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One Hundred Years Since the Birth of Oldřich Svoboda: from Brno to Northern Norway

21. 4. 2021

Mr. Oldřich Svoboda was born on April 19, 1921 in Třebíč. We were recently contacted by his now grandson from Adamov near Brno, who wished that we would publish his short biography on the occasion of his grandfather's unborn centenary of his birth.

Mr. Svoboda and another 404 young men in 1921 were sent to Norway for forced labor. It was in the autumn of 1942. He was assigned to work for Conrad and went to the northernmost parts of Norway.

Mr. Svoboda wrote a diary during his stay. He described in it the cruel but breathtaking polar nature, but also relationships in the workplace, contacts with the local population, and above all a number of painful experiences of deployment and forced labor. He suffered from a lack of food, once he and his friends were saved from starvation by a reindeer bought from Sámi herders. In his memoirs we can also find sketches of the landscape, dedications from friends or a description of various small adventures during the hard war.

While he was in Norway, his son was born in Moravia, and when he came home after a year on vacation, he married his lovely Agnes. His holiday was prolonged by medical complications, and on his way back to Norway he fell ill again, and officials in Berlin sent him back home for a small bribe. He preferred not to return to Norway, and hid with his brother (who also escaped from deployment) on his parents' farm, where they waited a year for the end of the war.

Mr. Svoboda left unique written memories of his painful stay in Norway. In the 1980s, he supplemented his diary with memories and had it rewritten. He wanted to share his stories from Norway with the public, and at the end of the 1980s he sent the newspaper to Brno Radio. The publication failed at the time, so he sent at least one copy to the depository of the Union of Forced Persons, of which he was a member. The archive of the Union of Forced People later took over the National Archive in Prague, where Mr. Svoboda's diary is stored to this day.

Mr. Svoboda's grandson would like to publish his grandfather's memories in print. We believe that this intention will succeed - the diary is really worth it!

Mr. Svoboda's family provided us with a typescript of diaries for further research, as well as other period materials and photographs. Thank you!

Below we publish some selected parts of the estate and a biographical medallion of Mr. Svoboda.

Period photographs and materials: Archive of the family of Mr. O. Svoboda, Adamov.

Edited by: Vendula V. Hingarová

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