Requiem mass commemorates freedom fighter Hasil |

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Requiem mass commemorates freedom fighter Hasil

Requiem mass commemorates freedom fighter Hasil

Dozens of people attended a requiem mass in memory of the late Czech anti-communist fighter Josef Hasil, dubbed the King of Sumava, who helped dozens of people cross the Czechoslovak border westwards, celebrated in a local church in Laziste yesterday. Hasil died in the United States, where he was living from the 1950s, on November 16 at the age of 95 years.

Hasil was both courageous and pious, he was a hero saving dozens of people from imprisonment and death and fighting for freedom, the mass organiser Pavel Horesovsky said in the St Nicholas Church.

During the mass, people remembered not only Hasil, but also his family and others who helped him and then spent many years in Communist prisons.

"Only now I realise everything. When you are young, you cannot put things together," Hasil's son Josef Vavra said about his father's anti-communist activities after the mass.

"Pepik (diminutive of Josef) was an amazing and a good man. A brave one. Those in power in the past made a cutthroat of him, but he did not kill anyone, he has no relation to weapons, he was deeply pious. Josef Hasil should be respected, pupils and students at schools should learn about him as about a hero of his times, which is not the case so far," said Horesovsky, the author of the memorial to Hasil's brother Bohumil who was killed in the 1950s, in Ceske Zleby village in Sumava.

One of the participants in the mass was Josef Drasnar, 77, whose mother, father and uncle helped Hasil and the Communists arrested and imprisoned them. Drasnar's mother spent 13 years in custody and prison and his grandparents looked after him.

"He was normal, he had fear, but was also courageous and was aware what his acquaintances, offspring and siblings willing to help him may have experienced," Drasnar said about Hasil, whom he personally met in 1991, after the fall of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia.

Those who helped Hasil and the Communists persecuted them deserve admiration and gratitude, he added.

Hasil was a hero, said writer David Jan Zak, the author of a book about Hasil entitled "Return of the King of Sumava," a mountain range along the southwestern border of Czechia with Austria and Bavaria.

"Josef Hasil has shown us that one must not chicken out. At the moment he feels something is wrong, he must start fighting and correcting things. He preferred the fight for other people to his own comfort. This is a great mission," Zak told CTK after the divine service.

Hasil, a former communist police border guard, helped people cross the southwestern border in the Sumava mountains in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Not even a stay in the communist prison stopped him from anti-regime activities.

Hasil showed courage to oppose totalitarianism during World War Two already, when he escaped from a forced-labour facility in Germany and operated as partisans' liaison in Bohemia. After the war, he joined the police in order to protect the borders. After the communist coup in 1948, he started taking persecuted people across the border.

In October 1948, he was arrested by the border police and sent to prison for almost ten years. He managed to escape after six months in jail.

In Germany, he joined the U.S. intelligence service and became a walking agent in Czechoslovakia, taking people across the border westwards again, and supplying transmitters and other equipment to the Czechoslovak anti-communist resistance movement.

He got involved in shoot-outs repeatedly. In one of them, a young border guard died in 1949. In another one, Hasil's brother Bohumil was killed in 1950.

In the mid-1950s, Hasil moved to the USA where he lived until the end of his days. In 2001, then president and former leading dissident Vaclav Havel bestowed a Medal of Heroism on Hasil.

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