Ladislav Vrábel (1947)

Photo: Ladislav Vrábel

Biography:

“I have had a principle of serious priestly work, non-attacking and courage. Better to suffer than to let myself discredited.”

Ladislav Vrábel was born on July 28, 1947 in Ladce. From his early childhood he desired to become a priest and in spite of disfavor of the communist regime, his dream came true. After passing the school leaving exam in 1965 in Ilava, he began his studies at the Faculty of Roman Catholic Theology in Bratislava and in 1970 he was ordained a priest. His first place of work was in Bánovce nad Bebravou. In years 1974 – 1977 he was an administrator of parish in Ivanka pri Nitre. Due to his active work with youth, trips to mountains, and organizing secret meetings at the presbytery he was under the constant State Security surveillance. For several times he was even offered cooperation, however, after he radically refused it, he was punished by detention of his 3-month state salary. In years 1977 – 1991 he served as a parish administrator in Nitra – Horné mesto (Upper Town). During his priestly ministry he also cooperated in the distribution of the back then prohibited religious literature. In early 1990 he volunteered as a priest in military units, orphanages, nursing homes, hospitals, and prisons. He paid special attention to youth ministry, people in crisis and physically disabled. In years 1991 – 1994 he worked as parish administrator in Predmier and in 1994 he was moved to Žakovce parish in Spiš diocese. Here he along with a priest Marián Kuffa took care of former prisoners and homeless people. On June 1, 1995 the Bishop’s Conference appointed Ladislav Vrábel a coordinator of religious activities at the General Directorate of Corps of Prison and Court Guard (ZVJS) in Bratislava. On January 1, 2004 he was appointed a vicar-general of the Ordinariate of Armed Forces and Armed Corps of the Slovak Republic for the ZVJS.

Priests – Heroes Who Saved Ladce in 1945

Priests – Heroes Who Saved Ladce in 1945 (data format Flash Video)

“Since the mid 1980s, the Charter 77 used to organise meetings of various opposition groups - the Greens and the Czech Children, or what their real name was, and, of course, some people from Slovakia, not just the Charter members as there were only a few, but mainly the Christian opposition [was present at the meetings]. So I used to go there from Bratislava and then, of course, I informed all the others. However, the State Security caught us a few times and even detained us at the police station. Well, it was going on this way for some time, when the State Security ran of their patience. They followed me to housewares and searched my house, so then, in 1985, I was actually forced to leave the housewares. Later, I worked for some time in an affiliated plant of Joint Agricultural Cooperative (JRD), but I was forced to leave it as well and from January 1, 1987, I became unemployed.”

“Permitted” Study of Theology

“Permitted” Study of Theology (data format Flash Video)

“We didn’t know what was going to happen, but our father did not sign it. At last, he was the only one in the village and therefore they threatened him with allotting him app. ten kilometers of land up in the hills, where wild animals would graze down all of his crops. Besides that he would be put in jail for not handing in the requested quotas. Thus he signed it with conditions. For me the most interesting condition he had was that his children would be allowed to study and work without restrictions. Later they didn’t want to let me study at a high school because of worries I would study to be a priest. Thus my mother and I objected since in this case they would have to give us all our land back, as this condition had been stated in the application for entering the cooperative farm. Well, during the high school as well as during my theology studies I was in advantage comparing to my schoolmates – other theology students. Do you know why? I found this out much later, and it might even sound funny, but back then the Minister of Health was Dr. Vráblová, a very convinced communist and probably due to their fear that I (named Ladislav Vrábel) could be her relative, they let me be.”

Confirmation in Ivanka pri Nitre

Confirmation in Ivanka pri Nitre (data format Flash Video)

“Well, then I was moved to Ivanka pri Nitre, where the sacrament of confirmation wasn’t served for over eleven years. At school there was a director who fought against the Catholic Church very harshly. And I tried to reach my goal as it is usual in a village – whatever is told to one, everyone knows at once. I didn’t tell anyone, not even to my mother or father who visited me at the presbytery. Yet on Saturday evening, around 10 p.m. when I knew no one would come, I said, ‘We shall have confirmation this year. It’s going to be a surprise. I couldn’t tell this anyone because the school director would surely ban it.’ I knew that one week of school holiday was about to begin and thus on Sunday I announced that every day after 5 p.m. would be lecturing and on Saturday – the exams. The children walked underneath the director’s windows, but there was nothing he could do, as it was holiday. When everybody was signed up for confirmation, I said, ‘Now nobody can take this back, no one can cancel this anymore.’ Yet, during the confirmation the children were supposed to attend a trip for free and whoever did not join the group, would be charged to pay a 150-crown fee. Thus I simply went to tell this to our bishop, who wanted someone to witness this fact. Unfortunately, when I asked people to help me, one willing man came, but said, ‘Father, I am sorry, but I am just a worker and my wife is really worried what would happen with our children.’ So then I took up the responsibility and explained everything to the church secretary and to the bishop according to his appeal. Finally, I also went to talk to the director himself. His explanation about this issue was that it wasn’t meant to be a fine, but a reimbursement from those not attending to the ones participating in the trip, so that they could travel for free. I replied to him, ‘Mr. Director, is Sunday a work day? Or has it been changed by law to a work day? And if it’s not a work day, how can you charge your pupils and punish them with worse marks from behavior for not being at school on a free day? This way you are breaking the law!’ And somehow they backed up.”

Offer to Cooperate with the State Security

Offer to Cooperate with the State Security (data format Flash Video)

“‘Excuse me, please, but what do you want from me as a priest? Do you need to confess or any other spiritual service or what do you want?’ He said, ‘No, I came to talk to you.’ ‘About what?’ ‘Well, you know, the fact that you are here is also our merit.’ That’s what made me really angry! So the State Security punishes me for activities with youth, expels me from Nitra and he comes to tell me that it is their merit?! Don’t they have anyone else – smarter – for such a deal?! This way he wanted to get me? I got quite mad. ‘Am I supposed to be thankful to you? Look at the wet walls and I have problems with my bronchi.’ ‘Well, we could help you to get to a better place.’ ‘No, thank you.’ ‘Why?’ ‘The Romans used to say that who accepts many gifts, he is about to quickly loose his freedom. And what do you actually want?’ ‘Cooperation.’ ‘What does that mean?’ ‘If there were any priests or the faithful with a problem, you could let us know about that and we would help them not to get in jail or so.’ ‘Well, you will never trap me for this.’ ‘Why?’ ‘You know, I have gastric ulcers and I would never be sure if all of that didn’t turn against me. This all is so against my conscience. I won’t do this. Moreover, as you phoned, I got quite sick and I called Dr. Longauer right away. He said he had only three patients left and he would come to give me an injection as soon as possible. He also asked me what happened. I told him that I had some suspicious call from Mr. Nemec from the State Security in Nitra.’ ‘You are not supposed to tell that anyone!’ ‘Well, I am a frank person, so don’t come here anymore!’”

Extraordinary Success of the State Security – Captured Illegal Religious Literature

Extraordinary Success of the State Security – Captured Illegal Religious Literature (data format Flash Video)

“So the religious literature was the most precious thing back then. I was asked whether I was willing to accept delivery of books. It was shortly after Coufal was killed and therefore I was strongly aware of what I was about to face and I agreed. I accepted several deliveries without problems, but one of them was supposed to come and it didn’t. We had such a secret communication, we would call each other that we went to cinema and it should be always at least one day earlier than agreed. Of course, our phones were tapped. We counted on that. But I waited until morning, all doors were only half-closed, unlocked, but nothing happened, no one came. In the evening I asked the chaplain to help me with the duties and I went to watch TV news. I remember my mom wringing her hands, when she saw me not taking care of my sixty – seventy students and going to watch news instead… Suddenly publications such as Bible, Ozvena slova (Echo of Word), and Sonina rada (Soňa’s Advice) appeared on the screen. ‘Security organs in Nitra had an extraordinary success in detaining contraband of clerofascist anti-state group, which attempted to subvert our socialist system, and they were also successful in capturing religious literature.’ Afterwards I stopped listening.”

Why He Didn’t Apply for Issuing a Passport for 14 Years

Why He Didn’t Apply for Issuing a Passport for 14 Years (data format Flash Video)

“In the past everything was being planned. They planned the numbers of cooperators, for example from the ranks of doctors, teachers and the like. And actually it wasn’t that easy to gain cooperators from certain professions. The State Security usually misused some unpleasant events or fears, e.g. if someone had an accident or wanted to travel abroad, or wanted a passport. I haven’t applied for issuing a passport for 14 years, because I knew that in case of issuing it, they used to give people also one hidden paper to sign, which represented the cooperation agreement. ‘If you don’t do this or that, we shall publish that you have signed up…’ And the one could be easily blackmailed. Moreover, if they had or knew something special about this person, they could make his/her life truly miserable.”

Psychological Destruction of Priests

Psychological Destruction of Priests (data format Flash Video)

“It wasn’t easy to gain ŠtB cooperators from some professions – for example from the ranks of teachers or doctors. If someone talked nicely to them, they would put him on their list, but those who were afraid, were blackmailed. I knew some priests who were literally destructed psychologically and who often got heart attack after the State Security’s ‘visit’. One documented case is the case of Cardinal Trochta. Cardinal Casaroli wrote about this in his book. After a severe heart attack Cardinal Trochta was released from hospital on his own request under the condition he wouldn’t even pick up the phone. However, a drunken district church secretary cruelly came to him, kicked his assistant, who didn’t want to let him in through the door, and loudly yelled, ‘I will kill you if you don’t kick out all of those Salesians from presbyteries!’ After he left, Cardinal managed to say only one last sentence, ‘This is my death.’ And I am sure that this district and church secretary if being still alive, has a nice pension; although, I guess no one actually envies him.”

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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