O Praem Jan Hroznata Svatek

* 1916  †︎ 2008

  • “The service was for three years. I had to face it – ‘Its for three years’. But it lasted only half a year and then PTP was dissolved. We found out that the first PTPs were naïve and worked hard. The really did a lot of work. Slovaks were in Bohemia and Czechs were in Slovakia. They were young priests and theologians and they hoped that they would be released sooner because they worked hard, which was naïve. And they kept them there because they worked hard. There was a man who was taken to PTP instead of his son – an old man, over sixty. Experienced. So he was loafing because he was old and couldn’t work so much. So I learned some things."

  • “You know, when you are going to ask about this the other prisoners, they won’t like to talk about it. It is not a nice thing to remember, you know? My brother was beaten hardly. There was a lot of beating in the 50s. When we were back home he always screamed at night as if he had dreamt about the interrogations. Or Áťa Mandl, he had the most severe beating unlike any of us. There was a small interrogation room in Kartouzy and he really suffered there! The others told me about the screaming they sometimes heard. These guys really had bad manners sometimes.”

  • “It was foolish revolt of young men. They started guerilla resistance against the SS units who had a big camp near Benešov and were already leaving. And some of these young fools wanted to become famous. They began to disarm them and one of the officers got shot. The soldiers came from the hills and ordered to burn the village down. There was an excellent priest who told them: ‘Look, those who did it are hiding in the woods. There are only old people left and those who don’t want to leave them alone, these are not the killers. I did not take part in the resistance but if you want you can burn the parish and kill me.’ He pacified them. They didn’t kill him. (…) My brother stayed with his mother – my mother and sister and her two kids. He couldn’t run away and left the women alone. So they took him and with ten other men he had to dig a grave for himself. All of them were shot. This is how resistance ended in our family.”

  • “You know, every other try was an experience for me. So I thought that priests would have needed such lessons to be ready for what they got prepared for us. It wasn’t a waste of time. As a matter of learning. But without doubt it was hard, freedom is freedom.”

  • “It was about half an hour a day, when the interrogations came. That was a critical time. I told myself that I couldn’t think about anything else, I could say my prayers but I couldn’t think about anything else than the crisis.”

  • “I really learnt a lesson there. These were the last remains of the PTP and they didn’t want to do anything. We were leaving for the workplace, each of us got a meal, we were four which meant four meals. And we were just hanging around in the woods. If we got arrested we would go to the air forces where they had excellent meals. So this PTP was at the lowest social layer.”

  • “A mattock and a shovel, but we didn’t do much work. There was a good foreman who controlled our working hours but we weren’t actually working. Whenever there was a chance, we didn’t work. It was a motley crew, but it the good sense of the word – not in the morally corrupted sense. It was a group of people who were trying to sabotage things. Break a piece of equipment and so on. There was a guy who always tried at least to punch the tires anytime he saw a car. This was a strange guy who was arrested for subversion. For example, he climbed up to the attic above the town hall and he was shouting: ‘Morons, morons!!!’ He always had his hands in his pockets when we were on a stroll. He overacted a bit and pretended insanity.”

  • “It was my first experience. I wasn’t very well informed how things are. Then, when I was at the factory – I already knew something. And the factory experience was then useful in prison. So I had these two first steps behind me, I didn’t go there right from the Church, I suppose would have been too naïve then. But I was already experienced.”

  • “A wire came: There has been an accident, come here. Signed by my sister Marie. It was written by the police. So I got packed and went. ‘There was a man at the station and: Is your name this and that.’ ‘Yes, I’m just on a way to see my sister.’ ‘We already sorted that out,’ he said. So I fell into their hands. That was a 24-hour interrogation. And they questioned me just like you. But you have good intentions and they didn’t. (…) They used to arrest priests a lot back then. So I thought: ‘What can one do, now its my turn.’”

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    boromejský domov Sv. Karla v Praze-Řepích, 15.06.2006

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Even in jail you have the chance to talk with people. You just have to treat them with respect and let them know that you feel for them

Jan Hroznata Svatek
Jan Hroznata Svatek
zdroj: Pamět Národa - Archiv

Jan Svatek was born in 1916 in Sedlec, Central Bohemia. With support of the local priest in Sedlec, he started attending the „little seminary“ at the Archbishop grammar school in Prague at the age of eleven. He also lived at the Canonry of Premonstratensians at the Strahov Monastery where he later became a friar. After his studies at the grammar school he graduated at the Catholic Theological faculty in Prague and he was ordained a priest on June 14th 1940. He entered the Canonry, but he did not stay at the monastery and for the rest of his life he was in service as a diocesan priest. After 1948 he lost the so called state permission for ecclesiastical service and he had to work as a manual worker. In 1950, same as many young priests and theologians, he had to go through an army service in the auxiliary technical battalion (PTP) which in his case lasted for two and a half years. After the service he started working as an auxiliary carpenter in Teplice, North Bohemia. In 1954, he was interrogated for the first time on suspicion of subversion of the state supervision over the Churches. Half a year later he was arrested, kept in custody for four months and finally sentenced to 12 years in prison. He spent five years in the Valdice-Kartouzy Penitentiary and after a small amnesty in 1958 he returned to manual work in a factory for diesel engines. Since 1968, he participated in unofficial pastoral activities, mainly among manual workers. During the Prague Spring he regained the state permission and moved to Staňkovice, North Bohemia, where he served during the normalization period as a parish priest and vicar. After the revolution he served as priest emeritus at the St. Norbert parish in Prague - Střešovice. He spent his last two years in the Borromean Home of St. Charles where he died in January 2008 at the age of 92.