Milan Krajčovič (1929 - 2008)
„I have chosen this way myself...“
Milan Krajčovič was born on July 23, 1929, in Svätý Jur. He grew up in a Christian family and since his early childhood he used to minister in church in Liptovský Mikuláš. His father and younger brother moved to Skalica to the farm called Kostelnice, where Milan followed them later along with his mother. In August 1948, when he was a student, he attempted to cross the border for the first time near the Danube River in Petržalka. Together with his two companions they planned to emigrate to Austria and thence to the United States. However, their plan was thwarted by the border guard. They caught him and sent back. Only several weeks later he tried to cross the border again in Mikulov for what he was detained and interrogated by the Austrian border guards in Mistelbach. After the investigation in Znojmo, the District Court in Mikulov sentenced him to two years of imprisonment, fine, and loss of his civil rights for several years. While being imprisoned in Brno, he met Jaroslav Bureš, with whom he fled to Prostějov and later to Skalica. At first they got to Freyung, to the American crew, later they were transferred to Passau, and spent some time also in reception camps in Munich and in Murnau. American soldiers promised to help them with emigration to the United States in exchange for their cooperation. Thus they spent couple of weeks in Rottenburg where they underwent a kind of training. Their task was to return to Czechoslovakia and deliver messages by means of so-called ‘dead letter boxes’. After being revealed by the State Security, Milan Krajčovič was investigated in Pankrác prison and sentenced for high treason and espionage to 24 years of imprisonment. He was escorted to Olomouc and later to Opava prison. He also ended up in many labour camps such as Jáchymov (Barbara, Vršek) and Bory in Pilsen. Then he was transported to Ruzyně prison and in 1955 to Leopoldov, where he stayed until October 1963. He wasn’t included in any amnesty, but finally they released him and paroled for 10 years. He was fully rehabilitated only in 1990. Milan Krajčovič died in 2008.
Caught at the Border
“We crossed the border and went towards Mistelbach, we wanted to catch a train and get to Vienna. Of course, there were those four zones, so we wanted to move from the Soviet area to the American or English, depending on which one would have been closer. On the way there, as we went to the station, those Austrian border guards caught us again. They led us to the Austrian station, they were the most probably members of border guard, because it wasn’t far from the state border. We waited there to be escorted to Mistelbach. The Austrians interrogated us and said: ‘Look how well we are, we have the Marshall Plan, we are missing nothing, we are a defeated country, but you must run from your homeland, from the Czechoslovak Republic.’ It seemed to me just like a mockery, because I didn’t know whether they were communists or what, but they probably had these tendencies. Then they took and drove us to Mistelbach, where we were imprisoned. We spent almost fortnight there. Maybe it was a bit longer, I can’t remember, and from there they drove us to interrogation at the Soviet commando. We were there, I don’t know, five or six times and it was always in the evening that two of these police officers took us out of the prison and drove us there. Well, and how they treated us... there was one leading officer, a soviet army captain. We got a terrible thrashing there. It was a kind of alibi because they always drove us there at once, one of us was put into some room and the second one was interrogated. And this captain, you know, I am not sure, but he seemed to me like some sadist, I thought he did it for pleasure or what.”
Revealed while Handling So-called ‘Dead Letter Boxes’
“As we walked through forests along a path, two policemen suddenly appeared in front of us. ‘Hands up!’ We were surprised, but we gave up and then one of those policemen started to frisk Jaroslav Bureš. As he was coming near, Bureš turned and knocked him somehow. Then the automatic tumbled out of his hand. One policeman was just standing there while that one lying on the ground shouted: ‘Just shoot him!’ I still remember it. I got scared, but he hesitated... he simply didn’t do it well and just yelled at Bureš to put his hands up. So he obeyed again. Policeman grabbed his automatic and asked me whether I had any weapons. I owned up. ‘Throw it away!’ I had two small guns. Then they took us to the police station, they went behind us and forced us to go with our hands above our heads.”
Fink of the State Security
“One of us was a nark. He was deployed by the State Security. Yes, it was the first lieutenant Oldřich Mihola. He came from Brno. He knew that we would go before them and he also knew our route. And we trusted each other and it was obviously a big mistake. I would say it was a great imprudence. Thus they had already been waiting for us. Mihola nad Mirek Janeček followed us later, they went there the next day. They crossed the border and reached Prague.”
Messages Hidden in Collars of Shirts
“I was tried along with Jaroslav Bureš and Mirek Janeček; they were the ones who I have mentioned above. And Jaroslav Bureš was labelled as the leader of our group. The prosecutor suggested a death sentence for all of us, but in my case they mentioned all my previous punishments at court. And you know, Jaroslav Bureš was a lawyer, so he confessed to everything. However, he had one more trouble in prison. He used to send secret messages written with a thin pencil on cigarette paper in collars of his shirts. He put it in and nobody could find it by touch. If it had been something hard, they would have found it, but it was impossible as it was such a thin paper. But later they did it wisely, they weren’t so stupid. They let everything go through the x-ray. This way they found those secret messages, where he gave instructions to his wife what to do, or where to go and so on. Finally they arrested a lot of people and his wife as well.”
Punishment in Bratstvo Camp
“It was Christmas day when we were the third day without any food. You know, it was in December, in freezing winter, I am not sure, but it was about minus twenty degrees Celsius. Twenty-four, maybe twenty-eight, I only estimated it. It was the third day without grub; I think we got some water or black coffee then, but nothing else. It was on the third day, one, two, three, it took just three days and we heard some strange rumble. It was about eleven or twelve o’clock at night. It started suddenly. They were unlocking the door and shouting ‘Out, everybody out!’ I said to myself, what it meant, why we should have gone out at midnight. Thus one of us, I don’t know exactly who said: ‘Nobody will go out until morning.’ We debated it, locked the door again and then they started to consult, too. Suddenly they opened the small window and splashed us with cold water, just imagine it, it was freezing cold. They splashed us, we were totally drenched, and water was really high, so everyone went out finally. And they still asked us: ‘Will you go out?’ ‘No, we won’t!’ Then they stopped splashing water, opened the door and let two dogs in. Without baskets, without anything, it was terrible. Now I can’t remember, but some of us were terribly bitten. Some of us had coats, or something similar. I haven’t told you so far that we were dressed just like when we were taken from the ‘L’ camp to insulation. I wore just slippers, prisoner’s pants, shirt and vest. Some had even coats, I had only my vest. And when they splashed us with water and unchained the dogs, there was horrible holler, you can’t imagine it. At last we went out, because dogs could have even torn us. There was a long yard where we stood side by side, one meter between us.”
In One Cell with Gustáv Husák
“I stayed not only in common cells, but also in the ‘old hermitages’. I worked in the locksmith’s and Dr. Gustáv Husák worked there as well. He was building some street. Yes, he was there. He stayed with me in those hermitages. In one room. He used to call me Milanko and I called him the doctor. Once he asked me, why I was there, so I told him I had normally been abroad but when I came back, they sentenced me for espionage and high treason. ‘Well, I cannot do anything about it,’ he responded. ‘Nothing can be done in this case, but you know what, I’ll try something. So tell me how everything has happened.’ There was some paper and we could write on it. At last he said that I couldn’t seek either for retrial or suspended sentence, it wasn’t possible at that time at all. ‘But you know what, I’ll write a suit for pardon for you.’[He said.]”
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.