Helena Kordová (1917 - 2011)

Photo:Helena Kordová

Biography

“All those labor camps for political prisoners were actually open graves where the human dignity had been buried.”

Helena Kordová, born Karpjaková, was born August 5, 1917 in Kežmarok. Her father was an owner of a hotel and restaurant in the High Tatras. She received her secondary education at the grammar-school in her home town, where she graduated with honours. While a secondary school student, she also privately studied English during the vacations. Each year, after her fifth, sixth, and seventh grade of the grammar-school she participated in a special language course at the English Institute in Prague. This was a private school study, after which she planned on studying at the International School in Sweden and then at the Medical Faculty in Prague. In 1940, as a 24-year-old, she married captain Alexandr Korda, a career officer. The happy beginning of their marriage was marred by subsequent events of the WWII and the Slovak National Uprising. At that time, her husband served as a commander of an army training centre. This center was of strategic importance, because military material and supplies were being accumulated here for the prepared uprising against the German occupants. Captain Korda thus took upon himself great material as well as moral responsibility. While he was working on demanding tasks, Helena with their nine-month-old son faithfully supported her husband even in the years of the uprising. After the end of the war and colonel’s Korda release from a German prison his fellow-citizens from Vrútky welcomed him as a hero. From 1945 he served as an officer at the Military Academy in Hranice na Moravě. In May 1949 he was however arrested, subjected to brutal interrogation and then sentenced by a military court to life imprisonment. Helena was imprisoned a year later. They came all the way to Žďiar to arrest her, and from there she was transported to Košice where she spent several nights. Then she was taken to Prague, to the infamous Pankrác prison, and after being sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment in 1951 she was taken from Rakovník, where she had been working in solitary confinement under very cruel brought about by strenuous inhuman work in the ironworks in Kladno. Her husband colonel Korda was subjected to cruel treatment during the interrogations, from which he never fully recovered. After full ten years of imprisonment and torture he died on September 13, 1958 in the prison hospital in Brno. Their son Alexander, who was being brought up by grandparents, suffered a severe nervous breakdown as a result of these events. Helena was released in 1960 and after she returned home she was forced to start over from the very beginning. When in 1968 there arose an opportunity to leave with her son to England, she made use of it and she then returned to Slovakia only after 1989.

Warning

Helena Kordová - Warning (data format Flash Video)

“All of a sudden a youngish man in civilian clothing comes to Ždiar. I thought, my God, who could that be – I thought he was from the police. He comes to me and says – just imagine that organization – he comes and says: ´Mrs. Kordová.´ I answered: ´Yes, it’s me, and who are you?´ He introduced himself and added: ´But I came here secretly.´ I asked: ´And what do you want then? Did the police sent you?´ He says: ´No, nothing like that, I was sent by military prisoners. They paid the fare for the journey for me.´ He continues: ´Is anybody else listening?´ ´No, nobody. So what’s going on?´ I asked. ´They paid the fare for me and sent me here, because I come from this region.´ He was from Spišská Belá. ´And they know that I knew the area well, and they paid the ticket for me so that I could tell you that the colonel had been taken for interrogation again. The Secret Police was there and they took him and one more gentleman, this Kácha who had been sentenced, and they took them away, we don’t know where. They sent me here in order to warn you, so that you are careful, because they will certainly start questioning you as well. And you don’t need to give me any money, for they have paid my return ticket as well. So God keep you and take care and be careful.´ And he left.”

“I returned ten years later”

Helena Kordová - “I returned ten years later” (data format Flash Video)

“I was at home for about half an hour and all of a sudden someone is banging on the door of our flat. I open the door and he says: ´Are you comrade Kordová?´ I replied: ´Mrs. Kordová. I’m no comrade.´ He says: ´ In the name of the law I arrest you.´ I asked: ´Why? And where is your warrant of arrest?´ He said: ´The warrant is here.´ And there it said: ´Helena Kordová is arrested in the name of the law for having committed offence against article this and that, section this and that.´ I said: ´But tell me why. You have to tell me that. I am not guilty, and I am not aware of any offence at all.´ And he says: ´It is up to us to determine that. But you are only taken for questioning. You will be back in a couple of hours. Just take some toiletries with you.´ So I went to get a toothbrush, a towel, some underwear... And he says: ´Don’t take so much!´ I replied: ´You know what, I know you. I know you and these interrogation methods of yours´ I took the most necessary things. They arrested me, I was supposed to be back in two hours, and I returned ten years later. They arrested me and my mother and father started crying out loud. Father and mother stepped up in front of me and said: ´No, we will not give you our daughter. You would have to kill us to take her.´ And I saw they were getting brutal. I told my parents: ´Please, please, they told you I would be back in two hours. You have to be reasonable, I have to go, let me go.´”

They Drove Her to Death…

Helena Kordová - They Drove Her to Death… (data format Flash Video)

“When we were being taken for interrogations, we had to go in that Black Maria van, it looked like an ordinary larger van, but it was a military vehicle painted green and the windows were painted over with white so that nobody would see us. And this van was full of people who were being taken to Bartolomějská Street for interrogations. Many came there covered with blood, beaten, and one young woman, who was sitting next to me, tells me: ´I can’t bear it anymore, I’m not strong to withstand it anymore.´ I whispered to her: ´You got to! You need to endure it, you got to.´ And she says: ´I can’t go on anymore.´ And then at night I heard that she was in the cell next to mine. Suddenly I heard the door of this cell being opened and I got up quickly and I listened to what was going on. And I heard the wardens speaking: ´Blimey, she couldn’t take it anymore. She did not have to hang herself!´ Thus I learnt that she had committed suicide.”

Blackmailed

Helena Kordová - Blackmailed (data format Flash Video)

“After that they showed me my husband, beaten and tortured, and they told me that if I did not sign the confession as they wanted, he would get no medical attention and I would never see him again. This went on and on and after that I began confessing things I hadn’t even done, only so that my husband would get medical treatment. I was confessing just things about myself, not about anybody else, just myself, because that was what they were after, to charge me with espionage and high treason. So I signed the confession they wanted ne to sign. And once again I stress that it was a false confession, entirely false, but I did not care anymore, because I wanted to save his life. But I haven’t saved him anyway. They did not get him medical treatment anyway, and obviously, I was then charged with espionage and high treason. They already had it in writing – the things they wanted me to write. Naturally, a trial followed and I was sentenced to fourteen years. This was not little. Fourteen years.”

After Her Trial

Helena Kordová - After Her Trial (data format Flash Video)

“After my trial I had to start working in the ironworks in Kladno. This was terrible work. We were carrying iron beams, by hand, we were dragging them. We only bound it with some rope and we were dragging them behind ourselves, these old rusty heavy beams. And we were not allowed to use any mechanical aids. This commando was awful. And you know, the latrines were shared by all. There were common latrines for some ten people. And when you sat on the latrine, rats were running behind you. You know, when you were sitting there, and then we also had to clean these latrines. They would bring some sort of a wooden barrel and we had to manually pump out the content of the bog with buckets. And then we were transferring the stuff from these buckets into the barrel, including the dead rats, of course. I was not able to do it. I threw up everything. I was standing there, and one Boromei nun came to me and told me: ´Helena, leave it.´ She told me precisely this. ´I am a nurse, I’m used to handling shit, I will bucket it out for you.´ And she did. I can still see her even today, shorter, plump woman, well, she was fat, actually, and she helped me so much, I wasn’t able to do it. And in the cells it was terribly cold there and we were hungry, we were in a cell together with murderesses and prostitutes and thieves and there were some forty or fifty women in one cell. We slept on the floor, on straw mattresses, there was no running water nor a water-closet, just a bucket to shit in, which was kept inside the cell.”

Suicide Instead of Returning Home

Helena Kordová - Suicide Instead of Returning Home (data format Flash Video)

“I remember one female prisoner who was about to be released. I think her sentence was to expire in about a week, but before that her mother came to visit her and in a very ruthless manner she told her you see, when you get out, you will have it difficult at home, because they are blaming you of this and that, saying that you had confessed this and that and it will be very hard. And she should never have said that, because people can imagine various things when they are outside, because out of prison it is all easier to bear. But this woman, who had served her penalty of let’s say five years and now she was to return home and her mother was warning her that things would be very difficult for her… this girl couldn’t overcome this fear and in the morning they found her dead, she had cut her wrists, she folded her prisoner’s uniform nicely in one corner of the toilet, she folded the clothes neatly so that it would not get stained when she cuts her wrists, and then in the opposite corner she cut her wrists and obviously they found her dead.”

“The addressee died…”

Helena Kordová - “The addressee died…” (data format Flash Video)
“A few days later I got a letter. And in the letter there was a note: ´The addressee died on September 13.´ This was a notification of my husband’s death. When I got this letter with the note, I was at the workplace and I was just cleaning the inside of a large pelt with sharp knives, which was done in order to reach that soft pelt which was under it. I had cuts on my hands, my hand was still bleeding when I received the letter. And it was a terrible blow to me. I remember that in this dirty prisoner’s apron full of these rough hairs, I leaned against the prison wall and I collapsed on the floor. And I pressed my head between my knees and I cried and cried. Without ceasing. A warden came to me and roughly hit my shoulder and said: ´Woman, why are you crying? Stop crying, what’s happened to you?´ I stood up with all my strength, pushed him away from myself and told him: ´Don’t touch me or I will kill you, you murderers.´ And suddenly they saw that this disciplined woman at once turned into a terrible accuser, calling them murderers. They obviously could not bear it and in their cold hearts and on the following day I was obviously ordered to report.”

Tortured Till He Lost Consciousness

Helena Kordová - Tortured Till He Lost Consciousness (data format Flash Video)

“They also broke my husband’s leg. They did not treat it at all and it did not heal properly. And he was not even able to walk at all anymore, nor to breathe, because they closed him in a room and started pumping exhaust fumes from cars into that room, and when he fainted, they poured some water over him and when he came to himself, they started with the exhaust gases again. And another thing was that they placed some slack lime into a bucket and they added water to it, and he had to step into it and it burnt his legs. They were beating him with truncheons for not walking properly, he could not walk well anymore. They compressed his head with electric bands and they were tightening them till he lost consciousness. Tell me, are they human beings? Is it possible that one creature, made in the image of God, could inflict torture on another human being? This kind of torture? Tell me, what kind of people are they?”

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