Margita Zimanová (1942)
“There is only one thing I wish for: to never let totalitarianism, the reign of violence and terror, rule in the future. The real events and hard lives preserved on the pages of our history and in memory of the nation ought to serve as a memento for future generation.”
Margita Zimanová, nee Valentová was born on February 9, 1942, in Bratislava. She was the eldest daughter of political prisoners. Her father worked in the Ministry of the Interior and her mother was a housewife. Her parents were arrested on January 14, 1952, because they had helped her mother’s brother, Vojtech Danko, to flee across the border. Her mother, Margita Valentová, 32, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Her punishment was later shortened to 25 years. All in all she spent seven years in prisons; except her 9-month stay in Bratislava, she also experienced prisons in Rimavská Sobota, Pardubice and Želiezovce. Her father, Pavel Valent, 39, was sentenced to death and on March 28, 1953, he was executed. So far none of the family has known what happened to his body and where he was buried. Her family was deprived of all the property which was confiscated and put up for auction. The grandparents looked after three little children, Gita, Helenka and Peter, in Ladomer. Her grandfather, Gabriel Danko, came to Bratislava to take food tickets for the children, but he was arrested and consequently he spent more than seven years in the jails in Příbram and in Jáchymov. Her mother’s brother, Imrich Danko, was also taken into custody. Vojtech Danko, because of whom the whole family suffered, had worked as a notary in Detva. Since he had expressed some disagreement with the ruling regime, he was in danger and therefore he decided to flee across the border to Austria. Margita’s father helped him to flee and, as a result, he was imprisoned and executed. Vojtech Danko tried to come back to homeland in 1968, but it was not possible because of the political situation. Parents of Margita Zimanová were sentenced and imprisoned for anti-state activity, so she was not allowed to study and thus she started to work when she was only fourteen. She, together with her siblings, suffered a lot not only in childhood when children shouted at her angrily and they stopped being friends with her, but also in adulthood when she had problems at work, when she was persecuted by the State Security members or even when she was suspected of writing an anti-state letter. She wishes everyone to tell the truth about events that happened in the 1950’s. Witnessing of people’s suffering ought to be a memento for future generation that should never let anything similar happen.
“My mother used her own blood to write a letter for her husband…”
“My mother wrote her husband a letter when she was in custody. As you know, they had neither paper, nor pencils there. Nowadays they even have televisions in the prisons. So, my mother took some toilet paper and something which looked like red ink. In the custody, women went to the bathroom firstly. Later men went to the bathroom after them. So, my mother left her letter, written on the toilet paper as if with the red ink, for her husband next to the soap. But my mother was investigated because of the red ink - she was asked to tell the name of the person who gave it to her and where he/she gave it to her. But my mother told them: ‘Well, you can analyse it and examine whether it is red ink.’ But it wasn’t red ink. When my mother had her period, she took a quill and wrote the letter for my father with her own blood.”
“Well, depending on her actual mood, my mother talked about her reminiscences of the remand, but it was difficult for her. Of course, they were battered. With her cellmate she spent nine months in a cell under the ground. She was emaciated, she didn’t see the light and she even talked to a rat. In September, 1953 when she was expected to go to the court, they fed her up and she had to learn what they had told her. So, she wasn’t allowed to tell the truth, she had to lie. She had to confess that it was her fault, because she made a mistake. She had no other choice.”
Vojtech Danko’s Fatal Words
“As I have already mentioned, my godfather, Vojtech Danko, had expressed his disagreement with the socialist regime and he was threatened with the prison. One gentleman advised him to flee abroad, so he asked my father to help him, because he worked in the Ministry of the Interior. At first, we had travelled a lot, because my dad had worked as a technical manager of radio transmitters near Prešov and in Veľké Kostoľany, in Košice, but later he worked in the Ministry of the Interior. As a result, my godfather knew he had an access to the roads that led to Vienna. The whole family used to go to the cottage on Viedenská street, in Petržalka. I remember me as a nine-year-old girl running there together with my siblings. My daddy was a hunter; he was a member of a hunting organisation in Petržalka. Finally, my godfather fled across the border successfully. Since my daddy had helped my godfather to flee the country, my family was punished cruelly. My godfather stayed abroad. He was fretting there for the rest of his life and we were fretting here, as well. We all had hard lives.”
From Mother’s Memoirs of Apprehension
“Memoirs of my husband, Pavol Valent, born on July 27, 1914, in Zvolen, living then on Vazovova street 2, in Bratislava. On January 14, 1952, it was the first day of our holiday. At 9 a.m. the bell rang. When I opened the door, I saw my husband’s good friends, who asked him to go to the office with them. After the long discussion my husband told me he had to go to straighten out some matters. After two hours the bell rang again. It was odd, because my husband had keys for our flat. When I opened the door, I saw four men, the State Security members, and a woman wearing a white smock and the State Security uniform. ‘What happened to my husband?’ I asked them. ‘Nothing,’ one of them told me. I was just asked to put on my coat and to go with them. ‘And what will happen to my children?’ ‘We will look after them, don’t worry, you will be back here soon.’ Finally, I came back after more than seven years.”
Mother’s Memoirs of the State Security’s Cruel Practices
“When I got off the car, I was led to the first floor, where four men wearing civilian dress were waiting for me. One of them started to interrogate me. When I was asked where my brother was, suddenly I knew what was going on. They spent three hours cross-examining me. Suddenly they started to shout at me and they threatened me to spend three days in shits if I didn’t start to talk to them. At the end of the cross-examination one of the State Security members told them to finish it up. Then I saw my husband, it was terrible. He wore handcuffs, he was beaten, his face was bruised and he had a black eye. ‘It’s enough,’ one of the men said and my husband was taken away. Interrogation lasted for four days, from dawn to dusk. I slept on the ground in my cell covered up only with my coat. On the fifth day I was given a prison uniform. In the evening I got paillasse with a little straw inside and in the morning they took it away. When they were interrogating us, they used to cover our eyes, because it was more interesting for them. After the interrogation a remand followed. It was a damp hole full of rats. Later starvation followed. It usually lasted for three days. Then I was irradiated by a strong light bulb, etc. It all finished on September 11, 1952, when we both had a trial.”
Devastated Father in the Prison
“Well, before the execution my father looked like terribly. He was 39 then, but he looked like 89 year-old. He had been battered and tortured; as a result, he looked like an old man. There is only more one thing I’d like to say. He pricked his leg with a rusty nail to avoid the execution, because he knew the law. But, finally, he was executed even without one limb.”
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.