An amazing meeting
Trip Start Sep 12, 2011
40Trip End Dec 20, 2011
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Well we made it to St Michaels Church last night, a fairly ornate Baroque church with lots of gold and heavy statues. It didn't seem to match our knowledge that it was a simple alter. If it was, it was also the church that Rosa was married in. We waited listening to the end of the mass until we could see if there was a little side chapel and finally get our answer - was the lady at the Bishops office correct or not?
And ... yes she was. To the side we went through a low archway, and there was the small wooden alter Dad had knelt at on his last night in Brno. There was a lady in robes to whom Peter explained our story, she was delightful, allowed us to take a photo inside the chapel and to light the 4 candles we had brought with us - one for Dad, Rosa, Granny and mum who was also a part of this story once the refugee camp was reached
We walked back to Peter's place in the rain feeling pretty emotional but pleased with ourselves that we had found the two main things we were looking for that day, the canal and the church.
" project completed" according to Peter, now what will we do?
Back home over a cuppa we posed the question, wonder if we can find out anything about the underground movement dad and Rosa were part of in Brno. Soon the 4 of us were huddled around Peter's computer - googled Serik which was the code name of the group ( Lilac in English ) . This led us to biographies on the two key leaders, both whom had been sentenced to death and hanged when captured. It spoke of their activities distributing anti-communist leaflets just as Rosa and Dad had described. Somehow we stumbled across a website, Memory of a Nation, and discovered there is an organisation Federation of Political Prisoners that is actively collecting histories.
All headed off to bed, or so we thought - Peter had continued searching this website and woke Katherine up with a yell from his bedroom
This morning we had a mission - find Julie. After a few disconnected numbers we got onto the head of the Federation of Political Prisoners, she was in a meeting though and we had to wait patiently for 2 hours till she could speak to us. There was a branch just up the road from where we were but there was no answer there. Finally she told us Julie lived just outside Brno, gave us her number and Peter called, with the biggest grin he announced " you have an appointment to see Julie today ! " she is home and wants you to come now.
Jirka drove us out to a village 50 km's south of Brno
Julie started to speak, in Czech of course, and hardly took breath for an hour. She told us all about how she was caught, her time in prison, how she never gave up any information despite being beaten, kept awake for days on end, or been made to walk up and down for days on end, the kindly old guard who finally took her to hospital when she lost her baby, - absolutely tragic story that Peter translated for us as she spoke.
The most amazing thing was that despite all this there was no sign of bitterness, no tone of resentment, she spoke with such strength of character, no doubt the thing that got her through these years. We had imagined that she may not want to talk about these things, but she was incredibly open and seemed to have come to terms with her experiences. We believe that dad had always felt responsible for what had happened to Julie, she firmly said it was not his fault, there was an informer in the group who had betrayed them
With dark starting to fall we hugged Julie goodbye - she walked with her stick up the narrow village street to our car as the mist crept down from the nearby hills. Standing there on the side waving us goodbye with a big smile but I'm sure also a tear in her eyes. We drove off overwhelmed by her story, and certainly with a much better understanding of the implications and possible consequences of what dad and Rosa were doing with the underground movement, and the bravery of what dad was doing going in and out of Czechoslovakia a number of times to bring others out, and the risk all those escaping took. A most amazing meeting indeed ...
We cannot thank Peter enough - he has completely given us all his time and has become such an enthusiastic partner in our search. Thank goodness Zdenka and Jirka arranged for us to stay at his place, without meeting him our search would have been all the poorer
Needless to say - we missed the train to Vissi Brod today. So that will now be tomorrows adventure.. unless ???