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Tribute to Victim of Despotic Communist Regime

Alzbeta Daniskova tribute to victim

First member to join underground movement in East Europe writes tribute to victim of communist regime and first martyr 

Part 3 of a series commemorating Marie Živná. See part 1, part 2

Marie Zivna
Marie Živná, the first Unification Church martyr in East Europe. Here, the official high school graduation photo of her at the age of 18. Photo: FFWPU

How I remember Marie Živná

A tribute to Marie Živná, the first Unification Church martyr in East Europe, written 16th June 2011 by Alžbeta (Betka) Danišková, the first member to join in the former Czechoslovakia in 1969.

In October 1968 Emilie Steberl came to what was then called Czechoslovakia. She was sent from Austria to establish a group of followers of the Unification Principles. Thanks to her patience and endurance, I accepted the teachings on 25th January 1969.

After she had left Czechoslovakia in August 1970, Emilie Steberl appointed me to lead our movement.

We worked underground illegally, but our work was successful as we managed to send missionaries to other countries and to 25 cities and towns in Czechoslovakia.

Due to many reports, the secret police started to watch us, and since 1971 we had to work very carefully.

Printed materials had to be destroyed immediately. I would visit missionaries in the different cities. But on 25th December 1972, at the end of a long journey, I had a serious car accident. My backbone was broken, and the spinal cord damaged. Since then, I was immobile, in a wheelchair. The closest members of the movement decided Marie Živná would be my assistant. The person who had introduced her to our movement, Michal Glonda, called her “God‘s child”.

Monument over Marie Zivna
A monument erected in 2019 by the Czech market town of Svojanov to honour Marie Živná, who died under mysterious circumstances while in a communist prison in Bratislava. The text says, “Marie Živná – victim of the despotic communist regime”. Photo: FFWPU

Marie started living with me at an undisclosed address – an apartment in Mojmirova street in Bratislava. Only a close circle of members would visit us. She helped me with physiotherapy, prepared food and took care of hygiene. She also maintained contacts with others. But the owners of the apartment, probably on request from the police, asked us to leave the flat. So we decided to live with other “sisters” in Agatova street. We continued our work until September 1973 when we were arrested, interrogated and imprisoned.

While in pre-trial custody we were interrogated separately, and interrogations could last many hours. In order to meet Maria Živná, I asked for a “confrontation” with her. Marie knew very well that it was just a pretext. “Confrontation” under supervision of many policemen was very untypical.

Marie embraced me and asked me if I was not cold, and if I had warm clothes. As a big surprise to the investigators, we were laughing of joy. Then the “confrontation” quickly came to an end.

I would meet Marie several times in the corridors of the prison. We always had to stand facing the wall. During the last meeting she turned her head to me and smiled. She did not mind being scolded by the policeman.

When my lawyer told me that Marie had died, it affected me so much that I could not stop crying. My prison towels were completely wet. I knew for sure from her replies during the investigations I was acquainted with [those accused had the right to look through all the documents produced after the interrogation and investigation had been completed], that what she said did not contain any doubts about the teachings of the Unification Principles. Her crystal pure, clear and direct answers were a proof of her clear mind.

Up until today I could not think about her peacefully because even the years did not take away the pain I felt when I was told she had passed away.

Juraj Lajda
Dr. Juraj Lajda, Photo (2024): Personal

Dr. Juraj Lajda, another early member of the Unification Church in the former Czechoslovakia, adds (also in June 2011),

“In 1973 the persecution of the Unification Church members started. The communist secret police started to observe us and in September 1973 the first members were arrested. Within several weeks almost 30 members were put into prison. Marie was one of the last ones who were arrested. Even though she was very close to Betka, the leader of the movement, and knew many things, she worked very silently and seemed to be invisible so that the secret police could not find her easily. Marie pretended not to know anything. During the interrogations by the police, she gave very little information and said nothing of importance.

Marie was arrested in late autumn 1973. Together with other members she was waiting for the trial in Bratislava prison. The trial began 2nd July 1974 and lasted until 19th July 1974.

On Easter Thursday 11th April 1974 Marie died under suspicious circumstances in prison. The prison police sent a telegram to her parents that their daughter was dead. They were shocked and immediately travelled to Bratislava to visit the prison. The police gave them the iron coffin with the dead body; the coffin was sealed, and nobody was allowed to open it. The parents did not obey the instructions from the officials and opened the coffin. What they saw was terrible. There was their 24-year old daughter with grey hair.

Her funeral was a big event in her home village. Marie had a very good reputation and people could not believe that she had lost her life by accident.  About 1,000 persons gathered at her funeral and expressed doubts about her death, accusing the communist regime of killing innocent people. Marie became a symbol of resistance against communism. At the funeral numerous secret agents were present.”

Part 3 of a series commemorating Marie Živná. See part 1, part 2

Featured image above: Alžbeta (Betka) Danišková in 1972. Photo: FFWPU

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