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The next horror came, when we were looking for a doctor to take care of our mother

  • Date: 24 Jan, 2008 at 3:40PM,
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  • In 1951, my parents Bedřich and Jarmila Koller, and my seventeen year old sister were factory workers in Uherský Brod. We, the two younger sisters, Jarmila and Věra were still in elementary school.

    Our father was a member of the National Socialist Party, not to be confused with the German Nazi party, that was not popular with the Communists. That is why, during the school summer holiday in 1951, men in leather coats came to our home (they must have inherited the coats from the Gestapo) and walked away with our father. Their excuse was that they needed some information from dad. They arrested other members of that party in our town as well.

    The next morning, our mother and sister were not allowed to enter the factory. The doorman announced to them that their work contract was abolished. Not one of the factory bosses had the courage to explain to our mother the reason she could not work there anymore.

It did not take long for three men in the leather coats to return. They searched the house, even the attic, supposedly looking for weapons. We were following them, frightened that they would plant something in the house to use later against our father. Of course, there was nothing in the house to be found. They confiscated all father’s clothes, even socks with holes in them. They also confiscated the better half of the house that father owned with his sister. When they found ten pounds of rice and six pounds of sugar, they wanted to take it away because they thought it was too much food for a five member family. Eventually, they left that behind, took all father’s belongings from the cupboard, and left. Shaken, we started to clean up. We realized that father would not return home soon.

The next horror came, when we were looking for a doctor to take care of our mother. The one who helped was Dr. Jeřábek. Mom‘s heart foundered. She ended on the street with the responsibility for three young girls. Mother took the humiliation she felt very badly. She had to beg for a job for herself and for her daughter. She was told repeatedly that there was no work available. We had no things to sell and we had no savings. After father’s arrest, mom’s brother supported us.

Somebody must have eventually felt ashamed because after three months, mom and my sister found a job in a food factory. Mom and my older sister took care of us until we finished our mandatory schooling. Secondary education was out of question for children like us.

For 13 months, no officials answered our questions about the whereabouts of our father, why they took him away, and was he alive? Without any news and with fear about daddy’s life, we suddenly received permission to attend his trial that was to take place in another town, Uherské Hradiště. The show that the judges presented was shocking. The individuals struggling into the court room were human wrecks. Some of the prisoners had to be supported to walk, others walked with crutches. We screamed with horror when we saw them. The judge was banging the table with his fist and yelled at us that we would be thrown out if we were not quiet.

The sentences were very harsh. When the judge read the sentence for our father, he made a comment that because this case involved someone from the working class, the punishment was probably too severe and reduced the sentence to 15 years. After the trial, father was kept in the notorious Mírov and Leopoldov prisons, as well as the the Jáchymov uranium mines. We were allowed to send him a 3 pound parcel at Christmas only. We received only a few letters from him. We visited him only once and that was in Leopoldov.

Only someone with the same experience can imagine what our life was like, especially the stress that our mother endured.

Without success we tried to have the court proceedings reviewed. Daddy suddenly appeared at home in 1956. He came home in scruffy overalls and galoshes. We had to sent those back because that outfit was only rented for his journey home. Soon after father‘s release, we received a bill for his time spent in prison.

When dad returned home, he weighed 118 pounds and he was ill. His civil rights were revoded and therefore he was not entitled to health care. The courageous Dr. Jeřábek arranged care for dad’s TB in a hospital, then in a rehabilitation institution, and medications for the rest of his life. Although dad was from a family with an extended longevity, he only lived to be 62.

Father was imprisoned for alleged treason against the State. The witnesses were agents of the secret police, as well as individuals coerced with cruel torture to implicate others. The interrogations left physical and psychological scars. One of the accused did not survive the torture to attend the trial. Father did not like to talk about the interrogation or the life in prison. But we know that he spent 13 months in a solitary confinement. For 13 months they worked on him physically and psychologicaly to admit to trumped up charges.


I remember one interrogator’s name — Grebeníček. His son was the Chairman of the Czech Communist Party AFTER the fall of communism. But there were others like Grebeníček. The accused were arrested because they distanced themselves from the inhumane communist regime and because they helped the families when someone from their party was imprisoned.

Father lived to see his grandson and granddaughter. Mommy even welcomed her third grandchild. After her hard work in the food factory, she retired and then died in 1986. We are sorry that she did not live to see that father’s case reviewed with the conclusion that he was innocent. It happened not long after she was gone!

Although many years have passed, my sisters and I are retired, we cannot erase the ever returning memories of those inhumane times. We keep thinking about our parents‘ suffering. We are proud of them because they were moral people. Many of our dreams did not come true. Somehow we have faith that nobody will be falsely accused again, nobody will be punished for his political beliefs, that children will not be ostracized for their parents‘ beliefs, and everyone who wants to study will not be forbidden because of her political background.

What we do not understand is that till this day, there is no law to identify or punish those who murdered their fellow citizens.

In Uherský Brod 14 January, 2008 

Bedřiška Kollerová, Jarmila Bílková a Věra Kunovská