Žiar nad Hronom
Svätokrížske námestie 261/27, 965 01 Žiar nad Hronom, Slovakia
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The Fish Arrived, I Didn’t

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Jozef Hrdý belongs to the first Salesians, who, shortly after the communist takeover, realized that their priestly service might be freely done only behind the Iron Curtain. He stated: “I saw that it was all going to the dogs, but my superiors didn't want to believe it.” The first attempt to cross the borders to Austria in August 1949 failed. He continued: “When we saw how this all ended up, in September, (I wasn't a theology student yet), I went to study to Svätý Kríž, today it is Žiar nad Hronom, where we had the Faculty of Theology. Although, we knew the time would come for us to leave, when everything will be ready.” He continued in his studies of philosophy and theology, but the time of another runaway attempt was quickly approaching. Before Christmas in 1949 he and his friend received false telegrams, which stated their parents had severe health problems. The aim was clear – to get permission for leaving the school. Hrdý claimed: “(My friend) received the telegram at nine-thirty and I did at ten-thirty saying: ‘Your father lies with many fractures in Bratislava hospital. Come and visit him immediately.’ We arranged it all. My friend didn't have a problem, but the people knew me from Bratislava. They knew I was quite roguish and tricky. ‘You will not go anywhere! We know that you want to spend Christmas among your friends. No, you can’t go anywhere!’” Finally Jozef managed to “soften up” his superior, even though he still did not fully trust him: “His name was Valábek, and he says: ‘We thought it through. You can go to Bratislava. Here is Horniak, the economist, who will give you money. And you will buy fish in Bratislava and bring them here, ok?’ This is how they wanted to know I won’t deceive them. They knew me very well.” In Bratislava he asked my friend to buy the fish and send it to the monastery. The fish arrived, I didn't. It was driving my superior nuts!” Jozef and his friend successfully ran away and in the beginning of 1950 he reached Italy, where he began his studies at the University of Turin. In 1953 he continued his adventurous journey to Latin America, where he spent four decades of his life.

Don Jozef Hrdý

Don Jozef Hrdý

Jozef Hrdý was born on April 10, 1923 in the village of Veľké Ostratice into a small peasant family. The idea to become a priest came to his mind in a very unusual way - his passion for sports and particularly football played an important role. He decided to study at the Salesian grammar school in Šaštín, where he could pursue his hobby. Then, he studied pedagogy in Trnava and in the meantime spent a year of novitiate in Svätý Beňadik monastery. He was still in Trnava when the end of war came and the Red Army arrived in Sovakia. Shortly afterwards, he was sent to Bratislava, part Trnávka, and later to the Salesian church on Miletičova Street. He devoted himself to the apostolate, organized altar servers, and taught religious education at the public elementary school. He was also responsible for sports in Bratislava, part Ružinov. However, the year 1948 came and the situation of priests and monks became more and more serious. Soon, Ľudovít Macák came to visit him and told him about the plan to organize the escape of seminarians to Italy, where they would possibly be allowed to study theology and become priests. After the first failed attempt in August 1949, he attempted to cross the border along with his friend and other refugees on the nights of December 22 and 23, 1949. This time their attempt was successful. They found themselves in the Soviet occupation area in Austria; however, they managed to arrive in Vienna, where they got papers from an international organization for refugees. Thanks to the assistance of many religious men, they managed to arrive in Italy, to Turin, at the beginning of the year 1950. They enrolled at the university and started studying immediately. Jozef Hrdý was ordained a priest in July 1953. However, the fact that Jozef had been wanted by the State Security was brought into the open, causing the superiors decision to send him to South America in 1953. He was sent to Punta Arenas near Tierra in Chile, to Santiago, and later to Bolivia, where he spent the next four decades of his life. He devoted particularly to the work with youth and he considerably contributed to the development of an agricultural school in Linares. However, several years later, he had to face the consequences of various deals, which he had made, as he said, at the instigation of other people and allegedly he even hadn't known what he had been signing. Investigation of frauds, due to which he was also wanted by Interpol, as well as the criminal trial took several years. At the beginning of 1990s he came back to Slovakia. Here he worked as a financial manager, but mainly he continued working with young people. He is spending the afternoon of his life in Šaštín.

Žiar nad Hronom

Available in: English | Slovensky

Žiar nad Hronom, (named Svätý Kríž nad Hronom until 1955), is a district town located at the riverside of Hron in the Banská Bystrica district. After establishing the bishopric of Banská Bystrica in the second half of the 18th century, the palace in Svätý Kríž, (Holy Cross), became the bishop’s seat. As an important political-cultural center, it was visited by a number of significant personalities. Yet the complete transformation of this municipality in all of spheres of economics and social life occurred in 1950s when the factory for aluminum production and procession was being built.

Žiar nad Hronom

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The Fish Arrived, I Didn’t

The Fish Arrived, I Didn’t

Don Jozef Hrdý
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