cross-country skiing in their beloved Šumava mountains or around the Tok, highest peak of the nearby Brdské lesy. Unfortunately, they were not blessed with children. In 1968, František Zahrádka actively participated in the founding of K 231 in Příbram. Together with the social democrat František Harlas they initiated the opening meeting, where they also invited persons like general Paleček or Ota Rambousek. František Harlas then became the chairman of the Příbram chapter of K 231, and Zahrádka became a secretary. With the same zeal he also helped found the local chapter of the Confederation of Political Prisoners in 1990. He was also one of its most active members, and he was elected the chairman from the very beginning. Together with Dr. Jiří Málek they contributed to the opening of a unique exhibition of the Museum of the Third Resistance Movement and the Memorial to the Victims of Communism in Vojna near Příbram. For his life-long stance, František Zahrádka was awarded several decorations, and in 2007 President Václav Klaus decorated him with the Order of T. G. Masaryk. Franbtišek Zahrádka passed away on December, the 15th, 2017.