Ján Prokop (1920)

Photo: Ján Prokop

Biography

“You can say whatever you want in the trial, they will sentence you as we wrote anyway.”

Ján Prokop was born on October 14, 1920, in a peasant family in the village Kriváň near the city Detva. His uncle, Anton Prokop, was executed by hanging in 1919 during the mass by an army of the Hungarian Soviet Republic because of his public speech, in which he had warned people of the invasion and pillage of the Hungarian army. After passing leaving examination at a grammar school in 1941, Ján Prokop continued his studies at the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, which he finished in 1946. While studying he stayed in the Svoradov dormitory, where he experienced turbulent development of the first Slovak Republic as well as rebellious time during and shortly after the Slovak National Uprising. Due to his participation in the event organized by university students he was arrested and investigated by the State Security, but after being granted amnesty, he was released. After finishing the university, he worked in the civilian aviation. A few years later, he was arrested by the State Security and after a series of investigations and a fabricated trial he was sentenced to two years of imprisonment. He served his sentence in Leopoldov and in Jáchymov prisons, where he had to work hard in mines. Approximately a year later, the Supreme Court in Prague changed the sentence and imposed him fifteen years of imprisonment. Finally, he spent nine tough years in the prison and after being released, he married his long-time fiancée, with whom he had two sons. He was employed as a worker in the construction company Pozemné stavby in Bratislava and later in the company Tesla, where he worked until his retirement. His hobby has been acoustics and he has secretly wired sound systems into forty-one churches in Slovakia.

First Post-war Election’s Burlesque

Ján Prokop - First Post-war Election’s Burlesque (data format Flash Video)

“In Svoradov there was a polling room for the university students. Since as students we were open-minded and shrewd, we heated up the ballots by a candle and we discovered a small number in the back corner. When we compared the ballots and their numbers, we found out that all the students living in Svoradov were numbered. Consequently, it was easy to ascertain which candidate and political party the students elected by vote. As a result, when we came to the polling room, we turned the election into a burlesque. In front of the election commission we said: ‘My number is this and that.’ And then we submitted our ballots and left them stood rooted to the spot.’”

He Escaped a Hair’s Breadth from the Trial

Ján Prokop - He Escaped a Hair’s Breadth from the Trial (data format Flash Video)

“We were arrested, investigated and battered quite a lot. I received such a clout that I fell down to the ground and, consequently, I was taken to the State Hospital to be examined. Fortunately, my eardrum wasn’t damaged; nevertheless, I had some problems with hearing. When I came back from the hospital to the jail, I waited for the trial. I was in the prison from December 1946 to April 1947. But thanks to the intervention of the Social Democratic Party, the amnesty was granted and we were released.“

Execution of Son in front of his Mother’s Eyes

Ján Prokop - Execution of Son in front of his Mother’s Eyes (data format Flash Video)

“In 1919 Detva was invaded by army of the Hungarian Soviet Republic and they committed a murder there. During the mass they executed my father’s brother, Anton Prokop, who arrived there with an escort of soldiers along with my grandmother, who was conveyed there to watch her son’s execution. Moreover, my father had to be there, too. A soldier held his bayonet in front of his chest and told him: ‘If you do what your brother did, you will die, too.’ My grandmother begged them for mercy, because he’d done nothing, but it was vain and, finally, he was executed... .”

False Accusation

Ján Prokop - False Accusation (data format Flash Video)

“In 1952 a prisoner escaped from the prison. His name was Ábel, and he was imprisoned more than once due to robbery. I assume he covered the wire fence with a blanket and fled. The wardens couldn’t see him from their watchtowers because of heavy fog. I don’t know how they noticed he’d escaped, but at 5 a.m. a warden woke me up and told me to get dressed and go with him. So I put on some clothes quickly and then I followed him to a barrack where policemen together with police dogs had already been searching through a neighbourhood of the camp. They were all muddy and tired. When I entered a room, the investigation started. One of the policemen asked me: ‘How did you turn off the light to help him to escape?’ It was a question I couldn’t answer, because I had been sleeping in my cell and I hadn’t worked a shift that night, so I couldn’t turn off the light. He didn’t care about my arguments. He told me: ‘Take off your clothes!’ When I obeyed his command, I had to lie prone on a prepared bench. One of the policemen sat behind my head and the second one sat on my legs and they started to hit me. When they battered me a lot, they kicked the bench and I fell to the ground. When I rose to my feet, they kicked me and asked me again: ‘How did you turn off the light?’ Even if they’d killed me, I answered: ‘I haven’t got a clue, how should I know? I can’t even make up it now, because I was sleeping.’ Then I continued: ‘Ask a person who told you I’d done it to answer your question.’”

Silent Protest of the German Prisoners

Ján Prokop - Silent Protest of the German Prisoners (data format Flash Video)

“It was Christmas, when it happened. The German prisoners were allowed to write home once every six months. When they were all assembled in a wooden barrack and the commanders came, they told them: ‘We’re going to dictate you, what you’re allowed to write home.’ So they started to dictate: ‘I’m fine’ and some other words, but when the prisoners heard the text, they did something admirable. They looked at each other, nobody said a word. They stood up and left the room. The commanders were absolutely incensed. It was a kind of the silent protest. An amazing and effective rebellion the Slovaks would have never been capable of. Well, they were the Germans, disciplined as they always have been.”

Dead Soldiers as a Warning

Ján Prokop - Dead Soldiers as a Warning (data format Flash Video)

“In the mine I met Gažo Fronc, my schoolmate from the university. There were more of my schoolmates in the camp, for example, Srholec, but he’d just been moved to the other mine. We were often moved to be prevented from making friendships among prisoners, because there, in those hard conditions, friendship was even stronger than relationship among family members. We knew we could rely on each other. We knew if anybody died inexplicably, the other prisoners would have given testimony and said what’d really happened. Sometimes some prisoners fled from the mine number twelve, but a lot of them were killed during the escape attempt. They were shot and brought back to the camp. Then they were sat or laid next to each other on a visible place in the camp. As a result, everybody had to see them as a warning to remember what happened to them since they tried to escape.”

Their Love Withstood the Hard Times

Ján Prokop - Their Love Withstood the Hard Times (data format Flash Video)

“Imagine that I met my wife in the Marian Congregation and we took a fancy to each other from the very beginning. When I was in Jáchymov prison, I wrote her: ‘My beloved, don’t wait for me, I was imposed fifteen years instead of the former two-year sentence. Don’t bind to me, because I don’t know whether I’ll die or survive, whether I’ll be a cripple or whether I’ll come back home. I really have no idea what will happen. Decide independently what you want and who you want.’ When she visited me with her mother in Jáchymov then, she started to cry and told me: ‘Don’t write me things like that anymore, I’ve decided to wait.’ And she waited for me more than nine years until we married.”

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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