„My husband had served his sentence for almost five years, and I - young woman - was at home. Why? What was this for? Until today I can´t understand why all of this happened.”
Zuzana Bacigálová, nee Kunochová, was born in a Slovak town of Babín into a peasant’s family in 1930. After her marriage to Ľudovít Bacigál, she moved to Senec near Bratislava, where her husband bought 15 hectares of arable land after his return from war. However, just a few months after the wedding – on July 7th, 1952 – the State Security came for him. Along with three other farmers, he was quickly sentenced by a district court for a criminal offence of sabotage to seven years of prison and a 50 000 crowns fine. The other convicts got the same or even worse sentences. At the same time, the property of all was confiscated by the state and they lost their civil rights for ten years, moreover, they were banned to reside in the district of Senec for life. They appealed against the verdict to a county court in Bratislava, which ordered a public hearing on December 2nd, 1952. According to the verdict, all the peasants were against collective farming. Allegedly, they joined the single agricultural collective only to make use of all its advantages. The court supposed their final goal was a disruption of the collective, through which they should have gotten their property back, and through which they would „return to the capitalist way of economy“. Based on the verdict, Zuzana and Ludovít Bacigál’s house was confiscated, as well as their land, living and dead stocks. The husband of Mrs. Bacigál had been serving his sentence subsequently in Leopoldov, Ilava, Pankrác – but most of his suffering, which ended not before April 1957, he spent in Jáchymov.
The sentencing of her husband changed radically the life of Mrs. Bacigálová, working then in West-Slovak Mills in Senec. According to an order of the People’s Committee in Senec, she had to give up her flat in October 1952. In May 1952, she received a measure which specified a new residence for both husband and wife – a state property of Moravany, in a Čáslav district, near Pardubice. A lorry came for Zuzana Bacigálová on May 6, 1952 which drove her and her essential belongings to a half-ruined farm in Moravany, where she received a single room. Mice, cold, insufficient food and tough work paid only in milk, corn and pollard became a common part of her life. Not sooner than after three years she managed to get to native Orava, where she took care of her seriously ill mother. There she also waited for the arrival of her husband, who was released on April 12, 1957. All the accusations against him were cancelled, which allowed him to return to Senec, where they both had to face new problems, though. They had nowhere to live, couldn’t get any job for a long time so they started to build a new life from the scratch. Later, Mrs. Bacigálová got a job in a bakery in Bratislava; her husband also worked there. Together they raised three children.
After 1989 Zuzana and her husband waited to see their judicial rehabilitation and compensation. They were given back the 15 hectares of land which was confiscated from them in the 50’s. However, because of Mr. Bacigál’s age, they didn’t go for private farming anymore and offered the land for rent instead.
“My husband was a foreign soldier. He was on a military service and there he had to change for the Hungarian army. Then he got to Svoboda’s army and was abroad. He fought in Russia. He was wounded and was healing somewhere in Kyiv. He had a leg wound and then returned as a 25-percent disabled veteran. But it was something he could live with. He begun to work at home, as a foreign soldier he was assigned a flat. Not a flat but the land he could later buy. It was fifteen hectares that he bought and built a family house there. So we started to farm. I was from Orava, taught to work well, my husband as well. We had horses, we had the whole farm. We worked on what was necessary. My husband was supposed to join the collective but he didn’t want to. He wanted a “third type” to be founded, but the chiefs were against that and said there would be no “third type”. In many places they had agreements that to people who join the collective, they would give eight percent. But those chiefs of ours didn’t acknowledge that, they didn’t like it, so they said that it is not good and that they are against it. So they decided – there were such four peasants here in Senec whom they leveled against – that it is necessary to make them right. And that also happened. On July 24th, 1952 they came to a trashing-machine and arrested those four there. My husband was somewhat the head of them. On July 24, they took them away.”
Redactor: Do you know who arrested them?
“Who arrested them? The State Security came for them and drove them to Bratislava, to the Justice Palace and there the investigation begun. The lawsuit began on December 2, 1952 – a big lawsuit. Before, they walked the streets and announced to come and hear the kulaks from villages, what have they done, something against the “third type” of the collective. So it was a big ado; that was horrible for me. It was unbelievable, we were married for only four or five months, so it was unbelievable, inconceivable for me what was happening. So they sentenced them, my husband to seven years. He also got a fine of fifty thousand and ban of residence in the district of Senec for life. The other three – one of them even got ten years and a hundred thousand, and so it ended up like that. They sentenced them on December 2, and then took them away. I didn’t even receive a permit for visit, I could go on no more. Than they moved them probably to Leopoldov, Ilava and I think he also was in Pankrác. He wrote me nothing about it and from there they put them to Jáchymov, all four of them, my husband as a head of them.”
“After they arrested my husband they came along with some district officers to write down everything that was in the house. For the last time I was sitting here, a ring on my hand with his initials on it, a large one. The officer – Kováč was called – probably already dead. I had to give him the ring, that couldn’t happen nowadays. They took the ring from me because there were his initials on it. They wrote down everything what was in wardrobes, just everything. It was a great shock for me, you know, I wasn’t used to such things. I was a young woman, unable to orientate myself in what I was supposed to do. But it just happened.
So for some time then I was looking for a job because I had none. I couldn’t even find one, it was in 1952. Not before 1953 I managed to find a job - I got employed in a mill. I got it because of favoritism, but they gave me a job coating the sacks – there was such a mill here back then, but nowadays it is a ruin. They gave me such a lousy job, coating sacks for wheat and such. There I was for three months. After three months one man there said that I can’t work there so that I wouldn’t put nails in the wheat and what do I know. So I got fired. Two or three days later I received a letter that I need to move out from our family house immediately, which we had in Oravská street, number six. I was to move in elsewhere into a house along with some others who were sentenced.. But I refused to accept that, I handed in an appeal and said that I won’t go for it, but I could do nothing. I received an answer that I need to move out immediately and if not that they would relocate me themselves. And so it happened. They came the third day because someone had already had permit to live in the flat. That was some teacher, named Polák, with four or six children. They put me into one room in the back. And in the meantime I got a letter that they were going to relocate me. So it happened. One morning came up, the police arrived, one big lorry, men came and loaded it with everything. I came to say goodbye to my closest, my mother-in-law. And one policeman had to come with me so that I wouldn’t leave, I guess. So I said goodbye to my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law and such and I had to come back.
I got in, the lorry was loaded with all the furniture and everything possible and they drove me to Bohemia, to a state property. Moravany, it was called, county of Čáslav, district of Pardubice.”
“I came there, they lead me to a large room, and it was unbelievable what was there. There were lots of mice; in the winter water would freeze in buckets. I used to sleep under two blankets and even that was not enough. It was horrible. It was unbearable. And next to me there was a woman who was displaced from Moravia. She had three little children and that was even worse – I was then yet childless. You know, before I got used to it... Then I worked at the state property. I did various farming jobs; I used to go to the cowshed to muck out manure. Once I injured my left leg and they needed to get me to hospital in night. I got a heavy blood-poisoning, if they left me, I would have died. I was there for a fortnight so at least I had some rest. We were working there for free. It was a state property, derelict. There were various people there. We worked at a trashing machine, wherever we could. We received no money, only some groceries. They gave us grain which they brought to a mill and then we were supposed to get wheat. But I used to give the wheat to one family which I found there. In exchange, they would give me eggs, lard and such things. And I received some money from my husband – fifty or seventy crowns per month – which he was sending me from Jáchymov. Those are all the documents I have hot. Here are all the documents he used to send me and of them I needed to make use, get sugar and such.
Back to my unhappy journey as they drove me to Moravany - you know, it was horrible for me. I just couldn’t put up with it. It is difficult to call it back. As they drove me, you know, I wrote down all the villages and cities, I had never been such far – I was a young woman. I was thinking, why me? Where am I going? What are they doing with me? What for? What have I done, did I murder someone or why? I lived an honorable life indeed and now I am to experience this?
So we drove further and further, I just wrote down the names, not even knowing what had I been writing on as I had been in deep thought. We arrived but we drove for a long time, I don’t know how exactly, probably a whole day, it was a huge distance. So we came there, I entered the room I have told you before. Next there was the woman so I came to say hello, well it was horrible to look at her. I can’t even show you, as she, poor person sat by an oven, arms folded, saying nothing. The children were running around her. I thought to myself: what are we, two unhappy women, going to do here, without men, in a strange world? I was truly in a shock, but there was nothing we could do. We groomed ourselves a bit and bore it up together. I tried to help her a bit as she had three children. I somewhat got used to being alone, not having such a burden as she had. So we helped each other.
So we lived there. Even those employees who used to be there had some compassion with us. I can’t say that they would treat us badly, they tried to assist us. Even the boss there somewhat helped us, I would say. But it wasn’t an easy thing. I suffered there for three years. Meanwhile sometimes my brother-in-law, my husband’s brother, would come to see me. He worked at a railway so he could travel for free along with my sister-in-law. Sometimes they would come to see me. Than also father-in-law came, he was a dad already and he suffered there. He chopped wood for me and so we were there. Well, it is really tough to think back, it was truly an unbelievable event for me. What I experienced even internally, it is possible that if I hadn’t had my faith in God, I could have just gone crazy.
So then my husband used to write to me but just rarely. Also such letters I received to divorce him because he didn’t know how about long he was going to make it there as it was really bad there. He had even one injury there, but he wished to write me nothing about it. Each six moths I received a visit-permit and I could go to Ostrov nad Ohří – there we would get off the train and they drove all the prisoners in. So there we had about half an hour. But I could give him nothing, just chat. He had served his sentence for almost five years, and I - young woman – was at home. Why? What was this for? Until today I can´t understand why all of this happened.”
“I was there [in Moravany] for three years. Then my brothers started to attempt to get me home to Orava, because it was a different land then already. So I could return there then because my mum was ill, so they attempted, fought for it. They fought and so I succeeded in getting back to Orava where I took care of my mum and awaited the return of my husband who returned in 1956.
The lawsuit was over. We were rehabilitated, got some money but not any huge amount. Then we came – before the suit where my husband was liberated took place – to Senec. But there we had nowehere to live, our house was already confiscated. So his sister gave us a little room and we stayed there. But then it was too small to us because we were awaiting a child. One teacher who taught my husband let us in her flat. There were two rooms, where we stayed for two years. And then we moved three times. The relations weren’t good, even at the office. The chief was terrible, annoying. It was not too good. We bought an older house in Lichnerová Street. We even borrowed some money; my husband had a good friend who lent him. So we bought a small house, repaired it and then moved in.”