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Memorable Places in the Pardubice surroundings connected to the parachute unit Silver A Home

The landmarks associated with the activities of the Pardubice resistance and paradrop group Silver A are “hotel Veselka“, villa ”Zámeček“, burned settlement “Ležáky” and toady’s “Forest park of Jiří Potůček“. The history of these places is presented in the following short articles summarizing the most important milestones of their existence.

„Hotel Veselka“

“Hotel Veselka” was one of the most dominant features of social life in old Pardubice. It was built in the late 17th century in the city district ‘Zelené Předměstí’ (Green District) close to the Green Gate. House No.76 had the privilege of hospitality with the name of ‘Veselka’. During the first half of the 18th century the building remained in the possession of the Merkel family, but after the death of Vojtěch Merkel in 1749, the house was auctioned off and by the end of the century it had changed owners several times. In 1802, the shabby building was entered as the property of František Kašpar, who lost his house to a fire in 1835 which destroyed a large part of today’s ‘třída Míru’ (Avenue of Peace). The subsequent reconstruction had increased the interior space with a ballroom which allowed holding balls and theatrical performances. However, the ever increasing number of visitors and spectators encouraged Jan Kašpar, the owner’s son, to rebuild the pub into a hotel. In 1858, the first large lectures could be held together with concerts, dance parties and theatrical performances in a new room called “Odeon”. After 1915, a cinematographic screening room called “Imperial” was added to the hotel. The list of important guests included, for example, B. Smetana (1873) or A. Dvořák (1892). The basis of the success of the “Hotel Veselka” was its well educated hotel staff, excellent kitchen and noble environment. The visitors therefore included the Emperor Franz Josef I., Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, František Palacký, František Ladislav Rieger, Emil Holub and others.

On 17th November 1917, the hotel was purchased by, until then a tenant, Josef Košťál, who eight years later, after an expensive reconstruction, increased the capacity to 110 hotel rooms. The Hotel, form the first half of the 30s, was taken over by son Arnošt Košťál, who, with his patriotism and adamant opposition to the Nazis, engraved indelibly into the Czech history. He surrounded himself with people creating a resistance network which was helping for the time of six months to a group of Czechoslovak paratroopers from Great Britain. Paratrooper Josef Valčík was even employed in the hotel as a waiter. During the wave of arrest in July 1942, Arnošt Košťál was one of the first victims of the revealed Silver A group.

After the Second World War the hotel was nationalized. In 1950 the hotel rooms were turned into offices of the national enterprise Restaurants and Canteens. During two decades the unmaintained building turned into ruins whose faded glory from the period of the National Revival and the first republic was recognizable only from historical photographs. Shortly after 6am on 26th August 1927 the former first/class hotel, despite the protest of citizens of Pardubice, was demolished.
 

“The Manor House“

At the beginning of 1884, earl and coal tycoon from Ostrava Jiří Larisch-Mönnich bought a plot of land on the fringes of Pardubice. He had a summer home built there that was designed by architect František Schmoranec. As a lover of horses and the equestrian sport he designed the entire area for breeding these noble animals. Sandy soil, pine forests and mild climate were ideal for horse rides. The villa became a place for socializing of eminent persons. In 1897, the villa in Pardubice, already known as ‘Zámeček’ (The Manor House) was purchased by Count Alfons Henckel, who again used it as a base for hunts. Until 1928 the Manor was owned by the Henckel family, whereupon the villa changed its owner number of times until 1937 when it became a property of the city of Pardubice. In September of the same year the premises were leased to the military administration and a riding school was built in the premises. In March 1939, the occupation army and the reserve police battalion “Böhmen” took up the barracks. Two hundred police officers, who patrolled the operation of military production and the citizens of Pardubice, moved into the barracks. The building of the villa was occupied by officers; meanwhile lower ranking commanders lived in a nearby massive main building where there were also garages and a canteen for the ranks. The paved area between the big building with garages and low quarters served as ‘appelplatz’. That was the heart and conscience of the unit because that was where the men received their orders, there they were publicly pillared and praised for their obedience and fulfilment of orders. Opposite this building there were six one-storey quarters for the ranks. The barracks employed Czech personnel assigned by the employment office as kitchen hands or canteen and garage operators. The complex of buildings and the adjacent park was full of massive mature broad-leaved and conifer trees; it formed ordered space of a manor house rather than grim barracks. In the quarters there was also an execution site where, in 1942, almost two hundred civilians died. 

In 1944, the preventive police was withdrawn and the fire department police, transferred from Plzen, came instead. In May 1945, the Czechoslovak Army came again and occupied the villa; and until 1955 the villa was a school for officer cadets of the socialist block. In 1956 the building was turned into the headquarters of a national enterprise Tesla until 2000 when it was taken over by the Foxconn factory. The equipment of rooms of now disused building is reminiscent of  the bygone times of the national company Tesla and fifty years of the totalitarian regime. 

For more information: www.zamecek-pardubice.cz (Mr. Tomáš Novotný)
 

FOREST PARK OF JIŘÍ POTŮČEK IN PARDUBICE – TRNOVÁ

A commemorative service was held in 1945 on the site of a tragic death of the last member of Silver A in 1946 and a memorial was unveiled and it read:

J I Ř Í    P O T Ů Č E K
*12.7.1919     + 2.7.1942
He blessed this place with his own blood – here a great idealist and a crusader for the
rights of Czech people laid his life on the altar of his country
and fought for the rights of its people,
the first Czech paratrooper fighting under the western allied forces
who parachuted in 1941 over his country to fight for its freedom with a gun in his hands.
He fought and died here shot with a death blow administered by Germanic wrath,
but his great spirit lives on – in the hearts of the Czech nation
where he engraved his name in gold as heroic fighter of Czech –
- OUR -

J I Ř Í   P O T Ů Č E K – T O L A R

This inscription on the memorial tablet, reminding us of the western resistance, could not possibly comply with the communist regime after the year 1948 so it was removed in the 50s and replaced with metal strips with names and basic information only. Evidently, it was after the year 1968 when a new tablet with the inscription, that has been preserved until nowadays, was placed on the memorial carved from Ležáky granite. In the 50s and the years to follow, this memorial place had been gradually falling into disrepair and turning into an undignified place covered with bushes and self-seeding grasses. Perhaps, once a year – during the Ležáky tragedy remembrance – there was a small commemoration service held to remind of the events of 1942.
 

A radical change came after the year 1989, after the year 2005 especially. In connection with the construction of a new housing estate in Trnová, precinct Pardubice VII instigated a plan to create a park for people to spend free time. For these purposes they chose the area around the memorial of J. Potůček – Tolar. At the beginning of the project the City District took necessary measures to enter the land as property of the city of Pardubice. The project implementation documentation together with necessary permits was being prepared simultaneously. With respect to the reverence of this place the City District approached specialist in this area PhDr. Jiří Kotyk, Ph.D. and Mgr. Jiří Štěpánek to cooperate. Another difficult task was to obtain sufficient funding for this bold plan. They succeeded the following year from the city budget. In 2010, based on a contractor tender, the construction of the multifunctional forest park of J. Potůček began. The first works in the forest park included safety trimming of trees, finding out their health and their registration. Nowadays, the forest park also serves as educational trail with information boards with the history of the location with individual functional parts.   
  
The main landmark is the commemoration area around the memorial of J. Potůček which has undergone an overall reconstruction. Newly placed stones with the names of comrades from the paragroup SILVER A - CPT Alfréd Bartoš and CSM Josef Valčík were included on the monument. The remaining three stones placed freely in the park remind people of the names of other war heroes. The place has become a unique monument of heroism of nine paratroopers who lost their lives fighting against the fascist occupation and who the streets in the vicinity are named after.

The Forest park of Jiří Potůček was opened on 7th October 2010 by the then mayor of precinct Pardubice VII, Milan Tichý, and the ceremonial speech was delivered by PhDr. Jiří Kotyk, PhD. Among other things he said: “This place will continuously remind us that man is not and never will be the master of history. Let us stand here not only with deep humility and respect to the legacy of Jiří Potůček and his colleagues, but also with an apology for desecrating this reverent place for such a long time. I believe that the new relaxation form of this forest park will contribute to passing the baton of remembrance to our younger generations who will come to play and do sports here. Eternal glory to all the freedom fighters for what is the most valuable in the 20th century, to all those whose names and lives are remembered here!
                                                                                                                                

Jiří Štěpánek
More information:  www.kpp.iipardubice.cz (Mr Jiří Štěpánek)
 

National Historic Landmark – Reverent Area Ležáky

Ležáky was a small settlement of eight houses and a water mill, which was the only building connected to electricity. The village population was fifty people including fifteen children and youngsters under the age of 18. Most of the children attended primary school in Včelákov and municipal school in Skuteč. While the men worked mostly as labourers in granite quarries, the women looked after their smallholdings.

Shortly after the occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 by the German army the Ležáky citizens and a few neighbouring villages initiated a resistance organisation called ČENDA. The inception of this group involved mainly the lessee of the quarry Hluboká, František Vaško, his brother and a manager of the same quarry, Jindřich Vaško from Miřetice, a machinist employed in the quarry, Karel Svoboda also from Miřetice, Čeněk Bureš, a citizen of Ležáky and road transport owner, then miller of the mill in Ležáky Jindřich Švanda, his brother-in law  Josef Šťulík, Ležáky quarry employee Černík Miloš Stantejský and a very important person – chief constable Karel Kněz from Vrbatův Kostelec. These eight brave men formed the core of a group that eventually grew to more than 25 members and it found contact-men in the great national resistance network known as ÚVOD (Central Management of Home Resistance) and PVVZ (Petition Committee of Faithful Forever).

The ČENDA organisation, named after Čeněk Bureš, covered the surrounding villages (Nasavrky – 9km, Chrast - 7km, Skuteč – 8km, Hlinsko – 10km). The network of local resistance fighters consisted mainly of workers in nearby granite quarries. They “purloined” explosives from unregistered stock for the resistance group purposes. We cannot forget to mention members of surrounding police stations who covered for these “purloins” with insufficient investigations and  during 1939 they even provided numbers of weapons from a police warehouse. The police also enabled the destruction of records of fire arms certificates and explosives necessary in quarries, which provided room for further uncontrolled spread of weapons to resistance organisations. Sergeant Karel Kněz tried to push the same measures for other police offices in the area. The ČENDA organisation was a group limited to numbers of friends-resistance fighters who maintained connection with larger resistance networks in the area. The most important connection was provided from Ležáky by František Vašek with the area of Pardubice and from there to Prague. An important political figure, who brought first paratroopers to the Ležáky area, was the leader of Social Democratic Party, Bohumil Laušman. After his immigrating to Great Britain in 1939, he gave the II. (Intelligence) Department of the Czechoslovak Ministry of National Defence in Exile located in London all the addresses of reliable local citizens. Thanks to those contacts, in early October 1941, the first paratrooper, who managed to land in the Protectorate, František Pavelka (Operation PERCENTAGE) found his hideout in Nasavrky nearby Ležáky. During a single half-year from 1941 to April 1942, there was a total of four landings from England in the vicinity of Ležáky, ie PERCENTAGE, SILVER A, SILVER B and INTRANSITIVE.
 

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