Mirko Zelenka

* 1923

  • “We would have fun in the gym, for instance. We’d go nuts on the gymnastic apparatus, play silly games, it’s beyond describing. We were handed out nightgown of French making, they were white and long. Nobody would put them on, I mean sometimes we’d hardly ever change our clothes at all. With a friend of mine, we’d put on these French nightgown and cycle in it or exercise or jog in it. That’s what we liked to do in the peaceful moments in between, when nobody died. (How did the German police officers behave to you?) It was different from one cop to another. I hardly ever met them at all. Sundays, we’d go out for a walk and when we bumped into them, we’d salute them with our right arm up in the sky. Well, they had to do the same then. We hailed on purpose and they had to do the same, which annoyed them. That seemed really funny to us. At that time, Badoglio was in for a coup and a lot of Italian soldiers were brought to Berlin. They arrived there dressed up neatly. They wore nice hats like legionaries and had all kinds of badges and medals. They also had nice and shiny high boots. They probably got them for deployment in Africa which never materialized. Instead, they ended up in Berlin. So they would trade their gear for food. In Berlin, there was this tavern where you could exchange everything. Money for cigarettes, cigarettes for booze, booze for boots and boots for money. You could trade anything at that place. We didn’t have that much free time really. When we did, we’d watch movies, for example with Sonia Henie or the Austrian comedy duo Heinz and Mosse. Once, I even saw a show that featured the performance of nude woman. For the first time in my life. We went to see it in Neuwelt. Somebody discovered that it was free of charge if you happened to be a soldier who’s off duty and off the front lines, taking a break in the hinterland. As we had uniforms, there was nothing that could have stopped us from taking advantage from it. And they really let us in for free. The place was teeming with soldiers and hardly anybody else. It was a nice variety show. Right in the opening scene, there was this classical statue standing still on the podium. We initially took it for a statue, but it in fact it was a lady. She was all painted in silver, with only her lips a nails in red. In the end, they played some music. As she was naked, she couldn’t perform any striptease. She’d just wobble. This sight haunted me afterwards, depriving me of much sleep.”

  • “This job could be fun at times but I guess that most of the times it was just a plain waste of time. I was spending my time at sessions and meetings and my wife was giving me a hard time for it when I came back home. She thought I was pub crawling. In 1952, at the time when I got married, President Zápotocký said that sole traders were welcome competition for the big nationalized companies. Shortly later, we would nationalize grandma’s laundry shop. Her mangle squeezed in a tiny room and that was her whole business. Its operation was simple. Women would come to her shop, put their clothes on the cylinder, spin it and she would count the spins and cash in two crowns per customer. It was simple math. She inherited the mange from her grandmother. She would save on electricity, using a weaker light bulb to light the room. We nationalized her shop. Or to be more precise, we joined her shop with others, forming a laundry union. We did have our own second thoughts about it but mostly kept them to ourselves. I mean we were deputies of the national committee. In a peculiar way, it even seemed to be fun to us at that time. We didn’t think it through, completely ignoring the trouble we got this grandma into. For her, it was a complete disaster. All of a sudden, grandma was cut off from her income. She had been self-employed, running her little laundry shop for the best part of her life. She had never been properly employed and now that she had been expropriated, she was left to live on a pension that amounted to nothing. I was a deputy for three election terms until 1970. In 1968, I was banned from exercising my office. They also forbid me to work in the coal mines and a lot of other things because I would not say hello under the willow tree.”

  • “They ordered us to the Technische Nothilfe because their idea was that as graduates of a technical school, we might be helpful. We were sent to repair Berlin. How did we do that? For example, we were sent to a building that was half decrepit. It was actually missing its roof and several of its floors. That roof had burned down and collapsed, taking with it several of the floors that happened to be underneath it. So to make sure that the three stories underneath it were still inhabitable, we would have to clear the debris that was left after the collapse of the roof. I remember that we were moving down a piano which still played rather well. Well, actually, by the time we had moved it about three stories, it got a little bit out of tune from the bumps it had gotten on the way. But anyway it was a bit pointless since there were air raids three times a day. At five o’clock in the afternoon, at half past seven in the evening and finally at four o’clock at night. So typically our effort was ruined by the next day and we would have to start over again. We were assigned to all kinds of work. Mostly repairing roofs to make save those buildings that were worth saving. We built makeshift roofs gluing together planks. This took up most of our time in berlin but there was all sorts of duty coming our way. Sometimes, we were ordered to clear the basements of bombed buildings, taking out the dead bodies of people who had died there. So you could say that sometimes it was fun, but most often it was not. In the morning, there was a special tram coming to pick us up. It was called Sonderfahrt. It was no exception to bump into missing tracks or rummage. So the driver had to back up and find alternative routes. Berlin was not easy as regards traffic and getting around took a lot of time. Already at that time it stretched out for about 27 kilometers from one end to another. Take into account the extensive destruction and you can easily figure that getting around Berlin at that time was no easy feat. We would be on duty for eight hours and then relax for another eight. Einsatz and off duty. But this was just theory. In practice, we didn’t get much sleep. Even though some slept more than others. For instance a friend of mine, Pepík Šoura from Slaný, would sleep as soon as he hit the bed. He didn’t even care for the raids, didn’t bother to wake up.”

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    Švermov u Kladna, 12.11.2013

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We were young frolics who would make fun of German bobbies

portrét - dobový.jpg (historic)
Mirko Zelenka
zdroj: dobová: archiv pamětníka; soudobá: MgA. Dagmar Šubrtová

Mirko Zelenka was born on October 20, 1923, in Vrapice near Kladno in a miner’s family that lived secluded in the countryside. In 1938, he began his apprenticeship in the Poldi steelworks in Kladno for a machine locksmith. Two years into his apprenticeship, he followed up with studies at a higher school of engineering. However, the war kept disturbing his studies. Since September 28, 1943, he was forcibly assigned to the Technische Nothilfe in Berlin, where he spent four months. In the summer of 1944, he was subjected to the so-called “total mobilization” and became a stoker serving an engine of the Czechoslovak national railway company. He passed the school-leaving exam in 1947 and after passing military service he got a job with the directorate of the coal mines in Kladno, where he worked in what was then the machine department. Later, he would also work in the mine transportation department and in the department of the chief machinist. In the years 1955-1969 he was a deputy of the district national committee in Kladno. In 1969, he was deprived of all his functions for political reasons and two years later he was hired as a machinist in the Plynostav Pardubice national enterprise, where he stayed until his retirement. Presently, he lives in an asylum for the elderly in Švermov near Kladno.