Ferdinand Takáč (1920 - 2013)
“Solitude is not difficult, but people are.”
Ferdinand Takáč was born on June 27, 1920, in the village of Chorvátsky Grob into the family of Croatian emigrants’ descendants. He attended the grammar school in Bratislava, where he also passed the leaving examination. In the years 1941—1944 he was studying law at the university in Zagreb as an exhibitioner; however, he didn’t finish his study because of the war situation as well as his mothers’ death. After the end of the Second World War, he couldn’t go back to Zagreb, so he started to work in the editorial board of Čas, the daily newspaper of the newly founded Democratic Party in Slovakia. He became a journalist and as a young university student he immediately understood the complicated post-war conditions in Czechoslovakia, especially in Slovakia. He imagined that his enthusiasm would contribute to establishing the democracy and to the victory of the democratic forces over the dangerously spreading communism in the elections in 1946. He assisted in establishing the local organizations of the Democratic Party in the countryside, he also was a member of the election commission in Bratislava, and as an excellent speaker he participated in various pre-election gatherings. Capturing the winning 62 percent of the vote in the elections was a sort of reward for him. In 1947 he worked as a foreign correspondent for the daily Čas in Belgrade. In July 1948, Ferdinand Takáč entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Ružomberok. During the proverbial night of the barbarians, the night of April 13 to April 14, he was abducted along with all the monks to Jasov and from there to the internment monastery in Podolínec. Firstly, he worked on the construction of the Púchov dam, then in the factory of Matador in Púchov, and lastly in the library of the Keramoprojekt company in Trenčín. Apart from having a physically strenuous work, he devoted his entire free time to intensive study of philosophy and theology. After finishing his studies, he was secretly ordained a priest by the bishop Ján Chryzostom Korec on January 23, 1955. He celebrated his first mass on February 2, 1955 in the presence of another secretly ordained priest Jozef Porubčan SJ in Skalka near Trenčín. On July 31, 1955, exactly seven years after being accepted into the religion, he was arrested for his religious activities and sentenced to eight years of imprisonment. He was in custody in Žilina, in the former Salesian House. After being sentenced, he went through many harsh prisons and labour camps such as Valdice – Kartouzy, Pankrác, Ruzyně, Jáchymov, Rtyně. While being in prison, he had to work in mine and cut the lead glass. After being released under the amnesty in 1960, he worked as a lift repairman in Bratislava. Some time around the year 1968, when a sort of loosening appeared, he worked as a journalist in the editorial board of the Katolícke noviny newspaper; however, he had to leave it at the beginning of the normalisation period. Later, he worked as a priest in the Congregation of Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in Slatinka near Lučenec for eighteen years. In 1992 he started working for the Jesuit religious order in Ivanka pri Dunaji, where he served daily masses, confessed people, led spiritual exercises, and devoted his entire free time to the translation activities. He translated more than thirty religious books into Slovak language and published them, he compiled several dictionaries, and after fifteen-year-long work he published his most important publication Croatian - Slovak Dictionary with approximately 700 pages and over 50,000 headwords. He was given several honours for his activities. He got the academic degree of Doctor Honoris Causa at the Faculty of Arts of the university in Zagreb. Father Ferdinand Takáč died after being taken into hospital in Bratislava on April 6, 2013.
- Dobiáš, R.: Triedni nepriatelia. Prešov: Vydavateľstvo Michala Vaška. 2004, pp. 429 – 430.
A Book Compiled from the Details of His Life
“As for my process, I can only say I thank god for being involved. I was given eight years. All the others were given more, even up to twelve years. And I depicted everything, of course, from my own point of view, but it really was a documentary. Once, I said, ‘Why shall I, our Lord, suffer here?’ You know, all my closest relatives died, my brothers, father. So I had to write it. Nobody else could, because what people don’t experience, what they only see, will always be strange for them. Thus I decided to describe all details.”
Being Ordained a Priest and the First Mass
“I spent one year in Trenčín, in that grimy rubber factory, where I met Jožo Porubčan. He called the Provincial, father Marko, who also worked in Czech, and he forced me really intensely to become ordained. However, I went to visit father Mikuš, because I wanted to gain his approval and I really did. He called him and he came by the first express train. He was there for four minutes and said to Jožo, ‘All right,’ and then he took the first express train back. Later I was ordained a priest and we two celebrated the first mass. Then I said, ‘Jožo, look, they also had bridesmaids and wreaths and I had nothing, just because I was only a pen-pusher.’ However, at least I didn’t have to do any dirty job; I didn’t have to have a bath every day just like when I had worked in the rubber factory. I only said, ‘What about going to Skalka?’ So we went to Skalka and I celebrated my first mass there.”
House Search and Arrest
“Once, I remember I was interrogated in Trenčín. I knew something was going on, so I had given my writing desk to my colleague. And they really came. They searched my house precisely; they even looked behind the pictures on the wall. The interesting fact was that they found three wafers and asked me, ‘Are they consecrated?’ And they weren’t, you know, if a man celebrates for himself, he doesn’t do that. And he was nice. However, that night the interrogation began. I was held there till the morning.”
Trial and Trodden Prison Corridors
“After a year, my trial was finally prepared. At first I remember that we were led to the basement, the window was somewhere over the ceiling. We had to put our civilian clothes on for the first time and then I noticed trodden parts on the floor. Oh God, how many people were here? It was totally trodden. I even say I was walking there like St. Paul, though I didn’t want to compare myself to him, you know, but one Croatian author, whose publication I translated into Slovak (his biography), wrote about the number of kilometres he had walked on his travels. However, I also walked hundreds of kilometres from the window to the door and the like. When we came there, we changed our clothes. We saw each other for the first time in the bus. And we were taken to Ruzyně prison.”
Suffer Bravely, Act Bravely
“We stood there and father Mikuš walked there this way and the guards tolerated it. He walked around there and when he passed me, he said something, you know, when they dragged us up the stairs, he objected, ‘It actually is the life imprisonment.’ He was 71 at that time and was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment. I told him then, later I apologised, but Jožo Porubčan wrote in his biography that he used to teach us, ‘Forcia agere, forcia patri jezuiticum est,’ which means suffering bravely and acting bravely is Jesuit. He taught us that and I reminded him of it.”
Transfer from Jáchymov to Prison
“He just came and found out some new information about me, so they didn’t want to have me there any more. They sent me to a standard prison along with other young prisoners. However, I was glad. I knew about Jáchymov from some other men there... I know that for example priests had to clean the radiating ore with their bare hands and separate it. Nobody else but priests. In the second camp there were about nine priests. After everything I had read about it, I was glad to be moved from there. Otherwise, I don’t know. In prison, we worked on the shifts, then we had lunch, later we had two hours for a walk, and then we could read some newspapers… I experienced various episodes there.”
Amnesty – May 9, 1960
“I was released from prison under a big amnesty for all the political prisoners in Czechoslovakia, only some of them were excluded. From our group only father Mikuš had to stay in prison, because the so-called bosses of groups shouldn’t be released. It was a great day for me. We were called out, to the yard, which was crowded with prisoners. However, the situation back then was the same in Jáchymov camps. We were announced that, ‘You all standing here go home. You have been granted an amnesty.’ But we didn’t clap; we only stayed quiet, because we deserved it. None of us committed anything wrong. It was just for the political prisoners. It was on May 9, 1960. I was released on the first day and my brother and one of his friends were waiting for me. However, I didn’t come, because they let them go in certain stages not to get drunk on the way and so on. The State Security members were everywhere and though we were wearing our civilian clothes, they knew we were different from the others.”
Solitude vs. Hell in Prison
“Later, I asked cardinal’s brother, who had a small vineyard under the Zobor hill. ‘Why did you do that?’ ‘I wanted to be alone.’ He also was in prison. Be alone. One man said to another man from Turiec, ‘You know, solitude is not difficult, people are.’ Once I was in the number four, I just say the number. There were only murderers and the like. Really hard criminal cases, I spent a month in hell. While in our cells, it was like in an estaminet. And there were some laymen, so when I went to priests’ room, oh God, one man was reading silently, another one was praying rosary and the last one was reading newspapers. These two were talking to each other and when they placed those heavy hitters to them, young prisoners started to bully them.”
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.