Silvester Krčméry (1924 - 2013)

Photo: Silvester Krčméry

Biography

“We have to train ourselves to be able to accept the suffering as well.”

Silvester Krčméry was born on August 5, 1924 in Trnava. He spent his childhood and youth in Banská Bystrica. Later on his family moved to Bratislava because of his father´s work. He joined the Catholic Scout League and during his high school studies he fully participated in various Church activities. In 1943 he met with a priest, Professor Tomislav Kolakovič (1906-1992) who intensively worked with university students. It was him who affected Silvester by revolutionary ideas about the place and function of lay people and little Church communities as well as by the Fatima message about the Russia´s conversion. Silvester Krčméry studied at the Faculty of Medicine in Bratislava, continued in Paris and Prague. During the studies together with his friend Vladimír Jukl they organized evangelization and a Catholic formation for students, mainly the medical students in Prague, but also for workers in the Czech borderland. Developing the Lay Apostolate Movement, so called Catholic Action, was one of the main reasons for their four-week arrest and interrogation by the State Security in 1946. In the end of July, 1951 Silvester was arrested and he spent three years in a remand centre. The military court in Trenčín sentenced him to 14 years of imprisonment for high treason in 1954. He spent ten years in different prisons (Banská Bystrica, Mírov, Ostrov nad Ohří) and labour camps. After the release he worked as a physician in Bratislava for over 20 years. Since 1964 he cooperated with Vladimír Jukl in evangelizing the university students, later on in helping drug addicts, alcoholics, and prisoners. In 1974 he was a co-founder of the secular institute Fatima, where he participated in publishing the samizdat literature and organizing the evangelizing communities, so called groups of the Secret Church. In 1980´s together with V. Jukl they initiated the activity of the Lay Apostolate Movement, which was later on the foundation for today´s Movement of Christian Families in Slovakia, Association of Christian Youth Communities, and eRko - Christian Children Communities Movement.

Youth – Beginning of Life in Church

Silvester Krčméry - Youth – Beginning of Life in Church (data format Flash Video)

“So, from such a scamp´s point of view, it was somehow scout-natural to go camping and to attend different kinds of youth meetings. This way I experienced the regeneration or revolution in Church that Prof. Kolakovič went through in Slovakia. Originally he was a Jesuit priest intensively working with youth. He used to organize meetings with about hundred thousand participants and he began to issue some magazines, too. But when the German and Italian occupation came, he was forced to escape their reach, because he saw how it could end up. So he was trying to get to Spain at first through a little rescue area or yet untouched country, like Slovakia was that time. And he immediately succeeded in getting closer to young people, in his special way.”

Professor Kolakovič´s Mission

Silvester Krčméry - Professor Kolakovič´s Mission (data format Flash Video)

“Why did he want to go to Russia? Because of love. He saw how people suffered there and he was a man of a real life, so it means that when he heard there was a persecution, it wasn´t enough for him just to read a book or newspaper about that. He packed few things he had into a backpack and in a little while he was travelling to an unknown country. This is how he came also to China, when he found out there was a persecution. When it was beginning in Russia, he was trying to get to Russian people as well. His way was to get close also to rebellious groups, so that people, for example in Spain, who switched to communist side, would be able to differentiate a bit between the true Christianity and the true help from the propaganda. It was his strong point to detect the propaganda phrases; he experienced it directly before. In times when he used to organize meetings in Zagreb and in bigger cities in Yugoslavia, there were more than hundred thousand workers at once. To make people listen to him he started to issue a magazine in approximately ten to hundred thousand copies. There he pointed out the important issues from the press, radio and other media. Later on he worked on deepening the students´ intelligence through the university studying groups. We used to meet at the office of Prof. Churu. He was a professor of paediatrics, so it was medicine as well, and he used to host the Christian philosophy courses, Christian theology courses, etc. Prof. Kolakovič did this in such a modern way! It was just amazing and new for us.”

Persecution of the Church

Silvester Krčméry - Persecution of the Church (data format Flash Video)

“In most cases we – the active people – were being arrested. That was the intention though, to set everything up as an anti-state activity. Majority of the people were convicted not for being Catholic activists, but for claiming that all of this was aimed. It was so called – notoriety – or a password that was submitted from one process to another and all of the law systems were being forged so that these people could be liquidated. There were many innocent people executed, put to death, unfairly convicted, and a great persecution of the Church began. However, I cannot say it was just a detriment to Church, because it helped people to discern and move to more perfect Christian practice, if not to holiness in danger of one´s life.”

Psychological Torture

Silvester Krčméry - Psychological Torture (data format Flash Video)

“I did not confess to anything. And the persecution, of course, thanks to the fact that God knew all my weaknesses he let me stay in such a department where it wasn´t that bloody and cruel, so I did not even experience the worst things. I am afraid though, that people tend to underrate the second part of the torture, which is the psychological torture. Many expert groups recognized this torture to be a very sophisticated method of torment. The “glove methods” during which a person wasn´t even touched but put into a total isolation was much more terrifying than the physical torture. I can tell you that sometimes in the worst prisons; those were the prisons directly controlled by the Ministry of Interior; we were somehow glad to be battered of tortured in a physical way, because it was at least a change. Otherwise when a person was put to a solitary confinement, that was much worse than the torture. It was enough when one was exposed to some kind of combined physical and psychological torture for a month or two. A group of authors Schulz, Dvořák, Morávek wasn´t ashamed to talk about these methods in the book called Člověk na pokraji svých sil (Man on the Edge of His Strength). As military physicians they are admitting here these methods are the worst comparing to others. It is not the medieval physical torture, but the brainwashing. They say that even though the maltreatment begins with a physical torment, it has to be followed by the brainwashing method anyway.”

Broken Ribs

Silvester Krčméry - Broken Ribs (data format Flash Video)

“At the beginning I experienced such investigation methods that during the first or the second interrogation I ended up with partially broken ribs. However, I cannot say that was the worst of all. As a doctor I knew how to treat such things and how to relieve the pain by laying down directly at the part of ribs being broken. That was the time when the pain could be relieved the most. It couldn´t be done just by the standard treatment, but at least by winding the adhesive tape around to make the rib cage still. On the other side, it might have happened that the fracture or partial fracture was healed but the place underneath the tape became purulent, and this could cause great complications, of course.”

Strict Program

Silvester Krčméry - Strict Program (data format Flash Video)

“Well, I had very strict daily program where I said to myself: “We can take it as God´s blessing because God didn´t let everybody to stay in the prison. He only let those who could gain there something. He is love and he is not the one who would like to torture me.” That´s when I said: “What if I am here only for two weeks, only for a week? I have to use this time. Maybe I will never have the chance to get to the middle of the communist centre for a week or a month or a year and do my spiritual retreats there.” So I began with the retreats and whenever I slowed down in meditations I used to gradually add things I knew by memory. It was the time when I realized how important it was to memorize at least some parts of the Holy Bible.”

Morse Code in Prison

Silvester Krčméry - Morse Code in Prison (data format Flash Video)

“At first I didn´t understand why the walls trembled so strangely. We could hear once (KNOCKING) and then again, and again. It was later on that we recognized it as a specific system. In the morning when we understood it a bit we could hear: “This is the Catholic Action, Lay Apostolate. We are looking for our sisters on the third floor.” There were women imprisoned and before they used to be employed at post offices or such institutions, so they knew the Morse code perfectly. They were able to provide a morning broadcast for example this way: “Attention please, this is the Catholic Action! We are going to broadcast the main points for morning meditation from St. John´s Gospel.” Those who knew the whole Bible by memory could gradually pass it to others, because everyone there had enough time. Of course, when they caught someone, they put him into so called “correction”. I can explain what it is. It is an aggravated prison in the prison. I was also punished for using the Morse code along with others. Those cells were very odd. Inside the cell there was a cage, such small space, where one couldn´t even sit. So the whole day he was like in a wardrobe, we can say. We hardly got some food there; we only received one third of the daily portion every third day. It means that if there was a portion of - let´s say - one pound of bread, we got only one quarter of it and it was really just a small bite. So at the same time we had to face hunger, too. The Morse code was extremely important. Without knowing it, one could have gone insane, because according to the International Medical Organization, solitary confinement is the cruellest method of civilized and technically developed human torture. I say that sometimes we rather welcomed the day when we were battered or tortured than the time when we were closed in total isolation.”

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