Miroslav Jeník and his brother Ladislav rescued a burning woman in Desná in the Jizera Mountains on the morning of 21 August 1968. They quickly dragged her from the street, which was engulfed in flames and devastated by explosions after the crash of a vehicle of the occupying Soviet Army. “We were driving in my little Fiat 600 right inside the Russian convoy. It was coming down into Desná from Příchovice and the ZIL’s brakes overheated.” Miroslav Jeník, thinking fast, pulled the car to the side.

“The Russian truck narrowly missed us. It crashed sideways into the glassworks at high speed. Gasoline poured out of the broken tank, caught fire a moment later and exploded.”

Miroslav and his brother did not hesitate and rushed to help. They put out the burning woman with a blanket. Both of them suffered burns and the heat permanently damaged Miroslav’s eyes. Seventy-four-year-old Marie Vodáková and her eight-year-old granddaughter Dagmar burned to death at the scene.

The Jeník brothers never met the rescued woman again, although not for a lacking of trying. Miroslav came into conflict with the communist regime. Because of his protests against the Soviet occupation, he was imprisoned for ten months in 1970. His two friends and colleagues working in the Bozkov dolomite caves also went to prison. What were the young men guilty of? They had anti-Soviet slogans on a bulletin board at the entrance to the caves, played banned Free Europe broadcasts from an amplifier, and sang anti-occupation songs such as “Go home Ivan” and “When Gustáv Husák hangs from a tree.”


In the spring of 1968, people in Czechoslovakia were alive with hope. The communists had promised the abolition of censorship, the restoration of private farming, and much more. But the comrades in the Soviet Union were not pleased. The desire for freedom could infect other countries and peoples in the Eastern Bloc.

On the night of August 21st, the people of this country were awakened by the roar of planes and the rumble of tanks. The armies of the Soviet Union and other communist Warsaw Pact countries had invaded our country. Defenseless people ran into the streets, stood in the way of the tanks, tried to speak with the occupiers, threatened them with their fists. It was all in vain. Our People’s Democratic Army did not defend this country. The Soviets deported the leadership to Moscow and forced them to surrender. With the exception of Frantisek Kriegel, everyone – President Ludvík Svoboda, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia Alexander Dubček, Prime Minister Oldřich Černík, and others – submitted. During those August days, the Soviets killed 137 people. Czechoslovakia became an occupied country for the next two decades.