I have had a pretty tough life, we weren’t spoiled back then. As soon as I was 15, I had to leave school and start work, and the war broke out which meant misery and hunger. A friend of my mother’s found me a job as an assistant for a businessperson working in textiles in Prague. It was good working for her, but I had to do things which weren’t allowed under the protectorate. For instance, I was given a suitcase full of rolls of material, and my job was to take them to villages and exchange them for meat, flour, eggs and so on. But one time I arrived at the train station with a case full of pork, and froze - there was a raid on and they were searching everyone. I left the suitcase and escaped. What a dressing-down I got from my boss! But that wasn’t all. My boss had two sons who were members of an anarchist group, who had been sent to prison in Pankrác. So I had to sew cigarettes and little messages into my blouse, and smuggle them into prison. And who would have been blamed, if they’d been found? Me of course.

And then they issued an order that all women born in the year 1924 had to go and work in the German Empire – we used to refer to it as the Reich. That was in 1943 when I was 19 years old. Now, when I think back, I wonder how I didn’t go mad with worry. I guess that the young can be a bit naïve, and there is a lot that doesn’t occur to them. It was horrible, nobody knew what it would be like there and whether we would ever return. They put us up in a kind of camp, there was no privacy and everything was filthy. There were girls from Czechoslovakia, Slovakia, Croatia, Poland and Russia. We had to work in a factory, operating the production line and cutting pipes, and later we made screws for aeroplanes.

We had nothing decent to eat, but the Russians, who nobody liked even then, were far worse off. After the war everyone moaned about them (in secret of course), though I have to say that I will never forget how those people tried, and after all, they are just people like us. It was then that I got to know a Dutchman. We didn’t understand each other very well - I spoke German ,badly - but we got on well. He used to bring me food and even money (and that was something at that time!). Eventually at the end of the war I returned to Prague. I never saw the Dutchman, but I still think of him to this very day.

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