chapter10

January 1968
A
round noon, I was finally able to board my train. It took me through the Austrian Wachovia valley. In Gmünd, I got off the Austrian train and boarded the monorail red and yellow Československé Státní Dráhy, ČSD train behind the border at České Velenice. At the border post of Nová Bystřice, I showed them my passport. Fortunately, Ing. Zpovednicá had informed the border agency about my arrival. I boarded  'Sergei' the regional train  to Prague via Budejovice and it took me back into familiar territory. Tábor, Benešov...The landscape did not look much different from Wachovia. Fields, hamlets and forests, a similar vernacular style. I dozed off for a while and when I woke up, the train was passing the Vlatva river and soon it stopped at Hlavní Nadrazi station. The sun was setting bathing the city into a cold pink sky. 

I wasn't in a hurry to get home yet so I walked on Revolution Square and visited St Josef's church because everything else was closed. A string quartet was rehearsing for a funeral. I listened to the sombre music for a while then  I made my way home though the Celetna through Old Town Square. I passed the Tyn Church and its famed astronomical clock, I passed Franz Kafka's house and mused that unlike him I did not die in Klosterneuburg-Kierling. I went through the stone arches into the 1920s brownstone building. I climbed the two flights of steep stairs, walked along the pavlač to my flat. Surprisingly, Ms Kovačová wasn't at home. I went to my creaky bed. All that walking had exhausted me. I hoped that I would not have to go to hospital again.

The next morning, I walked to the yellow house on the Cihelna Street in the Malá Strana. I rang the doorbell and the Professor, holding his pipe in his hand, flatly said: 'Oh, it's you. Do come in.' Pavel Varady instantly guessed what I had been up to because instead of greeting me, he told me off for fraternizing with the locals. I was not afraid of him and showed him a photocopy of the photograph and its inscription at the back. He laughed at the idea that  his family and the Dokumentationsarchiv could have been so easily  fooled about Anton Schaden's real fate. He blamed Ammereiner for not being able to keep his stupid mouth shut once he found out about me in Slavkov. Olga kept on telling the Professor to let sleeping dogs lie but after a visit to Český Krumlov where he saw Maria's tombstone, he was determined to find me. He had a son by Olga in Leningrad who was called Vladimir, named after Lenin. I shrugged my shoulders and asked whether I was named after 'Karel Marx' He nodded and said that he was always fond of the Czech spelling. And why did he call himself Skodaček? He explained that this was Nikola's idea. Nikola was so paranoid about being mistaken for a Henleinist that he overcompensated with Czechoslovak patriotism. Maria found this amusing. The Professor said that he never cared about nationalities but adopted this new name to please Nikola. 'Poor Koblars' he mused, 'this century has been hard on them'.

I wanted to know whether Maria knew about the Professor's undercover activities. He replied that there was no way Maria would have dated a political agent. She was a fun girl to out with. They liked going to concerts, to the theatre, to the cinema and reading novels, he used to fool around with a camera and invite extras from the theatre, those were the days. She was fun to be that is, until she became pregnant. This he did not plan, as he was married to Olga. However, he agreed to put 'Toni Skodaček on the birth certificate and Maria made up the story about the Henleinists kidnapping Toni and so her reputation with Nikola and Franci was saved. He wondered how I made the connection between him and Schaden, before guessing that once I realized that Presslau was the name of Bratislava before 1919, then it was easy to put two and two together: The famous Treaty of Bratislava.Finally,  I wanted to know what he was doing here working for the Communist Party. He laughed heartily and told me that I was quite welcome to go back to Austria and give his statement to the Dokumentationsarchiv. He took the cover off a Cyrillic keyboard typewriter, inserted two sheets of paper and a page of carbon paper in between then he typed in Russian:

"Statement by Adolf Schaden (Toni Skodaček)
January 1968
I was born in Bratislava formerly known as Presslau in 1913. My mother Flora who was a widow moved to Vienna-Heiligenstadt in 1919 when I was a boy because she considered herself an Austrian. She gave birth to my sister Olivia in Vienna (father unknown). 

In 1927, when my mother contracted tuberculosis and was unable to work, we were re-housed from our 1-room flat in Heiligenstadt into the recently-built Karl-Marx-Hof, which was a big tenement complex for workers. I attended the Hochschule für Welthandel (Academy of Commerce) and stayed on as a junior clerk. I wanted to study literature, but my mother wanted me to learn 'a proper job'. This is perhaps the best thing that Flora Schaden has ever done for me because the workplace was politicized. Some colleagues had Austro-Fascist sympathies. I regarded Hitler and his ideas as dangerous but kept my opinions to myself. When that man came to power in Germany in January 1933, I had no doubt that once Mussolini in Italy was on his side, Austria would become part of Germany.

My sister, Olivia Schaden, married a portrait photographer called Lukas Votova. I used to help him out in his studio on Saturdays, and photography became my hobby. I photographed the extras outside the Burgtheater – bohemians and café intellectuals - for their portfolios. On one of these occasions, I met Alfred Frauenfeld, the leader of the Austro-Fascist party via a mutual acquaintance called Princess Stephanie. He was charming and I only found out about his political ideas after I had met him. A few weeks later, I was approached by Kulyakin from the Comintern on behalf of the NKVD .The Comintern is the name for the International Worker's Aid movement and its aim was to invite groups of foreign workers to come to the Soviet Union and organize themselves into small agricultural or industrial cooperatives.  I accepted to work for Kulyakin as an informer which the NKVD called 'Illegal Rezident' on the condition that Moscow gave me a new identity after my mission. This is how I acquired the name Pavel Varady and my task was to keep an eye on the activites of the Austro-Fascist students and clerks at the Hochschule für Welthandel and even befriend them. 

My activities caused a rift between me and my sister because she and her husband assumed that I was an Austrofascist. Politics split many families but I knew that my future was in the USSR. In 1934, the February Revolution at the Karl-Marx Hof failed. The Karl-Marx Hof was renamed Heiligenstädter Hof. When the Communist Party was outlawed in Austria, they relocated in Prague. I had met Maria Koblarová from Český Krumlov at a classical concert in Vienna, and the plan to move to Krumlov came naturally. That way, I would have a legitimate reason to live in the area and report to the Comintern on the Henleinists, who were German-language Czechofascists. I found employment as a travelling insurance salesman for Generali. I also learnt Czech and was Maria 's fiancé for four years. When she became pregnant, I had to admit to her that I was already married to Olga Varadyová. To save face, we mounted a story that the Henleinists had kidnapped and killed me. I settled in Prague and assisted the KPÖ as Varady. 

Life in Prague became dangerous when Stalin signed a pact with Hitler. Officially, the Soviet Union was now an ally of Germany; in fact, it meant that the Soviet Union was neutral when Hitler's Germany took over Austria, then the Sudetenland. When President Beneš went into exile in London, he was succeeded by the very weak Emil Hácha who signed away the Czech part of Czechoslovakia to Hitler. There was nothing I could have done in what became known as the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia.  I did not want to go back to my native town of Bratislava because Slovakia's government was a pro-Hitler puppet regime led by Josef Tiso. 

My plans to settle in the USSR were put on hold when the war started, I was appointed to the Comintern at their London bureau to assist our British comrades and liaise with Czechoslovak exiles. The Comintern had a policy of non-intervention: for us, the war was an imperialist fight.  An English Comintern agent called Maurice K. Dodd was a professor at Cambridge University and through him myself, Olga and Kulyakin found a safe home. Safe is a relative term because the United Kingdom was bombed by the Germans during the Blitz campaign. We were mostly involved in providing relief for civilians. There we met an American student called Jim Somerset nicknamed Red Skipper who has become an eminent expert on Napoleonic colonial history and a friend of the US musician Paul Robeson. I did not know that in Prague Heydrich's nazis tortured Olga's sister Irina because her husband Martin Kovač was involved with the student revolt of November 17.

In June 1941, Hitler made the fatal mistake of declaring war against the USSR, and soon enough the Red Army intelligence asked the Comintern comrades to assist the allies. I was invited to settle in the Soviet Union.  Soviet intelligence knew that Hitler was sending Austrian soldiers to the most deadly fronts, so our new mission was to write propaganda material in German and incite Austrian soldiers to desert the Wehrmacht and join the Red Army guerilla led by General Michailovich. One of these deserters was Ammereiner who later also became an eminent Napoleonic historian. When the Red Army says that the Communist brothers defeated the Nazis, then they are correct. There would be no 'free Europe' in the West without the Red Army. 

After the war, I read literature at the University of Leningrad and graduated. My son Vladimir P. Varady was born. I mostly taught in Leningrad and Cambridge (UK). Last year, I was appointed Visiting Professor (universitní professor) at the Charles University of Prague for the duration of two semesters.

It has come to my awareness that the Dokumentationsarchiv is listing Anton Schaden as an Austrofascist sympathizer. For the sake of my sister, my nephew and my son Karel, I request this error to be corrected.

I now live in Leningrad, USSR

signed:  Pavel Varady formerly known as Adolf Schaden/Anton Skodaček
witness: Karel Skodaček, son. “

He gave the statement to me and kept the copy for himself. He added that the university post in Prague was his last active mission.  For a change, this was an opportunity to work on a literary project and catch up with old friends. Only by chance did he read my name in a SNB police file and then he found out that my mother had died.

It was Olga who suggested that I could live at her sister's. I realized how the Professor was able to check on me. His efficiency was terrifying. When he offered me to come with him and Olga to Leningrad, I declined. For the first time, he looked puzzled. I thanked him for his explanation and his time, wished him well and left. He was right, sometimes you have to make a choice between your family and self-interest.

How could I join him in the Soviet Union after all what had happened here since the end of the war? Indeed, the Brothers defeated the Nazis but they made also themselves comfortable in this country. Moscow glosses over the fact that it starved millions of Ukrainian farmers and that it confiscated Polish lands. Moscow had denied the rights of citizens in the GDR and Hungary the right of self-determination. What has the Communist Party done here since 1948? It has executed democratic opponents, closed small businesses and factories, prevented devout Jews and Catholics from openly practising their religion, intimidated the population, taken lands away from farmers. It glosses over all this and it is fools like me who have to swallow the idea that the Revolution is the right thing to do even if according to Lenin we have to kill 99% of the population. I can see why the Bolsheviks rose against the Tsar, but is the Proletariat better off? They are no longer serfs in a feudal land but cogs in a machinery.
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