An amazing meeting

Trip Start Sep 12, 2011
Trip End Dec 20, 2011

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Moravia,
Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Well we didn't make it out of Brno today as planned ... got waylaid on a trail that led us to a most amazing meeting.     But from the start  -

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. The Priest was also very interested that we had come from Australia, held our hands and when we left, just as dad used to do, licked his thumb and blessed us by making the cross on our foreheads.

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. He had found an interview, published just a week ago, of a Julie Hruskova - the yell was that she spoke of Franta Wositzky in this interview. Dad and Julie had gone from the refugee camp back into Czechoslovakia together to bring out a young girl - on their return trying to cross back into the American zone at Linz, they were apprehended, Dad made it through - Julie and the young lady didn't. Julie had the suitcase that had documentation which the police seized as proof of espoinage and called the guards. Julie was to spend the next 15 years in prison, a fate Dad never knew of. She was interrogated endlessly, tortured, lost the baby she was carrying, and spent most of this 15 years in "hard" prison. 

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. We knocked on her door and was ushered into her home. She was so surprised and pleased, she had not known what had become of dad. It all seemed so typically Czech, sitting around her table with a white plastic lace cloth, a plate of Czech biscuits, small glasses with gold rims lined up in the cupboard, colourful Czech plates on the wall, brown coffee cups, and religious paintings above the bed. 

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. We learnt that those who survived had been meeting periodically, and that included Mr Hepnarek, the farmer who had the farm near the border that sheltered many escapees including Dad, Rosa, Granny and little Rose-Marie.  He had been living in Brno until his death 4 years ago. Such a shame that neither dad nor Rosa had discovered this on their trip back here.

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. The task of translating 3 hours of audio tape from today into English will keep him busy for a while.

Needless to say - we  missed the train to Vissi Brod today. So that will now be tomorrows adventure.. unless ???  

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Melinda on

That's absolutely brilliant!!

leefox on

Such a moving story. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

Lenka on

Hi Helen, it's a fascinating story. I think of you, I hope you're in Vyssi Brod now. And tomorrow you will walk across the border. Let you have good weather. Greetings Katherine and Rosemarie.

Tim Scott on

Hi H,
not aware of the history of your family, but so far have been quite amazed at whats been revealed in the last 2 weeks. What an amazing story and I hope you continue to have as much success in your future travels, as you continue to unravel the past.

Stay well !

TS xo

Ian Longworth on

What can I say!

Babicka thniks it is an absolute miracle and both she and Laci were overcome with emotion on reading your news and the information on Franta from the organisation. One would never have thought that after all these years Julie and these facts would have come to life.

I had sent Ziggy and Jutka the blog site and they have just emailed me saying that they havr been following you all every step of the way. I will relay your message to them.

Have a wonderful walk and it will be interesting to see whether Little Rosemarie remembers any locations from the trek.

Lots of love


dolina on

Will try and get Laromi to ring on K's mobile late this arvo - est

Urmila on

What an amazing experience! I'm sure Frank's spirit will be smiling and feeling so proud.

Rob on

What a fantastic story, there is a book in this. Some people as so incredibly strong.
Stay safe and keep living the dream

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