Pankrác
Remand prison · Soudní 988/1, 140 00 Prague-Prague 4, Czech Republic
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They tortured a woman who was protecting her husband

Available in: English | Česky

On Holy Saturday on 16th April 1949, at around one a.m., State Security interrogator Pešek, “one of the worst monsters in the State Security,” took Helena Šidáková from her cell, writes Helena in her book Shattered years. He brought her into a cellar room with no windows. The interrogator nicknamed “Dorek” or “Doctor” was sitting behind a desk and a big muscular guy was standing next to him. The “Doctor” asked her amiably: “Well, where is your husband? We’ll get him anyway." "I answered that I didn’t know, so they beat me up quite a bit,” recounts Helena Šidáková. First they beat her in the face, pulled her hair, then they laid her on a bench and beat the soles of her feet with metal poles: “That is probably the worst pain of all. As I was throwing myself from side to side, I fell on the floor so stupidly, that I injured my spine. I couldn’t get up any more,” describes Šidáková, who was being interrogated for an hour. They wanted her to tell them, where her husband was hiding, a so called agent - walker Zdeněk Šidák. Helena begged them to let her be, that she truly didn’t know where he had escaped. In the end, the interrogators dragged her across the prison corridor to her cell: “Well, I must have looked horrible. Other arrested people were standing in the corridor. I could see their horrified faces, when they saw me. I couldn’t stand up from the pain in my feet and back,” Helena describes the interrogator’s frenzy which had no boundaries. When they were finished with her, her hair was plucked, her head was beaten, she was lying on the floor next to the table she had fallen from with her hands bound, red bruises on her thighs and she couldn’t stand on her feet.

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.

Pankrác

Available in: English | Česky

During the First Czechoslovak Republic they executed people here on the gallows. The number of the casualties cannot be even compared with the period of Nazi occupation. Between 1943 and 1945 they executed over a thousand of people, including women, by guillotine in the so-called “axe room.” After the war there were public executions of Nazi criminals and collaborators. The executions continued during the communist period and since 1954, Pankrác prison was the only place of executions in Czechoslovakia. The last death penalty was executed in February 1989. The total number of the executed was 1580.

Pankrác

On this place

They tortured a woman who was protecting her husband

They tortured a woman who was protecting her husband

Helena Šidáková
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