Alojz Kuna (1936)
“Greatness of a man doesn’t lie in where he was, what he saw or how many universities he finished; it lies solely in his deeds.”
Alojz Kuna was born in 1936 in the village of Výčapy - Opatovce in the peasant family. From his early childhood his parents raised him in love with their land and prepared him to take over his father’s homestead. František Kuna was labelled as kulak and a class enemy of the building of socialist agricultural system. Despite the fact that Alojz longed for higher education, he was convinced that he must help his father, so in 1952 he enrolled at the secondary school of mining in Nováky. In the same year his father František was arrested and sentenced to two years of imprisonment; imposed a three hundred thousand crown fine and they also forced him to move out of Nitra region. He served his sentence in Jáchymov mines until after the death of President Klement Gottwald in 1953, he was granted amnesty and released from the prison. In the year 1957 Alojz Kuna enlisted in the military service in Opava, where he worked in a mine and later in a stone pit. When he had finished compulsory military service, he didn’t want to continue working in the mine and thus he started to work in Hydrostav in Bratislava. His friends helped him to get this job and he kept working there as a manual worker for 32 years. He got married and brought up two sons.
“Cattle Are the First”
“I started to work on the farm when I was only a child. I will never forget what my father used to tell me when I was fifteen-year-old boy, when I used to go there and learn to plough: ‘You know, son, when the sun is as high as the walnut tree in our yard, stop ploughing, unhitch your cattle and go home. But woe betide you, if you go to the pantry right after coming home, if you cut a slice of bread, butter it, and if you go to cowshed and let your cattle look as you are eating. Remember that your cattle are the first. You have to water and feed them and only then you may have dinner, pray and go to bed.’ My father, both my parents encouraged me to live this way. I should work like this on the field, on my piece of land that we had owned for years.”
“On September 1, 1952, I started to study at the secondary school of mining in Nováky. Two months later a boy from our village came to me, he was an apprentice miner as well. He spent Sunday at home, so he was the first one who told me: ‘Your father was arrested, they jailed him.’ Well, when I came home, I asked my mother how it happened. She only told me: ‘Oh son, as it was autumn we went digging potatoes with your father. The chairman of the Local National Committee, Comrade Miškolci, came and told us that we had to go home right away. And when we did so, children who came from schools and other people were standing on the street and staring at us, it was like a theatrical performance. They forced your father to stand in the corner where two policemen guarded him and in the meantime they took everything.’ Absolutely everything. My mother told me that they had taken even knives prepared for a pig slaughter, flour, bread, walnuts, rabbits; they took everything in sequence and cleaned our house totally. My mother was forty at that time, I was sixteen, my brother two and sister eleven years old and when they were leaving our house, my mother asked them: ‘What should I give to my son when he comes home on Sunday?’ You know, at that time people worked also on Saturdays. And then the chairman looked at my mother and said: ‘Snuff it here of hunger just like the dog.’ That was his answer. And as this was his answer, I had to think what kind of crime had my father committed.”
Hard Life in Prison
“On November 1, 1957, I enlisted to Opava and as I have already mentioned, it was in Ostrava where they changed the secondary mining school to barrack, it was called Pavol Korčagin. There were a lot of members of the Auxiliary Technical Battalion called ‘black barons’ who didn’t have to do anything but to dig the coal. Then I wrote my father: ‘Dad, I am close to you.’ It was about eighteen miles from Bohumín to Havířov. ‘If you want you could come to visit me on Saturday, I am on the morning shift, so I will be at home in the afternoon.’ And my father really came, we were sitting on the porter’s lodge and I saw that he didn’t want to leave me. He was anxious to know everything. It was nine o’clock when he saw that scene in which soldiers were getting on the bus under guard of men with automatics and going to the night shift. And he looked at me and said: ‘Where do they lead them?’ ‘Father, I go to the shift like this, too. You know, they go to work, to the night shift.’ Then my father sank his head in his hands and started to cry. It was the first time I saw my father crying. And he told me: ‘Oh son, I know it’s also my fault that you are here, it was my deed but if I signed it back then, if I joined the collective farm, I would have died, I would have been killed there just like that night guard when after two years the cashier set cowsheds on fire and they were reduced to ashes. This way they killed that night guard who didn’t want to betray, because the man who set that fire threatened him with gun: ‘If you betray me, I will kill you.’ This could have happened to me.’ We were conversing with my father when he asked me: ‘What is your work like?’ And I responded: ‘Dad, you don’t have to have a fear because I am trained in mining and I have already worked in mine, so I know how to move here and what to do but tell me how you were doing in Jáchymov.’ And he said: ‘You know son, I was used to work hard, I wasn’t afraid of it, but do you know what was really hard for me?’ ‘What, dad?’ ‘When we left the pit, we were all sweaty and they left us standing in the rain or when the snow was falling, we shivered like a leaf but they let us freeze there and shouted out: ‘Dirty kulaks! At your homes there are communists who lie with your wives because they have no food for their children.’ But as I knew your mother, I didn’t fear; however, there were some jealous men who attacked that one who shouted at them. Oh son, you should hear that bellow, as he howled when they dragged him into that porter’s lodge and battered and kicked him. This was hard for me, not my work.’”
“Several years passed and I was cutting trees with my father. You know, we had a large garden, so we wanted to beautify it. My sister grew up; she was nineteen years old and she started to go out with the son of man who once said: ‘This is ours as well.’ Our father usually came home from Bohumín once in two months and it was in summer when he went out to the toilet and saw my sister sitting under the walnut tree with some boy and flirting. Father went closer, looked at him and when he recognised whose son he was, he shouted at him, gripped him by the collar and he kicked him until he was on the street. And some boys told me: ‘Lajo, go home, you father is fighting with somebody.’ When I came home, my sister was crying, mother was folding her arms. ‘Oh God, what has happened here?’ And she told me that story. Then I said: ‘Dad, you surely had fear, didn’t you? If he had turned around, he would have nearly killed you.’ But he was a descent man, so he left. I am sure he came home crying and his father asked him what had happened. And he had to tell the truth to his father that he was ran out of our house. Together with my father we were on leave next day and I suddenly saw father of that boy going to our garden. I quickly put all the sharp tools such as handsaw or axe away. He came and greeted us: ‘Good morning.’ My father, who was up a stepladder, looked at him, climbed down, came to him and said: ‘What do you want here?’ And he responded: ‘Ferko, why did you run my son out of your house? You know that he is a good boy and in spite of it you ran him out so cruelly.’ My father straightened and told him: ‘Not only you deprived me of my land, my property, but you also think that you could claim my daughter. Do you want to take my daughter away from me by violence? Just remember what you had told me back then.’ He turned around dumbly and left. Later he surely told his son: ‘Oh son, don’t go there more. It is my fault that they expelled you.’”
Memories of the Collective Farm Treasurer
“‘In 1952 when they deprived your father of his entire property and finally sentenced and imprisoned him, at that time I was the treasurer of the collective farm, I was the head (he speaks in the meantime). I know what had happened there, and I could and want to tell you everything to let you know the whole truth.’ And he told me: ‘You know, when they took everything away from you, they took money from other people as well and we got money from the state but I wasn’t the most important man there who could decide, thus we said: We won’t pay out money to them; almost all of them are dirty kulaks and we won’t help them and give them any money. We will divide it among us, collective farm members. Power is in our hands; don’t presume to give them a crown! Some money was shared but the worst thing was that May 1950 came and the currency reform took place. Money was devalued and thus we couldn’t bring it back, we couldn’t afford it,’ he said. ‘It is the reason but I tell you something. You are right, fight for your rights. They either have to return your property to you, or refund it.’”
Fruit of the Communist Regime
“I am convinced that the worst crime of the communism was that it destroyed respect which people felt before. It substituted love and friendship for expediency, for an effort to exploit others and thus it made people’s characters corrupted. Just imagine the warp and broken tree. What will its fruit look like? Like this! This is the consequence and it will be really hard to return back to former ideas and manners, to that love for land which our parents and ancestors felt. This will be a real artistry.”
The story and videoclips of this witness were put together and published thanks to the financial support of EU within the programme Europe for Citizens – Active European Remembrance.