Sister Bohumíra Školníková (1917)

Photo: Sister Bohumíra Školníková

Biography:

“Then, I took it as my mission. I wanted to spread the respect to the Holy Spirit and to reinforce the missionary idea in lay people.”

Sister Bohumíra, civil name Rozália Školníková, was born on September 23, 1917 in a small village of Kysucký Lieskovec as the oldest of five children. He attended the public school and later continued studying at the church grammar school. In 1932 she decided to become a nun. In August of the same year she enrolled for the study and preparation at the convent in the village of Stockerau near Vienna, where she spent two and a half years. After coming back to Slovakia, to a newly established convent in the village of Spišský Štiavnik, she went through the period of formation, actually postulate and novitiate, and in July 1938 he took the first vows. Rozália Školníková took the religious name of Sister Bohumíra. Later, she decided to extend her knowledge and started to study pedagogy in Nitra; however, she wasn’t able to finish it because of her religious duties. She returned to school only a year later, but this time she changed pedagogy for nursing, which she wanted to pursue from her early age, and enrolled at the school of nursing in Bratislava. In 1943 she found a job in the hospital in Kežmarok, where she worked as a scrub nurse and later even as a charge nurse. She also worked there in a hard period of the Slovak National Uprising, end of the war, and arrival of the Russian troops. Actions of the communist regime aimed against the Catholic Church affected the religious sisters working in Kežmarok hospital in the year 1959, when they were forcibly evicted and moved to Slovenská Ľupča. Capable of work sisters demanded being employed, so sister Buhumíra among others managed to get a job for the Czech charity, she started working in the retirement home in the village of Horní Vidim. In 1961 the State Security searched Sister Bohumíra’s flat and subsequently drove her for the interrogation and investigation to Košice, where also the trial with several sisters and priests was held in August of the same year. Sister Bohumíra was accused of abetting the anti-state activities and establishing the secret monastic order and sentenced to seven years of imprisonment. She was released under the amnesty on May 9, 1962. Then, she returned to the Czech part of the republic, where she worked in an orphanage in the village of Brtníky in Děčín district and later in a retirement home in the village of Jindřichovice pod Smrkem in Liberec district. In 1969 she became the regional mother superior and she has been engaged in the missionary activities in Slovakia till these days. She works for the Holy Spirit Missionary Association at the Congregation of Missionary Sisters.

Life Decision

Life Decision (data format Flash Video)

“My decision to leave for the convent was well considered; however, the neighbours, or for instance the mayor and friends tried to persuade my mother not to let me go as I was her oldest daughter and as our father was already dead and other siblings younger than me, so that I could help her with the housework. But my mum was so brave that she didn’t keep me from what I wanted, she only consulted it with other people. She did so and finally the teacher decided. It was a decisive opinion for my mother and as for me, I had already been decided.”

“We will be here forever…”

“We will be here forever…” (data format Flash Video)

“Then, when the Germans were leaving the town, the Russians were arriving. Once we went to the church, but we didn’t know they would gather in the city centre. We were at the Civil House when we noticed that the streets were full of Russian soldiers who were marching there and the like. We were walking along the path, three to four sisters in each group, when suddenly one of the Russian commanders stepped out from the line. He stopped us on the corner. We were really scared as we didn’t know what would happen to us. However, he was very tactful; he spoke Russian and told us not to go this way again. He walked us, you know, we went back and he walked us there, back to the street, to the post office and past it, it had already been blasted into the air, and then along the side street to the church. Well, it was a quite nice experience with this Russian soldier, but people, who saw us through the windows disseminated in the town that we were taken captives. And he only walked us to the church and warned us, ‘Don’t to go this way again, because we will be here forever.’”

The Command to Remove Crosses

The Command to Remove Crosses (data format Flash Video)

“In the hospital, in the patients’ rooms there were crosses hung on the walls and then the command to remove them came from Košice, from the region. The director called me to go and collect them, so as we had to dispense with them. I told him we couldn’t do that and wanted to know about the situation in other hospitals, we wanted to know if it stood only for us or not. Later, the director himself phoned to the neighbouring hospitals and it proved true that Košice hospital still had the crosses. So then the crosses remained on the walls, but not for long. Somebody took them down, we didn’t know who, but one morning we found them lying on the table in each room.”

Warnings

Warnings (data format Flash Video)

“We experienced the cases of real kindness and willingness. People obliged us, for example if there were some meetings, each section had a confidant in that era, right? And I know, a lot was said about us and accounts were given on us and the like. But if something bad was about to happen to us, or if something might harm us, if they agreed on taking certain steps against us on those communist gatherings, our close people, though we didn’t expect it at all as they were party members and really convinced ones, came and warned us. For example one dentist who was present at those meetings said, ‘Sister, I have heard that you have some toothache; don’t you want to go with me now? Now I have no patients, I would repair your teeth.’ So when I was sitting in his chair, he told me everything. ‘Sister, if somebody comes to your flat’, you know, at that time we have already lived in private. ‘So, if it is somebody you don’t know personally, don’t let him go in. Even in case the person wears the same clothes as you.’ He really told me that. Similar things used to happen to us. Even the director warned us if something was going on. ‘Wait a moment, sister, and be careful tomorrow.’”

Transport of Monks to Podolínec

Transport of Monks to Podolínec (data format Flash Video)

“When we were in hospital, we only heard a huge noise, the windows rattled and the noise resounded around the hospital for the whole night. The whole night, ok? So we went to the windows to find out what was going on there. A new war or what? We thought about a kind of uprising or something similar. The busses were loaded with people, they stood like candles there, and everything was dark, just some guttering, and man by man. A minute later some fog appeared, roar and everything moved past the hospital. We didn’t know what was going on there. The next day we asked people about it, but nobody knew. Nobody, neither in the town, simply nobody knew about it. ‘What did the roar of buses mean?’ ‘We don’t know, we don’t know.’ And then we realized that all monks had been driven to the monastery in Podolínec.”

Catholic Action on Posters

Catholic Action on Posters (data format Flash Video)

“I went from the operating room, everything was silent and as I was walking down the stairs past the wall, where the posters or newspapers were being hung, I suddenly saw the old posters, such nice pictures of the Tatras nature, were lying on the floor crumpled. But there were some new posters rolled on the bench. So I uncovered the corners. Oh goodness! It was the pope with Hakenkreuz on his tiara there and two or three similar posters. ‘Oh my goodness, it can’t be hung here.’ I was standing there and as it was a lunch break nobody was around me. I caught the posters, crumpled them, and threw them on the floor to the older ones.”

House Search

House Search (data format Flash Video)

“I knew nothing about the events in Slovakia at that time. But other sisters learnt some news, during those fourteen days they realised that several priests were prosecuted or something like that. However, we heard about it and nothing happened, nothing was officially announced, so we were calm. The next day was Maundy Thursday and you know, there are no morning masses that day, so I got ready to work and the like and at about half past eight I was called to the office. Thus I went there. And in the office there were two men. They proved their identity immediately. ‘We have been sent here to search your flat. ’I said, ‘Why?’ ‘We will tell you later.’”

Interrogation and Accusation

Interrogation and Accusation (data format Flash Video)

“Two or three days later, I don’t remember, I was called for the interrogation. There I was told that ‘You cooperated with the monks who had been interned in Podolínec monastery for their anti-state activities and thus you actually abetted these anti-state activities. Moreover, you founded,’ they told it directly, ‘you led the secret monastic order.’”

At the Court

At the Court (data format Flash Video)

“When I stood in front of the prosecutor, somebody suddenly said, ‘But she dislikes the communists.’ Well, probably my accusations were not serious enough for such severe punishment, which they had prepared for me in advance, so they said that I hated communists. I said, ‘As a religious sister I really like everyone in the world.’ Done. Question, answer, silence everywhere. It was the end; I was allowed to sit down. The judgement was passed and I was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment.”

Amnesty

Amnesty (data format Flash Video)

“The next morning, on May 9, we were announced that we would go to some conference room or something like that, and that officers would come to tell us more. There we came to know that we were granted an amnesty and we would be released. I was shocked. It was so unexpected for me that I even couldn’t change my clothes. They were stacked in the bag and totally wrinkled. You know, then they found some civilian clothes for me, headscarf, I didn’t need so many pieces of clothing as it was May and warm. Then I did something, but it was not possible to take my blood pressure, I was so shocked then.”

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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