Letter to Mother-in-law
My Dear Mother Horakova,
I kiss your hands—Mother of seven sorrows. I am sure you don’t know how often I thought about you, how often I stood in front of you asking your forgiveness, for I know I am guilty of many wrongs toward you. You are a model of sacrifice and patience, with a heart overflowing with goodness. What all came over you, and how little did the sun of happiness shine in your life! You, the embodiment of service, of service to others, in your modesty did not even notice that you were only giving, that you were giving your self along with all that care. You never asked what the others were bringing you. You were a private [i.e., soldier] of love, who only fought for the happiness of others and was not even awarded a medal for bravery. And it was and is so necessary in your life, so that you could again stand on your feet and fight for a better life, not for yourself, but for others.
This is the second time that in my heart I am asking your forgiveness. The first time it was in the fortress casemates of Terezin, almost on the threshold of certain destruction, that I realized that I did not know how to love you enough. And it was not for reasons stemming from you—I was spiritually so poor that I could not perceive that special tone of the keyboard of your character. And yet one could hear it so well. I had my ears closed by pride, jealousy and selfishness. You, dear mother, gave me from the small bundle of your personal happiness the most valuable gem, your only son Bohuslav. And you wanted nothing in return, only a little personal recognition and my permission for you to enjoy and adorn yourself with that gem. And in my young, self-assured pride, in my thoughtless competition of young, easily victorious womanhood, I was so selfish that I did not even want to let you have that little joy which you wanted for yourself. I began to compete where there was no reason to compete, for you did not want to deprive me of Bohuslav's love And so, during all the twenty-three years of my life with Bohuslav, I somehow remained distant from you, maminko. It is a great shame, and I am telling myself this for the second time, that it took such a great trial from God for that realization, and it was not only a loss for you, it was for me also. Your dear son also suffered because of our distant relationship, for he loved both of us fervently, although each of us differently. His beautiful heart was so rich in goodness and love that I really should have been glad for you to have all he wanted to give you. And just at the time before my arrest, when Father Horak died, I was jealous and unkind to you. I thereby hurt you and Bohuslav. It was very wrong, and I am very much ashamed of myself I was so proud and naively selfish. I felt uncomfortable because when Father Horak was dying, the two of you stayed alone with your sorrow, you did not ask me to be with you. And why should you have called me? Should I not have asked you to let me be with you? Should I not have been with you as a matter of course, just as Bohuslav always was with me when I went through difficult times . . . without being asked? Maminko, this is my great pain with regard to you and Bohuslav, and I have to confess it to you today, when there must not be forgiveness; your kind soul already has forgiven me. . . .
In my mind I also have been talking to Father Horak. I was glad that his death came when he was happy and comfortable, while you have to carry a cross to Golgotha. I asked him also to forgive me in his eternal abode, and I recognized that his criticisms of me were partly justified. It is true that he often wronged and hurt me, but it seems that he felt that I have certain traits of character which will cost his son sue much pain and sorrow. . . . And I reacted to his correct instinct with proud and self-assured rejection, and I became obstinate when he was guilty of a wrong toward me. I needed even more humility, and therefore this test had to come. But it is tragic that you and Bohuslav again have to suffer for my correct comprehension of things. But I know that you can get up again after falling under the weight of the cross. I know that you will be victorious over your Golgotha, for you have the most powerful faith and shield. Maminko, I have it too. . . . Therefore you perhaps more than anybody else will believe, if I say in do the words of the psalm: And though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me. You have no idea how pleased I was when my legal representative informed me that the pastor of the Protestant Congregation expressed his willingness to accompany me and to strengthen me spiritually in the hours which are awaiting me. The authorities will be asked for their permission, but even if they should not give it, the very fact that he wanted to do so strengthens and comforts me; please give him my deep thanks. I know that you are praying for me and that you prayed especially today. Continue to pray, my prayers are with you. I asked to be at least given the Kralicka Bible and I was promised it. Of course, I don't know if they have anything like that here. Maminko, in your sorrow in which we both are alone, all of our, my, jealousies have vanished. I think I know how hard it is for you, and because you know what my and ci Bohuslav's love was like, you know that today my heart suffers no less than yours. And yet we have not lost him. Whether he is alive anywhere, or perhaps dead, in his heart he has not stopped loving both of us, each in a different way-and I am really not jealous any more that he loves both of us. I have one request: spend a lot of time with Janinka. You know how much she loves you, and perhaps you will find your son in her.
Letter to Daughter Jana
My only little girl Jana, God blessed my life as a woman with you. As your father wrote in the poem from a German prison, God gave you to us because he loved us. Apart from your father's magic, amazing love you were the greatest gift I received from fate. However, Providence planned my life in such a way that I could not give you nearly all that my mind and my heart had prepared for you. The reason was not that I loved you little; I love you just as purely and fervently as other mothers love their children. But I understood that my task here in the world was to do you good . . . by seeing to it that life becomes better, and that all children can live well. And therefore . . . we often had to be apart for a long time. It is now already for the second time that Fate has torn us apart. Don't be frightened and sad because I am not coming back any more. Learn, my child, to look at life early as a serious matter. Life is hard, it does not pamper anybody, and for every time it strokes you it gives you ten blows. Become accustomed to that soon, but don't let it defeat you. Decide to fight. Have courage and clear goals and you will win over life. Much is still unclear to your young mind, and I don't have time left to explain to you things you would still like to ask me. One day, when you grow up, you will wonder and wonder, why your mother who loved you and whose greatest gift you were, managed her life so strangely. Perhaps then you will find the right solution to this problem, perhaps a better one than I could give you today myself. Of course, you will only be able to solve it correctly and truthfully by knowing very, very much. Not only from books, but from people; learn from everybody, no matter how unimportant! Go through the world with open eyes, and listen not only to your own pains and interests, but also to the pains, interests and longings of others. Don't ever think of anything as none of your business. No, everything must interest you, and you should reflect about everything, compare, compose individual phenomena. Man doesn't live in the world alone; in that there is great happiness, but also a tremendous responsibility. That obligation is first of all in not being and not acting exclusive, but rather merging with the needs and the goals of others. This does not mean to be lost in [the multitude, but it is] to know that I am part of all, and to bring one's best into that community. If you do that, you will succeed in contributing to the common goals of human society. Be more aware of one principle than I have been: approach everything in life constructively—beware of unnecessary negation—I am not saying all negation, because I believe that one should resist evil. But in order to be a truly positive person in all circumstances, one has to learn how to distinguish real gold from tinsel. It is hard, because tinsel sometimes glitters so dazzlingly. I confess, my child, that often in my life I was dazzled by glitter. And sometimes it even shone so falsely, that one dropped pure gold from one's hand and reached for, or ran after, false gold. You know that to organize one's scale of values well means to know not only oneself well, to be firm in the analysis of one's character, but mainly to know the others, to know as much of the world as possible, its past, present, and future development. Well, in short, to know, to understand. Not to close one's eats before anything and for no reason-not even to shut out the thoughts and opinions of anybody who stepped on my toes, or even wounded me deeply. Examine, think, criticize, yes, mainly criticize yourself don't be ashamed to admit a truth you have come to realize, even if you proclaimed the opposite a little while ago; don't become obstinate about your opinions, but when you come to consider something right, then be so definite that you can fight and die for it. As Wolker said, death is not bad. Just avoid gradual dying which is what happens when one suddenly finds oneself apart from the real life of the others. You have to put down your roots where fate determined for you to live. You have to find your own way. Look for it independently, don't let anything turn you away from it, not even the memory of your mother and father. If you really love them, you won't hurt them by seeing them criticallyjust don't go on a road which is wrong, dishonest and does not harmonize with life. I have changed my mind many times, rearranged many values, but, what was left as an essential value, without which I cannot imagine my life, is the freedom of my conscience. I would like you, my little girl, to think about whether I was right.
Another value is work. I don't know which to assign the first place and which the second. . . . Learn to love work! Any work, but one you have to know really and thoroughly. Then don't be afraid of any thing, and things will turn out well for you.
And don't forget about love in your life. I am not only thinking of the red blossom which one day will bloom in your heart, and you, if fate favors you, will find a similar one in the heart of another person with whose road yours will merge. I am thinking of love without which one cannot live happily. And don't ever crumble love—learn to give it whole and really. And learn to love precisely those who encourage love so little—then you won't usually make a mistake. My little girl Jana, when you will be choosing for whom your maiden heart shall burn and to whom to really give yourself remember your father.
I don't know if you will meet with such luck as I, I don't know if you will meet such a beautiful human being, but choose your ideal close to him. Perhaps you, my little one, have already begun to understand, and now perhaps you understand to the point of pain what we have lost in him. What I find hardest to bear is that I am also guilty of that loss.
Be conscious of the great love and sacrifice Pepik and Veruska are bringing you. You not only have to be grateful to them . . . you must help them build your common happiness positively, constructively. Always want to give them more for the good they do for you. Then perhaps you will be able to come to terms with their gentle goodness.
I heard from my legal representative that you are doing well in school, and that you want to continue ... I was very pleased. But even if you would one day have to leave school and to work for your livelihood, don't stop learning and studying. If you really want to, you will reach your goal. I would have liked for you to become a medical doctor—you remember that we talked about it. Of course you will decide yourself and circumstances will, too. But if you stand one day in the traditional alma mater and carry home from graduation not only your doctor's diploma, but also the real ability to bring people relief as a doctor—then, my little girl . . . your mother will be immensely pleased…But your mother would only be . . . truly happy, no matter where you stand, whether at the operating table, at the . . . lathe, at your child's cradle or at the work table in your household, if you will do your work skillfully, honestly, happily and with your whole being. Then you will be successful in it. Don't be demanding in life, but have high goals. They are not exclusive of each other, for what I call demanding are those selfish notions and needs. Restrict them yourself. Realize that in view of the disaster and sorrow which happened to you, Vera, Pepicek, grandmother and grandfather . . . and many others will try to give you what they have and what they cannot afford. You should not only not ask them for it, but learn to be modest. If you become used to it, you will not be unhappy because of material things you don't have. You don't know how free one feels if one trains oneself in modesty . . . how he/she gets a head start over against the feeble and by how much one is safer and stronger. I really tried this out on myself And, if you can thus double your strength, you can set yourself courageous, high goals . . . Read much, and study languages. You will thereby broaden your life and multiply its content. There was a time in my life when I read voraciously, and then again times when work did not permit me to take a single book in my hand, apart from professional literature. That was a shame. Here in recent months I have been reading a lot, even books which probably would not interest me outside, but it is a big and important task to read everything valuable, or at least much that is. I shall write down for you at the end of this letter what I have read in recent months. I am sure you will think of me when you will be reading it.
And now also something for your body. I am glad that you are engaged in sports. Just do it systematically. I think that there should be rhythmic exercises, and if you have time, also some good, systematic gymnastics. And those quarter hours every morning! Believe me finally that it would save you a lot of annoyance about unfavorable proportions of your waist, if you could really do it. It is also good for the training of your will and perseverance. Also take care of your complexion regularly-I do not mean makeup, God forbid, but healthy daily care. And love your neck and feet as you do your face and lips. A brush has to be your good friend, every day, and not only for your hands and feet; use it on every little bit of your skin. Salicyl alcohol and Fennydin, that is enough for beauty, and then air and sun. But about that you will find better advisors than I am.
Your photograph showed me your new hairdo; it looks good, but isn't it a shame [to hide] your nice forehead? And that lady in the ball gown! Really, you looked lovely, but your mother's eye noticed one fault, which may be due to the way you were placed on the photographwasn't the neck opening a little deep for your sixteen years? I am sorry I did not see the photo of your new winter coat. Did you use the muff from your aunt as a fur collar? Don't primp, but whenever possible, dress carefully and neatly. And don't wear shoes until they arc run down at the heel! Are you wearing innersoles? And how is your thyroid gland? These questions don't, of course, require an answer, they are only meant as your mother's reminders.
In Leipzig in prison I read a book—the letters of Maria Theresa [The Austrian Empress] to her daughter Marie Antoinette. I was very much impressed with how this ruler showed herself to be practical and feminine in her advice to her daughter. It was a German original, and I don't remember the name of the author. If you ever see that book, remember that I made up my mind at that time that I would also write you such letters about my experiences and advice. Unfortunately I did not get beyond good intentions.
Janinko, please take good care of Grandfather Kral and Grandmother Horakova. Their old hearts now need the most consolation. Visit them often and let them tell you about your father's and mother's youth, so that you can preserve it in your mind for your children. In that way an individual becomes immortal, and we shall continue in you and in the others of your blood.
And one more thingmusic. I believe that you will show your gratitude to Grandfather Horak for the piano which he gave you by practicing honestly, and that you will succeed in what Pepik wants so much, in accompanying him when he plays the violin or the viola. Please, do him that favor. I know that it would mean a lot to him, and it would be beautiful. And when you can play well together, play me the aria from Martha :6 "My rose, you bloom alone there on the hillside," and then: "Sleep my little prince" by Mozart, and then your father's [favorite] largo: " Under your window" by Chopin. You will play it for me, won't you? I shall always be listening to you.
Just one more thing: Choose your friends carefully. Among other things one is also very much determined by the people with whom one associates. Therefore choose very carefully. Be careful in every-thing and listen to the opinions of others about your girlfriends without being told. I shall never forget your charming letter (today I can tell you) which you once in the evening pinned to my pillow, to apologize when I caught you for the first time at the gate in the company of a girl and a boy. You explained to me at that time why it is necessary to have a gang. Have your gang, little girl, but of good and clean young people. And compete with each other in everything good. Only please don't confuse young people's springtime infatuation with real love. Do you understand me? If you don't, aunt Vera will help you explain what I meant. And so, my only young daughter, little girl Jana, new life, my hope, my future forgiveness, live! Grasp life with both hands! Until my last breath I shall pray for your happiness, my dear child!
I kiss your hair, eyes and mouth, I stroke you and hold you in my arms (I really held you so little.) I shall always be with you. I am concluding by copying from memory the poem which your father composed for you in jail in 1940.
Letter to husband
My dearest husband,
Until the 27th of September of last year, all of the almost 26 year’s that we loved each other this verse of your poem counted for us. Then things changed so suddenly and tragically. I am writing to you as I am to all the others and I don't even know if you arc alive, and if it is even possible for you to read these words. . . . That is the greatest pain of my heart, that . . . I don't have any news about you, not even sad ones, and perhaps only a few hours of my life remain. It is the first time in the long years of our life together that I face the test which fate assigned to me without you. I am so alone. and I do not understand anything about this tragedy. Perhaps it will become clear to me when our souls meet again. I only know and feel one thing: that with your great love it is not possible that you left me. But however that may be, my dear I want to tell you: I already wrote you one letter on the threshold between life and death—in 1944 after the verdict of the Volksgericht in Dresden. I am happy that I do not have to revoke any of it, not a word. On the contrary, the happiness of our great, enchanted love has become more solid when we met again after our return from jail . . . You were the greatest love of my life—through you I have encountered so many heights of human feeling, crystalline like a jewel, that this unusual, uncommon earthly love between two people could not end in an ordinary way. You know it, I don't need to tell you about it. Do you remember that quiet evening last August, on a Saturday, when the two of us sat together in the kitchen, when the rain was murmuring in the leaves of the trees in the garden of our apartment? We were drinking tea, I was talking to you and you were listening? . . . I was confessing something to you from my heart. It seems that I, such a tough person, started to cry. You were silent, you kissed me and only looked at me. I told you that I know that I often sin against the goodness of your heart, I told you what you have meant to me, I asked you to forgive me if I neglected you because of my other interests. I spoke to you about strength, and about my genuine love for you. Was the discussion of that night which ended with you putting me gently on the bed, was that discussion perhaps a fateful anticipation of this letter which will never reach you? It seems to me that that is so. And therefore, even if you should not read these lines, I am certain that you know what I want to say to you. You know: I was your lover more than your wife, for a wife I lacked the necessary feeling for the exclusiveness of her tasks. I had my wings spread, and you did not keep me from flying even at the expense of your personal happiness. I had in you a perfect husband and pal who never indiscreetly pushed his way into the depth of my soul. You were so self-controlled in everything, you always stood above situations when the two of us were concerned. You are the only person in the world of whom I could believe that he understands me. I would like to be convinced that I can count on you to understand me even today. But I do not understand one thing: Why did you leave our child? In my question there is no reproach, my dear, it is only astonishment about something incomprehensible. I am all yours, as you know me, I remained faithful to our love, to you and to myself If I leave before you do, it is only to wait for you patiently. Our love will even overcome the physical change, and it is a consolation to me that I shall always be able to be close to you spiritually. When the last hour comes, I won't be without you, you will stand next to me in the words of your poems which I shall be saying to myself. . . . [There follows a long poem which is a confession of love to her. She ends her letter to him:] I kiss you, my husband, I press your hands, pal. If you are alive, I wish you a long and happy life. Solve your life's problems so as to be able to live fully . . . Your M.
Letters to family
[At 2.30 in the morning of June 27, 1950, the day Milada was executed, she wrote once more to all her loved ones, ending with the words:]
and you my wandering, dear, only, beautiful husband! I feel that you are standing before me. Now we hold hands once more, firmly. The birds are waking up, it is becoming light. I go with my head held high. One also has to know how to lose. That is no disgrace. An enemy also does not lose honor if he is truthful and honorable. One falls in battle; what is life other than struggle? Be well. I am yours, only yours, Milada.
[Her final letter, written to her family just before her execution:]
Don't feel sorry for me! I lived a beautiful life. I accept my punishment with resignation and submit to it humbly. My conscience is clear and I hope and believe and pray that I shall also pass the test of the highest court, of God.