A Political Prisoner, White Blossoms, and Horror

A Political Prisoner, White Blossoms, and Horror

locusttree1In my online research I found “White Blossoms,” an opinion piece by Milan Hanuš.*

The subject was Charles’ sister Vlasta and the pain she experienced while being imprisoned for her work in the Czech Resistance during the Cold War.

Hanuš declared how shameful it is that the Czech public doesn’t listen more to those who deserve to be heard – to the political prisoners of the 1950s. He stated, “When we sweep the salt of the earth under the carpet, our lives lose their sense of meaning and purpose.” He continues. . .

“Following the Communist takeover in 1948, Vlasta Novácková from Brno assisted her uncle Colonel Josef Robotka in writing reports of the situation and in sending the reports to the West. When she was arrested in Brno, she was twenty-four years old. She was sentenced to eighteen years in prison, of which she served more than ten. Josef Robotka was executed.”

Hanuš had visited Vlasta in conjunction with the Czech TV project “Before It’s Too Late,” which recorded the testimony of those imprisoned in the era of Communism. For three hours, Vlasta spoke to interviewers about her fated life in prison. She spoke bravely about her experiences, though occasionally there were signs of inner emotion.

Vlasta eventually got around to describing the prison in Pardubice, She explained, “There was asphalt, concrete and wooden detention buildings everywhere. In front of our windows there were two solitary locust trees. In the spring, the trees were as white as brides. One day, we got up, and there was nothing. They had cut the trees down during the night.”

Here, Hanuš had to interrupt the interview; intense pain isn’t only physical. And horror? “For Vlasta, he said, that horror will always be the abysmal emptiness following the removal of the blooming locust trees.”             ‘

The trees provided hope and joy, Oxygen. Shade. And beauty.

Hanuš closed and lamented, “It’s a shame that the testimonies of those who suffered on our behalf are, at best, allocated to the archives. We run the risk that we – not them – will become mere shadows, without even intuiting the true depth of fear and courage, or the nature of real horror.”

*It was from the spring 2001 issue of the Czech publication “The New Presence” associated with the magazine Přítomnost.  

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