Dorota Kravjanská (1929)

Photo: Dorota Kravjanská

Biography

“Our children wouldn’t probably believe what was going on back then because these days freedom is more than anything. But at that time, they treated us just like we were things that belonged to them and they could do with us whatever they wanted.”

Dorota Kravjanská was born on April 21, 1929, in the village of Ťahanovce near Košice as the oldest child of her parents. She had six siblings. She grew up in the Christian family in the area with a large Jewish community. As a child she witnessed Aryanization along with deportations of Jewish population and the Second World War. Her father, a notary, got in disgrace with the State Security after the war because he had worked as a civil servant during the preceding regime. After the communist takeover when the religious freedom was restricted, Dorota became a member of many secret Christian communities (prayer groups). She also got involved into the Catholic Action thanks to which she met a lot of important people, for example Vladimír Jukl, Silvester Krčméry, doctor Altman, and many others. In 1954 the State Security got interested in Dorota’s personal life because of her activities within the Catholic associations. In September they detained her and transported her to Prešov prison where she experienced humiliation and enormous mental pressure. She was tried in October 1954. The court found her guilty of the offence of “consorting against the state” and sentenced her to one and a half year of imprisonment. She was also deprived of her civil rights for three years. As she was mother of a little child, she spent only one week in the prison, subsequently she was granted an amnesty and released. Even though she was free, Dorota’s life still remained full of insecurity and fear of the following reprisals; however, it didn’t discourage her to lead Christian life again. Together with her husband they brought up five children.

Soldiers Are Only Humans, too

Dorota Kravjanská - Soldiers Are Only Humans, too (data format Flash Video)

“At Christmas 1944 when German soldiers were still in our country, we experienced a really sad incident. In our house there was one captain whose sons were in captivity, one in Russia and another one in England. Well, we invited him to have a Christmas dinner with us and he was crying a lot. He told us that he didn’t fear for the son who was in English captivity, but he feared a lot for the son in Russia. He was really emotional and as he had Russian captives in our village, he let them out for Christmas just because he was so sensitive. He allowed them to move freely in the village and they got two or three kilo packages of biscuits, candies and fruit. We witnessed this example of humanity just after the war. In spite of the fact that they were enemies, he behaved this way towards them. It was probably because he thought about his sons.”

Testimonies of Russian Refugees

Dorota Kravjanská - Testimonies of Russian Refugees (data format Flash Video)

Interviewer: “What kind of stories did Russian refugees usually tell you?”

“You know, they used to tell us about hunger. They denied all the talks about prosperity of that country. And they also told us stories that were really hard to believe. For example that they saw with their own eyes how they ripped the bellies of pregnant women, took children out of there and killed them.”

Interviewer: “Who did it?”

“Russians, Russian soldiers, of course. But we couldn’t find out whether it was the truth or just propaganda. At least our parents didn’t want to talk about these events in the presence of us, their children. Though, I was already fifteen at that time.”

First Short “Meetings” and the State Security Monitoring

Dorota Kravjanská - First Short “Meetings” and the State Security Monitoring (data format Flash Video)

“You know, we didn’t do agape in Prešov because except Šoltés there were only some girls with me, who had been employed previously. They were a bit older and didn’t want to do that. And thus we usually went to the cinema together or we met at one of them or probably in our house and we used to talk about ordinary things. Most of the girls weren’t interested in marriage or boys on the whole. Thus we were used to praying for a while, meditating and it was everything what we usually did. Once when we were leaving cinema, we noticed two men dressed in leather clothes that followed us. Well, we got frightened, we were three and we didn’t know what to do at all. We didn’t want to run, but we walked very quickly and we were still looking for any place to hide. However, they still stalked us. Finally we passed through our gate and at that moment I realized that something was going on.”

Overnight Interrogation

Dorota Kravjanská - Overnight Interrogation (data format Flash Video)

“Just imagine, he came on the motorbike at night and I had to go with him somewhere, sit on a pillion and catch him kindly. It was four kilometres (more than two miles) from Špania dolina to Banská Bystrica. And somewhere there near the hospital they had their offices. They took me there and interrogated me. Oh wretches, they were quite conceited mainly considering their inadequate education. As he was typing I looked at his fingers. What else should I do? And he reacted: ‘Don’t be afraid, I will type much better when we meet next time.’ Just like I was making a mock of him that he couldn’t type. And then, at midnight, we went back through the forest again. A strange man, the State Security member drove me home. And my husband watched from behind the curtains whether I was coming back or not.”

“Halter Is Prepared for You!”

Dorota Kravjanská - “Halter Is Prepared for You!” (data format Flash Video)

“That woman, a guard, came and forced me to get undressed immediately. I was turned towards the wall and they gave me some menswear. Such a blouse with a fly front but without strings. And the same trousers. So I tried to make a small knot on it. As for my feet I got only some small socks but nothing else. And a man told me right away: ‘I came to tell you that you are legally arrested. I really wonder that you, such a skilful woman, could act so wickedly. Do you know what is waiting for you?’ I said: ‘No, I don’t.’ And he responded: ‘The rope!’ He also told me: ‘You will be charged with the offence of high treason.’ So what should I do? I asked God for helping me but, you know, I can’t tell that it destroyed me, I simply took it as it was. I just took it into account…”

In Prison

Dorota Kravjanská - In Prison (data format Flash Video)

“I can tell you that prisoners were rather sly, they could devise anything. And we used to knock on our walls. Of course, I didn’t know Morse code, though I had been scouting in my youth. I had forgotten it because I didn’t practise when I got married. So we knocked and knocked and I only wondered whether I would get in touch with Šoltés this way. We invented some kind of our secret speech, the way we could communicate, though it was a bit lengthy and complicated. We tapped on the wall only the number of letter in alphabet. You know, “A” was number one and “Z” was at the end. Therefore it took so long, but we passed the time this way. And we could talk this way sometimes. And there were many other things that could make an impression on you. For example if you came to prison, you could find various writings there from somebody who was about to be hanged. It remained there because they didn’t manage to paint it over in time. They usually walked around and painted over everything what was engraved there. When they didn’t manage to do so, it remained there. It was really depressing.”

They Were Steadfast in Their Faith

Dorota Kravjanská - They Were Steadfast in Their Faith (data format Flash Video)

“We continued attending holy masses in our church, receiving sacraments and our children still attended religious education at school. It probably annoyed a lot of people, even the headmistress in our village used to put our children through the mill. When she taught them social studies and they didn’t know something, she used to reproach them for it: ‘Instead of going to church you should probably learn more for example social studies or history.’ It went to extremes. Once when my husband couldn’t come to parent-teacher conference, he sent a letter of apology to school. He wrote that the reason for his absence was his business trip in the Soviet Union. And she reproached my children: ‘How is it possible that your father is used to travelling to the Soviet Union and he also fools you by religion?’ Then my father appealed against it and wrote to the student record book with red pencil: ‘Dear headmistress, if you don’t stop to fluster my children this way, I will report on your behaviour. It’s freedom of religion, so you are a real law-breaker when you oppress my children.’ Then she stopped doing that.”

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.

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