Anna Greňová (1930)
“My husband used to say that it is not important only to eat a bigger piece of bread, but to eat it freely. That is what matters.”
Anna Greňová was born in 1930 in Liptovský sv. Peter. She spent her childhood in the Eastern Slovakia and her parents raised her to be a good Catholic. She had participated in different kinds of religion clubs; she was a member of the Catholic Youth Association in Poprad - Veľká and the Catholic scouting. In cooperation with two priests - Štefan Milan and Štefan Nahálka - she founded girls and boys clubs of the Catholic Action with the focus on lay apostolate. These clubs were led secretly up to the time when the State Security started to persecute priests. She worked in a company for production of rail freight and passenger transport vehicles in Poprad. In 1953 she was being investigated for her active Christian life and cooperation with the priests. Subsequently in February 25, 1953 she was arrested and taken into Košice prison. During the arrest Anna was often interrogated and the State Security wanted to find out where the priests she knew were also through physical punishments. The County Court in Košice sentenced her to spend four years in prison; however, the Supreme Court in Prague after the appeal sentenced her to five years. She spent 18 months in Košice remand centre, 7 months in a solitary confinement, and 22 months in a correctional labour camp in Želiezovce.
Beginnings of the Anti-State Activity
„It all began in 1950 when our relative (Štefan Milan) came back to Teplička from Rome, where he studied theology. He was sent to Rome by bishop Vojtaššák. He came back to Slovakia because he fell ill of the kidney tuberculosis. When his superiors asked bishop Vojtaššák what they shall do with him, he contacted Milan´s parents and they wished their son would come home and die there. This is how he came back in the spring 1950. Certain period of time he lived in Teplička and visited us as his relatives, too.“
Founding the Lay Apostolate
“Dr. Nahálka was after the arrest of bishop Vojtaššák moved to Veľká Lomnica for a short time and from there he left to Teplička. That is where his illegality began and he started to hide. In the mean time, Milan prepared the prayer meetings with me at the visits. I didn't know much about leading the groups, but when he asked me if I were willing to help to work more intensively in this religious way, I said “yes”. Meanwhile he also introduced me to Dr. Nahálka, because even though I knew him I wasn't in touch with him until then. At this occasion we talked about this religious work as about the Catholic Action Meetings.”
Regular Prayer Meetings
“At that time I was already friends with František Greň, my future husband. When I appealed to him to find some boys for the meetings, he agreed to help. This is how our “girl's club” actually begun to function under the leadership of our chaplain Martin Mikulec. We used to meet quite regularly, I think it was like every two weeks always at a different flat with a purely religious programme; there was nothing political. We started with a prayer, reading the Bible and meditating about it. Then each of us said how he understood it, how it would be possible to help at our place of living either in the religious way or just in the civil way to those who were floundering - maybe by a good book, nice word.”
“Well, later on Mr. Milan and Mr. Nahálka were persecuted. Milan was persecuted as a Vatican agent, so when he came from the hospital and when he returned from the after-treatment in Turčianske Teplice, the State Security came to see him quite often. After he was the second time at the after-treatment stay in Turčianske Teplice, he began to hide, because they looked for him as a Vatican agent, a spy.
Doctor Nahálka was a big functionary in Spišská Kapitula, so his fate was similar. When he was at home in Teplička and the State Security wanted to arrest him, somehow it was thwarted. A young man from Liptovská Teplička, who was supposed to lead the State Security to this priest, let him know about his aim and during celebrating the Holy Mass Dr. Nahálka left, ran away, I don't know how. He fled to the hills behind Teplička and there actually began his hiding, his illegal activity.”
Beginnings of the Public Persecution
“That Sunday later on in the evening someone knocked at the window. We could see the street from the window and when I looked I saw one man from Poprad, who was also a president of the local scouting before and a friend of the chaplain Mikulec. Well, I opened and he says: “Our chaplain Mikulec has been arrested.” So, he was the first one who told me this news, I don't know where he knew it from, but I was completely confounded. Then I remember I kneeled down in front of the cross, it was the first lent Sunday and I sacrificed the whole following period to Lord Jesus, because I somehow assumed it was the beginning of my way of the cross as well.”
„On 24th February I went to work as usually, I worked at a company for production the rail freight and passenger transport vehicles. There I also had some very close colleagues who even though weren’t in our prayer groups, helped me in a lay apostolate, e.g. by a good book or so. I talked to them about what happened; that I heard our chaplain was arrested. I wasn’t in my office when the personal referent called me to the phone. After I picked it up he told me to get dressed and go to the Labour Office. I asked him why should I go there and he said they needed to fill in some evidence.“
Beginnings of the Interrogation
„We turned to the back door of the District Office. They dragged me from the car, took me in the middle and led me upstairs through the back door. What I immediately noticed were the blooded stairs. There was something really frightening me and I thought to myself: “Well, Lord God, it is beginning.” I went up the stairs to one big room. Inside were, I don´t know, maybe eight or ten men, the secret ones, I guess.“
„Then he started to tell me particular names, of course at first the names of Milan and Dr. Nahálka, how I meet with our chaplain, and they continued telling me: “We don´t care about the things whether you meet with your friends or not. We care about the fact when and where you met Milan and Dr. Nahálka, what was the aim of your meeting, what were you doing together, what were you talking about and where could we meet them.”
Well, this is what began - questions about where Milan is, where Nahálka is... This kind of interrogation lasted since half past nine, half past ten in the morning on the 24th February, until the five o´clock in the afternoon on 25th February, continuously without sleep. The interrogators were changing I don´t know how often; they even told me they don´t care about me, but just about me telling them where the two priests are. They said: “If you tell us where the two are, you are going home right away.” I answered: “I can´t tell you this, cause I don´t know.” “Well, you better recall your memories...” they replied.
So the whole night there were just these two questions going on and on. When I was getting very tired they made me stand up, not to fall asleep. The man says: “Just to wake you up we will tickle you a bit”, he took the ruler and few times hit my hands with it. But he didn´t get anything from me, because I really knew nothing about it.“
„Concerning the meals, those were really the prison meals. Black coffee, dark bread in the morning; lunch quite small, sufficient for us - the women, but men were complaining to be really hungry. I had enough. We got to have a bath once a month; somewhere at the basement there were showers, so that´s where we used to go. Otherwise we washed ourselves in basins. In a glass we had for drinking we could wash our teeth and then pour the water into the vessel as for the toilet. And they would throw us the meals as I throw it to our cats, at the door in the mess tin. He opened the door and we took it. When we went for the interrogation, the warden would fling us a towel, cause we couldn´t have anything inside the cell, and we had to cover the eyes so that we would see nothing even at the hallway. We didn´t have any promenades; since that February I went for a walk the first time in August approximately for ten minutes. That was one walk and the other was after the trial. So I have no idea how could one man survive this – without walks or decent food, and with such a psychological pressure.“
Writ of Fieri Facias
“A month after the arrest without the trial, without anything, they ordered a writ of fieri facias. They took me all of my personal things. My mom told me that everything had been confiscated and it really surprised me. I can also mention the fact that I was arrested on February 24, 1953 and on March 19, 1953 the writ of fieri facias for all our property detain was ordered. At that time I wasn´t even convicted yet, nobody knew what would happen with me...”