2 – The Iron Curtain

In the second half of August of 1948, there was a clash in Ferdinand’s Valley nearby Železná Ruda between smugglers and a new border guard. It all started when Zdeněk Kratina from Alžbětín made an accusation on August 19th at the Železná Ruda NSC station, claiming that he suspects three people of anti-state action – Josef Michalík, who moved to Ruda from Slovakia, and two local Germans Karel Bruckendorfer and Maxmilian Aschenbrenner. The two last mentioned men were already known smugglers before the war and Josef Michalík had been helping them since he moved there. Main smuggled items were cigarettes and horses, horses going from Bohemia to Bavaria and cigarettes in the opposite direction. That same night, another contraband was supposed to be passed on in a place called America, nearby Železná Ruda, of which the accuser Zdeněk Kratina was to be the receiver. In this regard, it remains unclear why Kratina, who must have bought smuggled goods in the past, willingly reported all to the NSC. The officers then decided to monitor the reported meeting and make their move against the smugglers at the right time. But for unknown reasons the three smugglers did not show up that night and another meeting was scheduled two days later. So that none of the smugglers could have a chance of getting away, reinforcements from among the Klatovy National Security officers were sent for. Chief officer Převrátil was leading the operation. Collaborator Kratina was supposed to give a signal by tripping over a planted can on the edge of the road. All officers participating in the operation were warned that the smugglers would surely be armed and would not hesitate to use their weapons. But the carefully laid out plan went wrong from the very beginning. Only Karl Bruckendorfer and Maxmilian Aschenbrenner came to the meeting and from an unexpected direction, so they both stood very close to officer Klíma, one of the officers preparing to surround them. This young, inexperienced officer who was on top of that stressed out by the information about how dangerous these “enemies” were decided to stand up and shine his torchlight in the direction from which he heard footsteps and a quiet conversation. He saw two people and called out to them to put their hands in the air. His answer was a gunshot, which hit him in his left hip. The injured officer fell to the ground. During the fall he accidentally pulled the trigger on his gun and fired a shot which landed right next to his instep. Then the scene was lit up by the prepared floodlight and all members of the surrounding unit began to shoot. But by then the smugglers were relatively far away, in the dark and disappeared to Bavaria. The shooting thus endangered only the officers themselves. The two German smugglers never returned to Czechoslovakia and even Josef Michalík escaped abroad. Officer Klíma was criticised for his unprofessional approach, as he betrayed his position by shining his torchlight, thus making it impossible to successfully finish the operation.

But it was not only the enemies of the new regime who escaped to Bavaria through Železná Ruda. On Friday November 12, 1948, the old smuggler path along the Řezná river was used by Oldřich Mihola. This trained NSC agent with the codename “Bastard” was tasked with integrating himself among Czechoslovak emigrants in order to extract information. He was successful and gained enough trust to go back across Železná Ruda as an agent for the exiled circles. None of the emigrants knew, that he did everything under the supervision of the military intelligence of the Czechoslovak army. His actions aided in arrests of several other agents-smugglers. However, reporters in Germany began to find it strange that a different courier should be detected or arrested each time Oldřich Mihola went back to Czechoslovakia. On June 18, 1950, Oldřich Mihola was arrested in Bavaria and sentenced by an American military court to seven years of imprisonment. In 1955 he was let out and banished to Czechoslovakia.

In January 1949, another smuggling channel opened up in Šumava. The role of the smuggler was taken up by a member of the České Budějovice 10th Scout Group František Zahrádka. At the time he was only 18 years old and was training to be a radio technician. He chose the route not only because he knew this part of Šumava well from scout camps and trips. The first group he led through Šumava, below Prachatice and between the villages of Dolní and Horní Cazov to Bavaria on January 19, 1949, was to his surprise joined by his younger brother Luděk, who, in January, was wandering through Šumavian tracks in low shoes and a waiter’s uniform and his friend Miroslav Král, who saved Luděk Zahrádka’s health by regularly switching shoes with him. This was a decisive break for František Zahrádka who up until that point intended to emigrate together with the group. After seeing his brother, he thought of their parents who would be left in Czechoslovakia without both of their children and decided to return. While crossing, they had to hide in the bushes for a while because they came across an NSC watch, which thankfully did not have a dog. Another group, this time mostly consisting out of scouts from the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands, travelled via the same route. Once smuggled across, the excited scouts formed a line as soon as they passed the border and blared out their curfew, which of course alarmed everyone in the area and František Zahrádka had a very hard time returning back. He then decided to use a different route to the border. He got information about a military training area “Dobrá Voda” being built, where a presence of an unknown person in a green uniform would not stand out too much. Smuggled persons would traved to Sušice by train, then take the bus to Rejštejn, from wherein they would continue towards the no-longer existing villages Stodůlky and Velký Bor and after fording the Křemelná headed towards the Poledník orientation point and from there around a bollard no. 16 to Germany. In July 1949, several former war heroes from among RAF pilots managed to get into exile this way thanks to František Zahrádka. But during their crossing a shootout broke out between the border guards and some other refugees. František Zahrádka thus had to take the group deeper into German territory. First to Zwiesel, from where they sent him all the way to Straubingm where he had to spend several days and came into contact with the American information service CIC. A CIC officer who was originally from Czechoslovakia Zoltán Vagaš convinced him to cooperate with them. He was to get in contact with some officers in the Czechoslovak army to gather information from them. At night from July 27 to 28, 1949, he crossed the border again, this time in the opposite direction and returned to České Budějovice. According to his assignment and with the help of his acquaintance, former technical sergeant of the České Budějovice air battalion Silvestr Müller, he tried to establish connections with soldiers, who did not agree with the new order. He was successful and so his third smuggled group included six officers of the Czechoslovak army. He was incredibly lucky on his way back, because he came across a watch with a dog. The dog ran to him, but surprisingly, instead of barking, the four-legged border guard only marked František Zahrádka and returned to the guards. Service dogs were trained to register movement and the smuggler laid in a crater by the road without moving a muscle. From January until the end of August 1949, František Zahrádka managed to lead in total eleven people in four groups across the border. But National Security learned about his activities. František Zahrádka suspected this and was preparing to emigrate himself. His suspicions were confirmed when a secretary of the Litoměřice bishop dr. Hofírek did not arrive to their agreed meeting point. On Saturday morning of September 3rd, he was arrested in České Budějovice and sentenced to 20 years for high treason and smuggling, which he for the most part served in the notorious uranium camps around Jáchymov and Příbram. He was released upon parole in September 1962.

Right in the early days of 1950, two deserters of the 11th tank brigade, Svatopluk Vlach and Jaroslav Hobza, wanted to run escape west through the Špičák. Their plan was fairly simple. They were given a furlough over Christmas 1949. They went home but never returned to their unit. Svatopluch Vlach prepared fake IDs and furlough papers to enter the border areas. Vlach got an old map of the Železná Ruda surroundings from his friend in the military, Emil Machač, who knew about their plan to emigrate but did not join. On Tuesday January 3rd, 1950, Vlach and Hobza set out from Prague on an afternoon train to the Železná Ruda – Špičák station. They arrived at their destination the next day in the early morning. They were asked for identity cards while getting off the train, but their forgeries were good enough to fool the NSC officers. The first real obstacle awaited them in a hotel nearby Špičák station, where they wanted to rest. The receptionist demanded to see a permit to stay, which they of course did not have. Following the locals’ advice, they set out on foot to Železná Ruda, where they found accommodation at the Javor hotel. In the afternoon, they borrowed skis and set out towards Špičák. They got all the way to the Black Lake. While stopping to rest and warm up in a local restaurant, they were asked for identification by a local forest administration employee. When they brushed him off, this “dutiful” citizen called for an NSC watch, which was just passing. The officers immediately arrested both deserters. And so their simple plan to escape to Germany failed. In April 1950, Svatopluk Vlach was given a 15-year sentence and Jaroslav Hobza a 17-year one. Not even their friend Evil Macháč escaped trial and was sent to jail for 18 months for lending them his map and not reporting their intentions to desert the army and emigrate.

On July 1, 1950, there was a clash between NSC officers, who have for a year and a half been the sole guards of the border and typical smugglers. Unlike the times, when clashes between smugglers and financial guards used to lead to nothing worse than a couple of punches, this one ended in a tragedy. Two German smugglers, Ewald Ernst and Franz Linzmayer (originally from Hojsova Střáž), tried to get over Jezerní wall into Czechoslovakia. These two were generally hired by forcefully displaced Germans to go to their old homes and get things which they had left behind and hidden in ingenious hiding places. According to Ewald Ernst’s later recollections, they often smuggled even the displaced German back across the border to visit their relatives. On the Saturday of July 1, they were alone, so it can be presumed they were on their way to one of the villages to collect some hidden family treasure for their compatriots. However, they were seen above Black Lake by an NSC guard and when the smugglers did not respond to their calls to stop, they began to fire. The bullets killed the then thirty-two-year-old Franz Linzamayer. His colleague managed to disappear in the forest and escape back to German. Ewald Ernst had undergone all of his following journeys across the border on his own. However, he was arrested that autumn while smuggling two agents. Together, all three of them went to the custody jail of the Klatovy court. Under circumstances that remain unclear to this day, Ernst managed to escape with five other prisoners and escape beyond the border through Strážov – Děpoltice – Hojsova Stráž – Špičák. After these bitter experiences, Ewald Ernst never crossed the border again. Today, we are reminded of this smuggler and skilful skier by the name “Ernst’s aisle” in the left part of Jezerní wall. It is said that the smuggler was able to ski down this very dangerous and narrow path and thus quickly escape border guards, were they financial guards or NSC officers. According to oral legends, only one other famous smuggler from Hojsova Stráž was able to do the same – Fritz Hilgard.

The last week of August 1950 there was another shootout nearby the former village Nová Hůrka between border guards and cross-border agents. In the early morning of August 23, 1950, junior officer Jaroslav Hodboď from the NSC border regiment 9600 accompanied by lance corporal Jaroslav Jasan (since April 1950, select soldiers had been used to reinforce the ranks of the NSC border regiments) set out from the Nové Zhůří station for their watch. The area they were to guard was called Polom (Windfall) and lied west of the former village of Nová Hůrka. After 4am they heard noises which alerted them to somebody’s nearing their station. When the two unknown people got close to five meters, Jaroslav Hodboď and Jaroslav Jasan both emerged from their hiding spot and called to them to stop and put their hands in the air. The astonished couple, most likely cross-border agents (though according to some historians they were emigrants, smugglers or even common poachers), began to fire their guns. Both members of the border guard fell to the ground. The attackers fell upon them and tried to disarm them. Jaroslav Jasan managed to take out his gun and began to shoot. Both unknown people disappeared in the morning mist. We can never know whether or not they had been injured. The guards were definitely not in a good state. Junior officer Jaroslav Hodboď was hit by a bullet in the stomach, lance corporal Jaroslav Jasan had six bullet wounds in his legs and one in his stomach. The shooting raised an alarm and reinforcements soon arrived at the place of the fight. Both injured men were taken away to be given medical treatment, but Jaroslav Hodboď died the next day. Jaroslav Jasan had to undergo a six-month treatment after which he concluded his military duties at a newly established border regiment in Prášily.

In the middle of December of 1950, the Klatovy court witnessed a process with a group of people, who smuggled opponents of communism to Germany and cross-border agents to Czechoslovakia while also giving them information. The majority of the accused were involved in anti-Nazi resistance and have known each other for many years. But after February 1948 they were expelled from the National Revolution Alliance and other persecutions followed. That is why people around František Wiendl senior decided to join another resistance. In April 1949, another member of this group, František Wiendl junior, decided to fulfil the request of an unknown man who visited him, introduced himself as Schneider and claimed to have mutual friends, to smuggle him to Bavaria. He did not lead him across the border himself, but sent him to his acquaintance, railwayman Tauš, who regularly went to Železná Ruda – Alžbětín with a consist. To his surprise, Schneider returned that evening, claiming that Tauš threw him out. As František Wiendl junior later from the railwayman later, Schneider acted irresponsibly, did not follow orders and threatened the success of the operation. František Wiends junior then picked a route across the border according to an old map and decided to take care of the smuggling himself. Himself and Schneider then took the train to Nýrsko, from where they continued on foot towards Chudenín between Červené Dřevo and Liščí across the broder. In April 1949, František Mika used the same route to escape himself. Other crossings followed and František Wiendl junior recruited his friends from the anti-Nazi resistance Jan Šturk, Jan Prantl and MUDr. Jiří Krbec as smugglers. To speed up the journey, they began to use a motorcycle or a car on the way to Chudenín. Jan Štork and Jan Prant were the drivers of those. The border crossing itself, from Chudenín to Jägershof, was still done by František Wiendl junior. The fourth crossing was quite dramatic, because the group of emigrants included a small child, whose calming medications, given to him by MUDr. Jiří Krbec, wore off at the walk to the border. For the crossing to be safe, the child had to be calmed down. But this took a long time and František Wiendl junior had to return back during daylight hours. He was stopped by guards nearby Chudenín, but he used his permit to enter the border area and claimed that he was looking for suitable building wood for his employer. The group of smugglers was also joined by Alois Sutty, a German who joined the CIC after the war. As a cross-border agent, Sutty often crossed the state border with František Wiendl to get in contact with someone in a lone settlement near Pocinovice. As the number of illegal crossings grew, the group began to realise that they would need to find a new route. The village of Chudenín was thus replaced by a nearby village of Hadrava. While transporting people to this village, the group began to use deliveries of a Klatovy laundry company Joka, where Jan Prant worked. Alois Sutty was supposed to take people from František Wiendl junior by Štříbrný mlýn (Silver Mill) near Nýrsko and to smuggle them across the border. For the first time, this went without a problem. Nobody in the group knew that by that time, the NSC already had information about their activities and was preparing to set a trap. The investigators sent an agent – provocateur, who knew some of the smugglers, because he was in a partisan group in the Klatovy region during the war. The trap snapped shut on November 20, 1949. Together with an NSC agent, six other people were to travel towards the border that day. The refugees were passed on to Alois Sutty by Nýrsko and the car returned to Klatovy. They were arrested at the edge of town. The investigations on this case finished in April of the following year, when Alois Sutty was wounded and arrested during a shootout in Pocinovice. A process then followed and culminated between December 12 and 14, when the sentenced Alois Sutty to capital punishment, the others were given jail time in the span of 10 to 25 years.

On Monday, August 6, 1951, NSC sergeant-major Rudolf Fuchsa crossed Ferdinand’s valley by Železná Ruda to Bavaria. He ran in his uniform, even with his service gun. He was threatened by a military prosecutor because he stole 200 korunas from his colleague. Soon after crossing to German territory, he was arrested by an American army guard and, following his interrogations, sent to a refugee camp. There he agreed to join the American Intelligence Service CIC. On Friday October 19, Rudolf Fuchsa crossed the border again, accompanied by Jiří Hejna, but this time in the opposite direction and as a cross-border agent. However, they were not nearly careful enough in Teplice, where they were fulfilling their task and even organised goodbye drinks for their friends. On Saturday, October 27, they got on a train from Teplice to Klatovy and Železná Ruda, intending to return to Bavaria. They were detained while changing trains in Klatovy by NSC officers who were already waiting for them. Their careless behaviour in Teplice led to several accusations being made to the security authorities. In January 1952, they were both given the capital punishment for high treason, desertion and spy activities. They were executed in Prague on August 9, 1952.

Towards the end of May 1952, a judicial process with the “František Havlíček and co.” group was started. This process concluded a story which began seven years earlier, in the first post-war months, at the renewed Czechoslovak border in Železná Ruda. An officer of the First Republic gendarmery František Havlíček joined the then forming NSC after returning from a concentration camp. In October 1946 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He became the regional leader of the NSC and a liaison officer to the American military administration in Bavaria. For that reason he was often in Železná Ruda – Alžbětín, where he met the American intelligence officer, Captain Hawasch. However, he then continued having these meetings even after the position of the liaison officer was abolished. He visited him in Železná Ruda using different excuses and most likely shared security-related information with him. This was going on until summer 1948, when public meetings of these two officers stopped being possible. Lieutenant František Havlíček thus agreed to a new tactic and started sending intelligence through his subordinate and acquaintance, officer Václav Šnaidr, who was positioned at the NSC border department in Všeruby. In summer 1949, lieutenant Havlíček officially retired for reasons relating to his health. After some time he decided to get back in contact with American intelligence, a decision fatal not only to him, but also to several of his accomplices and friends. While searching for ways of communicating with the Americans, he came across a State Security agent Vladimír Doležal, who pretended to be a cross-border agent. Following his suggestion, Havlíček began to use a so-called dead letterbox, unknowingly thus providing State Security with incriminating evidence against himself and his friends and accomplices. On Thursday, August 23, 1951, lieutenant František Havlíček was arrested. A number of his friends followed shortly after, including his wife Anna, nee Suchá. František Havlíček and his closest accomplice officer Václav Šnaidr were eventually given the capital punishment, which was carried out on November 12, 1952.

In November 1953, Železná Ruda witnessed a courageous escape of two young intellectuals to Bavaria. They were Jiří Wertheimer and Zdeněk Volf (born 1930 in Klatovy), who met at the Aeroclub of Industrial Establishments Prague in Točná at the southern edge of Prague. In this club, both of these young engineers spent time flying on gliders and completing a course in piloting motor sport airplanes. In August 1953, Zdeněk Volf won the first statewide gliding competicion in Vrchlabí, representing the Točná aeroclub. Jiří Wertheimer and Zdeněk Volf became friends. They agreed that they wanted to escape west, where they hoped to find other ways of utilising their skills. They were both regular listeners of Free Europe and The Voice of America. On Sunday, November 22, 1953, they realised their plan. During a day off, they as usual went to the airport in Točná. Zdeněk Volf began a conversation with a mechanic František Čumrda and finally asked him to refuel and heat up the single-engine courier aircraft Piper L-4, which was often used by the army in the post-war years and in Točná had the identification OK ANE K 68. The mechanic did as he was asked without checking whether the popular aeroclub member who he knew well had a permit to fly it. He even gladly answered technical questions about the plane. Zdeněk Volf no doubt used his popularity at that time, after all, he set a new Czechoslovak record in a long flight with a glider (he flew for 477 km) at the abovementioned competition in Vrchlabí. Jiří Wertheimer soon joined him in the hangar and in the cabin. With a warmed-up engine, Zdeněk Volf drove out of the hangar and took off. When deciding on the day of their escape, they relied on misty weather. They assumed that as soon as their unauthorised start was detected, the Točná airport would report it to a nearby military airbase and they would have no chance of escaping through a clear sky. They thus disappeared into a layer of clouds which offered them expected protection soon after take-off. To their surprise, both the mechanic and the air traffic control tower must have trusted the new record setter enough to not send a signal to the state air force immediately. Zdeněk Volf headed south. Despite momentary problems with the engine, which began to falter due to frost caused by the date of the flight and constant movement through clouds, the brave young men reached the state border in less than an hour. Zdeněk Volf probably chose the southern course so that he could fly above his native town of Klatovy. The Piper L-4 crossed the state border just before 13.00 in the height of 50 meters above the Roklan peak, southwest of Železná Ruda. They flew for a couple more kilometres above German territory and finally safely landed on a potato field in Bavaria.

A story which unfolded on June 10, 1954, stands out in the history of the Iron Curtain around Železná Ruda. A sixty-year-old woman called Rozálie Sledžinská came out of the forest by Hojsova Stráž. Shortly after, she met Rudolf Stahl, who was here on holiday. She asked him for help in a strange language. She wanted him to take her to the local military headquarters as she had just crossed the border from Germany. She also asked him for something to eat. Rudolf Stahl took her to the recreational facility where he was staying and brought her bread and coffee. After refreshments, he took Rozálie Sledžinská to another cottage in Hojsova Stráž, where officers of the Czechoslovak army took their vacation. To their great surprise, the lady told them that she had crossed the Iron Curtain not far from Železná Ruda. Lieutenant Holeček detained Rozálie at the cottage and informed the leadership of the 7th border guard brigade, which immediately sent an escort to Hojsova Stráž to take the women to the brigade headquarters. There the woman confessed to be a native of Poland, dragged away to Germany at the very start of the Second World War. She did not explain why she stayed so long after the war was already over. Nevertheless, at the beginning of June 1954, she decided to return to her hometown of Kielt-Chelno. In her interviewing protocol, she stated that she was trying to escape imprisonment. She set out from Gelsenkirchen in Northern Rhineland – Westphalia and travelled by train through the whole of Germany to Regensburg, from where she continued all the way to the border station in Bayerisch Eisenstein, where she arrived on an early Tuesday afternoon, June 8, 1954. In a local church she met an older woman and asked her for help with crossing the border into Czechoslovakia. The women promised Rozálie Sledžinská that she would help her in return for a small payment, as her daughter knows the border and its surroundings quite well. She warned her that it will only be possible after dark. Until then she invited her to her home. All happened as agreed and after 9pm, Rozálie and her two smugglers were on their way to the border. Where exactly had she crossed, she was not able to tell the investigators of the 7th brigade. She only stated that the journey to the border fence took around an hour. After a moment’s rest, the young smuggler showed Rozálie Sledžinská how to get under the wires of the individual fences of the Iron Curtain. She helped her through two zones and then said goodbye and returned back to the German side, while Rozálie climbed under the last fence, which was then usually under deadly voltage but was allegedly turned off during specific intervals. The German smuggler obviously knew this, because she climbed across the risky middle fence herself. Mrs Rozálie then successfully got around a signalling wire about which she was warned by the German girl. But then she got lost in the forest and had to spend the night there. She continued to wander around lost even the next day and had no choice but to spend another night in the deep forest. It was not until June 10 that she finally emerged and met the above-mentioned holidaymaker. After interrogating her, the shocked border guards took Rozálie back to the signalling fence and asked her to show them where she got across it. Even though they covered the whole possible section of the border, the detained woman was still not able to say, as she did not know the area at all and everything happened at night. The protocol mentions that the voltage in the fence was turned off by members of the border guard because a doe got stuck in it. However, this was likely a lie, fabricated so as to avoid punishment. Rozálie Sledžinská ended up being accused of spy activities. However, there are no surviving documents about her trial or punishment.

Over the course of the four months from September to December 1954, the Pilsen court ruled over the cases of groups of smugglers and opponents of the communist regime. The main actors of these processes were two First Republic-era intellectuals, connected through the Šumavian small town of Čachrov, teacher Milan Moučka and MUDr. Miloslav Schauer.

Milan Moučka helped people who wanted to escape to the West, either directly as a smuggler, or as an organiser of their border crossings. He had an ingenious system worked out for that. People longing to escape Czechoslovakia were given instructions via friends and family members of the smuggler group to take a bus to Čachrov and go to the tobacconist’s run by a local invalid Aleš Ouřada. He, after hearing the agreed upon passwords, sent them to either Milan Moučka in Čachrov, or to his accomplice Ignác Denk from the nearby village of Chřepice. The actual border crossing was done by either of them. Milan Moučka found himself a route along the line of Čachrov – Bradné – Chřepice – Můstek – Brčálník. The refugees accompanied by Milan Moučka entered Bavaria between the peaks Svaroh and Ostrý. Ignác Denk made the journey easier for women and children by driving them beyond Můstek, hidden in hay. From there they had to make it to Brčálník on foot. Ignác Denk was a Šumavian German, who avoided the forced post-war expulsion. Apart from emigrants, his vehicle often carried things from the abandoned houses of his fellow nationals who at the time stayed in Bavarian refugee camps. He laid those things at the border, where the Germans would pick them up. First such smuggling happened at the end of September 1949. Another accomplice of these two was a Czechoslovak State Railways worker František Pikhart, who saw trains all the way to the Železná Ruda – Alžbětín station as part of his job. Oftentimes, he would take letters with him, which he would then secretly put into a letterbox on the German side of the station. Apart from guiding emigrants across the border, the men also helped cross-border agents with crossing and accommodation, most often a certain Vojtěch Hejna, who lived in Železná Ruda until 1948. This smuggling channel was exposed in spring 1950. All four actors were arrested and sentenced to long-term imprisonment. While searching their homes, State Security also found firearm, which was an aggravating circumstance. The main organiser Milan Moučka was sentenced to ten years in prison, Aleš Ouřada to seven and František Pikhard to six. Ignác Denk was also hurt by his war anabasis as a German recruit, who fought partisan forces in Yugoslavia. The judge JUDr. Marie Benková sent him to prison for ten years. Prison had a detrimental effect on Milan Mouček and Aleš Ouřada’s health. They were both set free after a few years because of their poor health but died soon after. The remaining two were freed by an amnesty declared alongside a new constitution on May 9, 1960.

Miloslav Schauer worked as a general practitioner in Čachrov for several years. He returned to Klatovy for his retirement. After the change of regime in February 1948, he helped its opponents beyond the border. It was mostly people from central Bohemia. His middleman was Ing. František Procházka from Prague. Through circles close to the Czechoslovak People’s Party, he directed people to Klatovy where first meetings happened in two of the local pubs. Through agreed upon gestures and items, emigrants received instructions to go to the railway station Klatovy – town and leave from there to Běšiny. From there they would continue the journey either by bus or on foot. They got off at the Poschingerův dvůr stop above Železná Ruda. Here they met directly with MUDr. Miloslav Schauer. Schauer personally saw them across the border either through Šimandl - Starý Brunst - Gerlova Huť – Polom - Vlčí jámy – Germany or Lipplův Dvůr – Lipplsäge - Nový Brunst – Polom - Vlčí jámy – Germany. This route was used by at least ten emigrants. From among the most prominent refugees it was for example Pavel Tigrid’s wife Ivana, the People’s Party MPs JUDr. Bohumil Bunža and Dr. Ing. Stěpán Benda, the editor in chief of the People’s Party Newspaper Jaroslav Kusý, the former county clerk of the People’s Party in Rokycany Jan Kvídera, colonel of the judicial service Ladislav Spring from Prague and others. MUDr. Miroslav Schauer was detained at the beginning of March 1954. During his home search on March 6 of that year, the investigators found anti-state poetry as well as 60 pieces of a then feared “imperialist” Colorado potato beetle, which the detained man apparantely picked up on Josef Toman’s field in Němčice by Strážov and dissected for his own research. State Security officers immediately used that to also accuse him of preparing to spread dangerous diseases. However, in the middle of June they learned from the Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology that the samples of the potato beetle found at MUDr. Schauer’s house do not contain any polio germs and thus cannot be used for a “biological attack”. A saddening fact is that on June 23, 1954, the leadership of the Klatovy People’s Party made a negative statement about MUDr. Schauer and even expelled him from the party. State Security members did not miss the fact that MUDr. Miloslav Schauer wrote a list of active helpers of the new regime, which through his contacts got abroad and was broadcasted on the Free Europe radio station. The sentence which MUDr. Schauer received on October 7, 1854 was cruel. He got 18 years of jail. He was released following the 1960 amnesty.

In Summer 1969, a group of young people form East Bohemia, specifically from Trutnov, attempted to cross the border at the Železná Ruda – Alžbětín border crossing. The main initiators of this were two sixteen-year-old friends Gert Michna and František Linhart. Due to their wild natures, they both spent time in a children’s home in Králíky, where they met and became friends. Soon after, they were joined by a three years older boy Miroslav Kovář. The youths began to plan their escape west. Eventually they were joined by two girls, Olga Salčáková (at the time of their attempted escape she was only 15) and Jaroslava Hladíková (18), as well as František Linhart’s cousin Antonín (he was 16 and has also been to the children’s home) and fifteen-year-old Mičos Baliamis (son of Greek emigrants). At the end of the first week of July, the group agreed to escape to West Germany. Seeing as all of them struggled with finishing even primary education, their plan was quite simplistic – they planned to drive from East Bohemia through Plisen and Klatovy and to the border area in stolen cars, steal a van once there and use it to crash through the border gate. They chose the Železná Ruda – Alžbětín border crossing to do this. But the group got into a fight and Olga Salčáková stayed in Trutnov (she stated during the following court case that she did that because she chose to; but her former accomplices claimed that she wanted to emigrate). The date was originally set to July 10 but later postponed by another day. Eventually they decided to cover the first part of the journey by train. At the Hradec Králové train station, the six young people met Milan Rumanovský, who the two main organisers knew from their children’s home. Milan Rumanovský joined them without hesitation. When they told him they planned on stealing a car in Hradec Králové in order to get to Prague where they would steal another, the newly accepted member proved his good judgment and explained to the others that doing that would get them in trouble with Public Security long before they would even reach the border, as they would no doubt immediately initiate an intensive search for the cars. Everyone agreed with that and were glad to have gained another accomplice, especially since Milan was the only one in the group who had any experience with driving a van. On July 11, they all travelled on a midnight train to Prague. From there they continued on another train to Pilsen, where they arrived on Saturday, July 12 around 9am. In the West Bohemian metropolis, they visited the EX Pilsen 69 exhibition and on Sunday they took another train to Klatovy, which they reached after midday. The group separated at the station and they all went to look for a van to steal and use to escape to Bavaria. The search did not take long, as there was a Czechoslovak State Automobile Transport station very nearby the train station and there were a lot of parked vans to choose from. Because their drivers sometimes used them for unauthorised drives, there was even an improvised exit in the fence, which could be “unlocked” by just untangling a bit of wire. The planned to go through with the theft after dark. At 9pm, four of them, namely Gert Michna, Maroslav Kovář, Mičos Baliamis and Milan Rumanovský, set out through the dark streets of Klatovy towards the CSAT station, while the other walked to the road to Železná Ruda, where they were to be picked up by the van. The boys stole a Škoda 706 Trambus and despite none of them having a driver’s licence, Milan Rumanovský drove them through the town towards the other group and towards Železná Ruda. It is strange that their driving away did not attract the attention of the night guard and that he did not sound an alarm. The remaining three got into the van just outside of Klatovy and they all continued towards Železná Ruda. They passed through that town after 1am on Monday July 14, 1969. They stopped once they got out of the town and four of them, Hladíková, the Linhart cousins and Mičos Baliamis moved to the covered back of the vehicle. Only the three capable of driving stayed in the cabin. Milan Rumanovský was driving while Gert Michna and Miroslav Kovář were both ready to take over if he got injured by the presumably shooting border guards. Not long after, they reached the first barrier and ignored the border guards’ calls to stop. Officer Petr Hašl, who served at the first barrier, jumped away from the speeding vehicle and immediately gave a signal announcing an illegal forced border crossing. By then, the vehicle had already gotten through the first barrier made out of thin tubes and was continuing towards the border. The impact broke their front lights, so they continued in the dark. After less than half a kilometre they reached another barrier where they were awaited by guards on full alert who immediately began to shoot at the vehicle. But the boys were driving so fast that even after the guards have spent all their cartridges, they were still rapidly approaching the border. But the final barrier, which was much broader and set in pillars of reinforced concrete, finally stopped the fleeing group’s adventure. The vehicle was demolished by the impact. The cabin tore from the rest and flew over the barrier. The impact pushed the three boys against the windshield. According to the guards’ testimony, the refugees then tried to continue towards the border, which was only a couple meters away, on foot. Either because of the shock they suffered or because the impact damaged their hearing, they did not react to the orders to stop, and so the leader of the watch Pavel Sedlák shot twice from his machine gun. The wave of bullets killed Gert Michna. The others were detained and sent to custody in Bory, Pilsen. The court gave them all punishments between eight months and one year for the crimes of unauthorised use of an item in socialist ownership. The punishments given to Milan Rumanovský, Miroslav Kolář and František Linhart were unconditional, the others got a conditional postponement of two years. The leader of the guards and shooter private Pavel Sedlák was commanded by his superiors but suffered a mental breakdown and had to be released from military service on July 19, 1969.

This area also saw the start of the dangerous journey across the Iron Curtain of Vladimír Prislupský, who was born in Klokočová in eastern Slovakia in 1948. Vladimír was an active football player and in 1982 represented Czechoslovakia at the European Championship in Rome. The team ended in fourth place and properly celebrated on the way back. Because the resuted in a couple of violations, State Security began to take an interest and Vladimír Prislupský got in trouble. In the Salaš hotel in Velký Slavkov near Poprad, which he then managed, hosted a private celebration for one State Security member. With more alcohol there were more and more verbal skirmishes between Vladimír Prislupský and these guests. All culminated in a fight between personal and the celebrating State Security officers. In 1983, an accusation of stealing property in socialist ownership – which was then very typical for dissidents – followed. Prislupský was detained and sent into custody for nine months. He was set free before his trial and decided to run west. To get over the Iron Curtain, he decided to use an engine powered hang glider, which was very popular in the second half of the 1980s and excited domestic constructors affixed engines from easily accessible East German Bakelite cars called Trabant to classic hang gliders. At the end of April 1987, this virtually untrained aviator (he only passed a hang glider flying course) attempted his first flight, which unfortunately ended in an accident and damaged the purchased hang glider. After its repair, he decided to use Šumava for his flyover, because his cousin lived there. Meanwhile, the court ruled to imprison him. Together with his friend Gabriel Vyšaník, he put the repaired hang glider at the back of a borrowed truck and set out for Domažlice. His cousin advised him to look for a launchpad for his flight south of the town. It was a straight section of a road long approximately 500 meters, which led partly alongside a lake, southeast of the village Mrákov. The truck reached the beginning of that road on May 18, 1987. They had to wait to put the glide together, because a local tractor driver was working at the neighbouring field. After 7pm, when the worker had left, they constructed the hang glide within a couple of tens of minutes and got ready for take-off. This time, the first attempt was successful and Vladimír Prislupský rose up. Gabrial Vyšaník then jumped back into the borrowed truck and returned to Slovakia. The unauthorised take-off of a motor hang glide was almost immediately noticed by a state air defence radar, which was situated at the line of the brave glider and sent a signal to inform about an attempt to illegally cross the state border. An order was dispatched to Žatec, from where a couple of fighter planes took off. Vladimír Prislupský meanwhile continued towards the border. Because it was only his second time flying the hang glide and he did not know the landscape below him, he did not take the fastest most direct line, but often changed direction, which surprised the border guards who were watching his flight. According to the recollections of one of them, the hang glide once even flew right above the Maxov company of border guards. After several minutes, the fighter jets passed above the hang glide but did not attack it in any way. He was most likely flying too low for the fighter jets to safely fire at him. Vladimír Prislupský eventually managed to safely cross nearby the Folmava border crossing and landed at a meadow near a Bavarian town called Roding. But a punishment awaited his friend Gabriel Vyšník, because an investigation had already started into Vladimír Prislupský’s absence at court. Gabriel Vyšaník was detained at a carpark near Brno on May 19, 1987, while still on his way back. For aiding Vladimír Prislupský, the jury sentenced him to 15 months.