Hatě, border crossing
Chvalovice 196, 669 02 Chvalovice, Czech Republic
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A trip to freedom

Available in: English | Česky

Before 1989, the border crossing in Hatě was among the busiest road crossings on the Czech- Austrian border. When Jiří Henych was passing it in 1966 on a trip with other tourists, he was experiencing moments of intense anxiety and tense anticipation as for him – contrary to the other passengers – the trip was a one-way journey only. His intention was to no longer return to Czechoslovakia. He had been planning and waiting for this moment for a long time. After completing his military service, he tried hard to go for an organized trip into the “capitalist.” However, he was unsuccessful as his applications were steadily denied. In order to boost his chances, he would even work in manual professions – despite his education. He was a worker in the Liaz factory, where he finally managed to go on a three-day trip to Vienna, from which he would not return. At the Hatě border crossing, he said goodbye to his homeland for the past 23 years.

Jiří Henych

Jiří Henych

He was born on July 24, 1941, in Čáslav but moved to Liberec after WWII, where his mother - a pediatrician – moved in 1945 at the request of the Ministry of Health to provide health care in the border areas. He graduated from high school and after graduation he studied medicine. After two years of university studies, however, he deliberately left university. At this time, he was already thinking about leaving communist Czechoslovakia and began planning his escape across the border. Upon his arrival in Vienna, Henych took advantage of the first opportunity and left the tourist group. He contacted a German acquaintance from Stuttgart whom he had randomly met in Liberec and who originated in the Sudetenland. He had promised to help him and actually arrived in Vienna and took him to West Germany. As Jiří Henych didn’t have his passport, he decided not to cross the Austro-German border in his acquaintance’s car, but rather make it through the forest across the border, which - unlike the Czechoslovak border - was not guarded. In West Germany, he registered with the authorities and spent six weeks in a refugee camp in Zindorf, near Nuremberg. Then he went to Sweden, where he had a friend who got him a job. During a trip to Switzerland, he met his future wife and decided to stay with her in this country. He started a family and worked as a physiotherapist. In November 1989, he visited Czechoslovakia for the first time since his emigration. Later on, he decided with his Swiss wife to settle permanently in the Czech Republic. He found a new home in the south of Bohemia, in Nová Bystřice, where he built a house just a few hundred meters away from the Austrian border - the same border he had crossed over forty years ago to live in the free world.

Hatě, border crossing

Available in: English | Česky

The border crossing Hatě in the Znojmo region is situated on the site of a defunct settlement that gave the crossing its name. During the First Republic, the building of the customs house in Hatě was inhabited by financial guards. After the Second World War, the building served as a customs and passport control station. In 1981, a new modern border crossing was built several hundred meters inland from the original crossing. However, the original building of the customs house was still used by the Board of Customs, e.g. as a veterinary control station for animals transported across borders. After the Czech Republic joined the Schengen Area in 2007, border crossings were abolished. Whereas a huge shopping center, numerous restaurants, casinos, nightclubs and a Vietnamese market place cropped up in the vicinity of the new border crossing, the original building of the customs house located on the site of the old crossing remains deserted and gradually falls into disrepair, even though it is the only preserved building of the defunct settlement.

Hatě, border crossing

On this place

A trip to freedom

A trip to freedom

Jiří Henych
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