Starý Knín, the house of the Budínský family
Staroknínská 322, 262 03 Nový Knín, Czech Republic
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With a child she stood in the way of the State Security

Available in: English | Česky

On Maundy Thursday on 14th April 1949 sacristan Budínský was walking home from a nearby church. In the church he was preparing the Easter mass. Suddenly, a car had stopped by him, he was showing something for a while, then he got in the car and left, the neighbours later described to the Budínský family, to Helena and Zdeněk Šidák, who were hiding there. Šidák was prosecuted for being a so called agent - walker, Helena had tried to illegally cross the border with her son two weeks ago, but was arrested close to the border by a frontier guard, then imprisoned in Klatovy for a few days and eventually released. In Starý Knín at the Budínský family, they had been hiding and preparing to illegally cross the border. The arrest of Mr Budínský was a shock for the whole family. They suspected the State Security to “pay them a visit” in the upcoming hours or days. For such a case, Helena and Zdeněk had prepared an escape plan: Zdeněk had a small secret room set up in the attic, he prepared a plank leading from the window into the barn. They kept watching the road. They wanted to leave on Good Friday in the evening. In the afternoon they ate oat porridge as their lent meal. As they finished eating, they saw that two cars had stopped next to the house in the curve of the road, which had arrived on the road leading from Mokrá Vrata. Four men jumped out of the cars and went straight through the courtyard to the house. Helena took her son in her arms and decided to keep the policemen back at any cost, so that her husband would have the time to escape through the attic and barn: “I told myself that they would release me again, but my husband’s life was at stake. They acted like savages. They started to yell immediately: ‘Where is Šidák, that bastard!’ We said, that we knew nothing about him,” recollects Helena Šidáková, who had drawn a map of how her husband escaped (see the photo gallery). Using the plank, he climbed from the attic into the barn, he jumped off it into a back street, ran around the house and headed for the church, then ran through the nearest alley between the houses and vanished into the fields leading to Mokrá Vrata. He didn’t stop until he got to a forest grove behind Knín, lent against a tree there and took deep breaths. In the meantime the State Security was searching the house. After they finished searching the cellar, they headed for the attic where they discovered his escape route. “From the attic they returned raging. They swore at me, ‘You slut!’, but I was happy that my husband had escaped. Two State Security guys set out to arrest the mayor and on their way they also took Jarča (the older sister of Jindřiška Budínská, who was working at the post office that day). They informed the mayor that he was responsible for everything that would have possibly happened further. They told him that he had to monitor the neighbourhood and report everything to the State Security, because it was possible that Šidák would come back. They informed me that I was arrested, that I was to take only a few personal belongings and my documents, that I won’t be returning there and that the child would stay there,” recounts Helena Šidáková, who had written all her recollections in her book Shattered years. When Helena was being arrested, her seventeen-year-old childhood friend, Jindřiška Budínská, was dressing herself. Helena asked her what she was doing, she answered that she wouldn’t let her go alone. On that account the policeman yelled: “That’s right, you’re coming with us too.” Helena’s little son was crying terribly: “He cried so hopelessly that I couldn’t even make a sound, how much it hurt me. The State Security guys stated that they would inform my parents about my arrest and that they would tell ‘the grandma to come get the small bastard’,” describes Helena Šidáková, who had returned to her child after six years. Jindřiška and Helena were shoved in the car and taken to Prague. They drove up the road to Mokrá Vrata, where Helena caught a glimpse of her husband in the grove leaning against a tree. The policemen had not noticed him and took the arrested women to Bartolomějská street in Prague.

Helena Šidáková

Helena Šidáková

She was born on May 6, 1925 in Prague. Her father worked as a tailor in the National Theater and because the theater employees were granted summer holidays each year, the family was able to spend the summer in the countryside. Little Helena joined the Scouts for a short time. During the war, she wasn't able to study for a teaching certificate so she studied at a business school on Reslova Street. After the liberation of Czechoslovakia, she began to work for the Czechoslovak broadcast where she met the love of her life – a technician and a student of the ČVUT, Zdeněk Šidák. Zdeněk had been a slave laborer in Vienna during the war and had also been an active participant in the resistance movement. After the war, Zdeněk joined the Communist party, allegedly on the advice of his colleagues from the resistance. However, in 1947 their son Zdeněk was born and Zdeněk Šidák senior left the party. In the wake of February 1948, he was dismissed from the broadcast as well as from the faculty. He decided to leave the country and Helena stayed home with their infant boy. At the beginning of 1949, Zdeněk returned home from exile where he was recruited by the U.S. intelligence service. He was planning the escape of the whole family as well as of other people from Czechoslovakia but his plans were betrayed to the police. Helena and her little son were imprisoned in a prison in Klatovy. Even though they were soon released the secret police continued to be on Zdeněk's heels. When the secret police failed to hunt him down in his hideout in Starý Knín on Easter 1949, they arrested Helena instead of him and tortured her brutally. However, she resisted and didn't give her husband away. Zdeněk was eventually caught in one of his other hideouts in the Jizera Mountains. He was sentenced for life and Helena was sentenced to twenty years in prison. Zdeněk's parents were imprisoned as well. Their little son was cared for by Helena's parents. Helena was put into prisons in Nový Jičín and in Pardubice, before she was finally amnestied by the president A. Zápotocký in 1955 (this was a special amnesty for imprisoned mothers). She faithfully waited for her husband until he was released as well in 1963. After a long 14 years, the family was reunited again. After some time, the second son, Martin, was born. Zdeněk Šidák lived to see the fall of Communism but died soon afterwards – in 1990 – from a stroke.

Starý Knín, the house of the Budínský family

Available in: English | Česky

Starý Knín, formerly an independent village, currently forms a part of Nový Knín town. In a house which stands in the curve beneath the church lived the Budínský family. They provided a hiding place for Helena and Zdeněk Šidákovi and their one-year-old son Zdeněk; all three of them were wanted by the police. On Good Friday 1949, they were arrested there by the State Security (StB).

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