Ladislav Záborský (1921)
“God has saved me many times. He was really merciful to me. He turned all my difficulties, illnesses, even my imprisonment into great spiritual values. He is able to turn human muck into spiritual treasure.”
He was born on January 22, 1921 in the small town of Tisovec. He studied at the grammar school in Banská Bystrica where his drawing teacher Krákora took notice of him and recommended him for further studies. Then he attended the Slovak Technical University in Bratislava, the Department of Drawing and Painting where such personalities as Ján Mudroch, Gustáv Mallý and Martin Benka taught him. After finishing university studies he acted as a drawing and descriptive geometry teacher at the grammar school in Martin. He used to tell his students about his faith. Eventually, he was arrested for his religious activities. Though there was given no accusation or judgement in his case, he was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment. He experienced interrogation, intimidation, demanding prison conditions and threatening, too. He spent five months in solitary cell where he wrote thirty poems depicting his feelings and talks to God. It is a kind of his chronicle from prison. After serving a half of his sentence, he was paroled. Every event that had touched him somehow later appeared in his work. He has always believed in God, so his work was often influenced by the gospel. In 1958 he created one of his most famous paintings called “Snímanie Krista z kríža” (Descent from the Cross) which symbolized his coming back from the “cross”, actually from prison. However, when he was finally released, he was affected by the consequences of persecution; he wasn’t able to get involved in society and his employment opportunities were minimal, thus he illustrated books for children and applied his mind to landscape painting. During the period of normalization he decorated 25 churches with the Stations of the Cross. Between years 1968 and 1969 he lived in France with his family and studied sacral art – architecture and interior decoration of churches. His mission in life is to spread joy, Christian optimism and religious belief in eternal life. Thus his work belongs to that kind of art which has its profundity and carries certain message.
“If I don’t Sign They Will Slay My Wife...”
“Well, they gave me those duds, so nothing was mine, neither name, just a number. He conducted my investigation. And it was really hard because he let me sit under an open window for the whole day. Furthermore, it was in January, he was wearing ushanka and fur coat, drinking hot tea and he even went somewhere to warm up and left me sitting there under the window. It was a miracle that I didn’t fall ill. And when they found out nothing, you know, they used various scare tactics, as I didn’t reveal anything what could be taken as a high treason because actually I hadn’t committed anything like that, they wrote five pages of a really severe protocol and if I hadn’t signed it, they would have slain my wife. We had five children, so I had no choice but to sign. When I did it, they left me in the solitary cell for another five months and told me: ‘Well, you will be given at least twenty years or the rope!’ And they though I would go mad there.
Secret Literary Work in Prison
“… such nice thoughts just like the Holy Spirit had inspired me and dictated those words to me, so I wanted to write them down. I borrowed some soap and soaped the outer side of my basin. I also borrowed a comb and broke one tooth of it. I was afraid that they could catch me. I wrote my poems on the outer side of basin, you know, since it was soaped it glinted in the light under the window and I had only a couple of hours to memorise it because days were short and some of my poems were almost two pages in length. In my opinion, it was a miracle that I managed to memorise it so quickly and word by word. Then I recited those poems every day because I didn’t want to forget even one word and to break their rhythms.”
Hard Period of Time for Family
“It was hard for my family. My children were between two and seven years old when I was imprisoned. My wife, French and Latin teacher, had to work at night as a charwoman. She used to spend the whole day with our children and during the night, she was cleaning the orphanage for five hundred crowns per month. She spent only a couple of hours there. It wasn’t possible to live on it. If there hadn’t been good people who helped them, they would have died of hunger.”
Forced Labour in Valdice
“Later we were transported to prisons. I was sent to Valdice. People said that it was one of the worst prisons. We were put to solitary cells but they sent two men to one cell. It was small even for one and we were two there. And when your cellmate was a murderer or a thief or something similar, it wasn’t a pleasant situation. There we had to pluck feather stinking of the rest of meat or we were forced to separate lentils from stones though when they cooked for us, they cooked also with those stones. And when we went for a ten-minute walk, we were allowed to go out only in pairs, we could be only two and we couldn’t meet other men, it was really strict. Later, they put me to joinery workshop where I painted windows. Then I belonged to a group of men who cut glass. I had to neaten edges there.”
Fine Art Work in the Year 1968
“A lot of churches were built mainly in eastern Slovakia around the year 1968. At that time, during the communism, I made twenty-one Stations of the Cross. Of course, we got round the Visual Arts Committee. We had to do it absolutely secretly. For example, I curved into wood, I etched glass and so on; in total I made stained glass windows in twenty-five old or new churches.”
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.