Echoes from the Jáchymov mines

Echoes from the Jáchymov mines

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Barbora, formerly known as Vršek (Hilltop) Vršek, 362 51 Jáchymov, Czech Republic
Motion Is the Basic Law of Creation
Motion Is the Basic Law of CreationZdeněk Křivka

Zdeněk Křivka was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his activities in an anticommunist resistance group. He successively passed through seven labor camps in the Jáchymov area, including the worst one called Barbora, where he was imprisoned for two and a half years beginning in November 1952. Th…

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Eliáš I 219, Jáchymov, Czech Republic
Communist label of a prisoner Růžička: E 0951
Communist label of a prisoner Růžička: E 0951Kamil Růžička (1919) - Bi…

In 1949, Kamil Růžička, a scout member, was sentenced to prison "for distributing leaflets" to serve three years in Jáchymov uranium lager, where he was given the label E 0951. He would never forget it: "In Eliáš I., that was located nine hundred meters above the see level, the winter was harsh, …

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Eliáš II 219, Jáchymov, Czech Republic
Correction Cell for Believing in God
Correction Cell for Believing in GodRudolf Duda

During his imprisonment in work camp, Eliáš Rudolf Duda, being a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, refused to work on Saturdays, because his church considers Saturdays to be holy days. “During the morning roll-call they were reading out the names of those who were supposed to work. The …

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Jáchymov třída Československé armády 84, 362 51 Jáchymov, Czech Republic
The lovers kissed in a uranium mine
The lovers kissed in a uranium mineMilena Hypšová and Jiří Blatný

Milena Hypšová worked as a civilian employee in the uranium labour camp, checking gangue for radioactivity. She met her life-long love among the political prisoners. At first she thought he was from State Security – he had an electric mine lamp like they did – and she behaved to him accordingly, …

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Jáchymov, Brotherhood (Bratrství) Camp K Lanovce 1045, 362 51 Jáchymov, Czech Republic
Beginning of a great career in StB
Beginning of a great career in StBVratislav Herold

Vratislav Herold began his career in StB, (State Security in Czechoslovakia), in mining town Jáchymov in 1953. To his displeasure he joined the wardens in the labour camp called Bratrství, (Brotherhood). In that time the camps and prisoners were on the increase, and each StB newcomer had p…

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Count Kinsky working as a miner
Count Kinsky working as a minerKarel Vavřínek

After his conviction in the summer of 1949, the political prisoner Karel Vavřínek served his term in Slovak Leopold. In early 1950, he was transferred to Jáchymov, where he worked in the “Bratrství,” (Brotherhood), mine. He was assigned to the geodesy department led by a Russian engineer by the n…

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Human being – the first words I recalled
Human being – the first words I recalledJan Haluza

Bratrství was the second Jáchymov camp, after camp Vykmanov, where Jan Haluza had ended up. There he experienced a week of cruel interrogations without anything to eat or drink. The interrogators never succeeded in making him confess to espionage, but he did become infected with typhus. “When the…

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Jáchymov, camp Nikolaj 22137, 363 01 Jáchymov, Czech Republic
Dreadful Hunger in All of the Labour Camps
Dreadful Hunger in All of the Labour CampsJán Brichta

The communist regime didn’t allow Ján Brichta to become a priest. Therefore, he tried to reach his only dream behind the Czechoslovak borders. His attempt, joined by other students and priests, however, was halted by a swollen Morava River in April 1951. On the way back from the borders, almost w…

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Scout University in Prison
Scout University in PrisonJiří (Rys) Lukšíček

When Jiří Rys Lukšíček was twenty-one years old he was sentenced to six years of imprisonment for high treason. He got to the labour camp Nikolaj and worked there in the shaft Eduard. Fifty-nine per cent of the local prisoners were condemned for political reasons: “The first thing they asked you:…

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Jáchymov, Eduard mine Nové Město 51, 363 01 Jáchymov, Czech Republic
The Escape of Zdeněk Otruba
The Escape of Zdeněk OtrubaJiří Málek

Eduard Mine is less than a kilometer away from Nikolai Camp. The civilians and guards working there used to come for their shifts either by bus or through a small gate by the forest. That way, they did not have to walk all the way around the fence of the camp. Jiří Málek, standing by the former p…

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They Mess It Up Like This
They Mess It Up Like ThisFrantišek Zahrádka

František Zahrádka was sentenced to twenty years for high treason and espionage. In November 1951 he was found capable of work in uranium mines and though he weighed forty-five kilograms, he was transferred from the Bory prison (Pilsen), to camp Nikolaj near Jáchymov. He worked there as an as…

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Jáchymov, the Church of St. Jáchym and St. Anna třída Čs. armády 81, 362 51 Jáchymov, Czech Republic
A powerless priest
A powerless priestIrena Šimonová

In September 1951, the political prisoners Irena Šimonová and her friend Helena escaped from prison and from a mine that produced brick clay where they were forced to work. Their plan and hope was to cross the nearby border to the West. Irena was desperate and exhausted, running away from the i…

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Rovnost Rovnost 72, 363 01 Jáchymov, Czech Republic
Černá Máry, He Was a Devil
Černá Máry, He Was a DevilJiří Lukšíček

In 1954, Jiří Lukšíček, a member of the scout resistance movement, was sentenced to six years of imprisonment for treason. Along with others he served his term in the Rovnost work camp in Jáchymov. There was a much feared warden, nicknamed Černá Máry. Lukšíček shared his room with Požár: “We call…

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Fifty-six hours in minus thirty degrees Celsius
Fifty-six hours in minus thirty degrees CelsiusŠtěpán Vašíček

Štěpán Vašíček was spent almost a year in Camp Rovnost, (Equality): “The commander at the time was Paleček, real name Albín Dvořák. I was to receive a visit for the first time in three years, my mum and godmother were supposed to come to see me. Before that happened, Paleček called out for me and…

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The minecart just flew past
The minecart just flew pastJan Haluza

Rovnost was the last camp, in the list of all the ones, where Jan Haluza had served his sentence. He worked in a mine there: “I had to pull the minecart, which was used to carry uranium ore, three or four kilometers up a small hill to the place of excavations. That is where the minecart was l…

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Whipping boy
Whipping boyIvan Kieslinger

Ivan Kieslinger spent the end of 1949 on the infirmary of the Jáchymov forced-labor camp "Rovnost," (Equality). December the 18th was J. Stalin's birthday and Ivan Kieslinger recalls that the wardens decided to remind the inmates of this important anniversary: "They conducted an extensive search …

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Svornost Na Svornosti 91, 362 51 Jáchymov, Czech Republic
He Decided to Help
He Decided to HelpMiroslav Hampl

In May 1952, Miroslav Hampl started to work in mine Svornost in Jáchymov. He was nineteen and after a short course he became a collector. He focused on active ore and was deciding about its mining. They pointed out in advance that he will work with heavy criminals. But in the course of time he …

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The route following the mines in Jáchymov is about 15 kilometres in length and takes approximately four hours of leisurely walk. It partly runs along the instructional trail called Jáchymov Hell (Jáchymovské peklo) and it can be shortened at any time. This walk of medium difficulty can be done by families with older children. Many political prisoners were being sent to the Jáchymov uranium mines after the coup in February 1948 and especially during the 1950s. For the civilian employees of the mines and also for some of the Communist Party members this encounter with people who were unjustly persecuted by the communist regime often resulted in the loss of illusions about the political system in which they lived. However, even here, amidst the suffering behind the barbed-wire fence, punishment in solitary cells, humiliation and dangerous work where death was an imminent threat, some people were able to fall in love with each other.

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