Documentary series tells story of dramatic 1949 escape of Bohuslav Horak

26-10-2006

Bohuslav Horak, the husband of Milada Horakova who was executed after a notorious show trial in 1950, escaped communist Czechoslovakia in 1949 but until now the details have not been known. Fifty-seven years later, the people who helped Bohuslav Horak escape across the Iron Curtain have come forth, and Czech Television has captured the dramatic events as part of its documentary series "Stories of the Iron Curtain."

Czech folk singer Jaroslav Hutka narrates Czech TV's documentary series "Stories of the Iron Curtain" which began airing early this year. The film segments are based on two books written by journalist Ludek Navara, documenting Cold War era escapes from Czechoslovakia; the second volume, entitled "Stories of the Iron Curtain 2" has just appeared. Volume one of Navara's book sold over 7000 copies, and led to a historical first: the sons of the man who helped Bohuslav Horak (the husband of Milada Horakova) escape Czechoslovakia in late 1949 came forth with the story. Ludek Navara explains:

"They got in touch with us, after seeing one of the documentary films in the series. We visited them - I was there with the dramaturg of the TV series, and with a historian who is an expert on Milada Horakova - and this visit proved very interesting. However, we didn't gain a complete picture of the events, because the Simak family was the last in the line of people who helped Bohuslav Horak escape. It was a starting-point for more research, but in the end I think that we managed to reconstruct the story rather completely. This was a surprise for me too, since I didn't really believe it would be possible."

Josef Simak, who was a 15 year-old boy in 1949, remembers that his father entrusted him to drive the family tractor into the border zone where they had a permit to cut wood. In November 1949 they guided Bohuslav Horak, a prince from the Lobkowitz noble family, and their own cousin out of communist Czechoslovakia. Josef Simak recalls that day:

"It was cold already, and the thing I remember most vividly was the worst part: my father left on foot for the border with the men, and after about two hours he returned alone. I was happy that he returned safely, and that we could go home, and that people's lives were saved."

Bohuslav Horak made it to a German refugee camp, where he learned of his wife's execution on June 27, 1950. He eventually settled in Washington, DC, but had to wait until 1968 to see his daughter, Jana, again. Until his death in 1976, Bohuslav Horak never spoke about the details of his escape from Czechoslovakia - it was the only way to ensure that those who helped him would not be punished. Now, 57 years later, the story is complete.

26-10-2006