I read once about an incident that happened in the middle of the century (40s to 60s) where the Czech team that was favored to beat the Russian team (this is hockey I speak of) was arrested and put on trial for treason, unfairly convicted and many of them spent time in hard labor camps, some of whom died.
I can't find anything on this at all. Any help would be appreciated.
"Also, members of the national ice hockey team who were falsely accused of treason in 1950 and jailed for several years were all fully rehabilitated in June 1968."
I'm guessing by rehabilitated they are referring to pardons, because this is what directly preceded that statement.
"At the end of July, the Supreme Court posthumously annulled two shameful death penalties of the post-1948 era. One of these victims was Dr Milada Horakova, a National Assembly deputy for the Socialist Party who had been falsely accused of high treason. She was the only woman ever executed for political reasons in Czechoslovakia. The other was Zavis Kalandra, a leftist writer and literary critic. "
Some may have died/been executed but they don't mention it in that article.
They were champions of the world. But, all too soon the victory laurels would be overshadowed by two unexpected events. In 1949, when the Czech team was scheduled to play in London, six players were killed when their plane crashed. Then, March 13th, 1950, the team was meant to go to London once again to take part in the world championship. But, at the airport players found out there would be no take-off. Player Vaclav Rozinak told Czech Radio in 1968 the details of what had transpired.
"In London, we wanted to prove that the team was good, that the world title we won in 1949 had not been a coincidence. But, then some people appeared and said that we would not be going because visas for the reporters had not been obtained. Two days later it was clear we would have to stay. Of course, we were annoyed. The whole thing peaked at a pub when undercover secret police showed up. Somehow a fight broke out and we ended up at the police station. We thought it was all a joke and thought we'd only stay there over night. Even in court, when we were suddenly found guilty of treason and espionage, we laughed and didn't take the charade seriously. But the fun was over when we ended up in prison with our hair shaved off. We released[sic] then they truly were not going to let us go."
Vaclav Rozinak got ten years in prison, while ten others got sentences ranging from one to fifteen years, in a show trial orchestrated for fear by the communists the whole team might have emigrated to England, pleading asylum. In 1955 the players were released under amnesty, and were officially rehabilitated in 1968. But seven players died later from forced labor suffered in uranium mines. There was no real going back.
Here is the whole story on that 1950 Czechoslovakian national team:
On Saturday, March 11, 1950, a group of athletes who couldn't hide their emotions gathered at the Prague airport. The Czechoslovakian national hockey team was ready and waiting for a flight to London, where the Wembley Empire Pool would host the World Championships. They were on their way to defend the world title they had won the previous year in Sweden by defeating the mighty Canadians. The flight crew of an aging Dakota plane was also waiting impatiently, but the players still weren't on board. The departure time came, and went, and the players and flight crew still waited. Finally, after 4 hours, a reason--of sorts--was explained; the reporters hadn't gotten their visas, so the whole team had to wait. Frustrated, puzzled, and concerned, the players were later informed they would have to go to the office of the Czechoslovak Ice Hockey Union the following Monday. After waiting again a few hours for that meeting, they were told, "You're not going to London." This time no explanation was offered, nor was there much response to a number of questions the team asked, with some heated emotions.
The players then went over to the Golden Pub, a small bar in Prague, but even after a few beers their tensions didn't dispel. Loudly blaming the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Information for their troubles, they were further fired up by the news on the radio when it was announced that the team had decided not to go to London because of some sort of protest. As the talks grew ever more heated, another group entered the bar who nobody had seen there before. First they met face to face with forward Vaclav Rozinak, who was about to go home. Catching his hand, one of the strangers asked where he was going. Rozinak replied: "That's none of your business." Another of the new group grabbed Rozinak's jacket so hard that the buttons came off--which signaled a fight that was all over in a few minutes. All the players were handcuffed and taken to a special bus.
None of the team members knew yet they weren't dealing with a regular police force but with officers of the national state security agency, the KNB, the Czechoslovak equivalent of Russia's KGB. The confused players were put in 2 jails, still thinking they had been arrested for the fight in the bar. When Rozinak came back to his cell after being fingerprinted, another inmate asked him, "How many fingers did they print?" When Rozinak said 10, the fellow told him: "I don't want to scare you, but you may not leave this cell at all. Only people who were brought here by the KNB give all their fingerprints."
Almost 7 months later, on October 7, 1950, the players finally appeared in court on a lawsuit that labelled them as an "anti-state group." For the first time, the players were told they were guilty of spying and were named as "state traitors." The main argument against them was the fact that in December of 1948, the players of LTC Praha (most of whom played for the national team) had talked about the possibility of defecting in Switzerland after the Spengler Cup in Davos had been played. The court claimed the entire national team wanted to defect after the World Championships in London.
Some questionable events had indeed taken place in Davos, but the players had never intended to hide anything. The trouble had started when an immigrant who called himself a member of the Committee of Free Czechoslovakia approached the most high-profile players, brothers Vladimir and Oldrich Zabrodsky, and suggested they persuade the rest of the team to defect and play in the British pro league. A few hours later, the entire team gathered in Vladimir Zabrodsky's room at the Hotel Belvedere.
Everybody spoke out and it was decided that the entire team--not just a few--might defect. The next day, December 31, 1948, a few members of the team witnessed Vladimir Zabrodsky's conversation with the immigrant. Zabrodsky asked for money (60 or 80 thousand Swiss francs), but the two men didn't agree to anything. Later that day, Zabrodsky suddenly suggested to the players that they should just go back home. When they decided to take a secret vote, the majority of them voted against defecting.
The trip to Switzerland had been rather uneventful--and in fact there had been several defections. One of the heads of the Czechoslovak delegation defected in Davos and, later, during an exhibition tour in Zurich, players Oldrich Zabrodsky and Miroslav Slama also defected. At their hotel in Bern, Czechoslovak immigrants there tried to convince the players not to return to communist Czechoslovakia. The players, however, tried to avoid such people and even asked the Czechoslovak Embassy to protect them from these people. In Zurich, on the way from the hotel to the bus on the last day of the trip, the players were physically separated from team management by a crowd of Czechoslovak immigrants trying to convince them to defect and police involvement was necessary.
None of the remaining Czechoslovakian players had ever seriously considered defection, although they had quite a few chances to do so. Always, the team had returned without incident from past tournaments. But these facts were not taken into consideration by the Czechoslovak Supreme Court and at 8 p.m. on October 7, 1950 the players were sentenced. Goaltender Bohumil Modry received 15 years in prison, forward Gustav Bubnik, 14 years; forward Stanislav Konopasek, 12 years in prison; Vaclav Rozinak and Vladimir Kobranov, 10 years each. Seven other players were given prison sentences ranging from 8 months to 6 years.
Most of the players spent 5 years in jail, after which their passion for hockey--to say nothing of their lives--was seriously damaged. Modry, for example, who some claim to be the greatest Czechoslovak goalie of all-time, was released from prison at the age of 39 and couldn't go on with his brilliant career. He had been one of the LTC Praha players who made an historic trip to Moscow in 1948 for the first international games against Soviet hockey players. Now he was all but forgotten and labelled as a political criminal. During the 1959 World Championships in Czechoslovakia, nobody from the Czechoslovak Ice Hockey Union would even invite him to watch their games or talk to him. But surprisingly, Soviet coaches Anatoli Tarasov and Arkady Chernyshev did talk to him, and even brought Modry back to their team bus and he sat on the Soviet bench at every game.
In 1963, just a few months after Modry's death, Tarasov and Chernyshev were in Czechoslovakia again and invited Modry's widow Erika to their hotel. She recalled: "I came into the room and saw Tarasov, Chernyshev and couple of high officials from the Czechoslovak Ice Hockey Union. Tarasov introduced me to the officials and said: 'This is Mrs. Modry. Do you know who her husband was? He taught us how to play hockey and we will never forget that."
It still remains uncertain why it was decided that Modry was named as the "main figure" in the potential defection plan--particularly in light of the fact that by 1950 he was no longer a member of the national team--but the official decision that he was the ringleader also profoundly affected 21-year-old Gustav Bubnik. Despite their age difference, he was a close friend of Modry. It was the decision of the court that "Modry influenced the situation through the help of Bubnik." The young star forward was one of the few players who appealed the court decision. On December 22, 1950 the appeal of his 14-year sentence was declined, but Bubnik was able to talk to the court chairman right after that. Bubnik said: "I remember him well. He wasn't afraid to talk to me. He said, 'You were used as an example for all Czechoslovak athletes to show what would happen to them. The decision wasn't made in the courtroom."
The toughest moments for Bubnik were in prison in Bor. He recalled: "The jail was right near the Plzen Winter Stadium. In the evenings I heard the sounds of the game. It was very depressing. Once, when depression was really heavy, I made a small figure of a hockey player out of fleece. I dyed him in the national team colours and sewed him into my pillow." Later, Bubnik had a chance to play again. He met Rozinak and Konopasek in prison and they were allowed to play a game against a team from Moravia. They built the rink, made the sticks and were ready to play. Then, just a few days before the event, Bubnik was granted his freedom. He was released on January 21, 1955.
After their time in prison, many of the players did resume their careers. Bubnik played 7 more seasons and later became a famous coach. He was appointed coach of the Finnish national team in 1966, his team defeated the Czechoslovakian squad 3-1 at the World Championships in Vienna the next year--after which he received a number of telegrams from Czechoslovakia to the effect that, "The prison is still waiting for you!" Some of the other players released from prison: Premys Hajny, he became the coach of the Swiss club Servette and won a silver medal with his team.
Stanislav Konopasek coached the Polish club GKS Katowice to a championship title.
Zlatomir Cerveny worked with Olympia Ljubljana in Yugoslavia. Vladimir Kobranov and Vaclav Rozinak coached in Switzerland.
Ironically, many of the players who were once called "state traitors" dedicated their lives to promoting their homeland's hockey style all over Europe.
wow....i was born and grew up in communist czechoslovakia and never heard of that story...it brought back some bad memories....thanks svetovy poharu for posting this
well that's what "frienship" with russia brought to czechoslovakia, poland, hungary,..after 2WW.